How Restaurant’s & Convenience Store’s Soda/Fountain Drinks Are Made

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How Restaurants Make Great Soda

Here is a in depth look on how restaurants and convenience stores make their soda. For the restaurants/convenience stores it is an easy task if they have the right equipment. They all use the same equipment to make their sodas, so this applies to fast food restaurants, casual dine-ins, fine dining restaurants, and the local gas store.

We will also answer the mystery to why the soda tastes different from restaurant to restaurant, and why their soda just down right tastes better than any place else. Let’s get into this..

How soda is made step-by-step in convenience stores and restaurants.

At the back of convenience stores and restaurants (usually in or near their storage area) is a shelf that houses many boxes filled with different flavors and syrups. Inside of the boxes is a really durable syrup bag that has a connection to hook up to a long tube.

For every soda flavor on the fountain drink machine, there is a bag of syrup for each one. There is literally a bag made just for coke, diet coke, grape soda, and so on. The more varieties of soda flavors, the bigger the shelf, and the more of boxes needed for each flavor.

There will be one or more carbonators connected to the water pump and the tubing too somewhere near the boxes/bags of syrup. There are also a plethora of tubes, each connected to every individual syrup flavor. They connect to the carbonator, and the dispenser machine where the soda finally comes out. They help to make sure the entire mixture makes it to the fountain drink machine once it all starts.

There is also a water pump that is also connected to the carbonator, which helps to create the base for the soda. Without the carbonator, there would be no soda with its “fizz”. Every place that is capable of making soda has one of these. Inside the carbonator is where the soda making process starts.

Finally, there is a Co2 cylinder where all the carbon dioxide comes from that is sent to the carbonator. This is also important, along with the water to create the soda as needed.

This is all the basic equipment needed to make the soda. Now let’s see how it is done step-by-step:

Nothing happens until the dispenser is pressed from the fountain drink machine. It will automatically fill the tubing with soda with a little action from the water pump and the Co2 cylinder if it is empty, but it remains locked in the tubing until then.

  1. When the dispenser to what ever flavor it is is pressed, the water pump fills the carbonator with water.
  2. The Co2 cylinder then fills the water pump’s tank with carbon dioxide.
  3. The pressure from the water pump and the cylinder cause the water and the carbon dioxide to mix together to make carbonated water, the main ingredient of every good soda.
  4. Once the carbonated water is made in the carbonator, then it is sent through the tubing. At this time, syrup for the specified flavor of the drink is also sent through the tubing to mix with the carbonated water.
  5. Right before the soda reaches the cup, the carbonated water and the syrup mix together to make the soda flavor.
    • You can actually see this happening as the dispenser dispenses the fountain drink from the nozzle on the fountain drink machine. The carbonated water and the flavor are seen coming out together. It is easier to see this with darker colored sodas.

Even fountain drinks that aren’t soda are commonly made this way, just without the carbonation. Artificial fruit drinks, like Hi-C for example, and even lemonade (Minute Maid), come from syrups that are hooked to this equipment. Sparkling water too. There is equipment to make soda at home too, but this how the restaurants and convenience stores make their soda.

Why does restaurants/convenience soda taste better?

The soda at restaurants and convenience stores taste better than anywhere else, because it is fresher than anywhere else. The soda is literally being made as the order is being given out. The soda has more fizz to it which makes the fountain drink better.

Soda loses its fizz, of course, over time. This happens immediately, as soon as the soda makes contact with the atmosphere. Water and carbon dioxide don’t mix. The bubbles in soda is literally the carbon dioxide escaping out of the water and back into the atmosphere as gas.

The only reason that the carbon dioxide is mixing with the water to begin with, is because of the pressure in the carbonator made by the water pump and the Co2 cylinder. It forms a temporary bond between the two until the carbon dioxide gas can find a way to escape to the air again.

Since the soda is made on the spot at convenience stores and restaurants, it tastes more refreshing/better, because it contains more carbon dioxide. However since it is usually made with ice, it goes flat faster, and it tastes flatter when the ice is melted. Eventually all that remains is water, syrup, and melted ice.

Why does soda taste different at different restaurants and convenience stores?

The reason that the sodas taste differently isn’t because of the soda flavor itself. The syrups themselves are what give the sodas each their own distinctive flavor, and they all come primarily from Coca-Cola or Pepsi (or another company). It has to do with the carbonated water that is mixed with the syrup. A carbonator that isn’t getting enough pressure during the water and carbon dioxide mixing is going to have a flatter taste.

Even though every restaurant and convenience store uses the same equipment to make soda, it doesn’t mean that they have the same exact water pump, carbonator, and Co2 cylinder. Some of them could be older and need replacing, or the water pressure in the establishment can be less than other establishments. Let’s hope this is the only reasons beside then not cleaning their fountain machine’s nozzles regularly like they should, or using the wrong cleaning materials.

A lower overall water pressure can affect the water pump connected to the carbonator used to make good soda, resulting in lower than necessary pressure for creating the best soda. This means that restaurants and convenience stores with better kits (and regularly clean the fountain machine nozzles) will have better soda. This is why each establishment’s soda tastes differently.

Why is soda I just got from the restaurant/convenience store flat?

The reason that your soda from the restaurant or convenience store is flat is most likely because their syrup for that specific flavor has run out. You dispensed soda for that flavor from their fountain drink machine at an unlucky time. The bags that the syrup come in are usually pretty heavy, since they have quite a bit of syrup, but they do eventually run out. Once they run out, an employee in the restaurant/convenience store have to be notified to physically go replace it with a new syrup flavor. Since they are really heavy, it might take a minute or two.

If they say that it is out, or “out of order”, but the other flavors are available, it is because they are out of the syrup until their next shipment. It could also be that they physically can’t cook the syrup up to the tubing for some reason. Running hot water on the part of the tube that connects to the syrup usually works, since the syrup is sticky.

The first reason is the reason 99% of the time, but another reason could be that their Co2 cylinder isn’t working properly and needs to be fixed. This rarely happens, but it does happen. If one of the flavors of soda from the fountain drink machine tastes flat, and the rest of the flavors also taste flat, then this is most likely the culprit.

When this happens, the restaurant usually has to call someone in to come fix it, so the chances of getting immediate carbonated soda may not be possible. Once the maintenance fixes it, then everything should taste great again.

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