The Secret Marks on McDonald’s Cups

November 19, 2009 at 11:28 pm 16 comments

The secret marks are all about ice. How much ice is too much? Are you getting ripped off? Why are they so concerned with how much ice goes into the cup? Let me tell you…

McDonald's Cup Lines

Firstly, for credibility and disclosure, I should mention that I worked at McDonald’s for a while during high school. This was one of the most interesting, enlightening and dirty jobs I’ve had.

One of the most surprising things was their commitment to quality. I know that’s kind of an oxymoron, but keep in mind they’re dealing with burgers and fries, not White Alba truffles. Regardless, they take burgers and fries very seriously. They employ top culinary experts to perfect things such as, the exact amount of mustard their proprietary dispenser puts on a burger. They hand pick only the best potatoes for the fries, according to one training video. They also have proprietary shortening for cooking the fries and a different shortening recipe for nuggets and fish fillets.

Their attention to detail includes regular calibration of the soda dispenser. This ensures the proper mix of water, syrup and carbon dioxide for the perfect Coke. There are also buttons that represent each cup size to automatically fill the cups while the cashier gets the rest of your order. It is important that the exact amount of ice is put in your cup, otherwise the calibrated machine will not fill the cup to the top mark on the cup.

Let’s take a step back, there is a large machine in the back of the restaurant that supplies the soda machine with all of the ingredients. It compresses air for the carbonation, filters tap water and holds all of the various syrup flavors. There is tubing that carries all of these supplies to the front of the store where the soda dispensers are. There is no refrigeration in any part of this system, so they have to put enough ice in your cup to take the drink from room temperature, to ice cold — before you take your first sip.

On the internet, there are many complaints about too much ice in these drinks. People complain that they’re being ripped off. While I agree, there is a lot of ice in these drinks, if you compare the price per ounce, it’s still cheaper than canned drinks. Some people don’t mind room temperature soda and ask for it with “no ice” and some people even ask for “extra ice” so it’s extra cold.

Extra ice doesn’t sound that strange if you have one of those fancy fridges with an ice maker. Maybe you’ve experimented with different amounts of ice, and if you’ve ever completely filled a cup with ice you may agree that a super cold soda is the best kind there is.

Entry filed under: Food and Drink. Tags: , , , , , .

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16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephanie Derbyshire  |  January 18, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Interesting! Too bad I won’t be purchasing drinks there since they got rid of their orange drink!

  • […] 4, 2010 There is no shortage of McDonald’s secrets. In a previous post, I talked about the secret markings on McDonald’s cups that indicate proper ice and soda […]

  • 4. MCDONALDS CUP | Kids and Family Products  |  July 10, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    […] mcdonalds cup […]

  • 5. Josh Jenkins  |  November 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    … This is completely incorrect. There weren’t any instructions whatsoever on how much ice to put into a cup. NT though.

  • 7. Cashcleaner  |  January 26, 2012 at 3:17 am

    MacDonald’s is a testament to how well a company can thrive by continuously streaming its processes and developing more effecient technologies and methods. I haven’t eaten any McDonalds burgers or fries in well over a decade (did have a spell of having their breakfast sandwich last summer, though), but I can give credit were it’s due for their business model.

  • 8. pathetic  |  May 9, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    you’re an idiot. if people claim there is too much ice either ask for no ice or a little bit of ice. most mc donalds now have the drink station out for people to get their own drinks.

  • 9. Party Cup Ridges are Measurement Markings « Broken Secrets  |  September 8, 2012 at 10:09 am

    […] you think the 5 oz line is too high to be an ice fill line, look at the discrete markings on McDonald’s cups – they also have an ice fill […]

  • 10. Suspect_Number_3  |  December 1, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    “It compresses air for the carbonation …” Not quite correct.
    Carbonation is provided by carbon dioxide gas, that is brought in by truck. Adding air to liquid is aeration. Good for fishtanks, useless for bubbles in soda.

    • 11. Gfyourself  |  May 11, 2016 at 11:53 pm

      Just to help you out your also wrong in part of your statement. The air in the atmosphere is made up of way more parts carborbon dioxide than oxygen so where do you think they source compressed co2.

      • 12. Your daddy  |  December 10, 2017 at 5:18 pm

        If the atmosphere were made up of, “way more parts caborbon[sic] dioxide than oxygen,” then you’d be fucking dead. You should have paid more attention in your 3rd-grade science class. The CO2 that goes into carbonating sodas is scavenged from combustion or natural gas extraction processes, compressed, bottled, and then transported to locations that utilize the gas for their own purposes.

  • 13. Brad  |  December 11, 2013 at 8:15 am

    The syrup water and gas is refrigerated. The big unit out the back is a condensing unit, I’m not sure if it’s refrigerated whilst it travels to the tap (post mix) or if it’s refrigerated just before the syrup, gas and water are mixed. Either way the beverage is refrigerated out of the tap. The ice is to keep the drink cool for the trip home or while it’s sitting on your table.
    The exact amount of ice is also important as this is factored into the water/syrup ratio eg more syrup to the drink to account for ice melt.
    If you sip your McDonnalds coke fresh it is always sweeter than regular coke, however as the ice melts this reduces.
    If too little ice is placed in the cup the beverage is too sweet, if too much is put in the cup it will become not sweet enough quickly as the ice melts.

  • 14. blah d. blah  |  January 3, 2015 at 7:58 am

    McDonalds coke is a total rip off – it is at least twice the price of buying it in a can. At least here in Australia, it is. And the can is much better coke that the post mix.

  • 15. Robert  |  May 19, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Okay, to clarify a few things…

    The carbon dioxide comes from a sealed bottle at around 1800+ PSI. It is not compressed air, or compressed from the air. At least not at the restaurant anyway.

    The water and syrup are chilled through a cold plate in the bottom of the ice bin or with a refrigeration unit at the fountain head. It does not come out at room temperature. If it did, the carbon dioxide would rush out of the soda at the tap. It is also not going through the lines chilled.

    You are correct about the lines on the cup though. However, few people working there actually use them despite the training.

  • 16. Casey  |  May 12, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Why did McDonald’s put a black m on their cups


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