The quick answer is that it depends on how bad it tasted in the first place!
Water is the most boring drink to order in a bar, but your best friend in the desert. Most of us are lucky to live somewhere where water flows from a tap. But that doesn’t mean it will taste nice. Does boiling tap water make it taste better? Let’s find out.
While we’re at, let’s have a quick look at what gives tap water its taste.
Does Boiling Tap Water Improve The Flavour?
Most people would say a big “no”. They would say it makes it taste worse.
A lot of people – especially those who go camping regularly – would argue that boiling water makes it taste much flatter. Perhaps because boiling removes the oxygen and with it, the refreshing taste.
Yet what if your water tastes bad straight out of the tap? Say, if it has a chlorinated taste to it? In that case, boiling water can be successful in removing the unappetizing flavour.
Remember, it all depends on how your water tasted before…and on how you like your water to taste.
Does Tap Water Really Taste Different?
Some of you will be thinking, tap water is tap water, right? It all tastes the same. Err, no. Definitely not. It can come as a nasty shock to some when they move to a new area, only to find the lovely free water that comes out of their tap has a whole new unappealing taste. So unappealing, it’s undrinkable.
(Complain about this to a local person and they will likely roll their eyes and tell you it’s in your head.)
Einstein taught us that everything in life is relative: from time to the taste of water. Taste is subjective. You may like cilantro, while some people are genetically predisposed to think it tastes like licking a bar of soap. That’s science. A lot of our taste preferences are ingrained in us from an early age – and they can be hard to change. Exposure is the number one factor in taste preferences, which means our taste buds get used to things they are subjected to frequently. This includes water.
Why Does Tap Water Come in Different Flavours?
Tap water is tap water flavoured, but that doesn’t mean all tap waters taste the same. New Yorkers have long claimed the city’s tap water is the secret ingredient in their amazing-tasting bagels and pizzas.
Getting water into your cup is as easy as turning on the tap. Getting that same water to your tap is often a long and complicated journey. Tap water comes from lakes, rivers and dams. It has to travel through treatment centres and miles upon miles of pipes to get to you. Along the way, many things can influence its flavour profile.
We should add, just because something has a flavour it doesn’t mean there is anything dangerous about it. In reality, it’s not a taste but a smell. Theresa Slifko – a water quality expert at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California – explains: “Most tastes are almost entirely the odor that [comes from] the water”.
Where Do the Different Tastes Come From?
Let’s have a quick look at a few of the more common flavours and the potential reasons behind them…
Chlorine – comes from water systems using chlorine to disinfect the supply. It’s a cheaper process than ozonation. In small amounts, chlorine is perfectly safe to drink. You will swallow more in the swimming pool!
Bitter/Medicinal – this could come from the presence of copper from the pipes used in plumbing. The metallic flavour can be detected by taste buds a long, long time before the level in the water would be dangerous to health.
Earthy or musty – This could be to do with algae blooms in the source water. The actual algae will be filtered out by treatment plants, but the taste may linger.
Disclaimer time – The range of reasons for water having an unusual taste is far too long to list here. If you do have a suspicious flavour to your water, don’t panic – it’s probably completely fine. But please don’t take our word for it – check with a professional!
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink?
The answer for the resounding majority of Americans is a big, fat: Yes!
Only about 2 million Americans don’t have access to safe drinking water. Despite this, there is a whole lot of tap water distrust out there. Some of these concerns are justified, but the overwhelming majority are not.
There’s a stunning bit of research that found around 60 million Americans avoid tap water. They are tap water deniers. Compare this to the UK, where 94% of people surveyed declared themselves happy with their tap water.
Instead of drinking the free stuff that comes out of their taps, a big chunk of America is opting to spend money on bottled water, or sugary drinks. Why?
Well, the recent Flint, Michigan scandal is a big contributing factor. Before the news of Flint broke, increasing numbers were drinking tap water. Not anymore. Add to that a host of poorly thought-out news segments with advisories to boil water before drinking. These factors plant the seed of doubt that there must be something bad in tap water – and bottled water companies pounce.
Final Thoughts: Alternatives to Boiling Tap Water
Does boiling tap water make it taste better? Generally no, it makes it taste worse. But there are alternatives. You could use a simple water filter. Or another far more creative way is to make infusions.
What is an infusion, we hear you ask? Well, this is a very fun way to make drinking tap water exciting. Ok, maybe not exciting – we went too far there – but at least a little bit more interesting. An infusion is a very easy water-based cocktail. Pour out a jug of water and pop in a bit of fruit and let it sit: after an hour or so, the water will take on a very slight flavour.
Here are some great and very affordable water infusion ideas:
● Cucumber, lime and mint
● Lemon and ginger
● Apple and cinnamon (just the peel)
● Watermelon and mint
● Raspberry and mint
Time to stock up on some mint, eh! Well, that’s all from us, thanks for reading – keep hydrated and happy infusing!