Does A $20 Glass Built Just For Coke Actually Improve The Taste?

Any discerning oenophile will tell you that the shape of a wine glass can make a huge difference in your imbibing experience. On the other hand, that could just be a bunch of bullshit. Either way, Riedel decided to do for Coke what it's spent decades doing for pinot: design a glass scientifically optimised for taste. We decided to test it out for ourselves.

The Science of Stemware

While the superhuman abilities of sommelier tastebuds are debatable, there is, at least, some science to backup all that fuss over how impactful a glass shape can be. Seventy-five per cent of your taste experience actually comes from smell, so the wider the glass, the more vino musk wafts your way.

But that's wine; considering the carbonation in soda, a more useful comparison for our Coke purposes would be beer. And while it might seem like marketing nonsense, beers with proprietary glasses really do have some science behind them, too.

A while ago, Gizmodo talked to Henry Lau and Rik Sargent of Physic.org's Cheers Physics. No need to believe us; just listen to the experts:

The type of glass your beer is served in really does affect the enjoyment of your beer! Some glasses — like a thinner pilsner-style glass-are great for naturally fizzier beers. They will have less liquid in contact with the bottom of the glass, causing a smaller head. Bubbles are also important for releasing the beers' aromas. When bubbles in the head burst, they spray a minuscule amount of liquid into the air, reaching your nose and tickling your sense of smell with delightful bouquets. To accentuate this, glasses with a tapered head concentrate the aroma and force the drinker's nose closer to the beer.

With all that in mind, it's time for the real question: Does all that science transfer over to the world of soda?

Taste Test

In order to get a nuanced perspective on Riedel's Coke-complimenting glass, we chose tasters from both ends of the spectrum. In the more experienced corner, we had Eric Rydin, a candidate to be a certified sommelier, with several years of experience in the wine business. And in the other corner, we had... me, a person who enjoys Coke most of the time sort of.

Does a $US20 Glass Built Just for Coke Actually Improve the Taste?

Now, to hear Riedel tell it, its glass provides an unparalleled experience:

Inspired by the iconic curves of the original Coca-Cola contour bottle, this glass is designed to enhance the drinking experience. Shaped by trial and error by a panel of industry experts and Coca-Cola lovers, this form captures the distinct spices, aroma, and taste of Coca-Cola and creates a magical sensorial experience.

Which all sounds great, sure, but is it really that noticeably better enough to come out on top against five other contenders?

Our battle included six glasses in total from all walks of beverage-ware: a stein, a highball glass, a shot glass shaped like a stein, a large round drinking glass, a wine glass, and of course, the Riedel. And while we anticipated all the fancy Riedel marketing talk would just be BS, we ended up pleasantly surprised.

Our sommelier-to-be explains:

The first several were more or less indistinguishable: carbonation flaring in your nostrils and the subtle taste of root beer and vanilla lingering in your mouth once the bubbles subsided.

However, when I got to the Riedel it actually did really stand out; it had a smoother texture and felt less carbonated — but not flat. I think the shape of the glass served to redistribute the bubbles, so they don't hit you all at once. Normally, the carbonation will surface to the top of the glass, so with every sip, you're greeted by an onslaught of fizz and what little flavour you can salvage through it. The Riedel glass redistributed them fairly evenly, so you get a more balanced sense of carbonation when you take a sip. As a result, the "natural" flavours of Coca-Cola become more apparent. Now whether that's a good thing or not is your decision.

So surprisingly enough, all that marketing drivel wasn't total bullshit — even I, the layman in this little experiment, was able to tell a difference. Riedel was the clear winner.

Of course, that's not to say that the difference was overwhelming or even that you'd make note of it if you weren't explicitly looking for it. But thanks to the shape of the glass — which was inspired in part by the classic Coca-Cola bottle of 1915 — drinking from the Riedel glass didn't just taste better; it was just a generally more pleasant experience. We weren't overwhelmed by carbonation, and the soda went down smooth.

Now, is all that worth shelling out $20 for? That depends how dedicated you are to soda drinking, and how many Jacksons you have lying around. But if you drink Coke on a regular basis and have the money to spare, it really is fascinating to see that, as it turns out, all those winos and hop-heads might actually be on to something.


Comments

    Tested with American coke, or real coke?

      I didn't realise the Coke recipe differed from country to country?

        High Fructose Corn Syrup is what the yanks use, not Sugar. Hence the old "new coke, coke classic" issue they had over there when they changed the recipe, and then pretended to change it back. The corn industry is heavily subsidised in the states, which is also a part of the ethanol push we're idiotically taking part in. They have a crapload of waste products to make ethanol from over there, we don't and are growing crops to make it. I've seen articles about people filling their pickups with Mexican coke when it comes into a local store because it's still the old sugar recipe.

