Cocktail Menu: Sycamore Den in San Diego
Water Research Resources

How to Classify Bottled Waters

Fine WatersMost books about bottled water seem to trace the history and environmental impact of the industry, but Fine Waters by Michael Mascha is quite a different book from that. 

Mascha is a water sommelier and runs the website, which contains pretty much all of the information in the book as far as I can see. (The book from 2006 is out of print but still available on Amazon and other sites.) 

In the book Mascha lays out a categorization scheme for bottled waters, which I'll briefly repeat below. 

Bottled Water versus Bottled Water

Mascha is not concerned with municipal waters put into a bottle (the to-go part of it- the bottle- being the emphasis), but on bottled natural waters, in which the water is the important part.

Source of Water

  • Spring - This is a tricky term because in the US, spring water doesn't have to come from a spring, but can come from a well drilled next to a spring if the two water sources are linked somewhere underground.
  • Artesian - I thought this was another word for 'artisinal' but I was wrong. Artesian aquifers are basically trapped water under pressure, which will pump itself to the surface if a hole is drilled. Fiji and Voss are artesian waters. 
  • Well - Similar to spring water, but comes from a well.
  • Rain - rain.
  • Glacier - Very old water with low mineral content tasting similar to rain water.
  • Iceberg - Not as pristine as you might imagine, with microorganisms found in old ice and some layers from the 1950s when the air was impure and atomic tests were common.
  • Lake, stream, reservoir - typically purified before bottling.
  • Deep sea - melted iceberg water now on the sea floor, pumped up in Hawaii from a 3,000 foot pipe into the ocean. Cool! 

Carbonation Level

Mascha says that the carbonation level controls the mouthfeel of water, and is the most important factor in matching water with food. He developed a scale that he calls the FineWaters Balance:

  • Still - No carbonation
  • Effervescent - nearly still with some bubbles. Badoit is an example. 
  • Light
  • Classic - Typical carbonation level we expect from a bottled water
  • Bold - Big bubbles with big pops, like in Perrier.

Total Dissolved Solids (TDS)

This is the amount of dissolved minerals in the water. Interestingly, this is different from Water Hardness, which only considers the calcium and magnesium levels of a water. So a water can be hard water (lots of calcium and/or magnesium) but have a low TDS level overall. 

pH Level

Acidic water can taste sour. Alkaline (basic) water can taste bitter and have a slippery feel. Slightly basic waters may taste sweet. Mascha says this only account for 5 percent of the overall flavor of bottled water though. 

In future posts, I'll cover other topics from the book, which I found completely fascinating. 



The water project imageThe Water Project on Alcademics is research into water in spirits and in cocktails, from the streams that feed distilleries to the soda water that dilutes your highball. For all posts in the project, visit the project index page



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