Water's Flavor

Water’s Flavor and Where It Comes From

Water may seem like the simplest taste – pure, clear and refreshing. But in fact numerous nuances affect water’s subtle flavor based on its mineral content, temperature, storage and more. This article will delve into the hidden qualities influencing water’s flavor profile.

You’ll learn why certain waters taste different, and how factors like minerals, plastic contact, and purification impact subtle tastes. We’ll also cover how advanced filtration from Artic Refresh produces clean, neutral tasting water. Read on to appreciate the delicate science behind perceiving water’s taste.

Does Water Have a Taste?

To start, let’s define how we sense “taste” chemically:

  • Most flavor perception arises from aromas sensed by olfactory receptors as we swallow.
  • Direct taste sensation relies on 5 categories detected by taste buds – sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory/umami.

Pure water contains no sugars, acids, alkaloids, salts or amino acids to activate taste receptors. So chemically, water has no direct flavor.

However, the human tongue remains highly sensitive to other qualities like temperature, texture, and subtle mineral content that influence water’s overall flavor profile.

Basic Qualities Impacting Water Taste

While we don’t directly “taste” water, several baseline factors shape our flavor perception:


  • Cold water is refreshing. But too icy numbs receptors, limiting flavor detection. Room temperature provides fullest taste.


  • Bubbly carbonated waters introduce an energetic, effervescent mouthfeel and tartness as CO2 dissolves.

Mineral Content

  • Dissolved solids like calcium, sodium, chloride and sulfate affect flavor subtly but significantly.


  • Chlorine, microbes, metals like iron, plasticizers and other compounds easily alter water’s flavor for the worse.


  • Oxidation from exposure to air causes metallic tastes. Deoxygenation removes this effect.

pH Levels

  • Alkaline water tastes smooth and viscous while acidic waters seem lively. Neutral is ideal for balance.


  • Advanced filtration removes tastes and odor causing compounds resulting in clean, neutral tasting water.

These core factors form the foundation that other influences build upon in creating water’s complex flavor.

The Role of Mineral Content on Taste

The Role of Mineral Content on Taste

One of the most influential drivers of water taste is the blend of dissolved mineral salts present:

  • Calcium – Adds roundness and richness
  • Magnesium – Contributes bitterness
  • Sodium – Provides characteristic softness and saltiness
  • Potassium – Imparts a smooth, fatty sensation
  • Sulfates – Give water a dry minerality
  • Chloride – Supplies a bright, lively salty quality at low levels
  • Fluoride – Higher levels add an unpleasant chemical edge

Multitudes of mineral combinations create the distinct tasting personalities of various natural spring waters. Minerals largely shape regional tap water tastes as well based on aquifers.

How Temperature Alters Taste

Temperature dramatically impacts how we perceive water’s taste:


  • Chilled water seems the most refreshing when icy cold around 39-50°F due to menthol-like trigeminal nerve activation. But extreme cold also impairs taste reception of more nuanced flavors.


  • As water warms to 50-60°F, subtler mineral and chemical flavors become more perceptible. This cooler temperature range offers fullest overall flavor detection.

Room Temperature

  • At 60-80°F, water’s viscosity thickens allowing best evaluation of mouthfeel qualities and smoothing harsher mineral edges.


  • Warm water above 80°F accentuates sweetness but masks saltiness and carbonation. Beneficial compounds also degrade at sustained hot temperatures.

For highlighting pure flavor, cooler 50-60°F water provides the ideal balance of refreshment and nuanced taste detection.

How pH Level Impacts Flavor

Based on mineral content, water falls somewhere along the pH scale from acidic to alkaline which changes its flavor:


  • pH under 7 indicates acidic water with lively, vibrant flavor – chloride, fluoride and sulfate dominated. Can seem harsh when very low.


  • pH around 7 provides balanced smoothness. Not too viscous or thin. Allows full flavor.


  • pH over 7 gives water a round, silky mouthfeel. Tastes vapid when too high. Metallic mineral taste.

Aim for water in the neutral 6.5-7.5 pH range for the most agreeable and nuanced hydration experience.

Why Plastic Alters Taste

Why Plastic Alters Taste

Plastic water bottles and storage containers harm water’s natural flavor:

Chemical Leaching

Plastics leach organic compounds like plasticizers and solvents into contents changing taste, often making things taste plasticy.

Stale Absorption

Water absorbs ambient odors and tastes from the plastic container material it sits in.

Freezer Burn

Freezing concentrates leached compounds. Thawing releases an exaggerated plastic taste.

Sunlight Damage

Heat and UV light accelerate plastic decomposition and leaching of breakdown compounds.

Glass, stainless steel and wax-lined containers avoid plastic’s flavor imposition. Or use BPA-free plastics for short term storage.

How Filtration Improves Flavor

Treating water through purification methods significantly enhances its flavor by removing undesirable compounds:

Reverse Osmosis

  • Pushes water through membranes that block dissolved minerals, microbes, and metals improving taste and smell.

Activated Carbon

  • Adsorbs volatile organics and chlorine compounds eliminating unpleasant flavors and odors.

UV Radiation

  • Destroys microbes responsible for musty, rotten tastes.


  • Oxidizes odorous phenol compounds and also kills microbes impairing taste.

Ion Exchange

  • Swaps undesirable dissolved minerals for more flavor-neutral salts like sodium chloride.

Applying the right combination of methods tailored to input water optimizes flavor.

How Bottling Processing Affects Taste

Before you even take a sip, commercial handling when bottling influences water’s flavor:


  • As noted above, thorough filtration removes off-tastes for clean flavor. Carbon filtration in particular.


