Why Does Soda Taste Like Chemicals?

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Chemicals in drinks?

Does the soda taste like chemicals are in it whenever you drink it? Are chemicals being placed in our purchased beverages? We will look at what is really going on in your soda by dissecting the soda and seeing what is really in it.

The main ingredients of soda:

  • Water
    • Just the typical drinking water, except it has been filtered (a step below purified), so it is a step above the tap water. This however, can depend on where you are getting your soda from. Some establishments (though most do) may not be using filtered water to make their soda. If they aren’t, then chemicals of a very small (usually never harmful) percentage could be in the water of the soda.
  • Caramel color
    • This is formed by a chemical process of heating a lot of sugar in a small amount of water (1 ounce of water to 2 cups of sugar). This process can be sped up by using malic acid, citric acid, sodium hydroxide, or potassium carbonate (or another alkaline, acid, or salt) by pouring it into the heated water. For example, half a teaspoon of potassium carbonate can be added to a heated 2 cups of sugar with 1 ounce of water to form caramel color faster. This process does not produce 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI).
    • Ammonium sulfate is used to make class 4 caramel coloring, which speeds up the process of making caramel color for soda even more. This method does produce 4-methylimidazole, since ammonium sulfate contains 21% nitrogen.
    • Basically, caramel color is burnt sugar that has a bitter but pleasant flavor. The caramel color used in commercial sodas is dark (more burnt), so it has an even bitter taste than homemade caramel color.
  • Phosphoric Acid
    • Used in sodas to give it a better kick/punch and acidic flavor. It is used to mimic the citric acid found naturally in real fruit beverages. The phosphoric acid makes the drink taste unpleasant when too much is used.
  • Carbon dioxide
    • An essential ingredient in soda to give it its fizz. The bubbles in soda is the invisible carbon dioxide becoming visible by the bubble imprints in the soda. Without this ingredient, the soda would be flat. Carbon dioxide helps to enhance the kick/punch of the soda flavor.
  • Caffeine
    • Caffeine is in soda, and is also extremely bitter in taste. Too much caffeine in soda can make the drink have a bitter, soapy, and metallic aftertaste that lingers. Caffeine is used in soda to give it its unique taste.
  • A lot of sugar/syrup
    • The sugar and syrup (high fructose corn syrup) is used to counter the chemical taste of soda. If a soda doesn’t have enough sugar, it could taste like straight chemicals. A lot of sugar is used to counter the other ingredients in soda that make it otherwise nasty.
  • Natural flavors
    • These natural flavors can possibly be essential oils made from herbs and spices. Essential oils are really strong in smell and flavor. Very small amounts would be necessary if it is even used as a natural flavoring in sodas.

These are all the main ingredients in majority of soda fountain drinks.

The chemicals found in all sodas.

Why does soda have a bad/nasty taste?

So to answer why soda tastes like chemicals (or bad/nasty) is found in some of its key ingredients: caramel color, phosphoric acid, and caffeine. If it wasn’t for the excessive amount of sugar in soda, then it would taste even worse. The carbon dioxide in soda also helps to give the soda a unique chemical effect.

The bitterness of caramel color gets stronger the longer it is cooked, which is desired to be cooked for longer for the extra dark color it provides to dark sodas like coke for example. The caffeine is desired for its tastes, which is also extremely bitter with an aftertaste. The phosphoric acid is desired for its sour kick to the flavor.

All of these combined together make soda taste weird, bad, nasty, like metal, or like chemicals to some individuals. Especially if they haven’t had soda in awhile. Without the syrup or sugar in soda, it would make the beverage taste punchy, acidic, and bitter with possibly a bad aftertaste.

To the individuals that say that soda tastes this way, there tongues can also be more receptive to these ingredients, even though a lot of syrup and sugar is used to offset this in soda.

Diet coke is another species in itself that can taste bad to just about anyone, even individuals that like soda. It has a completely different taste, because of the aspartame that is in diet coke. It is supposed to make diet soda taste sweet as a substitute to sugar, but it doesn’t always taste sweet to every individual that tries it. It has more of an acquired taste that is appreciated the more it is consumed.

Why does soda taste bad when you shake it?

Soda can taste even worse after it is shaken, as this makes the soda more flat, revealing the essential ingredients in soda even more to the taste buds. Soda loses its carbon dioxide faster when it is violently shaken, and the more that it is shaken in a sealed bottle. This is why pressure builds up in covered bottles if they are shaken enough.

The sound of air escaping when the soda bottle is slightly opened, is the carbon dioxide in the soda escaping out of the bottle. The carbon dioxide has been set free from the liquids by the disturbance when the beverage is shaken.

It gathers in the space where the liquid isn’t in the bottle, and the rest stay in the liquids when all the space is occupied. The soda erupts when the lid is taken off, and the rest of the carbon dioxide in the drink that has been set free by the disturbance, rush to the exit to get to the atmosphere. This causes the liquids to also disperse.

Heating and boiling soda also sets the carbon dioxide free.

The less carbon dioxide there is in the initial soda, the worse and more flat it will taste after it has been shaken if the individual thinks that soda tastes better when it has more fizz.

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