Can I make my own delicious Aquafina water at home?
February 21, 2007 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I love Aquafina bottled water. There's something in it that makes it taste much different than other bottled waters. Still, it gets expensive. What's in it that makes it taste so nice and can I make my own at home?

BTW, I'm in California. I've had Aquafina in Vancouver, Canada and it was awful. It tasted very plain. Maybe there are regional differences?

The ones here in California taste very smooth, almost sweet. If you open an empty bottle that's been sitting for a while, it will have a nice smell that's similar to the nice taste.
posted by redteam to Food & Drink (31 answers total)
Aquafina is one of those bottled waters that comes from a municipal water source and then purified. It's possible that's the reason for the taste difference. The only other place I can think of that the water could get a flavor is from chemicals leeching into the water from the plastic bottle.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:59 AM on February 21, 2007

If I recall correctly, Aquafina is basically filtered tap water. Try a Brita filter pitcher, or install some kind of charcoal filtration system on your tap.
posted by Roger Dodger at 8:04 AM on February 21, 2007

Take filtered tap water and store it in Aquafina bottles.
posted by bondcliff at 8:06 AM on February 21, 2007 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: You're right, backseatpilot. It is municipal water. However, I'm not sure it's just a taste from the bottle. I know this taste. Dasani has it to some degree (though it's not exactly the same as Aquafina), some other bottled waters have it to varying degrees. Crystal Geyser, which comes in a bottle made of the same plastic definitely doesn't have it.

I've actually refilled Aquafina bottles with tap water or other, plain tasting bottled waters to see how much of a role the bottle played. The water in the refilled Aquafina bottle did take on some of that Aquafina taste, but it was weaker and it wasn't there on the second refilling. After this second refilling, I left water in there for more than a day. I've tried various temperature conditions. I've tried different light level exposures, as well, just in case the sun would play a role. The flavor wasn't really brought back. Maybe a tiny bit, but not too much. I believe that something is put in the water. Maybe I'm wrong.

Is it some kind of carbon-filtration process that makes the water so smooth? Do they add "trace minerals"? Please be as detailed as you want to be.

On preview:
Roger Dodger, I've had several Britas and they just don't cut it. I want to try that Vodka through the Brita, though :) As for large quantities of water, I like Sparkletts delivered water the best.

Terminal Verbosity, I will keep your suggestion in mind if I can't get further here.
posted by redteam at 8:14 AM on February 21, 2007

Dasani has it to some degree (though it's not exactly the same as Aquafina)

Dasani has added salt, which is what I've always attributed its distinctive flavor to. I don't know if that's what you're picking up on or not, though.
posted by nebulawindphone at 8:25 AM on February 21, 2007

Terminal Verbocity has it right. However, I feel obliged to point this out [Google video].
posted by SilverTail at 8:25 AM on February 21, 2007

Aquafina and Dasani are both filtered municipal source water, filtered using the same processes used by the local bottlers to purify water to make the fizzy sugar water licensed by the big names. I don't know exactly what sort of filtering is involved, but I imagine it is some combination of UV, reverse osmosis, and activated charcoal. Possibly ozone as well.
After the water is filtered, it will still retain some of the taste of the municipal source (which is why Coke tastes different in different parts of the country). The bottlers also add "trace minerals" to the bottled water products. The trace minerals added are usually salt and potassium chloride (a common salt substitute).
If I wanted to replicate the flavor cheaply, I would try running water through the Britta two or three times, then adding a little bit of salt. Salt by itself doesn't really add much flavor but it acts to enhance the existing flavor of the water. You might also try fancier filters, like reverse osmosis. Also, municipal sources usually add a lot of chlorine. You can minimize the chlorine taste by boiling or by agitating the water (in a blender) and letting it stand for an hour or two. I assume that the "missing element" in your concoction is salt- you don't need very much at all to change the taste significantly.
posted by leapfrog at 8:29 AM on February 21, 2007

I've actually refilled Aquafina bottles with tap water or other, plain tasting bottled waters to see how much of a role the bottle played. The water in the refilled Aquafina bottle did take on some of that Aquafina taste, but it was weaker and it wasn't there on the second refilling. After this second refilling, I left water in there for more than a day.


The Aquafina you buy in the store has been in the bottle for months if not years. I would run some longer term tests.
posted by tkolar at 9:15 AM on February 21, 2007

Whenever I taste Aquafina in California (where I also live), what immediately springs to mind is "Mmm, delicious plastic". Which is why I don't drink it very often.

