Carbonated water is a drink that has a surprisingly mixed reception to it. There are many people in the world who drink sparkling water as a much healthier alternative to soda so they can get that same carbonated feeling without all of the sugar and chemicals, but there are also many other people who are not that interested in carbonated water because it doesn’t ever seem to taste right to them.
The exact taste of carbonated water is something that is not easy to describe, as there are quite a few variations of it. In its most basic form, carbonated water is simply water that has been infused with carbon dioxide, and the chemical reaction between water and carbon dioxide is to create carbonic acid, which gives you the carbonation that you taste upon drinking it.
But not everyone who drinks carbonated water tastes the same thing. Some people taste the carbonic acid, while other people taste a considerably saltier taste to it.
If carbonated water is as simple as just adding carbon dioxide to the water, then how can the taste become so varied? The answer to this is that carbonated water isn’t quite as simple as many people think.
There are several different forms of carbonated water, with each one having its reasons for tasting the way that it does, and each one being fixed in a certain way compared to the others.
To understand what is going on with your carbonated water’s taste, you first have to understand what goes into carbonated water and the different types.
The Types of Carbonated Water and Their Salt Content
It’s true that carbonated water in its most basic form does not have any salt in it. This is most evident in seltzer, which is considered to be one of the truest forms of carbonated water out there, as it is just water and carbon dioxide, but it can also be somewhat bitter because of this.
Next is sparkling mineral water, which will often have some amount of sodium in it, although the exact amount will vary depending on the source of the water. This is because mineral waters come from natural sources, and due to those sources being natural, there are often healthy minerals that come from the original rock in the water and sodium is one such mineral, giving it its salty flavor.
Club soda, which is commonly used as a mixer in most environments and not often consumed on its own, is similar to seltzer but it has a few different compounds added to it to try and ease the taste and make it more palatable for being a mixer.
These compounds are often a mix of sodium bicarbonate, sodium chloride, and potassium sulfate, leading to a high sodium content compared to other carbonated waters, but because club soda is a mixer, this salty aspect is often not looked at.
Finally, there is tonic water, which is flavored with quinine (a bitter, naturally occurring chemical), sodium benzoate (a preservative agent), flavoring agents, and often corn syrup.
While tonic water may have sodium content in it, its overall taste is going to be obscured by the flavoring agents, citric acid, and the quinine as well as the gin that is often added to tonic water, meaning that it is unlikely that this carbonated water is going to present your salty problem.
What this means for you is that, typically, the only salty carbonated water that you are going to encounter is sparkling mineral water. The question then becomes a matter of why there is salt in your carbonated water, and what you should do about it.
The Reason Why Salt Is in Your Carbonated Water
There are two reasons why people taste salt in their carbonated water. The first is because the salt was one of the naturally occurring minerals from a mineral spring, and it just so happens that the sodium content is high enough to affect the taste of the sparkling water, and the second reason is that the salt was added during processing for the sake of taste.
The first reason is a completely normal and natural phenomenon, meaning that there really isn’t a lot that you can do to change the fact that it happened, nor can you prevent it aside from not purchasing the mineral water in the first place or looking purposefully at low-sodium sparkling water.
The second reason is done because carbonic acid is known for having a bitter, sour taste to it and the added salt is there to try and mitigate just how sharp that taste can be when it hits the tongue.
For people who aren’t fond of the taste or are particularly sensitive to the taste of salt, doing this can end up meaning that you are left with a drink that is not only mildly bitter, but uncomfortably salted as well.
When it is done right, the salt flavor should be relatively undetectable behind the sensation of a carbonated drink, and the sharpness of the carbonic acid should not make such a big impression on you when you try it.
As with many things in the world of food and tastes, it is important for you to do a bit of looking around to potentially find a carbonated water that meets your tastes. If you are extremely opposed to the salt content in your water, you can always opt to have seltzer, which is meant to have no salt in it whatsoever.
There are, though, some ways that you can fix this problem, though they may not always be the easiest solution.
Removing the Salt Taste From Carbonated Water
The best way to get rid of the salty flavor of carbonated water is to try and counter the taste of it, just as the salt is meant to counter the taste of the carbonic acid. After all, this is what people do with tonic water and club soda, they find a drink that complements the features of the base water and they mix them up to make an enjoyable drink for the night.
To make your carbonated water taste better, there are a few things that you can do. Your overall goal is going to be to overpower the taste of both the salt and the carbonic acid to the point where it either feels and tastes right, or it completely doesn’t taste like how it originally did.
You can follow the lead with club soda and tonic water and consider adding an alcoholic drink to the carbonated water, but this isn’t always a feasible approach. For a non-alcoholic solution, you can consider lemonade, which tends to balance out the acidic nature of carbonic acid and the salted flavor that your carbonated water is struggling with.
A common method that people use to fix their carbonated water’s taste is to add either fresh fruit or just fruit juice to the water. Fruits are full of natural sugars, which can easily balance out both the bitter and the salted taste of carbonated water, and if you enjoy the taste of fruit, then this just makes it even better for everyone involved.
Be mindful that if you are drinking sparkling water as an alternative to sodas, you need to be careful about the amount of sugar you add to your carbonated water, or you might end up back where you started in terms of sugar content.
Even if your carbonated water doesn’t taste the way you want it to taste, there are enough ways that you can change the way that it tastes so that you can still enjoy your drink.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.