Why does Coke taste better in a bottle?

We’ll soon be assaulted with that Christmas advert. You know the one – supplies of a certain Santa -endorsed soft drink roll into town by way of a series of obscenely bright trucks much to the delight of local children and townsfolk alike.

Here at Esquire, we’ve been getting into the Coca-Cola-Christmas spirit thanks to a generous in-office supply of the world’s most famous drink. Today however, we’ve taken a break from guzzling to contemplate the wonder of Coke’s iconic glass bottle.

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There’s been much made of the satisfying fizz – the beverage equivalent of the click of an opening lock – and the ensuing wisps of carbon dioxide which roll out of the open top. Our attentions, however, have also been drawn to a more scientific dimension of our enjoyment, why exactly coke tastes so much better in glass bottles than in plastic or aluminium alternatives.

Coca-Cola stubbornly maintains that the drink’s formula is the same for all factories and on all production lines, so what goes into the containers is, in principle, exactly the same.

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Thus, the answer to the glass bottle’s success probably lies in the chemical compositions of the respective vessels. Plastic bottles are made using a polymer called Polyethylene Terephthalate. Aluminium cans are made using, err, aluminium, but with an inside coating of Epoxy Resin, a compound used to make airline wings – good old Coke.

Epoxy Resin absorbs small amounts of flavour from liquids it comes into contact with, and Polyetheylene Terephthalate release small quantities of acetaldehyde into drinks. Glass, by contrast, is essentially inert and has pretty much no effect on the composition of the drink.

Another possible explanation is the fact that UV light does cause limited degradation to drinks. Glass’s superiority to plastic could be down to its UV filtering capabilities. And we thought it was all down to that Coca Cola magic.

There’s very little formal science of soft drinks. Though this suggests that there probably should be. Come to think of it, does anyone know why Guinness tastes better in Dublin?

Words by Will Irwin

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