Making water taste better
June 27, 2005 12:49 PM   Subscribe

Why does water taste so bad? And more to the point, do you have tips for making it taste better?

The background:
I presently drink plenty of fluids, but mostly of the wrong sort (coffee & soda). I am now in the process of eliminating these bad habits and trying to make the switch to water. Unfortunately, water tastes horrible to me and this is not just commentary on the local well. Whether it springs from the tap, the [brand name] water filter, or from a commercially available bottle, I find water to taste tinny/metallic in a wholly unpleasant way. I've tried different brands of bottled water. I've tried different brands of water filtration devices. I've tried adding a slice of lemon and/or lime but none of this eliminates the crap taste I get from drinking water.

Am I alone on this? Do you have any tried and true ways of making water more palatable short of carbonating it while loading it with high-fructose corn syrup and caffeine?
posted by Fezboy! to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, that's really weird. I can't stand tap water but my Britta filter makes water completely enjoyable. Maybe your tastebuds are de-sensitized, and now neutral flavored liquid tastes weird to you. (It's like making the switch from Colgate to Tom's: at first Tom's tastes weird, but once you get used to it, Colgate is horrifically sweet.) I'd say eliminate soda altogether, stick it out for a month (lemon slices are a good idea), and see if your mouth adjusts.
posted by Specklet at 12:55 PM on June 27, 2005

I'm with you, sort of. It's not that it tastes bad to me, it's that it doesn't taste like anything. You could try some sparkling water, like Apollinaris or something. But basic water is boring, and it doesn't make me feel as refreshed as soda did. I try to drink as much as I can, but it's not enjoyable.
posted by goatdog at 12:58 PM on June 27, 2005

I sometimes pour myself a glass of water: 1 oz cranberry juice, 7 oz water. A bit of colour, a bit of taste, a bit of tartness, cuts all the 'metallic' taste of the water away.

I use a Brita too - a small investment for good water filtration (provided you are filtering tap water). Brita takes away all the 'taste' factors from water, but I would not suggest it for filtering rural-source (well) water.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:59 PM on June 27, 2005

Second the wierd. Is it possible that it's your mouth and not the water that's tasting wierd? How does (brita filtered?) water taste immediately after you've brushed your teeth (and palette, cheeks, under/over tongue)?

If you add lemon to your water, do not let it sit around for more than an hour or so (and avoid plastic/metal cups).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2005

cucumber slices. fill pitcher (filter the water, if you like). add cucumber slices. let sit. i leave the cucumber water out of the refrigerator (i like my water room temperature), so i make a new pitcher each day, but you can keep it for several days refrigerated.

i also don't like the taste of water. all water. well water, bottle water, filtered. . . . i drink mostly club soda and cucumber water.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:00 PM on June 27, 2005

Use lots of ice and a straw. The same thing happened to me when I switched from mostly soda & Snapple to water. I decided that I only enjoyed it when it was REALLY REALLY cold, and I could only drink it through a straw (this does have something to do with the fact that I have sensitive teeth, and I drink mostly everything through a straw or from a bottle).

Now, when I'm thirsty, I get a big glass, fill it up to the top with ice, pour water in really slow (so it gets as cold as it can while hitting the cubes on the way down), and I drink it through a straw. It'll never give you that happy fizzy in your throat feeling that soda does, but now I find it pretty damn good.
posted by AlisonM at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2005

Juice crystals like crystal light, perhaps? I started out mixing them strong, then gradually reduced the amount of stuff I was pouring into my water. That replaces sugar with chemicals, though, so may not be your thing.

Consider also, the new fruit waters which are clear, and only slightly sweet and flavoured to see if you enjoy those.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2005

Your taste buds are shot mate. Stick with it and get used to the taste. Just like you did with beer ;-)

Then again, I'm the other way. I drink gallons of water and always have done & can't stand high-sugar/fructose drinks.
posted by i_cola at 1:02 PM on June 27, 2005

This happened to me when I drank soda all the time, too...I've mostly cut back now to water or beer, and water is now delicious.

