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Open Cola (wikipedia.org)
146 points by vasanthagneshk on Sept 21, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 66 comments

I'm actually dreading the day that I go to the store and find that my favorite soda syrups have been discontinued.

I prefer diet sodas over coffee for my daily caffeine intake. I started using a SodaStream a couple years ago, and I've come to really enjoy a few of the flavors that they offer, but some of them are already completely impossible to get anymore. This seems mostly due to them being acquired by Pepsi, and this has caused them to redo their entire lineup due to either lackluster sales or corporate politics.

I would love it if Open Cola were not only available from manufacturers, but also covered more flavors, because it seems like making soda at home is really catching on (one only needs to look at the sales of the carbonator cap on Amazon to see this) but the availability of syrups is presenting some serious supplier risk.

Edit: SodaStream wasn't acquired by Pepsi, they merely had a distribution deal. My mistake.

Given you drink diet sodas, you must care about your health, but drinking diet sodas is more unhealthy than coffee.

For one, you're clearly concerned about sugar intake (and you should be), but you see one problem with our sugar intake is that it makes our taste buds tolerant to sugar, so in time it dulls our senses for fruits or milk or other healthy foods with naturally occurring sugar. And the problem is that artificial sweeteners can make this problem even worse. This is like nicotine addicts switching from cigarettes to e-cigarettes. It might be slightly healthier, but doesn't do anything for your addiction.

If you're a diabetic, there have been studies suggesting that some artificial sweeteners can raise your blood sugar and can trigger an insulin response. If you're concerned about your weight I saw a study suggesting that artificial sweeteners can lead to weight gain. Of course, you know how nutrition studies are - most of them are flawed or questionable, but clearly it's a warning sign.

And sugar is not the only bad ingredient in sodas. Another problem is citric acid, linked to tooth decay. Phosphoric acid has been linked to osteoporosis and also tooth decay. Coca Cola has been using Aspartame in their diet products, which has been found to cause cancer. The list goes on.

I'm in the same boat as you, I simply want something to drink. Personally I drink plain water (which tastes really good after you cut your sugar intake), coffee with milk in the morning and tea during the day, all without sugar. And I eat fruits for my sugar intake. Grapes taste great this time of year.

Or when I have a craving for Coca Cola, which happens from time to time, I simply drink the one with sugar in it, because it tastes better. If my health is going to suffer, at least it has to be worth it.

My advice is to learn to enjoy plain soda water – it's my absolute favourite beverage for fine dining as it's fundamentally refreshing and cleanses the palate. It means you enjoy the food more without getting weighed down by liquid sugar or alcohol.

If it's not to your taste, one way to make unsweetened soda water substantially more palatable is to add lemon juice. A particularly convenient way to do this is to use bottled lemon juice. When I'm in a fancy mood I'll also add mint, ice and a few good shakes of bitters.

In Australia, Schweppes sells bottles of sparkling water (soda water) infused with various flavours, including my personal favourite, raspberry[1]. While it's essentially sugar free it still has a very very slight echo of sweetness.

[1] Despite being available for many months they don't list the product on their website. Here's an image: http://shop.coles.com.au/wcsstore/Coles-CAS/images/2/0/4/204...

> My advice is to learn to enjoy plain soda water – it's my absolute favourite beverage for fine dining as it's fundamentally refreshing and cleanses the palate. It means you enjoy the food more without getting weighed down by liquid sugar or alcohol.

I personally never liked the taste of soda water. However, I just stopped drinking sugared drinks entirely and just drink water or tea (with no sugar, just a bit of milk). It was quite easy to make the switch once I realised that I actually don't like drinking Coke (the "bite" is what acid dissolving your insides tastes like). It's quite amazing how different things taste. Food (mainly fruit and even vegetables) taste much sweeter because I'm not being (as) bombarded by sugar.

> I personally never liked the taste of soda water. However, I just stopped drinking sugared drinks entirely

Try it again, with your palate shifted, you might like it now. As I said, a good squeeze of lemon can make an enormous difference to its palatability.

I agree.

While in Paris and Nice France I noticed many diners would order sparkling water. In the US I'm one of the few that will order it at a meal when I go out.

I drink an enormous amount of plain soda water (aka sparkling water aka seltzer aka club soda). Like 64oz to 96oz a day.

