How Are Soft Drinks Made?
Soft drinks start out as plain, cooled water. At the soft drink bottling plant, a pump like machine called a carbonator charges (combines) the water with carbon dioxide gas. This bubbly gas gives soft drinks their tangy, fresh taste.
Carbonated water constitutes up to 94% of a soft drink. Carbon dioxide adds that special sparkle to the beverage and also acts as a mild preservative. Carbon dioxide is a uniquely suitable gas for soft drinks because it is inert, non-toxic, and relatively inexpensive and easy to liquefy.
The second main ingredient is sugar, which makes up 7-12% of a soft drink. Used in either dry or liquid form, sugar adds sweetness and body to the beverage, enhancing the “mouth-feel,” an important component for consumer enjoyment of a soft drink. Sugar also balances flavors and acids.
The overall flavor of a soft drink depends on an intricate balance of sweetness, tartness, and acidity (pH). Acids add sharpness to the background taste and enhance the thirst-quenching experience by stimulating saliva flow. The most common acid in soft drinks is citric acid, which has a lemony flavor. Acids also reduce pH levels, mildly preserving the beverage.
Very small quantities of other additives enhance taste, mouth-feel, aroma, and appearance of the beverage. The carbonated water is then flavored with one of many flavorings, such as orange, lemon, strawberry, and cola. (Cola, which comes from the cola nut, is a very popular flavoring.) There is an endless range of flavorings; they may be natural, natural identical (chemically synthesized imitations), or artificial (chemically unrelated to natural flavors).
Emulsions are added to soft drinks primarily to enhance “eye appeal” by serving as clouding agents. Emulsions are mixtures of liquids that are generally incompatible. They consist of water-based elements, such as gums, pectins, and preservatives; and oil-based liquids, such as flavors, colors, and weighing agents. Saponins enhance the foamy head of certain soft drinks, like cream soda and ginger beer.
To impede the growth of microorganisms and prevent deterioration, preservatives are added to soft drinks. Anti-oxidants, such as BHA and ascorbic acid, maintain color and flavor. Beginning in the 1980s, soft drink manufacturers opted for natural additives in response to increasing health concerns of the public.
The beverage is then tightly sealed in a can or bottle with pressure-resistant closure, either tinplate or steel crown with corrugated edge, twist off, or pull tab. Finally, container is packed into cartons and then shipped in large pallets to distributors. After purchasing the soft drink from market when the container is opened, to quench your thirst the carbon dioxide gas escapes with a fizzing sound.