Also, it depends on the area. If you have really hard water, and are softening it quite a bit, then it's going to taste like shit probably regardless of how much filtering it gets. Try buying a jug of water from the store and try it out.

Also, you could just make a lot of sun tea.
posted by hototogisu at 1:04 PM on June 27, 2005

I have exactly the same problem, I tell people that I hate the taste of water and they think I'm crazy. I drink iced tea, I make it by the gallon (five tea bags, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup lemon). Coffee is not that bad as far as sugar goes. Soda has about 9-15 teaspoons of sugar (I just checked my officemate's Mountain Dew, 170 calories in 12 oz., at 15 cal. per teaspoon that's 11.3 teaspoons). One tsp. in a cup of coffee is healthy in comparison.
posted by 445supermag at 1:05 PM on June 27, 2005

I'm with goatdog. Water doesn't necessarily taste bad - it just doesn't taste good to me unless I'm absolutely dying of thirst. Adding lemon helps, but I admit I vastly prefer juice or something with a flavor (not soda, which is too sweet for me).

Hope you get some good responses - I definitely need to drink more water and would love some good suggestions for how to make it more palatable.
posted by widdershins at 1:06 PM on June 27, 2005

I like to add slices of cucumber and orange to a pitcher of water and let it sit for a while until it's a little murky (not pretty but quite tasty). I also find that I prefer my water through a straw, something about straws just makes it taste better.
posted by babypoe at 1:11 PM on June 27, 2005

I can understand water tasting boring. Actually unpleasant? Huh. Well, making your own flavored drinks, even if they contain sugar, is still better than soda. I agree that you'll have to cut out sodas for awhile to let your taste buds acclimate to other stuff.

Try experimenting with herbal teas for iced tea.
Selzer mixed with a little fruit juice or a shot of flavored syrup.
Make homemade lemonade or limeade.

Are you trying to be better hydrated over all or specifically trying to cut out sugar or caffeine or both?
posted by desuetude at 1:14 PM on June 27, 2005

Not to alarm you, but a metallic taste in the mouth could be a symptom of an infection or other health problem; perhaps you notice it with regard to water because there is nothing masking the taste.

But assuming it isn't, this thread has some suggestions for making water taste better.
posted by googly at 1:17 PM on June 27, 2005

Try it with a teaspoon of minty chlorophyll (found at most health food stores). I try to drink a few glasses of water a day, but get tired of it quickly. The chlorophyll makes it look pretty weird, but the mint is a nice change of pace. Also, it freshens your breath. It is supposed to have all kinds of other health benefits, some of which may be quackery. I just like the taste.
posted by teg at 1:20 PM on June 27, 2005

I find that unless my mouth is really clean, water tastes disgusting. So I brush my teeth and tongue first (with baking soda or toothpaste or nothing...whatever). And then the water is good...almost sweet. Try it.
posted by iconomy at 1:23 PM on June 27, 2005

(I meant I get tired of plain water, not the chlorophylled water.)
posted by teg at 1:23 PM on June 27, 2005

I take China Lychee Black Tea, which is exported from China and comes in great big cheap tins for about $5.00 (look in Asian supermarkets), and make iced tea out of it. There is a very slight amount of sweetness added from the lychee fruit, so there's no sugar needed. Once In a while I'll add a sprig of mint to the pitcher in the fridge for variety. This stuff tastes so good I can't stop drinking it.
posted by greasepig at 1:30 PM on June 27, 2005

This is great! Lots of new things to try! I've done the fruit juice+club soda @ 50/50 and while that tastes good it seems to make me thirstier than just drinking pop. Doing this with filtered water is worth a try though. I've also tried cold tea but for some reason I cannot get behind the taste of tea when served cold. Cukes + water? hmmm.... Sounds interesting. Does it taste strongly of cucumbers?