I like the "sweet, sweet crude" theory, myself. But I think leapfrog is probably onto something.
posted by crinklebat at 9:27 AM on February 21, 2007

"Months if not years", tkolar? I doubt it. Why would anyone carry a lot of inventory of something as easily produced as bottled water?
posted by Good Brain at 9:29 AM on February 21, 2007

Aquafina here in Toronto tastes like tap water with a dinky car dipped in it. Give that a whirl, maybe.
posted by Ohdemah at 9:36 AM on February 21, 2007

because a lot of people think it tastes plasticky?
posted by matteo at 9:40 AM on February 21, 2007

By the way, if you are refilling your water bottles, you should be scrubbing them thoroughly with hot water and soap between each refill in order to prevent bacteria from growing. You should also never store opened water bottles in a warm place, for the same reason. Unfortunately, the precautions necessary to prevent bacterial growth may inhibit the process of making the new water taste like the old.
posted by decathecting at 9:43 AM on February 21, 2007

Response by poster: LOL, Ohdemah.

leapfrog, that's pretty awesome, I'm going to give salt a try.

Maybe baking soda too, who knows? Is there another name for potassium chloride?

Do you think that running ozone through water could change the taste? Maybe they use some different types of activated charcoal? Brita uses charcoal made from coconut shells or something, right? Maybe charcoal made from the turds of 12 year old vegetarian children would taste different?

As for the plastic mentions. I agree, the plastic definitely has something to do with it. But isn't it strange that Aquafina in PETE plastic would taste so much different than Trader Joe's water in PETE plastic?

Thanks for the tip, decathecting. I'm a big fan of the widemouth Aquafina bottles (WHY did they get rid of the widemouth 1.5L bottles ... FUCKERS!) and so I would fill them up again and again because it rocks to drink out of a wide mouthed bottle. Eventually they would smell sort of mildewy. I hated that. I scrubbed once or twice and it worked but I just gave up eventually.

I would also like to add that the water place near Albertson's in Reno off of I-80, which I stop at on the way to Burning Man, has delicious water. I believe they do reverse osmosis of municipal water and maybe UV. I'll find out.
posted by redteam at 10:04 AM on February 21, 2007

potassium chloride is different than baking soda, baking soda is sodium bicarbonate and it will change the pH of the water making it more basic. water is said to taste best when very slightly acidic, which carbon filtration will not effect, the carbon filtration generally removes inorganics(aka metals) from the water. ozonation is used frequently in europe instead of chlorine as a way to kill bacteria and other living little buggers which might make you sick.
posted by estronaut at 10:18 AM on February 21, 2007

You can find potassium chloride in the supermarket as a table salt alternative, I believe. I'm not sure of the specific name of the product, but it's supposed to give you the salt flavor without all the sodium.

I would say that if you could taste the flavor you're looking for to a lesser degree after refilling the bottle, it's a good bet it's something in the plastic. Which also leads me to believe that it's probably not good for you.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:26 AM on February 21, 2007

Good Brain wrote...
"Months if not years", tkolar? I doubt it. Why would anyone carry a lot of inventory of something as easily produced as bottled water?

The producer-->distributor-->warehouse-->shelf chain is going to add a minimum of a month after it comes off the production line. Additional delays can occur at any one of those links.

These aren't perishables we're talking about here. Most bottled water has a two year shelf life, so there's no particular rush to get it to the point of sale.
posted by tkolar at 10:49 AM on February 21, 2007

Potassium chloride is readily available from a number of health food stores and chemical warehouses. Froogle found innumerable sources online. I've never seen it sold under any other name, except once I did see it packaged as "no sodium salt substitute" at a grocery. Wikipedia notes that its archaic name is Muriate of Potash, although asking for that is like telling someone you want to send an electronic facsimile letter, or asking them to fill your automobile with distillates of petroleum. Make sure you get the food grade stuff if you want to try it. The flavor is very similar to salt, but there is a difference.
Don't go overboard with KCl, or with salt, in your water. Either one in significant quantity can mess up your nerves. An eighth of a teaspoon or less in 2 liters will make a noticeable difference. I would also try experimenting with different salts; kosher, sea salt, iodized table salt, etc. There is a big difference in flavor between them. Your local Aquafina bottler probably just uses reagent grade sodium chloride but you might like the taste of something else better.
posted by leapfrog at 11:02 AM on February 21, 2007

Response by poster: I have expectorated upon my Liquid Crystal Display unit in a sudden and unexpected display of laughter.
posted by redteam at 11:40 AM on February 21, 2007

The producer-->distributor-->warehouse-->shelf chain is going to add a minimum of a month after it comes off the production line. Additional delays can occur at any one of those links.

A month is probably about right. I don't know how the accounting works between the concentrate houses and the parent, but regardless, COKE, CCE, and KO each have a little over a month's worth of inventory on their balance sheets at nearly any point in time*. In most cases (at big retailers, at least), Coke delivers right to the store shelves, (sometimes multiple times) daily.

