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What is a Carbonated Beverage?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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Carbonated beverages are drinks that include carbon dioxide dissolved in water. The presence of this gas creates bubbles and fizzing in the liquid. Carbonation can occur naturally underground or artificially, through pressurizing. Examples of carbonated beverages include spring water, beer and soda, or pop.

Carbonation

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a compound made of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. Beverages are artificially carbonated when carbon dioxide is dissolved into the liquid under high pressure. When that pressure is released, small gas bubbles develop. Carbonation can also occur naturally when carbon dioxide gas is dissolved into a liquid, such as in spring water, which absorbs CO2 underground. Beer is another naturally carbonated beverage, because carbon dioxide is created during the fermentation process.

Why Some Beverages are Carbonated

Beverages are carbonated for various reasons. Many people find the fizzy sensation to be pleasant and like the slightly different taste that carbon dioxide provides. Carbonated beverages, particularly naturally carbonated spring water, were once thought to be health tonics, and the effervescence can help soothe an upset stomach.

To keep the carbon dioxide dissolved, cans and bottles of soda must be kept under high pressure. Containers might explode when shaken, because of the build up of the gas, or the beverage might spray out when a shaken container is opened. The carbon dioxide in a carbonated beverage also causes people to burp after they drink it, because the gas is released after being ingested into the body.

History

Beer and sparkling wine are carbonated naturally during fermentation and were enjoyed at least as early as the 17th century. The first artificially carbonated beverage was invented when English chemist Joseph Priestley, who later when on to discover oxygen, invented a way to infuse carbon dioxide in water in 1767. Jacob Schweppe followed with his commercial carbonated mineral water in Switzerland in 1783. Benjamin Silliman began selling bottled seltzer water commercially in the United States in 1807. Seltzer, which was once naturally carbonated from its source in southwest Germany, is now artificially carbonated.

Soda fountains were popular in many drugstores in the 1800s and usually offered carbonated beverage flavors such as orange and grape. Many of the most well-known brands of carbonated beverages were invented between 1860 and 1900. Carbonated beverages became known as "pop" in some places because of the sound the fizzing bubbles produced when they exploded.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1000812 — On Jan 06, 2019

I would love to know about some examples of carbonated drinks, not just what they are.

By anon936279 — On Feb 28, 2014

Why do we have soda? I mean we drink it, but why is it soda? And also why is there carbonation in it?

By bagley79 — On Nov 03, 2012

As a special treat our family likes to have sparkling grape juice for holiday meals. Something about the carbonated grape juice seems to make the drink even better than usual. My kids love to see the bubbles in the juice and we never have to worry about having any left over.

One thing about carbonated beverages is you have to be careful the can or bottle they are in isn't moved around or shaken up too much. Otherwise when you take the lid off you may have a big mess all over the place. This would be a sticky mess no matter what, but if it is a dark color, it can really be hard to clean up.

By julies — On Nov 03, 2012

@anon243575 -- I find it interesting how people from different parts of the country refer to soda. Where I come from, we have always called these carbonated beverages "pop." I never gave this a thought until I went to college and had a roommate that called it soda. Some people will combine both words and call it soda pop. I guess it really doesn't matter what it is called because most people know what you are talking about either way.

By SarahSon — On Nov 03, 2012

@myharley -- I would have a really hard time giving up both carbonated beverages and caffeine. There is something about carbonated beverages that is almost addicting. I really cut back on the amount of soda I was drinking but really crave one about three o'clock in the afternoon.

The caffeine and the carbonation help get me through the rest of the day when I feel like I could really use a nap. I tried replacing the soda with carbonated water, but it just wasn't the same. I really missed the sweetness of the soda as compared to the water.

By myharley — On Nov 02, 2012

@anon106548 -- I have problems with acid reflux (GERD) and my doctor told me carbonated beverages was one of the things I should stay away from. She also told me to avoid caffeine as this could also aggravate my condition.

I had a really hard time giving up my soda. I think I enjoyed the carbonation just as much as the taste. I still indulge myself in a carbonated beverage every so often. There is just something about that fizz that is hard to resist.

By anon243575 — On Jan 28, 2012

@anon25511 (post 1): 'Soda' is the American term for a carbonated beverage (or fizzy drink as they're known in the UK).

By anon242190 — On Jan 22, 2012

Thanks to wisegeek, I am in the middle of a great science fair project on carbonation. This is a good website with reliable sources. -abby

By anon202135 — On Aug 01, 2011

One difference between a carbonated beverage and an effervescing beverage is the source of the carbonation/effervescence. A carbonated beverage has carbon dioxide gas forced into it from an outside source. A typical soda drink like Coca Cola is a carbonated beverage.

Some beverages, however, contain ingredients like yeast which create their own gases from within the solution. Many homemade root beer recipes call for yeast and sugar to create effervescence, which is not always as pronounced as carbonation. An effervescent beverage may be a little fizzy or tingly compared to the strong bubbliness of a carbonated beverage.

An effervescent tablet such as Alka Seltzer or Fizzies also releases gases into the water as it dissolves. The resulting acid reliever or beverage is considered to be more effervescent than carbonated, although the gas in question is most likely carbon dioxide.

By anon141066 — On Jan 09, 2011

i really liked this article. it helped me and my friend a lot when we had to do our science fair project! Thanks!

By anon106548 — On Aug 26, 2010

Are carbonated beverages risky for someone with a gastric ulcer?

By anon75945 — On Apr 08, 2010

we are doing a science fair project on a coke and mt dew with mentos.

By anon65325 — On Feb 12, 2010

I'm quite certain it's Carbon Dioxide, not monoxide. It even says in the passage "known as 'pop' because of the sound the fizzing bubbles produced by carbon dioxide made as they exploded."

Sorry for being nit-picky here.

By anon60686 — On Jan 15, 2010

What is carbonation? What does it do to our drinks, and our bodies? Research carbonation and write a paragraph about what you learn.

By anon59560 — On Jan 09, 2010

So my son is doing a fifth grade science fair project on testing different soft drinks and their carbonated content. he used this page as a resource and we're interested in knowing when you last updated this information. We have not found that posted anywhere on this page. Thanks.

By minhhieu — On Jun 09, 2009

Kindly let me know the difference between carbonated beverage and effervescing beverage.

By anon25511 — On Jan 30, 2009

why is a coca cola soft drink referred to as 'soda'?

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