There is often a debate among people about what water tastes like, and what it should end up tasting like. Some people are under the impression that water has no taste to it, but this is fundamentally wrong.
Water has a taste to it, and that taste is influenced by how the water was processed and where it was sourced from before you drank it. For example, have you ever noticed that water from your tap tends to taste different than the bottled water that you can purchase at the store? This is because all water has a taste to it, and that taste can vary wildly between types of water.
A good example of this is with carbonated water. Carbonated water is very rarely consumed as just water with a degree of carbonization added to it. Most of the sparkling water you come across tends to be flavored one way or another, with some flavoring being more focused on fruit and other flavors being more focused on trying to taste like standard water.
This is due to the fact that completely unaltered carbonated water tends to have a fairly unpleasant taste by most people’s standards, and this comes from the way that the water was carbonized.
Carbonated Water and Carbon
As the name might suggest, carbonated water gets its name and its trademark taste and feeling by adding carbon dioxide to the water under some degree of pressure. The carbon dioxide will then have some chemical reaction with the water in the container, turning into carbonic acid.
The name of this acid comes from the fact that it is an acidic substance that is derived from carbon. It is a weak acid that you don’t really have to think about, except when you are trying to determine where carbonated water gets its taste from.
Carbonic acid, by its very nature of being an acid, has a tart and bitter taste to it. The bubbles of carbonation also emphasize this taste, which is why carbonated water that is made with a high PSI will often have a more bitter taste to it, as there is more dense carbon, which creates more carbonic acid. This acid remains in the water even if the carbon bubbles are gone though, which is why when sparkling water goes flat, it still has that bitter taste to it.
There are also other types of carbonated water that have varying tastes to them as well, which is why it can sometimes be hard to gauge what exactly carbonated water tastes like. The four main categories of carbonated water include tonic waters, seltzers, club sodas, and sparkling mineral water.
Tonic water is almost always flavored with quinine. Quinine used to be used as a treatment against malaria before modern medicines were invented, and it was added to water as a tonic to help with illness, which is where tonic water gets its name from. Quinine has a naturally bitter taste, and when combined with the nature of carbonated water, this can become an incredibly bitter drink to have on its own, which is why it often has added sugars to it.
Seltzer is your carbonated water at its most basic form. It is water that has been carbonated, and that water does not have any significant presence of minerals in it that can affect its taste. Seltzers tend to be less bitter in taste than other types of sparkling water because of this.
Club soda, occasionally called soda water, is actually just plain water with sodium salts added to it to try and mimic the taste of mineral water. This comes from the mid-1930s, during the Great Depression, when soda water was the least expensive drink that one could get. Because of the added salts, it has a natural salty flavor to it, and it is often added to cocktails to complement that salty taste.
Finally, the sparkling mineral water that you will come across in stores is often filled with minerals and salts that originate from the mineral spring it came from. By its very nature, mineral water contains quite a few minerals in it, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires at least 250 parts per million of the water to be minerals. The combination of carbonization (sometimes natural from the minerals, sometimes added by the company, sometimes both) and the minerals in this water often impart a tangy and salty taste to it.
This is how most standard carbonated waters taste, but you may wonder how it compares to other types of water that you may come across.
Comparing Carbonated Water to Other Waters
There are quite a few other types of water to compare the taste of carbonated water to. There’s your typical tap water, there is distilled water, there is spring water, and there is mineral water. These are your most common types of water that you would compare carbonated water to. Some people may collect naturally occurring rainwater, while other people may want to try drinking water from a stream, but both of these are niche enough that they are not applicable.
Tap water is the most common water that people will drink, simply because it is considerably easy to get up and get water from the tap. Tap water also is the most varied in taste compared to other types of water. It depends heavily on what someone’s own pipes are like and what types of minerals or compounds may be found in those pipes. Tap water may have a slight taste depending on the amount of those compounds that come through the pipes and into the water.
The most common minerals that houses deal with include sulfur, copper, and iron. Copper and iron will both carry a metallic-type of taste to them, with copper often being a little bit saltier than iron. Sulfur tends to have a rotten taste and should not be tasted unless someone has a problem with sulfur in their pipes, but it is a factor in how someone’s tap water can taste compared to other waters.
Spring water, as the name suggests, is water that is derived from natural springs in the world. As with tap water, the taste of spring water will depend heavily on location, with some springs having more minerals in them than others.
Spring water will be different from river water, though, as despite the fact that producers of spring water try to keep the water as natural as possible, there is almost always a filtration process because of the natural lifeforms that make their homes in springs. Spring water will often have a slight tang to it from the minerals, but it should not be noticeable enough to be able to really discern.
Mineral water is much the same in this regard except from where mineral water is sourced from. Rather than sourcing the water from a spring, the water is sourced from naturally occurring pockets of water and wells, and is often bottled from the source without a filtration process. This means that it may have a stronger taste than spring water, but it will still be relatively faint.
Distilled (or purified) water is going to be the closest to tasteless that you can get. This type of water is treated and processed to remove any and all presence of minerals and any other naturally occurring particles aside from the water molecule itself. By this basis, you are drinking the purest form of water possible without any outside elements affecting the taste. Most people consider distilled water to be tasteless for this reason.