Carbonated beverages and ice cream products often require their own storage in a busy restaurant. Because both must be refrigerated, we include them in this chapter. Carbonated beverages are created on-site at most restaurants by mixing together syrup and carbonated water and propelling it through a system of chilled tubes (called lines) to the dispenser. There are two types of carbonated beverage machines, postmix and premix; and two types of dispensers, fountain and cobra gun.
The postmix system begins with the syrup concentrate moving through the chilled line and the carbonated water moving through another line to join at the dispensing head, where the newly mixed soft drink is poured into a cup or glass. A valve for each drink may be electric or manual. The syrup is purchased in three- or five-gallon tanks or boxes that sit under the dispenser. Valves on the syrup containers enable easy hookup to the system. Most systems use carbon dioxide as the gas that propels the liquids through the lines.
The premix system works much like the postmix, except the syrup and carbonated water are purchased already mixed and propelled up a single line into the dispensing head. Both premix and postmix dispensers usually contain room for ice storage and chutes to dispense ice into cups. Self-contained fountain units come in large stand-alone sizes with a dozen valves or more, and countertop sizes as small as three feet in width. They can be purchased from the same company that supplies the syrup. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of beverage system. The concentrated postmix syrup is less expensive than the premixed product, but postmix requires more lines and is more complicated to maintain and hook up.
In large operations where more than one dispensing site is needed (say, in a cafeteria), you can set up one central propulsion and cooling system and connect it to more than one row of dispensing valves. In a bar, the dispensing unit is likely to be used only by the bartenders. It is called a gun (bar gun, cobra gun, handgun, and/or speedgun), and it’s attached to a multiline hose called a cobra. The top of the dispensing head features up to eight buttons you can push, each one linked to a different line.
The cobra gun can dispense as many as seven soft drinks and water from a single head. Soft-drink dispensers cool beverages one of two ways. One is a small electric refrigeration system that runs on a 1/4- or 1/2-horsepower compressor and can chill up to 700 12-ounce drinks per hour. The other option is a cold plate, which is a metal sheet chilled by direct contact with ice in a bin. The beverage lines all run through the metal plate, cooling the syrup and water. The larger the plate and the more of its surface is ice covered, the colder the final product. The temperature of your beverage dispenser is critical, because carbonation tends to fizzle above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, resulting in flat beverages.