I’ve been curious about the Coca-Cola Freestyle 100-plus choice soda fountain ever since I read about it online earlier this year.
This past Saturday, I got to experience it for myself.
I drove down to the Subway shop at 2514 E. Chapman Ave. (at State College Boulevard) in Fullerton (after a detour to a different Subway further down Chapman…oops!).
The Freestyle machine itself is about the size of an apartment-sized refrigerator. It has a single opening through which both ice and soda are dispensed. On the front is a touchscreen menu for selecting your beverage and a Pour button.
There are 10 basic brands available (Coca-Cola, Dasani, Minute Maid Lemonade, Fanta, Pibb, Hi-C, Sprite, Barq’s, Vault and Powerade) most in both regular and diet (or in Coke nomenclature, Zero) varieties, for a total of 20 different available base beverages, plus plain old water.
And how does it work?
Basically, you step up to the machine, get your ice, if desired and then select your base beverage from the 21 offerings.
The touchscreen has a plastic covering, so you have to give it a pretty good press.
Once you select from the main menu, you’re taken to the menu screen for the base beverage you’ve selected. Most of them have a variety of flavor choices, but some of them — Barq’s Root Beer and Pibb Xtra/Zero, for instance — do not.
For those beverages that allow you to add flavors, the beverage menu screen allows you to choose your flavor — or not, in the case of the Cokes, Minute Maid Lemonade and Vault.
Fanta (and Fanta Zero), for instance, has eight different flavors to choose from — orange, fruit punch, lime, grape, strawberry, peach, raspberry and cherry (what, no pineapple?).
Diet Coke has five flavors — lime, vanilla, orange, cherry and raspberry — in addition to the original.
From the beverage menu, you can switch flavors or return to the main menu.
Once you’ve picked a beverage flavor, just hit the big Pour button on the front and your drink choice is dispensed.
Even the dispensing is unique. It seems as if the flavors/colors are “pulsed” into the water as it’s pouring out, making the soda stream appear striped.
It takes less time than you might expect. If you know what you want, it’s basically two presses and then pour. That only takes a few seconds. If you are deciding what you want while standing at the machine, obviously that’ll take a little longer.
At no time while we were there was there a wait to use the machine. Granted, it’s just a Subway shop, but there were about a dozen customers while we were there, but no wait.
So what did I try? A lot!
I poured about a third of a medium soda at a time, just to I could try different combinations. Here goes:
- Cherry Sprite Zero
- Raspberry Fanta Zero
- Lime Fanta Zero
- Minute Maid Light Strawberry Lemonade
- Lemon Powerade Zero
- Vanilla Coke Zero
- Orange Diet Coke
- Grape Dasani
- Strawberry Dasani Sensations
- Vanilla Diet Coke, topped with Cherry Diet Coke
Were they all good? No. The Orange Diet Coke was one that stood out as something I don’t need to ever try again. But overall, the flavors were pretty much what I expected.
I did notice that the Minute Maid Light Lemonade had a bit more flavor than what you’d get in a standard soda fountain, which is a good thing. That’s always tasted really weak to me in the current fountains.
Also, it’s easy to switch flavors halfway through. Just stop your pour, select a different flavor and continue pouring. Yes, you can mix a grape-orange-cherry Fanta.
You’re not completely unfettered when it comes to decisions. The choices (you can’t currently create a Lemon Diet Coke, for example) are pre-determined by Coke, but apparently can be modified remotely at will.
Also, the Freestyle is able to report back statistics to Coke things like which flavor combinations are most popular, for instance.
Will this lead to Coke deciding to bottle a Raspberry Sprite Zero if it becomes popular at the Freestyle fountains? Who knows.
Do I want one of these for my home? Yes, please.
I’ll definitely be glad when the Freestyle finally reaches the Inland Empire.
So, Coke fans, if you want to try it for yourself, just head on down to Fullerton. You can even go right now…they’re open 24 hours!
Update: Coke has posted a full list of all 100-plus drinks available from the Freestyle on their Freestyle Facebook page here.