Answer Man: How cold is too cold for outdoor soda vendors?

February 10, 2019

How do the cans and bottles in outdoor vending machines not freeze and explode with all the below zero temperatures we have had this winter? — Cold and Thirsty

Dear Thirsty: If you have left a can or two of carbonated beverage in your car in below freezing temperatures, only to come back to a mess all over your upholstery, you know the winters of Minnesota and soda/pop (use your word of choice) don’t mix well.

To quote my friends, Outkast, “What’s cooler than being cool? Ice cold.” This is true for many things, but there is a fine line between an ice cold beverage at the peak of perfection on a hot, sunny day and a frozen explosion that is terrible to clean up in winter.

So how do they keep those cans and bottles of perfection, well, perfect? Climate control. Vending machines not only have a cooling system to keep things cool in the summer, they also have a heating element to keep temperatures from dropping too low.

According to Stuart Riemann, district manager for canteen vending at D&R Star Vending in Rochester, they have several outdoor machines in the area but have had no explosions or issues with them so far this season. If the heaters go out, it can be a problem, he said.

Not only do these machines have heaters, they are built with polyurethane foam between inner and outer galvanized steel compartments. This insulation offers protection from extreme environments. It may not be quite enough protection for the subzero temperatures of a Polar Vortex, but with the heaters the entire system works to uphold the perfection of an ice cold drink when you need it most.

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