My intake has gone up even more now that I fast most of the day, have a soda stream, and vacuumed seal stainless steel tumbler (yeti, rtic, etc). I highly recommend one of those cups.

I swear but don't have proof that soda water curbs appetite more than flat water.

My only annoyance is that soda stream while I suppose helpful to the environment is actually not that cost effective.

It's a bit expensive, but you can get adapter kits that let you hook a sodastream machine up to a standard CGA 320 CO2 tank, and then you can hook up a 5 or 10 pound CO2 tank. You'd probably be looking at $10~30 for a refill on one of those, which is GREAT considering the standard sodastream tank is only a 1 pounder.

Edit: also, forgot to mention. While your average sports shop paintball gun CO2 refill is dirty as crap, it's really common to have someplace around that has beverage quality CO2 (check breweries, they usually capture the excess from the brewing), and surprise surprise even though the beverage companies make a big fuss about their CO2, your average industrial CO2 supplier is giving you the same CO2 you'd get for food grade. Also look for kegerator suppliers, as they'd be another place to get CO2.

When I used to have a keg setup, I just filled it at the industrial CO2 supplier.

I never had any issues with dirty CO2, neither did the dozen or so other people I know who also kegged. Carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide as far as I'm concerned.

Absolutely. I can't find the source, but I remember reading somewhere that the beverage companies put together a "CO2 Purity Requirements" thing, and it turned out industrial CO2 was already way more pure. Surprise!

The purity in gasses mostly refers to the presence of water vapour or machine oils. A great example of machine oil presence is in cheap nitrous canisters. Easy to see, just go find someone hitting the hippie crack at a party, wait till they finish a hit and ask to have a geez at their Bulbinator. Unscrew that bad boy and wipe your finger around the inside of the canister. Will 9 out of 10 times come out with oil residue on it. Nasty shit.

Just don't get hooked on drinking tonic water. I drank heaps of the stuff during college, turns out high consumption of quinine in tonic water ruins your white blood cell count. I got Q Fever and nearly died from it due to super low white blood cell count. Milk is my go to these days, bit from what I have gathered from international visitors/friends most of the rest of the world doesn't have access to the quality of unadulterated dairy products we do.

I ask for a sort of "Arnold Palmer" with half lemonade and half soda water (instead of tea). Similar to what you describe and always available.

I totally agree. I've been heavily drinking La Croix sparkling water when I crave a soda and I've never been more hydrated!

I disagree with the aspartame causes cancer nonsense - there is really no evidence for it and it poisons the whole comment.

However, it is spot on that drinking diet soda (or any soda) redefines the concept of sweet. Once I stopped, I was amazed that things like carrots, grapes, and even every day bread (sugar added, at least in the U.S.) are very sweet. Suddenly fruits and vegetables are like candy and actual candy is overwhelming.

Actually, this is scientifically wrong. The myth that artifical sweeteners are a bad as sugar has been disproved some time ago. For the harm, e-smoking may pose, one cannot really tell. However, the sole intake of nicotine is not as harmful as smoking tobacco. This difference is mostly due to the presence of MAOI in tobacco. Citric acid actually is worse than phosphoric acid, but how many sirups are made with citric acid? Also, if you limit your intake, you should be fine. Alas most juices comprise in part of citric acid.

MAOIs in tobacco are thought to contribute to addiction, not harm. The carcinogenic parts are the smoke, and the tobacco-specific nitrosamines formed during the curing process.

>myth that artifical sweeteners are a bad as sugar //

Could you link to a review paper for all the studies showing this myth, I must have missed ("myth-ed it!") and was still under the impression artificial sweeteners did damage to the body's control mechanisms for sugar intake.

I drink diet soda because it's much more pleasant to drink and I don't get the sugar rush/crash. Don't assume people do it for health reasons.

It is also better for you teeth.

Artificial sweeteners don't raise sugar or trigger an insulin response. I thought this until I used a Dexcom and tested it for myself (I'm type 1 diabetic so any changes would be immediately noticed.)

Ecigarettes are actually better for you than real ones, and not only that, they basically make it easier to quit using nicotine altogether (according to reports I've seen).

They are better in terms of addiction- but in terms of cancer risk it's a wash.

Due to how poorly regulated the liquids are it has the potential to be worse as well.

