Does water have a taste? And can we taste it?
The subject of taste of water has gone through several debates. Some believe it has a taste while others argue it being tasteless.
Below we will show how the sense of taste perceives the drink of life based on all scientific evidences and laboratory experiments.
If you want the answer early on, then Yes! Water has a taste. And a very appealing one! However the taste (sense) of it depends on two variables.
- Human Biology
- Water Source
This means that no two waters will taste the same. And no two persons will have similar taste for same water at a particular time.
Let’s look in detail how the above variable affects the taste and how is it related to our neurological cells.
What gives the taste of drinking water?
Pure water is simply a hydrogen atom bonded with two oxygen atoms. However the liquid you drink consists of a lot more than these two elements.
Some of the common mineral compounds that you will find in your drinking glass are magnesium, calcium bicarbonate, sodium sulfate, chloride, and fluoride.
Look for PPM on the label – next time you buy a mineral water bottle. PPM is an abbreviation to “Parts Per Million”. There you will find all the minerals (listed above) and their available quantity.
It is these minerals that add flavor to drinking water. Pure water is tasteless. And we do not drink it pure- we drink mineral water.
All the other added minerals (excluding hydrogen and oxygen) have distant flavors. But our taste buds do not experience them distinctively. In fact we taste all the minerals as a whole.
Primarily, this is because all the minerals are in a dissolved state in the liquid solution and secondly, our buds are not so sensitive to perceive all mineral flavors differently.
In fact, prior to reading this post, perhaps even mineral water and fresh spring aqua may taste the same to you.
Can humans taste water?
A 2017 study (by a research panel in a distinguished university) was carried out to answer the above question. It was found that water tastes “sour” to your tongue. And this is because of the added minerals which are present in the it.
The human body is highly evolved to be keenly aware of different flavors. A human tongue (made up of taste sensitive cells) can have 10000 taste buds! These allow us to differentiate different waters’ tastes if you focus while drinking.
However there are other factors too which affect the way it tastes to you.
The receptor cells in humans are pretty advanced as compared to other biological beings. These cells give us 4 major stimulations.
The interesting part is that these four connects to different parts in your brain. And at some events your taste is affected by how your perceive it mentally. A technique called optogenetics – (study of human brain via light) suggest that your emotional reactions associated with those sensations can affect your overall perception of any savor.
For example, black is mostly associated with acidic or burnt food and red to chilly nutriments. Hence many a times water’s taste depends on the place or color or other variables with which your brain associate flavors.
Another study claims that water’s taste depends on what you have had just before it. If you had a sweet beverage before water – then it will taste sugary whereas after a packet of nachos it will be a little salty.
The reason is that your buds have memory. They do no forget the the stimulus instantly. Hence the natural mild taste (of water) is unable to overcome the previous heavy flavor of whatever you had.
Metallic Taste in Water
This is the same reason why water tastes metallic and sometimes pretty acrid after a bitter medicine pill. The metallic taste in it is because of the presence of some trace metals contents like iron, manganese, zinc, and copper in your medicine.
The taste buds do not forget the metallic taste and the water tastes the same.
Sometimes even the supply system does affect. These elements can come in your drinking glass after being dissolved as your water comes from the source to your taps. This gives a rather unhealthy flavor. You need to avoid the metallic liquid altogether.
Water Sources and Tastes
Different water sources tastes different. Here are some of the common sources and their flavors.
Spring water and well water are sourced from natural places. It is sourced either through aquifers beneath the ground or high rising mountains. Minerals collected as it passes along the soils affect the taste, giving it a mild sweet and sour taste. As this is pure and unadulterated a lot of people are opting for waters found naturally near mineral-rich volcanoes and springs.
Alkaline water is modernly in demand. Alkaline water is treated with naturally occurring, ionized minerals. These mineral make it more alkaline and less acidic and hence a little bittersweet. This kind is also preferred by a lot of people.
Tap water comes from local municipal corporation to your house. This water is often treated with fluoride and other minerals to protect and clean your teeth. Because of this sometimes tap water gives you a slight bitter shade of taste.
Sparkling water or fizzy water is added with carbon dioxide (CO2). The fizzy sensation of carbonation makes it a bit acidic and sour in taste. Nowadays even fruit and vegetable flavorings are available.
What does water taste like to dogs?
Although humans (and by extension the human brain) are the most advanced of the lot – there are certain creatures pretty ahead than us. In comparison to humans’ 10000 taste buds, dogs have just 1700 but their buds are very sophisticated. But this does not limit them.
Dogs are believed to have 5 taste simulations.
The four simulations are similar to humans however the fifth is interesting. Scientific experiments on dogs suggest they have special buds for water.
Observe a dog’s tongue as it laps water from a bowl. You will notice that drinking water is not quenching thirst for a dog rather it gives this species a lot of pleasure.
A study conducted in Cummings university of vets claims that these receptors are located at the tip of a dogs tongue. For this reason a dogs tongue curls unusually as they drink water. And the way they enjoy water has earned them the title “messy drinkers”.