This Is Why Coke Tastes Better at McDonald’s Than Anywhere Else

It's not in your head. It actually is different than other fountain sodas.

If you’ve ever ordered a Coke at McDonald’s and thought it tasted better than any other Coke in your life, you’re not alone. And the taste difference isn’t in your head. Coca-Cola aficionados have long maintained that McDonald’s Coke is the best, and we’re here to get to the bottom of the conundrum. If you’re looking for more McDonald’s food facts, read up about McDonald’s Sprite, McDonald’s fries, and the classic McDonald’s chicken nuggets.

Does McDonald’s have different Coke?

McDonald’s gets the same syrup delivered for their fountain machines that all restaurants get. There is no difference in the formula, and McDonald’s doesn’t add any special ingredients. The difference is that McDonald’s takes better care of its Coca-Cola than most restaurants do.

Why does Coke seem to taste better at McDonald’s?

It all starts with the packaging. Typically, restaurants get their soda syrups in plastic bags, but Coca-Cola does something different for McDonald’s. The fast-food chain gets its Coke syrup delivered in stainless steel tanks. According to the New York Times, the material keeps the soda fresher, and your tongue can taste the difference. Check out these other 17 things McDonald’s employees won’t tell you.

Once the syrup reaches the restaurant, it doesn’t just become an afterthought. Both the syrup and the water (which goes through its own “proper filtration methods”) get pre-chilled before going into the soda fountain. Other places might rely on the dispenser itself to chill lukewarm water, but McDonald’s uses insulated tubes to deliver the liquid from the fridge to the fountain, keeping the liquid as chilled as possible, according to the New York Post.

This gives McDonald’s a head start in delivering the ice-cold Coca-Cola you crave. It also improves the carbonation in your drink. As soda warms up, the CO2 wants to escape quicker, according to researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara. So because the water is kept so cold at McDonald’s, that gas doesn’t escape, and you maintain your fizz. Here are 75 other mind-blowing facts about McDonald’s.

Still, the fast-food chain is well aware that your soda will start to go from refreshingly cold to lukewarm the moment you pour it out. Of course, customers add ice to keep it chilled, but that can mean watered-down Coke. Ugh. To fight against that, the company says it makes sure it uses “the ratio of syrup set to allow for ice to melt.”

The soda itself isn’t the only difference, though. McDonald’s also has different straws than most restaurants use. “It’s slightly wider than a typical straw, so all that Coke taste can hit all your tastebuds,” says the company. Here’s why the McFlurry spoon has a square handle, by the way.

Is McDonald’s Coke real Coke?

Yes, McDonald’s Coke is real Coke. Between the special transportation method, the pre-chilling process, and the ratio of syrup used to ice, McDonald’s Coke is going to taste a little fresher. But it’s as real as Coke can get!

How much is Coke at McDonald’s?

You can grab an extra-small, small, medium, or large Coke at McDonald’s on their $1, $2, or $3 menu, depending on what size you get. Coke isn’t the only food the restaurant does particularly well. Now that you know all about this classic McDonald’s drink, learn these facts you never knew about Big Macs. Then, read up on why Mexican Coke tastes better than American Coke.

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Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.