Sorry what does "it's a wash" mean here?

We have on the one hand a known bad thing, cigarettes contain all sorts of nasties, tars, combustion products etc etc

On the other we have propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin, nicotine and food flavours that get vapourised (not burned). These have no proven links to cancer, PG and VG are already used in food and in medicines, some for inhalation. Also stage-smoke. There's no reason to think they are anywhere near as hazardous as smoking, though we haven't got good long-term data yet.

Regulation of ingredients would be good, but smoking cigarettes and vaping is very far apart in expected health outcomes.

What specific cancer risks are you referring to? The only serious reports I've run across are



which reports increased levels of aldehydes (formaldehyde, for example) from the breakdown of the propylene glycol and glycerin.

(citation needed)

I really disliked their diet flavors, and most of the non-diet ones. I managed to find a great rootbeer syrup from someone else, but it still had sugar.

Now, I usually either go for an energy drink syrup if I want caffeine (Mio or Power Ade have some good ones) or Koolaid liquid for no-sugar no-caffeine. I make them much stronger than my wife likes, but that's just another feature... You can customize the taste a lot.

Losing your favorite flavors sucks, but the silver lining is that it pushed me to look for other flavors, and I definitely found some that I liked.

> it seems like making soda at home is really catching on ... but the availability of syrups is presenting some serious supplier risk.

Wouldn't the answer there be to try making your own of those too? I'd bet good money that a "plain" syrup isn't difficult to make and that relevant flavouring agents are easy to come by.

> Wouldn't the answer there be to try making your own of those too?

The difference with carbonation is that I can get CO2 and carbonation equipment really easily, and in different forms from different suppliers. I could even get some yeast from my local store and make it. Carbonating water takes less time and effort than making a cup of coffee.

The problem with syrups is that, as you can see from the recipe here on Open Cola, I would spend a lot of time and effort making it. The only syrup I know of that doesn't have this problem is root beer. Most grocery stores in the US seem to carry concentrate which need only be mixed with sweetener and carbonated water. Cola, lemon lime, orange, or other syrups don't have this kind of availability, apart from those from SodaStream.

> Cola, lemon lime, orange, or other syrups don't have this kind of availability

Cola and lemon-lime as a mix, maybe; orange, as well as lemon and lime individually -- and also raspberry, vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, and others -- are very commonly available flavoring syrups in most grocery stores I've seen.

We have a little snow cone maker (ice shaver) that the kids love. We also do Italian sodas periodically.

We buy just-add-water punch mix by the gallon in various flavors at our local grocery store. Should work for home-mixed sodas.

The Torani flavors in the italian sodas are a good option, but probably expensive for mass soda production?

>> Cola, lemon lime, orange, or other syrups don't have this kind of availability

Sure, they're not on every grocery store. But Amazon has them, and it's a great distribution channel for that.

Wait, when was SodaStream acquired? Last I knew they were a publically traded company.

It still is as far as I know. There where some rumors a while back that Pepsi might have been interested in putting in a bid, but nothing came of it.

They have not been acquired by Pepsi. SodaStream has a distribution deal with Pepsi.

I made Open Cola years and years ago, and here's the thing that surprised me most: You won't drink it and say "Hey, this tastes just like Coke!" It tasted good, it had some of the same sorts of flavor things going on that Coke does (sweet/tangy, neroli finish), but you would never mistake it for another cola.

The basic set of oils costs around $75 (most of that the neroli, IIRC), the carbonation setup I was able to do for around $100 (most of that the pressure regulator).

> You won't drink it and say "Hey, this tastes just like Coke!"

The Coca-Cola company has a monopoly on coca leaf extract [1], so nothing tastes 'just like a Coke'. ;)

[1] https://mises.org/blog/coca-cola-cronyism-and-war-drugs

Approximately, for your 75$ initial investment, how many cans of cola did you make? Also would you make it again?

Did you try the Red Bull Cola? Did it taste like it?

This is such a cool idea. Since distribution is the real secret behind the success of Coca Cola and the beverage giants, I bet this would pair well with a Dollar Shave Club type of business model. Deliver a crate of Open Cola to people every month. Undercut the outrageous markups the big guys apply to fizzy sugar water in order to maintain their distribution monopoly. Pass the savings along to the customer. Heavy cola drinkers would love it. Massive and global market.