All in all, though, I guess my tastebuds are shot and due for a recovery period from the sounds of things. If things get better after a while I'm willing to give it a shot. Ooo'er, thanks for that link, googly. Nothing like a little fear on a Monday afternoon. :) Lucky I've got a checkup scheduled on Wednesday. Now I've got something to talk about...

FWIW, here's some answers to individual questions:
PurplePorpoise : How does (brita filtered?) water taste immediately after you've brushed your teeth (and palette, cheeks, under/over tongue)?
It tastes like crap. It is like sucking on aluminum foil.

desuetude : 'Are you trying to be better hydrated over all or specifically trying to cut out sugar or caffeine or both?'
A little of both but primarily trying to cut out the calories. I have an otherwise healthy, primarily vegetarian diet, bike everywhere for lack of a car, and exercise a few times a week but still have a 10-15lb roll around the middle that is persistant. I'm thinking that it's the soda/pop that is the primary contributor to this.

Again, thanks all! And keep 'em coming.
posted by Fezboy! at 1:37 PM on June 27, 2005

I'm sure the soda definitely plays a part. My BIL was just telling me yesterday that he lost 20 lbs in 2 months. The first month, he lost 10 lbs by giving up the roll he had with his coffee in the morning - TEN pounds! Just by giving up a kaiser roll...sheesh. The second month he lost the other ten by giving up soda and switching to water. So you're onto something.
posted by iconomy at 1:52 PM on June 27, 2005

I used to really hate drinking water, but I've traveled a lot in the past couple years & paying close attention to staying hydrated (which soda/coffee/etc don't do, and often juice is too expensive to buy several times a day) has forced me to drink a lot of water, & now I don't mind it. Plus I'm a lot more health-conscious these days & corn syrup's started to taste pretty icky. So stick it out for a while.

You can get carbonation machines (there's a real name for these but it slips my mind) & CO2 cartridges for not too much. I don't have one yet, so I stick to sparkly water from the grocery store with a little fruit nectar added for taste/color.
posted by soviet sleepover at 1:54 PM on June 27, 2005

I *hated* drinking water until I got one of those Nalgene bottles. Well, it's not Nalgene branded, it's Eddie Bauer branded, and it's sold at Target for about 5$. Putting water in this Lexan bottle seriously makes the water taste really good to me. I think the shitty plastic cups and glasses I were using were ever-so-slightly altering the taste of water.

Anyway, now I drink two of them a day, which is a lot. Take a chance.

This isn't the one I have, but it's close.
posted by fake at 2:06 PM on June 27, 2005

I recommend carbonated water. It's what I drink when I get tired of regular water (I drink a lot).

At least where I live (Iceland) there are lots of different flavors for carbonated water (lemon, apple, etc), but I don't remember too many from my time in the U.S. I think Perrier is probably the best brand that is available in the U.S. It's really the one brand-name water that is worth the higher price.

Also, a gadget like this should help you make carbonated water at home. You can then add some lemon to the water to make it taste even better.
posted by einarorn at 2:12 PM on June 27, 2005

i don't find that cucumber water tastes strongly of cucumbers. it smells lightly of cucumbers, but mostly it just tastes cleaner, fresher and lighter than water. lots of vietnamese restaurants serve cucumber water, which was where i first learned the trick.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:15 PM on June 27, 2005

Is it possible that you're actually REALLY dehydrated? On days when I don't drink as much water as usual, I'll down a pint of water in about 3 seconds and then go through the next glass pretty quickly, too. It's not that it's not quenching my thirst so much as that I'm *really* thirsty.

Does that even make any sense? There's something refreshing in a Coke or ginger ale that makes me feel "quenched" after the first couple sips. When I'm really in need of hydration, however, it generally takes a couple glasses of water to get that same satisfaction. Which I don't really think is a bad thing.

Doesn't solve the taste issue, but it might address the dissatisfaction thing.
posted by occhiblu at 2:31 PM on June 27, 2005

Freeze a 1/3 full nalgene bottle and the ice will keep it cold a long time, that can help.

