Fountain Drinks – Check The Box

Fountain sodapop is one of my favorite things.  Lots of ice, unlimited refills, and I’m a happy guy.

Until recently I didn’t know how those machines worked behind the scenes.  I had visions of lots of tubes and hoses running for miles and miles behind the counter.  You know what — that’s not too far off.

Picture of what the back of the fountain soda machine is hooked toLast week I had lunch at a little shop near the YMCA where I play basketball.  Partway through lunch I thought that something about the Diet Pepsi just didn’t taste right.  Fountain soda is a funny thing.  Sometimes the mix is a little “off” and it’s not good.  But was it just a little “off”, or was it regular Pepsi I was tasting?  I just couldn’t tell!

The shop was quiet and I have gotten to know the owner, so I asked her about it.  She tasted both the regular Pepsi and the Diet Pepsi, and said they tasted exactly the same to her.  She let me follow her into the back room where she confirmed it was regular Pepsi coming out of the Diet Pepsi tap!

She was gracious enough to allow me to take a couple of pictures, which I hope gives you an idea of how these machines work behind the scenes.  Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know this already, but it’s all too easy to hook up the wrong syrup mix.

Showing a box of Pepsi syrup connected to where the Diet Pepsi belongs

If it tastes funny, if there is any doubt, ask them to check the box.

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22 thoughts on “Fountain Drinks – Check The Box

  1. Great blog Scott! I remember when nutra-sweet was first introduced and my first experience with a diet drink in a restaurant. I thought it was a regular cola and sent it back at least twice before asking to speak to a manager. He informed me that all the diet colas that they were getting now had nutra-sweet as a sweetener. The taste at that time was too sweet for my liking and I ordered unsweet tea.

  2. Scott,
    Great Point. Recently I was in a grocery store. Found myself going low while shopping and went to the front of the store to grab a pepsi to recover with. No big deal we have all been there.
    What I was confronted with was a change in packaging of Pepsi products. Silver, Dark Blue, Black Max. I had to read the label to figure out what was the “Real Thing” (oopps wasn’t that an ad champagne for that other company) to determine what had carbs.

  3. Thanks for all fo the great comments everyone!
    Bevie – George and I have often said that the McDonald’s Diet Coke mix is often the best! Maybe they’re adding in a little something? Haha! On a serious note though, some of the folks above have talked about actually testing their sodapop with an old school urine sugar test strip. Sounds like some have even used a regular BG meter? I’ve never tried either personally, but it might be worth checking out.

  4. I once had a place that had the diet connected to the regular. I told them and they switched boxes. Then I asked them to run the line for a while to make sure all of the regular syrup in the line was through and they said they couldn’t. Needless to say, I got medieval on their arses and got it done.
    Ninjabetic strikes again.
    p.s. don’t eff with my diet sodapop.

  5. Scott, excellent post! Two things to note:
    1. The labeling on soda boxes/canisters should always be clearly marked, so mistakes shouldn’t happen. The labels need to be better.
    2. With the creation of Coke Zero and Pepsi Max, we need to be much more careful of these beverages.
    I tend to purchase bottled drinks now, at convenience stores, instead of fountain ones. Labels, labels, labels… 🙂

  6. I prefer fountain over bottled or canned any day. But has anyone noticed that McDonald’s diet coke seems to be sweet-I mean sweeter than other places? I can drink a few cans of Diet Coke and feel OK but McD’s sometimes leaves me feeling ‘buzzed’. And I have to visit the bathroom more often. I know it sounds goofy but true : (

  7. Fountain drinks, especially in the summer are one of my cheap thrills. I can usually tell by taste if I get a regular one. But if I’m not sure, I toss it. I couldn’t enjoy it if I thought it might not be diet. I like the ones in the gas stations where I fill it myself the best. That way, I know it SHOULD be the right one. Those pictures will give me pause to think however…

  8. It’s nice how the make the Pepsi labels easy to read by sticking them on upside down. How hard would that be to fix!
    I don’t carry test strips anymore, so I really only get water at fast food places.

  9. it can be very difficult to tell the difference..I’m a DC person so when I drink diet pepsi all bets are off anyway.On one occasion,after drinking the entire extra large(non-diet) drink & being greeted by a 500+ an hour later,it shook my confidence & now I always doublecheck w/ a test strip.(or urine strip)

  10. That happened to me at Subway once — they hooked up the regular Nestea to the unsweetened tap. Totally easy to do (but at least with Nestea it’s pretty darn obvious to taste what’s happened.) I once heard someone say that if they were doubtful about the soda, they’d smear a little on the table in front of them, let it dry, and then touch it. If the smear is sticky, it’s got sugar in it fo’ sho’.

  11. Great post, Scott! It is something you take for granted. I worked at a banquet hall during high school and often had the task of re-tapping the taps when the boxes were empty. It is easy to mistake, especially when moving quick if the person stocking the boxes behind the scenes didn’t put them in the right spot. I always checked to make sure (you know, since I’d be drinking it too), but there were times when I’d find it tasting “off” or that someone else had put the wrong ones on…

  12. instead of using blood I’ll use some soda in the test strip and my meter will show “high”, that is how I used to check my sodas back when I had them. It saved me on more than one occasion!

  13. Great hint about the glucose strips, I have had trouble with Captain Morgan and colas ordered at bar or restaurant No one can tell the diet from the regular once the Captain has been added, too many times got regular NOT diet even when I say IT IS VERY IMPORTANT I GET THE DIET COLA..But they get busy or think I’m just another girl worried about her figure…so I stopped ordering them…….

  14. One thing you can do is carry a few urine glucose test strips with you, then you can check it if in doubt, It has saved me in the past.

  15. Good post! Working at a snack bar in a dept store during my college years, I just took for granted that people know how the pop gets out to the fountain. I used to have to lug those from the back warehouse all the way up front every evening for the next morning shift. They were a pain!
    When you see the way it’s packaged, you can understand why they only sell one type of diet drink. I just wish they’d get on the ball and make more diet offerings. I’m starting to see Diet Dr. Pepper around some places.

  16. I was at a party center last weekend. I asked for any diet pop sugar free. They told me that there diet pop has sugar in it. How can that be?? Just glad they had water.

  17. Wow! That’s really cool!
    I mean, not that it is easy to mix something like that up, or that you got the wrong drink – but the view behind the curtain! 🙂