I think that the taste from a canned beer is different to the taste of the bottled beer. The same I experience for soft drinks. Is my sensory system distorted or do I suffer from an illusion?

Can this be true at all / could this be explained somehow by the used material?

  • 1
    That's perfectly normal. Glass is the most inert type of container. Both alluminium and plastic interact with it's content (hence the BB date on water bottled in plastic). The taste depend on one tastebuds, temperature, humidity and pressure (among other things). Dec 8 '20 at 15:27
  • That's what I was thinking, but I refused to believe that the content would interact in that way with the container.
    – stephanmg
    Dec 8 '20 at 15:40
  • 2
    You could do a triangle test...you and some friends...as a fun, and easy experiment. This would allow you to see whether your own perception matches what you think. See: sensorysociety.org/knowledge/sspwiki/Pages/Triangle%20Test.aspx
    – moscafj
    Dec 8 '20 at 20:13
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    This question was previously also asked on a sister site: alcohol.stackexchange.com/questions/3499/…
    – raznagul
    Dec 11 '20 at 13:11
  • Sorry. I was not aware of this SE.
    – stephanmg
    Dec 11 '20 at 17:49

According to the only study we have(PDF of original study) on the topic, it does not make a difference whether beer comes from a bottle or can. In this study, participants who were shown the bottle or can had a preference for bottles, but participants who were not shown the beer container did not.

Results from the blind taste test – when participants had no knowledge about the beers or where they came from – showed that there were no preferences for bottled or canned beer, one way or another. Nearly 45% of participants rated the canned beer better than the bottled, 41% of participants rated the bottled beer better than the canned, and close to 1.5% said they both tasted the same.

Of necessity, the participants in this study were drinking from a plastic cup. So it remains possible that you can taste the container directly if you are drinking straight from the bottle or can, with the glass or aluminum touching your lips.

  • Do you know of the study of the fact that wine tastes varies according to the surrounding/ambient light in a room?
    – stephanmg
    Dec 9 '20 at 9:27
  • Here is the reference: Daniel Oberfeld, Heiko Hecht, Ulrich Allendorf and Florian Wickelmaier. Ambient lighting modifies the flavor of wine. Journal of Sensory Studies, 2009; 24 (6): 797 DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-459X.2009.00239.x
    – stephanmg
    Dec 9 '20 at 9:57
  • I would thus venture the guess that the visual aesthetics of a can vs. bottle might already play our mind a trick plus maybe the interaction of the (assumed inert) coating of the can or bottle inside.
    – stephanmg
    Dec 9 '20 at 9:58
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    Stephan: more likely that, in Britian as well as the US, for a long time cheaper beers were sold in cans, and more premium beers in bottles. This affects percieved quality when you see the container. Here in the US-PNW, a bunch of premium microbrews are now releasing in cans; I imagine that the difference in perceived value will vanish in the next 10 years.
    – FuzzyChef
    Dec 9 '20 at 16:05

Using bottles can be a bit of a liability if they are not brown. When hops is added to beer, they release chemical compounds called Iso-Alpha Acids. They're bitter on their own, but when exposed to sunlight they break down and interact with other molecules in the beer to produce a molecule that's almost identical to the one in a skunk's smelly spray.

Grolsch bottles seem like a fabulous deal with the swing-tops, but what they don't tell you is that they are green, they have very specific packaging that keeps the sunlight from spoiling it. With cans you have none of that problem.

20 years ago there used to be a stigma in regards to drinking beer from a can, but I think with the environmental lookout that the people of 2020 have, cans seem like a better solution.


Ideally, we shouldn’t be drinking beer directly from cans or bottles, but poured into a glass.

That said, cans are a superior packaging solution for beer because they allow no light. UV absolutely annihilates hop flavors. That’s why we see green bottles (which offer minor protection) and brown bottles (which offer substantial, but not complete protection).

If you’re drinking out of a can, your nose is right up against a dusty metal object. That scent will negatively impact your experience.

In the US, cans suffer from negative customer perception because “back in the day” folks were used to seeing Budweiser in cans and higher priced imports in glass.

Now, American craft beer is on equal footing with foreign competitors and many packaging options are popular yet the stigma remains.

Don’t be afraid of cans. Pour your beer into a glass.

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