Lime cordial and ribena are alternatives to the cranberry juice idea. A tiny bit of lime cordial has negligible calories and perks plain water up a lot.

Second the home carbonator -- why pay so much for c02?
posted by Rumple at 2:39 PM on June 27, 2005

When was your last dental checkup? Might be time.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:40 PM on June 27, 2005

I, too, have long tended to find plain water somewhat unappealling, though it's getting better. I love our seltzer bottle -- in addition to being cheaper than buying soda water in plastic bottles, its fizzy water has the advantage of not going flat as soon as you have a single glass. Lime cordial is an excellent addition. I also really like elderflower cordial -- I find it gives a very nice refreshing flavor even in quite small quantities.
posted by redfoxtail at 2:46 PM on June 27, 2005

Then again, I'm the other way. I drink gallons of water and always have done & can't stand high-sugar/fructose drinks.

Me too -- I've been a water drinker all my life, always have a cup at my side, and I hardly ever touch soft drinks (easier to avoid since they stopped using real sugar and taste like crap). I suspect if you cut out the soft drinks and let yourself get used to plain water, it will start tasting good. Of course, people have different tolerances for slight off-tastes; my wife has complained about water that I thought was fine. But you shouldn't have a problem with filtered or spring water if your taste buds are in decent shape.

There's something refreshing in a Coke or ginger ale that makes me feel "quenched" after the first couple sips

Wow, I'm just the opposite -- on rare occasions (plane rides, for example) I crave the taste of Coke, but it doesn't make me feel refreshed or quenched. Water does after just a swallow or two.
posted by languagehat at 3:00 PM on June 27, 2005

Languagehat, it's only when I'm really thirsty due to physical labor, and I suspect it's a psychological rather than physical dependence, because I drink about a gallon of water a day and rarely have soft drinks.

But yeah, it's weird.
posted by occhiblu at 3:19 PM on June 27, 2005

Water from the tap in our refrigerator/freezer tastes much better than water drawn from e.g the kitchen sink. The difference is probably accounted for by temperature. Oddly, water drawn form the faucet in one bathroom tastes and smells of chlorine, although the odor is not noticeable from any other source in the house.
posted by Cranberry at 3:26 PM on June 27, 2005

posted by rxrfrx at 3:26 PM on June 27, 2005

I get the same thing, occhiblu, mostly after swimming.

And Fezboy!, the only thing that got water to taste good to me was it being very very cold.
posted by dame at 3:50 PM on June 27, 2005

Now, when I'm thirsty, I get a big glass, fill it up to the top with ice, pour water in really slow (so it gets as cold as it can while hitting the cubes on the way down), and I drink it through a straw. It'll never give you that happy fizzy in your throat feeling that soda does, but now I find it pretty damn good.

Just a side note: You don't have to pour it really slow. It won't make any difference to the coldness. You have a finite amount of heat energy in the water, and it will go to work transferring that amount of energy to the ice until the ice gradually melts. Then the room temperature air will begin to warm the surface of the glass and the water. But while the ice is still present, the liquid will stay at the same stable temperature. You can test this with a thermometer. So the amount of available heat in the warm water will not change no matter what speed you pour.

But if you pour fast, you may still want to allow 10 seconds or so for the heat transfer to get underway, since you won't be spending that 10 seconds slowly pouring. All that's happening during the slow pour is that the ice has more time to have its initial cooling effect.
posted by Miko at 5:27 PM on June 27, 2005

I'm surprised no one's mentioned all the commercially flavored waters - Fruit2O, Glaceau vitamin water, etc... they're probably too expensive to be a long-term solution, but you could use them as a transition, anyways. I'm particularly fond of Aquafina's new WildBerry FlavorSplash - just make sure you're getting the flavored water and not the Sparkling - the sparkling tastes like crap to most people I've talked to. Unless you want to try Sparkling... more power to ya.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:43 PM on June 27, 2005

Find the location for a good spring that someone with taste can vouch is good tasting. Plan a hike on a hot day, to the spring. Take no water or drinks. Get very very thirsty, then hit the spring.

