Taste Test: Can A $39.95 Coke Glass Really Improve The Taste?

The Coca-Cola + Riedel Glass is a piece of fancy glassware specifically designed to improve the flavour of Coke. The glass is now available in Australia for a recommended retail price of $39.95. If Riedel is to be believed, the glass has been optimised to improve every facet of the Coca-Cola drinking experience, including taste and sound. To put these dubious claims to the test, we compared it to an aluminum Coke can and regular glass. The result was pretty surprising.

According to glassware manufacturer Riedel, the Coca-Cola + Riedel Glass was created in a “sensory workshop” where hundreds of different prototypes were trialed by a team of “flavour experts” (I’m totally putting that on my business card). Apparently, this is the same process by which Riedel develops all its glasses but this one was specifically for Coke.

The final design was inspired by Earl R. Dean’s iconic contoured glass Coke bottle. Amusingly, the original 1915 bottle was supposed to resemble a coca leaf, but nobody on the design team knew what a coca leaf looked like. These days, you could just whip out your smartphone, Google “coca leaf” and conclude that a leaf-shaped bottle is a stupid idea. But I digress.

The Coca-Cola + Riedel Glass is available in Australia for the princely sum of $39.95. We feel compelled to point out that this isn’t for a set of four. Yep. Riedel is charging $39.95 per glass. This is a pretty steep markup compared to the US, where the same product costs a slightly less ridiculous $20. You can also get a paired box for $49.95. Still, that’s a lot of money for a soft drink glass.

Here’s what Riedel has to say about its creation:

Most people know the sensory experience of enjoying a COKE – that sound when you open a bottle or can, the cracking of ice when you pour your COKE into a glass and the anticipation of a thirst that needs to be quenched. What most people don’t realise is that factors such as the shape of the glass in which it’s served, affects the final taste.

This might sound like marketing bollocks, but it’s worth noting that the shape of a glass can definitely affect the imbibing experience and flavour. This is especially noticeable when it comes to wine varieties and German beers — all those uniquely shaped vessels aren’t just for show, y’know.

Whether the same principle holds true of soft drink is highly debatable, however. Most people would agree that a cellared reserve wine contains more nuances than a glass of carbonated syrup. Let’s find out how the Coca-Cola + Riedel Glass fares in reality.

In a bid to prove the validity of its claims, Riedel invited us to put its glass to the test — during yesterday’s launch event, we were presented with the Coca-Cola + Riedel Glass, a Coke can and a run-of-the mill glass that was probably sourced from a $2 shop. We started with the can and worked our way up to the main event.

Incidentally, all three beverages were poured from the same can in front of us, so there was no funny business going on. (Well, we suppose it’s conceivable that they farted in the non-Riedel glass beforehand. To ward against this possibility, we repeated the test back in our office with a fart-free receptacle.)

We elected not to conduct a blind taste test, as each shape was pretty easy for our lips to decipher. In any event, Riedel is pimping the appearance of its glass as part of the “experience”, so it was only fair to judge the vessels on sight as well as taste.

So how did the Coca-Cola + Riedel Glass fare? The most immediately obvious difference is the smaller amount of fizz. This wasn’t just psychosomatic — the glass provides a smoother drink that is significantly lighter on carbonation. By contrast, the can’s contents delivered an explosion of bubbles on the tongue that was nearly overwhelming. The el cheapo glass, meanwhile, fell somewhere in-between.

Again, all of the Coke came from the same can and was quaffed within seconds of each other. So how is this sorcery achieved? We believe it has something to do with the Riedel’s taller, narrower shape — much like a pilsner-style glass, this helps to cut down on fizz when imbibing a naturally fizzy drink.

The narrower rim also forces your nose closer to the beverage, which is supposed to accentuate the cola aroma. I can’t say I noticed this especially, but then my sense of smell is shot to crap — I recently left a chicken in the oven by accident and was completely oblivious until the smoke began to sting my eyes.

In addition to improving the texture, the lovingly crafted receptacle also gives the drink a lift that is entirely psychological. It’s an altogether fancier experience — handy for teetotalers who want to make their kiddie drink look vaguely sophisticated. On the downside, the glass is thinner than a campaign flute which could lead to accidental breakage rather easily. It’s definitely not something I’d want to chuck in the dish washer.

In conclusion, the Coca-Cola + Riedel Glass makes a big difference to the texture of Coke; particularly in the area of carbonation. If you find soft drinks to be too fizzy, it will definitely improve your bubbly beverage of choice (naturally, the effect remains the same with any carbonated drink). Whether that’s worth $39.95 is entirely up to you.

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