Need to figure out what to do about the product getting a bit shaken up in the mail though :)

If you shake a bottle and let it rest, it will "unshake" itself. So that is not really the problem.

The problem is people are religious about their Cola and basically nobody has managed to convince consumers that theirs taste as good as the big brand.

There are plenty of very cheap store brand cokes available in stores, none of them have managed to compete with Coca Cola.

Even Coca Cola couldn't compete with Coca Cola...

As other posters suggested, maybe sell the Open Cola syrup and pair with a carbonator.

I want to try the Dollar Shave Club model in my country (Razors particularly have an incredible markup), but the import and tax logistics, plus starting capital requirements, are insurmountable for me. I guess I'll stick to software :)

Here's the only problem: It's still not Coke. I may love Open Cola, I don't know, but if you're setting yourself up to compete directly with Coke, you're setting yourself up for failure. I'm pretty sure it's actually more popular than Pepsi, too.

I think there should be some kind of open source licence for branding stuff like this.

So that anyone would be allowed to sell a drink under Open Cola brand as long as it is produced as defined in the specifications, and especially face legal penalties if someone tries to sell something else as Open Cola.

Then we would need an app that tells where is the closest place to get open burger with cheese and fries to compete with the convenience of knowing the quality I am getting when I opt for Big Mac.

Basically Open Source Franchises?

An interesting idea...

The big thing behind franchises is standards enforcement. Could you enforce standards without a centralised storehouse and tons of onsite training?

Yes, but not only foodstuff and restaurants, but also clothes, tools etc.

The picture on the wikipedia page makes it look very sickly compared to any other cola. It looks like cloudy tea and there's no visible carbonation.

You can adjust that if you make it. When I made it, I didn't put any caramel coloring in it, and it came out cloudy white. As far as carbonation, mine was WAY more carbonated than store bought soda, I was carbonating it to 50psi in the bottles, and shaking up and recarbonating until it wouldn't take any more carbonation. Then I'd let it sit a couple minutes, it was super carbonated.

I love carbonated water. I drink flavorless, heavily carbonated water for fun. Or did, until our SodaStream broke. So honestly, I don't know if I'd actually make Open Cola if given the chance. I might just drink the water.

What did it taste like and where did you buy the materials for carbonating?

I believe that most soda companies add caramel coloring to their cola.

Has anyone tasted this? What was it like?

It'd be cool if they published it on GitHub and allowed people to improve or adapt the recipe with PRs.

Bit tenuous, but...

I'd want to see an automated test suite for the build.

Jenkins with diabetes?

I was thinking the exact same thing, so it's not tenuous.

+1 to OpenCola On GitHub idea :-)




I really like the way the community does it with Soylent (https://diy.soylent.com/recipes). Would love to see a community get behind something like this with Cola and improve on it / come up with variations.

There is a "base" recipe and people experiment, publish their own spin (ie we could see a cherry cola, vanilla, etc) people up vote it and the cream rises to the top and you get some great recipes.

> 2.36 kg plain granulated white table sugar


Let's see: 2.36 kg of sugar makes enough syrup for 24L of OpenCola, according to the wiki article. So, 12oz of OpenCola contains 34.9 grams of sugar [1]. 4 grams less than the equivalent amount of Coke [2].

Not to say that this isn't still a lot of sugar, just that it's comparable to the product it's trying to emulate.

[1] http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=solve+for+x:+2.36+kg+%2... [2] http://www.coca-colaproductfacts.com/en/coca-cola-products/c...

Yes it's not WORSE than cola.. but even 12 ounces has more sugar than WHO suggests for the entire day[0].

So while the concept of "OpenCola" is cool, it's closer to "OpenDiabetes".

[0] https://authoritynutrition.com/how-much-sugar-per-day/

I mean, it's a non-diet soda. What did you expect?

This reminded me of this Ubuntu Cola that I saw the other day: http://i.imgur.com/tsbvnuk.jpg. Sadly, it appears to be closed source!

If there were an open-source low/no calorie formulation of MegaBrand Zero that didn't contain carcinogens, I'd try that out.

This is pretty cool. I don't know if it tastes any good, though, so it's not supplanting coke for me until I can ascertain that.

This is making me want a sodastream.

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