Water. It’s absolutely necessary for human survival. The standard American nutritional guideline is that people need to drink eight glasses a day for a healthy body.
Most people think of water as a necessity. They don’t even stop to consider water as anything more than something you have to drink.
And when they do take a moment to consider water, they certainly don’t think about it is as something that has a flavor. But water does have a taste.
If you’ve drunk water ever from a well system or had a glass from the tap when “the lake turns over,” you know this for a fact.
But for others out there, they may not have taken the time to consider that water does, indeed, have a taste, and it can affect how beverages like coffee, tea, and lemonade taste too.
Where Does Water Get Its Taste?
Minerals. Water comes from a variety of sources. And each of those sources has a different combination of minerals that have dissolved into the water. You might not be able to see these minerals—or even taste all of them- but they are there.
Take a look at a bottle of water. You will see a notation that states the number of total dissolved solids (TDS).
It looks something like this: 500ppm. The ppm stands for parts per million. The solids it refers to are naturally occurring minerals like:
- And numerous others
Your taste buds may not detect all minerals. In most cases, the average person can’t even tell the difference between mineral water and spring water.
But in a 2013 study, researchers did a blind taste test between 20 bottled mineral water samples that had varied mineral contents and 25 bottled and tap water samples.
This study found four minerals distinctly impact taste perception:
- HCO₃⁻ (bicarbonate)
- SO₄²⁻ (sulfate)
- Mg²⁺ (magnesium)
Water Type and Source Impact Flavor
When you get right down to it, we’re still talking about mineral content impacting the flavor of water. However, let’s take a look at the various types and sources of water as they have distinctly different tastes.
Generally, tap water is piped directly into your home or a building from a local municipal water source. The source may be treated with fluoride to protect tooth enamel, depending on the municipality.
How the water gets into your home also impacts the water’s taste. The following also has a significant impact on taste:
- Older pipes
Tap water also comes from varied sources, and municipalities have limited, to no, ability to treat water at the TDS levels.
Springwater comes from natural freshwater springs. The location of the spring impacts the taste. As many of our customers know, springs have a wide variation from one to another in taste due to mineral content.
Sourced from underground aquifers deep in the soil, well water has a high concentration of soil minerals. Even though well water is usually filtered, the minerals can still influence how it tastes.
There are plenty of kinds of sparkling water out there. Typically, however, sparkling water is just mineral water that’s been carbonated by adding carbon dioxide (CO2).
Its taste is influenced by the mineral content, the fizzy sensation of carbonation, and its high acidity. Sparkling water can include:
Spring and mineral water can be naturally carbonated or created by the addition of CO2.
Alkaline water contains naturally occurring ionized minerals. These minerals raise its pH level, which decreases its acidity, giving it a “smoother” taste.
Alkaline waters are found near mineral-rich volcanos or springs, but they can also be artificially alkalized.
Made from the steam of boiled water, distilled water has been purified of any minerals, chemicals, or bacteria, giving it its unique taste.
Taste Isn’t Just Aesthetic
Let’s think back to elementary school when you learned about taste buds. Do you remember the five basic taste qualities your taste receptor cells pick up are?
Each taste quality causes your taste receptors to activate a different part of your brain. Surprisingly, water has been found to activate the “sour” taste receptors. Even more impressive is why the human body is set up this way.
Acid-Sensing Taste Receptors
Acid-sensing taste receptors are key to the “sour” reaction that impacts the way water tastes to us. These sour receptors are connected to the amygdala.
This is the part of your brain that processes emotions and working memory. A 2016 study found that strong or distinct flavors like “bitter” and “umami” resulted in heightened amygdala activity.
This activity suggests the human body has evolved to be distinctly aware of certain tastes.
Basic Survival Needs
Scientists believe this evolution has taken place because of a basic survival need. Certain tastes, like bitter, can mean that food is terrible or poisonous.
The same applies to water. Let’s assume you drink some contaminated water. It will taste “wrong,” and your body will react. You will probably spit it right out without a second thought.
The “bad” flavor tells your brain that it’s contaminated, so your body forces you to spit it out instinctively.
The Main Ingredient
Water is the main ingredient in a flavored beverage like:
You are just adding flavor to it. So, no matter what you mix in water, the result will always be affected by the taste of the water. To make a great cup of coffee, you better start with a great cup of water first!
We Are Here for You
We love talking about water and water dispensers! You never know what might turn a potential customer into a sale. If you have any other questions about water, premium dispensers, or the water cooler business, we are here for you.
We’ve been in the water business for over 20 years and know it inside and out. Give us a call, and someone from The Waterways Team will be glad to assist!