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The Carbonated Cola-War Conclusion

№148 ~5 minutes

In which I subject myself and the Eriksson family to a double-blind study to determine whether we can tell Coca-Cola and Pepsi apart.

After a decade of delusions of grandeur, I finally — or do I? — put to rest the pressing question of whether or not I can tell the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi?

As long as I can remember I have claimed to be able to tell the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Whenever I would visit a restaurant and tell them I want “Coke” and they ask me “Is Pepsi okay?” I always want to counter their question with “Is Monopoly money okay?”

Of course I never ask this because that would be rude and anyone who asks “Is Pepsi okay?” as a substitute to Coca-Cola, clearly doesn’t understand that it isn’t. And that the question itself is offensive to any Soft Drink Aficionado.

“How dare you insinuate that any carbonated soft drink can be a suitable substitute for another?”, I would say — in my mind — all the while actually giving them a measly “Yeah, sure” as a reply. And then I — in my mind — murder them slowly.

A Coca-Cola bottle with an ominous hand coming out of it.
“Don’t let the coke get the upper hand”. Acrylic by Carlos Eriksson 2003.

But anyone can claim to have the delicate taste buds capable of telling the difference between soft drinks, it’s a completely different matter to actually possess that power.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Yes. After a decade, the time had finally come to put my powers of narcissism to the test. Just like a few years back when I did a double-blind study with water and had to learn to live with knowing that I couldn’t tell the difference between Spring, Filtered or Tap water.

Yeah, I couldn’t tell the difference even a little bit.

Which meant, going into this, I was almost expecting the results to surprise me in the same — ego crushing — way.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi reimagined as giant fighting robots.
Coca-Cola vs Pepsi.

Using my last double-blind study as a template I expanded the concept to include more beverages and more people because unlike last time, the rest of my family seemed equally eager to try their skills.

The new double-blind study consisted of my wife, our son and myself tasting 7 different kinds of soft drinks, deciding not only which one is which but also which one tastes the best.

The study itself is fairly straightforward but requires some preparation and for those of you who might feel compelled to try it at home I’m going to outline how we did it. Regardless of the number of people who participate you need at least two people to make it… well… a study at all, really.

The Contenders

  • Coca-Cola
  • Diet Coke
  • Coca-Cola Zero
  • Coca-Cola Cherry (more for the fun of it)
  • Pepsi
  • Diet Pepsi
  • Pepsi Max

The Study

I gave us 7 cups each, filled them with one of each beverage and marked the cups using only numbers. This is the first index — 4 = Coca-Cola, 1 = Pepsi etc — and I keep it safe until the end of the study. To prevent biased results from participants influencing one another, the numbers and beverages don’t match between participants. In other words, my #4 was not necessarily the same as my wife’s #4.

After this I left the room and my lovely assistant — who also happens to be my wife — entered the room to randomly replace each number with a letter. Whereas I have an index with 4 = Coca-Cola, 1 = Pepsi etc, she then ends up with an index that looks more like this; E = 1, B = 2 etc. She then keeps the second index safe until the end of the study.

At this point neither of us know which letter corresponds to which beverage and thus… the double-blind study may begin.

Three sets of seven cups with all the different beverages, ready for testing.
Initiating Protocol “Carbonated Blindness”

The Conclusion

I have — again — reached the conclusion that I’m not as perceptive as I think. Sure I got 4 out 7 right, which is 57.14% correct but it’s also unmistakable… not 100%. And more importantly I failed completely in telling the difference between the two most crucial soft drinks; Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

I drank Pepsi and thought it was Coca-Cola. I drank Diet Coke, enjoyed it but thought it was Pepsi. And finally — thankfully —I actually liked Coca-Cola the most out of all of them… but sadly I thought it was Diet Coke.

So, taking away all the permutations like Diet, Zero or Max and I can — apparently — not tell the difference between the two main fighters Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Wow, that’s a blow to the ego. So much for my delusions of grandeur.

“What does all of this mean?”, I’m sure you’re wondering by now.

Well.

The next time someone asks me “Is Pepsi okay?”, I suppose I’ll just have bow my head in shame and mutter “Yes, apparently it is.”

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