        Last edited 02/04/14 1:02 pm

          New coke was actually a different recipe (it was actually sweeter, if you can believe that)- wasn't just a sweetener change.

          You could still buy "new" coke for a long time, just renamed as Coke II.

            HFCS is sweeter than sugar anyway, I can't imagine how much sweeter it could be.

              It's sweeter, but they use a litle less of of it. To make it sweeter they add more. New Coke was more like Pepsi, which is apparently sweeter than classic coke. I'm told that diet coke was based on the New Coke recipe, but I don't know if that is true.

        Based on no research at all and crappy memory, I think the only difference is the type and amount of sweetener used eg cane sugar vs corn syrup and the water. I thought the base syrup was always the same.

        edit: beaten to the punch above by @dknigs :)

        Last edited 02/04/14 1:05 pm

          Pretty much, the only difference worldwide is the sweetener, either cane sugar or corn syrup, and the local water used by the bottling plant.

            I read somewhere once that the water used in Coke bottling factories is triple filtered so as to standardise the taste internationally and remove any variation that local water may introduce

        Having recently been to the US, their coke is horrible. It has no kick and basically tastes like flat diet. The Pepsi was far more enjoyable.

      Probably american coke because they refer to $20 notes as Jacksons

    they couldn't let them hold their own fucking cups? and who the hell serves flat coke...

      Must fight urge to insult........ :P

      This is to remove cheating obviously. If you are handling the cups you KNOW which is the "coke" cup and can just say you noticed the difference. Its a blind study without it you haven't proved a single thing.

    I think the shape of the glass served to redistribute the bubbles, so they don’t hit you all at once. Normally, the carbonation will surface to the top of the glass, so with every sip, you’re greeted by an onslaught of fizz and what little flavour you can salvage through it. The Riedel glass redistributed them fairly evenly, so you get a more balanced sense of carbonation when you take a sip

    This should mean that if I buy a cheap $2 glass bowl, Coke should really blow my mind? Hmmm.

    Not a huge surprise, the shape of it is pretty close to that of a genuine coke glass.

    Don't know about coke but a big hoppy Indian Pale Ale would taste pretty epic out of it!

    US Cokes (and most other soft drinks) are terrible. After spending a month in LA, the first thing I did when I got on the Qantas jet was ask for an Aussie Coke! They only had a German version, but I found they use the same recipe, so all good. HFCS is rubbish.

    How about my maccas coke glasses that came with maccas meals? Beer tastes great out of them
    http://www.realareal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/AR-Adventures.jpg

    Last edited 02/04/14 2:00 pm

      I do the same, beer is great in them. Only had to devour 1/2 dozen slimy big macs to get the set. Oh, and coke tastes better in them too.

    Wow, I just realised I'm a grown man and I don't know how much a cup should cost. Is $20 a lot?

      Yes, it is.

      And the glass is actually almost $40 in Australia.
      http://www.riedelglass.com.au/coca-cola-glass-single.html

        Ouch.

        And worse I'm still considering it.

        Last edited 03/04/14 11:48 pm

    I am willing to try this. I love my coca-cola.

    edit: aaaaaaand it doesn't ship to australia. too bad

    Last edited 02/04/14 4:33 pm

    All coke, with the exception of post-mix, tastes vile and should be banned.

    The glass actually looks like a rip off of the Samuel Adams glass the good folks at MIT researched for the best beer glass.

    As someone who owns Riedel glasses, the whole wine glass = better taste thing is bullshit. It does no favours to a shit wine, and a beautifully aged wine smells and tastes just as good in a teacup.

      ^1 Exactly. All horeshit marketing.
      It's in a fkn glass for crying out loud. Does the glass have some magical flavouring properties?

      Agreed, I have the stemless Reidel glasses, I think they are the 'Merlot' variety. Tastes the same to me...or maybe I'm doing it wrong since I don't drink a lot of Merlot. I'm a Pinot Noir or Shiraz guy. Damn, should have got the Shiraz glasses.

        You're obviously not letting your wine breathe for long enough after you've poured it from the cask or flagon.

      You've inspired me to drink wine from a tea cup! can't wait! I may even try my super-sized iron man novelty cup!

    If it isn't a blind test then it is pointless. If you expect a certain one to taste better, it will.

    There should have been a bunch of designed glasses, only one of which was the 'good' design.
    People should have rated their favourite out of those, not knowing which was the 'correct' glass.

    Not holding the glass works too I guess, as per the article.

    Last edited 04/04/14 11:07 am

    I think they only use cane sugar on the "good stuff" glass bottles and Corn syrup for the rest of us average income makers. hahaha

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