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Why Does Bottled Water Taste Better?

The results of most blind taste tests indicate no difference between the taste of tap water and that of bottled water. I have carried out my own blind taste tests, and my results have shown that there is no difference in taste.

Interestingly, however, the results are different in non-blind taste tests.

When blind tests are conducted, the taste buds really don’t seem to think that bottled water tastes better than tap water. In 2001, ABC’s Good Morning America conducted a blind water taste test. The viewers’ preferences were as follows:

  • 12 percent Evian
  • 19 percent O-2
  • 24 percent Poland Spring
  • 45 percent New York City tap water

Yorkshire Water, the water department in Yorkshire, England, found that 60 percent of 2,800 people surveyed could not tell the difference between the local tap water and UK bottled water.

11 Comments to
Why Does Bottled Water Taste Better?

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  1. Good piece. You might also look at the discussion of taste and bottled water in the new book “Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.” (

    Indeed, people “expect” it to taste better, and there is also the factor that having paid so much for a bottle, we must justify its additional cost by feeling that it provides an additional benefit. Not sure of the psychological factors at play here, but I’m sure another reader has ideas!

  2. Actually, I’m gonna have to disagree a little bit. Waters do taste different. If you spend a lot of time around them (as I did in my past life at The Coca-Cola Company), they do have different flavors and different mouthfeels. A lot of it has to do with the sources of the water and the minerals in the water.

    I wonder whether the ABC viewers who took the taste test were regular drinkers of bottled water.

    This doesn’t mean that one is necessarily better or healthier than the other. But many people do have preferences based on taste of different bottled waters, similar to how people have preferences for different brands of diet drinks or full-sugar sodas.

  3. I find certain bottled water has a “creamy” after-taste which is very pleasant, whereas tap water has a post-chlorine after-taste.

  4. Many people have chemical sensitivities, and tap water is undrinkable for them. One friend was admitted to the hospital multiple times for dehydration because water “tasted so horrible”. I encouraged her to try different bottled waters, and she found a couple without the chemical taste, and hasn’t been dehydrated since. Most people can’t tell the difference, but they don’t need to try to convince everyone that “their reality” is the “truth”.

  5. I would argue that not all tap water is the same. There are definitely locations where I won’t drink the water and others where I will. The chlorine & chemical taste to some tap water is a big turn off. Bad taste of some tap water can be masked if the water is really cold. What temperature was the water in these experiments? So if some tap water is better than other tap water, bottled water cannot be equivalent to both.

  6. My mom used to bring me water every night to put by my bed stand. I was always, without fail, able to tell when she had run out of bottled water and substituted sink water. It tasted horrible. It was undrinkable.

  7. I agree with the idea that just because the average person can’t tell, doesn’t mean no one can.
    Some people have superior taste buds and sharper sense of taste. I am sure people like that could tell. I mean sure there are delusional people with mediocre sense of taste who probably feel as though they “know” they could tell the difference but actually couldn’t – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people could. How does the majority of a bunch of ordinary people represent everyone? It doesn’t. Its like saying everyone is stupid because the average person has a mediocre IQ.

  8. I do have a very good sense of taste and smell and water does taste different by brand. It has nothing to do with price. Colder water can make some water less objectionable. I find Arrowhead and Sparklett’s water to be absolutely foul. Evian is ok but my preferred is Crystal Geyser as the taste and price are a good combination. Evian tastes fine but is too expensive. Fiji I can’t stand and is too expensive, anyway.

    Unfortunately I can’t lug water home like I would need to to drink bottled water every day, so I compromise and add diet drink mix which I only care for slightly more than the tap water itself and it has to be cold or certain herbal teas make it palatable. We’re not ALL cattle.

  9. I disagree. I grew up on well water on a farm in the middle of nowhere. When I moved to the city and I’ve lived in many cities the tap water is horrible. Part of it hardness, chlorine. Bottled water may have used ozone and UV rather than chlorine, which also affects the taste. It doesn’t matter if you did blind taste tests. There are people like myself who can distinguish water the same way someone distinguishes wine. And not even all bottled waters taste the same.

    If the city made the water taste better, maybe I’d drink it. But it tastes like rotten fish.

  10. This whole “research study” is incorrect and was probably never put to test.

    My mom always refills tap water in bottles and sometimes I’ll have two bottles with the same design, One refilled with tap water and one that has the bottled water still inside it and when I drink from both I can straight away tell which is bottled and which is a refill. Tap water tastes like I’m drinking a mixture of chemicals.

  11. This study was conducted poorly. There were three critical errors it overlooked:

    Regions of tap water (this was limited to very few regions and was no conducted over an expansive area). The region in which tap water is produced can drastically alter its taste.

    Individuals with hypersensitive taste. This tends to account for the majority of people who prefer bottled water over tap (except for people who live in environments with naturally bad tasting tap water). This is said to occur in roughly 25% of people, meaning a broad audience of people, can in fact, distinguish the water. Now on top of that, the England survey had an outcome of what they said was 60% of people who could not tell the difference. While that may be the majority, there is still a whopping 40% of people who did in fact notice the difference. That being said, there is still a -significant- amount of people who truly do concern themselves with the taste. It is not merely a placebo.

    Lastly, they did not mention how long the tap water in the studies were sterilized for. Now I would assume that it would be administered straight from the tap, but it did not properly tell whether or not it underwent and sterilization. This can drastically change results.



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