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The Mystery Behind McDonald’s Sprite

Posted 12/08/2023 by Ben Scherer

A beautiful day to enjoy a delicious, carbonated, electric-tasting Sprite outside the McDonald’s off of Hampden. photo by Ben Scherer

Many believe that the Sprite at McDonald’s tastes incredible. But why?

Sprite is Sprite, right? No, wrong! Not all Sprite is created equal. Sprite, a sugary, carbonated beverage that has a hint of lemon and lime flavor, is a very popular drink that is owned by the Coca-Cola® Company. This company also owns Dasani, Smartwater, Powerade, Minute Maid, and many more well-known brands. From regular Sprite from a can, bottle, or glass bottle, the Sprite from McDonald’s tastes better. But why? There are many reasons on the internet explaining McDoanld’s superior Sprite. 

Reason one: McDonald’s uses more syrup. The average soda fountain uses a five to one ratio: five parts carbonated water and one part syrup. But according to Food Theory, the McDonald’s corporation uses slightly more syrup per part carbonated water. The logic behind this is that when the ice in the drink eventually melts, the water to syrup ratio will reach the perfect ratio. 

Reason two: The salt in McDonald’s fries likely contributes. In food science, salt is considered a flavor enhancer. This is because salt can balance out sweetness, bitterness, and many other flavors. This is important, because the saltiness from the fries combined with the sweetness from the Sprite results in flavor equilibrium.

Reason three: The filtration system. According to James McIntyre, who owns five stores in Pennsylvania, the water at McDonald’s is filtered four times before it makes it to the soda tower. This is a process where the water goes through a reverse-osmosis filtration system. This machine works by forcing water through a membrane (semi-permeable wall) and into a storage tank.This process removes water impurities like bacteria, chloride, metal ions and more, making the water essentially tasteless. 

Reason four: The straw. The McDonald’s straw is thicker, allowing more of the carbonation to reach the mouth.The average inner diameter of a normal straw is 0.24 inches. However, McDonald’s uses a straw that has an inner diameter of 0.2678 inches. The purpose of the straw is to allow liquid to warm up faster and create more flavor.  The straws also have tiny ridges on the sides where CO2 molecules get stuck together, which then creates more bubbles, causing a more carbonated liquid. This carbonation is considered to be “spicy” by others.

Reason five: Most fast food chains pre-chill their water to around 35 degrees Fahrenheit. But McDonald’s, on the other hand, not only pre-chills the water but the syrup as well. According to SodaStream (a home soda machine manufacturer that sells other soda related products), cold water creates stronger bubbly water than warm water as the colder water holds more CO2 molecules, so the colder water stays bubbly longer than the warmer water. This explains why McDonald’s uses colder water and cold syrup for their soft drinks. The extra carbonation gives the Sprite more fizz, and the carbonation also lasts longer.

The McDonald’s Sprite controversy started to appear in the beginning of 2017 on the internet. To many people, McDoanld’s Sprite has a very crispy texture and even a spicy sensation. The refreshing Sprite from McDonald’s leaves many people curious about what their secret is, and these reasons may hold the answer.