Does Alkaline Water Taste Better?

glass of water

Water preferences generally come down to two considerations, cost and taste. And while we recognize that large parts of the human population all over the world don't access to clean, potable water, this article will focus on the taste preferences for those with access to to clean drinking water, and the question of whether high pH in bottle water tasted better.

Four years we've relied on the old science that divided the human tongue into four taste zones - bitter, sour, sweet and salt - with the tip of the tongue sensitive to bitter, the sides sensitive to sour and salt, while the back sensitive to sweets. But now it is generally accepted that our understanding of how taste information is carried from the tongue to the brain, was flawed, and that individual taste qualities are not simply restricted to a single region or area of the tongue. Enter the idea of 'Umami taste', which is the fifth taste of the tongue, and allows the brain to identify the taste of monosodium glutamate, which in layman's term equates to savoriness of something. So what does all of this mean as it related to the pH in bottled water? A lot it turns out.

For years it was generally accepted that water was water, and there was no real way for the human tongue and brain to accurately identify different tastes in water. But in a 2013 study, it was determined that the mineral composition of water can and does have an impact in its taste, and that the higher the levels of pH, the better is tastes. This makes sense based on what we know about the 1 to 14 scale of acid (low pH) and base (high pH). Bottled water high in pH, especially naturally occurring pH, tastes better because of the extra mineral in the water. Specifically, the study, which is made up of a series of blind taste tests, showed these four compounds had the most impact on taste:

  • HCO₃⁻ (bicarbonate)
  • SO₄²⁻ (sulfate)
  • Ca²⁺ (calcium)
  • Mg²⁺ (magnesium)

The average water drinker isn't concerned so much with why the water tastes better, only that it does. So the next time you're thirsty and are looking for some hydrating nourishment that also tastes great, try water with elevated pH.

Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash

by Steve Jortsman