Soda Machines: How Do They Work? (And Why Fountain Soda Tastes So Good)

how do soda machines work

Finding the right soda machine for your restaurant is important. It can increase your profit margins, make your customers stay longer (and possibly order more food), easily dispense drinks, and give you different flavor choices.

Here, you'll learn how soda machines work and the reason fountain sodas taste so good. A soda machine is a must-have.

How Do Soda Fountains Work? 

Before you buy a shiny new soda machine model, you have to know how to operate one. There are three elements to creating the perfect soft drink:

  • Soda: CO2 (Carbon dioxide) is mixed with water by either lessening the temperature of the water or adding the pressure of the CO2 gas with a carbonator. Booster pumps cause the pressure of the water to increase, which lets the CO2 blend with the water.
  • Flavoring: Once the soda water is made, you add flavor to it by combining it with flavored syrup. Carbonated water and syrup join together and leave through a nozzle which is triggered by a lever.
  • Ice Bin: The ice dispenser usually has a rotary device that leads the ice to a hole below. Ice exits the hole through a chute and lands on the drink. Underneath it, there's a bin that has a grate on it that receives the ice cubes. 

how do soda fountains work

Why Does Fountain Soda Taste Better?

Ever wondered why sodas from machines taste different from canned sodas? 

You're not imagining it. They do have a distinct taste. 

Fountain soda tastes better mainly because it is created directly in the machine which causes it to have a fresh flavor, but that's not all.

You already know that sodas are a mix of carbonated water and flavored syrup, right? 

Soda manufacturers tell establishments to put in the same amount of water and syrup in their beverages. It turns out that different companies use different proportions. 

Huffington Post says that some use more syrup for flavor while others use less of it. They then mix it with varying levels of carbon dioxide. 

McDonald's is known to have the best-tasting Coke and the New York Times reveals why: "At other restaurants, Coke syrup is delivered in plastic bags. But for McDonald's, Coke delivers its syrup in stainless steel tanks that ensure its freshness.”

McDonald's and Coca-Cola have a partnership that goes way back.

Ice is also another factor, not just because it makes your soda cooler. Ice waters down the soda and makes it less sweet than soda from a can.

The kind of straw used can also change the taste. McDonald's is living proof that when you use wider straws, the soda becomes more delicious. 

The Sun explains that McDonald’s straws are "slightly wider than a typical straw, so all that Coke taste can hit all your taste buds."

Parts of a Soda Dispenser

To be able to use your soda machine more efficiently, you'll have to know its different features and their functions:

1. External/Internal Carbonator

The carbonator introduces CO2 to the water before it is mixed with the soda syrups. It is composed of a carbonator tank, a water pump, and a water pump motor.

An internal carbonator is compact, but it's usually more expensive. Meanwhile, an external carbonator is more budget-friendly but more complicated to install. It also requires a larger space.

2. Dispenser Valves

The number of valves will depend on how many drink choices you want. You can select from machines with a range of six valves up to a whopping 20-valved machine with every flavor imaginable. Having more valves means you have to store more syrups and need more space.

3. Flex Manifold

The flex manifold is basically an "on/off" switch for carbonated and non-carbonated water.  It lets you choose how to adjust individual drink lines depending on your choice of syrup and what type of water you match it with. 

4. Flavor Shot Feature (Optional)

You can add customization choices by purchasing a model with a "flavor shot" feature. It lets your customers add shots of delicious flavors to their soda and experiment with a variety of flavor combinations.

how do soda fountains work

Mounting Styles of a Soda Machine

The mounting style of a soda machine isn't just about the way it's installed. It also involves the functions, the shape of the machine, placement, and how it serves ice.

1. Countertop

The countertop soda machine can be mounted on all kinds of counter spaces and you can easily install it. Customers will love its accessibility. It serves ice automatically, making it a more sanitary option.

2. Drop-In

If you want a soda machine that smoothly fits into your bars and counters, the drop-in dispenser is the best choice. Filling the gaps in your counters with a drop-in makes your place look more polished and spacious.

Cooling Options for Your Soda Machine 

The main devices used for cooling soda water and syrup lines in your soda machines are ice bins, cold plates, and remote coolers. These cooling devices don’t just keep your drinks refreshingly ice-cold, but they also prevent your soda from losing its fizz. 

1. Cold Plate

A cold plate uses the ice bin's freezing temperatures to keep the product cold and make sure that customers get a thirst-quenching drink. Not having a cold plate would mean that your drinks wouldn't be cold enough and CO2 gas would escape faster, making your beverage taste "flat".

Watch a cold plate in action in this video.

2. Internal Refrigerator

A soda machine that doesn't rely on a cold plate uses an internal refrigerator. It can make its own ice and has a self-supporting cooling process. 

3. Ice Dispenser

An ice dispenser depends on the force of gravity to put the ice from the ice bin straight to the cup. The variant of ice you choose to put in your dispenser is based on your commercial ice-making machine and what shapes it can form.

How to Choose the Right Soda Machine

Choosing a machine with the right features for your establishment can be a daunting task. A buying guide can be a useful tool for learning about what is available to you.