Upon re-reading, substitute "Pepsi" for "Coke." It won't make a difference.

*part of that is WIP, of course, like unfilled bottles and cans, sugar, and CO2.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:09 PM on February 21, 2007

Take your empty Aquafina bottle and rinse it out with a small amount of Listerine (1/4 cup)- give it a few good shakes. Rinse with a small bit of warm water, empty the bottle.

Put in an eighth of a teaspoon of kosher salt and eighth tsp. of sugar (or sugar substitute) in the bottle. Now add "hot" water- not boiling, but hot enough to dissolve the sugar and salt.

Fill the bottle half way with the very hot water and shake till the solids dissolve. Continue filling the bottle to the top with the hot water. Place in the frig till well chilled, preferably over night.

Once the water has cooled take three empty glasses. Have a friend fill one with the water you made, one with tap water and finally the last one with Aquafina- label accordingly. Conduct a blind taste test and see how much of a difference you notice- if any at all.
posted by bkeene12 at 12:47 PM on February 21, 2007

Response by poster: So did you just make that all up or are you also an Aquafina connoisseur? Maybe next you'll be telling me how to make Diet Aquafina.

What's the Listerine for, anyway? Disinfecting?
posted by redteam at 12:54 PM on February 21, 2007

By the way, what is added to Dasani is potassium and magnesium. Not salt - sodium chloride.
posted by yclipse at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2007

Water has no taste. Period. It's minerals and chemicals.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:05 PM on February 21, 2007

Go to Costco and get yourself a reverse osmosis unit. They are less than $150 and easy to install. The filters last a year or so for me (depends on volume of course). I use RO on tap water in LA and think that the RO water tastes just as good (if not better than) Aquafina, which is my favorite bottled brand too. I am also familiar with the subtle differences you notice in Dasani and Sparkletts, which are my other commercial choices.

Seriously, RO is awesome. I can hardly imagine life without it!
posted by FuzzyVerde at 5:12 PM on February 21, 2007

I like Aquafina just fine (and others- Springtime is my favorite) but do find myself, at times, with none on hand. It was much by accident that I discovered the "flavor" that the Listerine left behind. I was trying to clean out the bottle when it happened. I messed with it a bit and started throwing in the other stuff. I can't say the taste is "exact" but try it for yourself and see what you think. Oh, if you want the diet, leave out the sugar.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:30 PM on February 21, 2007

Response by poster: Well alright, bkeene12, I hope you're satisfied because I'm actually going to give that a shot this weekend.

Are we talking ordinary Listerine here? Not the blue stuff, but the original amber-colored one?

So I have to also get some potassium chloride, a dinky car, some magnesium, and some actual potassium. Wait, no elemental potassium. I love Aquafina, but I will not die for Aquafina.

Then I guess I have to save up for my very own reverse osmosis system. Say, FuzzyVerde, have you tried peeing into that thing to see how well it works?

Ok, about the magnesium mentioned in this response. What would be a source of magnesium that would dissolve in water and wouldn't be poisonous?

Thanks for all of your responses everybody. I will do my best and report my findings.

If anyone has any other suggestions, please feel free to make them. This doesn't have to stop here :)
posted by redteam at 7:58 PM on February 21, 2007

Have not tried peeing in it, sorry. Turning LA tap water (shudder) into water tasty to my discerning palate may actually be more miraculous though!
posted by FuzzyVerde at 6:14 AM on February 22, 2007

The magnesium component is most likely Magnesium Chloride, which is also found in sea salt. If there is a specialty asian food store close by, they might carry it as nigari, which is used in Japanese cooking as a coagulant. (Nigari is what remains from sea salt after the sodium chloride is removed, so it also contains some calcium chloride, magnesium sulfide, and some other salts.) You can also get it from any chemical supply house, and maybe some health food stores. Natural sea salt will already contain some amount of MgCl2 as well as the other salts.
Metallic magnesium in water will dissociate a hydroxide ion, producing magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia, a common antacid) and gaseous hydrogen. I don't recommend doing this outside of the lab, as gaseous hydrogen reacts vigorously with oxygen in the atmosphere in a very exothermic reaction. The metallic magnesium will then also react very exothermically with oxygen, and the water will greatly speed this reaction. MgCl2, on the other hand, will readily and safely dissolve in water. The MSDS for it shows an oral LD50 of 8100 mg/Kg, which is a quantity far beyond what any reasonable person would want to consume, especially given that the taste is reportedly quite bitter.

I recommend against mixing metallic potassium with water.
posted by leapfrog at 10:31 AM on February 22, 2007

Use the good ole regular brown stuff. Make sure you do the blind test so you have a no idea of what you are drinking till after the test. Be sure to let us know how it turns out for you.
posted by bkeene12 at 7:28 PM on February 22, 2007

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