  • Ozone bubbling during processing oxidizes organics and kills microbes that might affect taste.

UV Disinfection

  • Ultraviolet irradiation destroys potentially troublesome microbial growths.


  • Removing oxygen via nitrogen sparging or vacuum degassing prevents metallic oxidation flavor.


  • Balancing trace mineral levels improves taste after aggressive filtration removes naturally occurring ions.

Look for these steps undertaken by bottlers like Artic Refresh to provide great tasting water.

The Impact of Water Handling on Flavor

How water is handled after initial treatment continues influencing taste:

Container Material

  • As discussed earlier, plastics, metals, and liners impact flavor based on leaching potential.

Sunlight Exposure

  • UV radiation penetrating bottles generates free radicals altering taste over time. Keep water stored away from light.

Oxygen Influx

  • Exposure to air allows oxidation of compounds generating metallic, fishy flavors. Keep containers full and sealed.

Dirty Containers

  • Reusing unwashed containers transfers smells and films altering taste. Always wash jugs thoroughly.

Freezing Thawing

  • Freezing concentrates then abruptly releases gases and leached compounds when thawing, intensifying odors.

The more protected from air, light, temperature swings and contamination, the better water tastes.

Regional Taste Profiles

Public tap water tastes vary across the country based on regional water sources and mineral content:


Surface water, reservoirs. Low mineral. Chlorinated.


Well water, limestone aquifers. Mineral-rich. Sulfurous.


Surface springs. Moderate minerals. Earthy taste.


Glacial melt. Very soft water. Requires conditioning.


Groundwater. Hardness and alkalinity. Salty.

Local geography shapes the distinctive flavor personalities popular bottled brands embrace.

How Branding Shapes Taste Expectations

Water taste involves more than just chemistry. Marketing and branding heavily influence our flavor perceptions:


  • Descriptors like “mountain spring” or “glacial” convey crisp, clean tastes – even if sourced from urban tap supplies.

Bottle Shape

  • Elegant curvy glass implies pure taste. Sporty plastic signals refreshing. Shape sets expectations.

Brand Image

  • Evocative names like “Klarbrunn” and sophisticated labels underscore pristine flavor.


  • Higher priced waters taste better due to perceived scarcity and quality signaling.

Cultural Identity

  • Local brands resonate as refreshing due to regional pride and familiarity.

While subtle, these cues surround expectations of how a branded water will taste and satisfy.

Testing For Taste

Chemistry alone doesn’t dictate overall taste appeal. Sensory testing with skilled tasters confirms joy of drinking:


  • Good water should smell appealingly clean without strong mineral, chemical or organic odors.


  • The first sips should taste fresh and absent any harsh, cloying or artificial flavors. Pleasantly neutral.


  • It should feel lively yet smooth. Silky without being syrupy. Cooling without being unsatisfying.


  • No unpleasant bitter, chemical or stale aftertaste should linger long post-drinking.


  • Ultimately water should quench thirst and satisfy. The perfect pregnancy of aroma, flavor, feel and bite.

Testing water’s sensory pleasures ensures it delivers an enjoyable drinking experience beyond scientific measurements alone.

Why Artic Refresh Water Tastes Great

For premier tasting water in the Austin region, Artic Refresh utilizes advanced filtration to remove impurities while retaining subtle mineral flavor:

  • Our 5-stage reverse osmosis removes particles and chemicals down to 0.0001 microns, eliminating off-tastes and odors.
  • The activated carbon stage adsorbs any remaining volatile organics contributing to unpleasant flavors.
  • Our proprietary remineralization blend adds back desirable minerals for smooth, bright taste with harming purity.
  • Oxygen-free air-tight storage tanks prevent metallic oxidation flavors from air exposure.
  • Programmed UV light treatment kills any microbial growths during storage and transfer.
  • Routine maintenance like tank sanitization and filter replacement keeps our water tasting fresh.

Enjoy Artic Refresh for clean, crisp, refreshing water with an appealing flavor profile free of industrial and municipal contaminants.

FAQ About Water Taste

Where does natural spring water get its flavor?

Passing through mineral layers like limestone and volcanic rock infuses spring water with a unique array of dissolved calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium that shapes taste.

Do different brands of bottled water taste different?

Yes, mineral content, bottling location, filtration methods, plastic container properties, and processing create distinct flavor personalities between brands. Marketing also shapes taste expectations.

What gives tap water a bad taste?

Most municipal tap water requires disinfection with chlorine. Chlorine compounds have a harsh chemical taste. Other factors are seasonal algae blooms, heavy metals, and pollution influxes.

Can you remove water taste and odor problems?

Yes, activated carbon filtration absorbs volatile organics responsible for bad tastes and odors. Ozone also oxidizes compounds, while UV treatment kills microbes causing issues.

How do you identify contaminants by water taste?

Salty or soapy tastes indicate excessive sodium, chloride or water softeners. Metallic tastes signal heavy metals like iron or manganese. Musty odors signify bacterial contamination.

Should you drink bottled water long past its expiration date?

While not toxic, degraded plasticizers and microbial growth make water taste unpleasant months beyond expiration dates. Stick to under a year for optimal taste.

How does filtration remove odors and flavors?

Multi-stage reverse osmosis strips nearly all dissolved compounds. Activated carbon adsorbs smaller volatile organics not caught by RO. Ozone treatment also deodorizes.

What temperature water has the best taste?

Cooler 50-60°F chilled water allows you to detect the most subtle flavors before the cold numbs reception. Ice cold impedes full flavor detection.

While water might seem simple in composition, many nuanced variables shape its taste profile substantially. Seek clean, pure tasting water like from Artic Refresh filtration.