Ta da. The water tastes like heaven's own nectar.

I'm a life-long water drinker. I almost entirely gave up soda 30 years ago (occasionally enjoy a ginger ale). Tap water can be crap, it varies from place to place. Now I use a filter that is attached to the faucet (Brita got boring, and I hate the hassle of buying water at the store, resent the empties).

If you want to try a good American bottled water, look for Poland Spring. It may or may not be available in your area, its from Maine. On the west coast, I recommend Arrowhead. In Europe, Spa is the best (Evian is tasteless).
posted by Goofyy at 11:17 PM on June 27, 2005

I've come to really like green tea. The stuff that's just labeled "green tea" is pretty flavorless, but jasmine green tea and Japanese sencha both have very distinctive flavors which would probably cover up the flavor of water.

As a side note, most of the caffeine in tea is released within the first 30 seconds of brewing, so if you want to cut down on your caffeine, you can let the tea brew for 30 seconds, pour out the water, and start again. This won't diminish the flavor. (Actually, green tea leaves can be used several times, and the flavor will actually be at its best on the second or third use.)

By the way: unlike black tea, green tea does NOT taste best when the water is at the boiling point. In fact, green tea made with boiling water generally tastes awful. Ideally the water should be at about 180 degrees. If you are as anal-retentive as I am you can stick a little thermometer in your kettle to check the temperature before pouring--or you can just bring the water to a boil and then let it sit for three or four minutes before pouring.

Jeez. I think I'm becoming the green-tea-drinking equivalent of Paul Giamatti's character in Sideways.
posted by yankeefog at 4:35 AM on June 28, 2005

I get the same thing, occhiblu, mostly after swimming.

I can't stand the overly sweet taste of gatorade normally, but after a major workout, I also find that water doesn't seem "quenching" (or anyway, I have to drink a lot of it) but that florescent sugar water - just does.

But normally, I love water. It doesn't have a taste, so if you're tasting something, it must have minerals in it. Or, I suppose the hypothesis that your taste buds are overcompensating, like the way everything looks orange when you take off the blue sunglasses, is believable.

What you're used to really does make a difference - I can hardly drink soda anymore; it's just too sweet - but I used to think it had a more nuanced taste, sweet but also a little tart or bitter or whatever, a particular taste. But now when I try it, all I seem to process is the overwhelming SUGAR taste. it's so strong it just overpowers whatever else is in there, perhaps because I eat less sugar these days, and so don't have as high a tolerance.
posted by mdn at 5:47 AM on June 28, 2005

I tried the cucumber water last night, and well, not so bad. This morning though, not great. Mabye it needs to be made fresh every few hours even if left in the fridge. I've also put in a requisition order with the wife for fruit juice which I plan to heavily cut with filtered water and give that a try. The minty chlorophyll thing sound good too—I'll try to find that at the local co-op.

I suppose I'll have to come back just before the thread closes to mark best answers though. I want to give everything here a try.

posted by Fezboy! at 9:52 AM on June 28, 2005

I've managed to try pretty much everything here and marked what I thought were the best answers. I've weened myself off of soda/pop by drinking coffee and water tinged with fruit juice while at work and then using the cukes in cold water trick at home. Water is starting to not taste so funny when I drink it straight so I'm guessing the ultimate cause is my shot/poorly-trained taste buds. I still crave me a Dew in the morning something fierce though. Thanks again everyone, this has been most helpful for me.
posted by Fezboy! at 10:16 AM on July 12, 2005

Coming in late (Thanks for the new interface Matt!) to say that while I love plain cold ice water from my Brita pitcher, one thing I like to keep in the fridge is a pitcher of water with a few bags of caffeine free green tea with mint (supermarket variety). You just chuck a few of the tea bags into the pitcher, cover with cold water and the next day you have a really refreshing beverage. No boiling necessary.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:46 AM on July 14, 2005

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