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Do Carbonated Drinks Go Flat Quicker on Their Sides?

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by James Hunt

From Coca-Cola to carbonated water, there isn't a fizzy drink around that tastes better once it has gone flat. As soon as you break the seal on the bottle, it's a race against time to finish off your soft drink before the precious bubbles that make the drink taste better are depleted. The last thing you want to do is speed up that process. 

That's why we had to know: Does laying a bottle on its side make a soft drink go flat more quickly? Or is it nothing more than a consequence-free way to cram more and more of them in the fridge?

To figure out the answer, you first have to understand why fizzy drinks go flat at all. The carbonation in soft drinks is a result of additional carbon dioxide being dissolved into the liquid, which is then sealed under pressure. When the container is opened, the difference in pressure allows the carbon dioxide to form into bubbles, which then rush to the surface and escape back into the air. As each bubble bursts, the drink becomes a little less fizzy.

This process can theoretically continue until the drink contains the same amount of carbon dioxide as the atmosphere around it—though the drink will seem flat long before that point.

So does it matter if the container is on its side?

The answer: Not really. While it's true that a bottle that is lying down will have a greater area of contact between the liquid and the air inside the bottle, that's a small enough factor that any effect on the speed of carbon dioxide dissolution will be negligible. Since carbon dioxide bubbles form, or  "nucleate," on the side of the bottle, increasing the surface area between the drink and the air might actually make it go flat slightly slower if the bottle is on its side—but again, this effect isn't pronounced enough to make much of a difference over anything other than very short time scales.

What really matters when it comes to keeping a drink fizzy is the pressure inside a sealed container. As the carbon dioxide escapes, it builds up the pressure in the air within the bottle, until it's high enough to prevent bubbles forming, which keeps the liquid fizzy. The pressure inside an opened bottle of soda that has been resealed is virtually the same, whether or not it's standing up or on its side.

Things that do help keep drinks fizzy include chilling (carbon dioxide dissolves into air more readily at higher temperatures) and screwing the cap on tightly to help keep the pressure within the bottle high.

Squeezing the bottle doesn't help, unless you keep it squeezed until the next time it's opened—otherwise, the carbon dioxide will just escape the liquid and deform the bottle back to its original shape. Indeed, the fact that there's no air inside the bottle will effectively suck extra carbon dioxide out of the drink in an attempt to equalize pressure inside the container, so squeezing the bottle actually makes the drink go flat more quickly than the alternative.

And finally, those repressurizing pumps? They'll only work if you pump in something that contains more carbon dioxide than the drink. Air doesn't, so the extra air you pump in creates a high-pressure mix of mostly oxygen and nitrogen, which—if anything—helps forcibly displace the carbon dioxide in the drink by encouraging oxygen and nitrogen to dissolve.

Whew. Knowing all that, the main tip for keeping your drink from going flat before you finish it? Keep it cold until you're ready to drink it, then chug it down. Your dentists and doctors might not thank us, but your taste buds will.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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The Secret Ingredient That Makes LaCroix Water So Irresistible
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LaCroix

The distinctive Technicolor cans of LaCroix sparkling water are an increasingly popular sight in stores and on kitchen tables around the country. (If you're old enough to remember the Snapple phenomenon of the 1990s, this is like that—just bubbly.) But as The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, few of the beverage's loyal fans have any idea what it is they're drinking.

LaCroix comes in a variety of flavors, from tangerine to coconut. The can label, however, is cryptic, listing "natural flavors" as part of the ingredients. Their website discloses only that "natural essence oils" are involved, which sounds like LaCroix should be applied to your hair and then rinsed off.

A look at the nutritional information for LaCroix water
LaCroix

As it turns out, that's not too far off. According to The Wall Street Journal, these "essences" are naturally produced chemicals that are manufactured by heating up fruit or vegetable remnants until they make a vapor, then condensing them into a clear concentrate. They're used in a variety of consumer products, from shampoos to ice pops.

LaCroix was unwilling to confirm the Journal's claim, protecting their manufacturing process in a manner similar to Coca-Cola's famously secretive treatment of their recipe. They do state that no sugars are added, but that may not be enough to protect your teeth: Carbonated water and citric acids can combine to create a lower pH, which has a detrimental effect on tooth enamel. Like most everything that tastes good, these flavored waters are best enjoyed in moderation.

[h/t The Wall Street Journal]

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11 Common Misconceptions About Beer
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If beer only conjures up images of frat boys pounding cans of the cheap stuff or doughy sports fans reveling in the alcoholic refreshment before, during, and after a big game, think again. Beer has come a long way, baby, and many of the preconceived notions about the beverage are decidedly unfair, as evidenced by the following 11 fabrications.

