The Taste of Water: Water Isn’t Tasteless
We usually think of water as being tasteless, odorless, and colorless. However, this is a misconception. In fact, we like our water to have a taste—in blind taste tests, we prefer tap water to distilled water. Most taste testers agree that water should have a taste, but that it shouldn’t stand out.
How the Taste of Water Varies
Several factors influence the taste of water. Tap water taste changes depending on where you live and the water treatment process in your area. We commonly associate municipal water with the slightly acidic taste of chlorine. Carbonation levels affect carbonated water’s taste. Greater amounts of carbon dioxide make the water taste more acidic—drinkers call this acidity “spritzy” or “sharp,” and may enjoy or dislike this taste based on their own personal preferences. Bottled water brands mislead consumers into thinking that bottled water tastes better than tap water: blind taste tests show that most consumers prefer tap water. When water is used as an ingredient, the water’s taste in turn affect affects the foods and drinks that it helps make.
How We Judge the Taste of Water
We think of water as being tasteless, but subconsciously we are always judging its flavor. We consider water’s saltiness, its softness, its earthiness. When most people talk about tap water’s “taste,” they are really referring to its flavor. While taste is merely what one perceives with the tongue, flavor takes into account smell and touch, or mouthfeel, in addition to taste. Our 100,000 taste buds are assess the four basic stimuli of sweetness, sourness, bitterness and saltiness of all of the water that we drink. Most taste testers agree that water should have flavor, but shouldn’t stand out. Most taste testers also agree that water’s flavor is enhanced when we filter out chemicals like sulfur and chlorine.
Why the Taste of Water Varies
All water molecules are made up of two hydrogen atoms combined with one oxygen atom. However, water’s taste nevertheless varies. The taste of water varies because water is a universal solvent. That is, water dissolves a little bit of everything it touches. As water travels, it picks up dissolved mineral traces from everything it touches, traces that affect the way the water tastes. This is why the taste of water varies depending on where it comes from.