I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs, and I hardly ever drink. In most circles, this is what would qualify me as “boring nerd-boy”. My vice of choice for years has been Diet Coke. In those same circles, this would be known as “Seriously? That’s a vice to you? Nerd.” I would then sheepishly slink away muttering something about my mom thinking that I’m cool.
In high school I drank what I will scientifically call a ‘butt-load’ of the stuff (4 litres a day!), and I could swear that it was my favourite of all sodas (or “pops” as we call them in Canada….don’t we?). When I was cutting down my coffee intake, Diet Coke was there to fill the gap. When I broke my hip and came out of surgery, I wanted nothing more than to drink a cool can of Diet Coke.
In short, I was (am?) lame.
But I’ve never been put to the test. When asked at a restaurant if Diet Pepsi was an acceptable alternative to Diet Coke, I would answer “yes”, (mostly to not be a jerk-wad), but what do my taste buds really think about this? Am I so blind to brand loyalty? I needed to find this out, so the Missus (a long-time Diet Pepsi drinker) and I set out to perform a double-blinded study to determine what we truly liked best. Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi: Who will reign supreme?
We used 8 different brands of cola. The main competitors were Diet Coke and Diet Pepsi, but we also wanted to include several non-brand diet colas too: Colt, Selection, Our Compliments, and President’s Choice filled out the low-cost variety (since these brands are unique to a given grocery store chain, we went to all the ones in my area for their house-brand), and just for good measure, we also included regular Coca Cola Classic and Pepsi.
We each predicted what we would like best. My predictions for taste preference were, in order 1) Diet Coke, 2) Our Compliments, 3) Colt 4) President’s Choice 5) Diet Pepsi 6) Selection 7) Pepsi 8 ) Coca-Cola. I used to work in a grocery store that sold Our Compliments, so I figured it would place pretty high (since I drank it often there), while straight cola has grossed me out for years, which is why I placed them at the bottom.
We had two sets of 8 drinks, kept in different rooms so that tasting could be done alone (i.e., blinded from each other). Using an 8-sided dice, one taster assigned a pop to be poured into a given cup, labeled from 1 to 8, for the other taster. The pop assignment key was kept by the person who did the assigning, not the person tasting. The pop was at room temperature (so as not to shock our taste buds with coldness). We switched rooms and began our taste test.
We had two things to list based on taste: What brands we were drinking, and what we liked best. We cleansed our palates with regular gulps of water while we set about our drinking 8 cups of warm soda.
It was terrible. Imagine it: eight bloody cups of warm black goo. When pop is warm, the carbonation fades quickly, so we didn’t even have that much in the way of bubbly stinging to dull the grossness of drinking several cans worth of pop inside of a few minutes. It was like drinking the blood out of most of the Nine Riders and having to rank them from worst to least-worst.
Some of the drinks had a flavour that stood out like a sore thumb (or more accurately, like a gross pop). It was easiest to taste the gross ones, and rank them near the bottom first, then work up to the tastiest. One drink in particular made me yelp out “Ah, my God, that’s awful!” I thought it was Coca Cola Classic (I’ve long hated that taste), and immediately ranked it at the bottom. As I moved up the list, the last two were particularly difficult to distinguish from each other, let alone pick a favourite. By that time, I had drank nearly 2 litres of diet and regular soda in about 8 minutes, and I was exhausted, feeling gross, and incredibly burp-ey. I just wanted to pick one, and get out of that bile-filled room so that I could eat a slice of cold pizza that was waiting as my reward for a job gross-done.
- Our Compliments
- Diet Coke
- President’s Choice
- Coca-Cola Classic
- Diet Pepsi
- I do indeed like Diet Coke quite a bit.
- I like Our Compliments even more, but just by a small amount (because of my difficulty in picking a preference).
- My predictions weren’t that far off.
- When next time a waiter/waitress asks me if Diet Pepsi is okay, I’ll have to say, “EWWW! For God’s sake, are you trying to make me vomit? I’ll take a Root Beer!”
- She likes Diet Coke more than Diet Pepsi after all.
- She likes the cheapest diet cola the most (“Selection” from the Food Basics chain).
- We both think very little of regular colas.
After such a long testing, a few problems/limitations became evident:
- Drinking the pops warm is not necessarily an accurate reflection of their taste because they are meant to be served chilled, so a cold-test should be in order.
- Water was a poor palate-cleanser. Crackers or bread would have been better.
- EIGHT KINDS OF POP WAS FAR TOO MUCH!
That last point is especially important. When we were done our testing, but before we compared our results, we both hung around in a third room (my kitchen) as we ate our cold pizza. I have a very small kitchen, there is no place to sit down, and we never hang out there….it was almost as though we were hiding from the pop. We both felt full of black goo… And yes, it feels exactly like you are imagining it to feel like.
About an hour later, we were both incredibly hyper. Her legs were all twitchy, and I was literally bouncing up and down. The caffeine levels in the various pops hovers between 36 mg/can and 46 mg/can, so we can split the difference, and assume that the average caffeine content of each can was 41 mg. As we both drank about half a can of each of our 8 pops, that’s approx 164 mg (or: [41 Ã· 2] x 8 = 164…I don’t do math often so I hope I wrote that correctly) of caffeine consumed in 10 minutes. That’s more than two FULL cans of Red Bull! Only hard-to-get-along-with-teenagers should be doing this. Not adults.
I do NOT recommend people do this the same way we did. Eight cans was needless, as it made choosing a favourite too hard, and the caffeine intake alone was approaching dangerous levels. It was also so gross that neither one of us even wanted to continue drinking, let alone make a thoughtful decision about the Nazgul-blood we were forcing down our gullets.
So while I can say with certainty that I do indeed like Diet Coke a lot, I cannot be certain that I like Our Compliments the most, because the test was with warm drinks, and there was a level of fatigue experienced by the tasters (the Missus and me). Next time, we’ll reduce our sample size to just four, serve them cold, and use bread/crackers as a palate cleanser.
In the meantime, no. Diet Pepsi is NOT okay. Get that black dog-snot away from me!