1. BEER SHOULD BE SERVED ICE COLD.

All of those neon ice cold beer signs are actually bad news for beer drinkers. To properly enjoy their beer, it should be served at 44 degrees Fahrenheit (with a little leeway depending on the type of beer you’re drinking—a barrel-aged Stout, for example, should be served only lightly chilled). The reason is that taste buds become dead to the taste of the drink when it is served any colder, which means you’re not really tasting anything or getting the most enjoyment out of your beer.

2. FROSTED BEER MUGS KEEP IT CLASSY.

Piggybacking on the falsehood that beer should be guzzled cold, it also shouldn’t be served in a frosted beer mug. Would you serve wine in a frosted glass? No. An intensely cold beer mug will also numb your senses to the taste of the beer.

3. ALL DARK BEERS ARE HEAVY.

If you’ve been avoiding dark beers because you fear their intensity, you’ve been sorely misguided. “People naturally assume they are heavier,” says Hallie Beaune, a rep for Allagash Brewing Company and author of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer. “I think it’s that connection to Guinness, which promotes itself as creamy and almost like a meal, that’s the feeling they give in their commercials. For a lot of people that’s the first dark beer they’ve had so they assume they’re all similar when, really, dark beers are just dark because of the roast level of the malt that’s used in the beer.”

4. GUINNESS IS INHERENTLY FROTHY.

Sure, Guinness is served all creamy and delicious-looking, but Beaune explains it has less to do with the beer itself and everything to do with the tap most stouts use, which has more nitrogen than the standard tap (generally a mix of nitrogen and CO2). To deliver all that frothiness, a stout faucet, which has a long, narrow spout, is used.

5. DRINKING BEER FROM THE BOTTLE IS THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY IT.

Sure, a bottle may look more refined than a can, but it’s still not the appropriate vessel. “Drinking beer from the bottle is another no-no, mostly because what you taste comes from your olfactory senses from your nose, so if you take a sip of something from that kind of bottle your nose isn’t participating at all,” says Beaune. “It’s too small for you to get a whiff of the beer. Just like if you were drinking red wine out of a wine bottle, you wouldn’t really be able to evaluate that wine.”

6. YOU CAN STORE BEER ANYWHERE.

Think again! All beer should be stored in a refrigerator. It responds best to cold, dark storage.

7. "SKUNKY" IS JUST A CUTE WORD FOR BEER GONE BAD.

There is actually a reason why seemingly rancid beer is termed "skunky." “Light can hurt beer—they call it lightstruck,” says Beaune. “The light interacts with the hops in beer (the four ingredients in beer are malt, water, hops and yeast), and it can actually have this chemical reaction that creates a smell that’s the same as a skunk gives off, which is why you hear about skunky beer.”

8. ALL BEER BOTTLES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

Darker bottles are important. Clear or green bottles may be pretty, but they’re not doing much to protect your beer from light. Dark beer bottles work best to help retain its intended flavor.

9. CANNED BEER MEANS CHEAP BEER.

Cans are actually a great way to protect beer, but in the old days they would often give the beverage an aluminum taste. “Most of the cans the craft breweries are using nowadays have a water-based liner so the beer isn’t actually touching the aluminum,” says Beaune. “It can be really good for beer. Cans heat up and cool down very quickly, too, so you obviously want to keep them cold.”

10. BEER IS MUCH SIMPLER THAN WINE.

You’ve got your four ingredients—malt, yeast, water and hops—what could be more basic than that? Manipulating those ingredients in various ways will give you different varieties, but breweries are doing some really cool stuff by adding flavors you’d never dream would work so well in beer. “A lot of the flavor in beer comes from the malt or the hops or yeast, but then there’s all of this freedom in beer,” says Beaune. “We did a beer at Allagash called Farm to Face, which is a pretty tart and sour beer. We added fresh peaches to it from a local farm. You can’t do that with wine—you can’t add peaches. People add everything you can imagine to beer like pineapple, coconut, every fruit—there are no rules. That’s one of the fun things about beer, it’s a lot like cooking, you can add rosemary, you can add whatever you want. Everybody experiments. It keeps the beer world really interesting.”

11. BEER WILL GIVE YOU A BEER BELLY, BUT COCKTAILS WON'T.

Sure, anything in excess will contribute to weight gain, but beer is hardly the most calorie-laden drink you’ll find in a bar. Much of the flack beer gets (i.e. the “beer belly”) goes back to the fallacy that beer is particularly heavy. “Most glasses of wine are pretty high in alcohol and a lot of cocktails are way higher in calories,” says Beaune. “If you drink a margarita that’s one of the highest calorie things you can drink.”

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