With the growing popularity of bottled water and Mineral Water, the FineWaters Balance provides a scale to define the differences between various bottled waters based on carbonation levels. It is designed to be an easily understood standard for restaurants and connoisseurs. The FineWaters Balance helps water drinkers appreciate the difference between, for example, the large, loud bubbles of a sparkling Perrier or Ty Nant and the effervescent, small bubbles of Badoit
It’s important to note that there is no explicit or implied scale of quality associated with the FineWaters Balance. It merely compares the waters, and it is my way of pointing out the differences that allow bottled waters to be savored and fully enjoyed.
Carbonation Levels of Bottled Water
Still waters - those that have no carbonation - are preferred by sixty-five percent of Americans when eating. The Spanish share this preference, whereas sparkling waters are favored in Italy. Still water is perfect with any food, but a little variety can go a long way. With Still waters, we can engage in a dialogue about sources and minerality and focus on the differences in Still waters based on their terroirs. It is important to resist the temptation to pour Still water over ice—especially ice made with tap water. If you prefer your bottled water with ice, for full enjoyment make sure the ice is made with the same water.
Recommended Serving Temperature: 54°F (12°C)
Carbonation: 0 mg/l
Effervescent waters are an epicurean surprise to many. These sophisticated waters, with the smallest possible bubbles, straddle a line between Still and Light sparkling waters. In some instances these waters lose their - sparkle - very quickly, and some are almost still. Many naturally carbonated waters (such as Badoit, Wattwiller, and Ferrarelle) fall into this category. Drinking water that is almost flat but has a hint of carbonation (and thus a hint of mouthfeel) offers a new sensation to many people. Use this element of surprise to contrast or support a dish with a water pairing.
Recommended Serving Temperature: 56°F (13°C)
Carbonation: 0-2.5 mg/l
These waters draw attention. Many people who claim they don’t like sparkling water at all love Light sparkling waters. If you are erving a dish with a subtle mouthfeel—for example, a perfectly pan-seared fish—a Light sparkling water would be a perfect choice. It gives texture but does not overpower the presentation.
Recommended Serving Temperature: 58°F (14°C)
Carbonation: 2.5-5 mg/l
Classic is what most people think of when they talk about a sparkling water. Many high mineral content waters fall into this category. Classic waters are the workhorses of food and water pairing. Their mouthfeel matches many dishes perfectly, which makes them a safe bet. Classic waters are also perfect for mixed drinks, especially wine spritzers. In selecting specific Classic waters to pair with food, note the mineral content. A Classic water with a low TDS is a good choice for mixed drinks, while one with a higher TDS would be the perfect choice with steak.
Recommended Serving Temperature: 60°F (16°C)
Carbonation: 5-7.5 mg/l
Expect bold, large, and loud bubbles. Bold waters sometimes create a - fireworks in your mouth - kind of feeling. The spacing between bubbles creates significant differences among various brands of bottled water. Some waters feel fizzy, whereas others are bold in a silent way. Served too cold, the bubbles can be overwhelming. (If people say they don’t like sparkling water, this is usually what they mean.) Served closer to room temperature, the bubbles calm down. You can also use a spoon to stir the water to reduce the effect of the carbonation; opening the bottle and allowing the water to breathe will also reduce some of the effect, if desired. Careful matching with food is required if Bold waters are to be enjoyed while dining. The strong sensation created by the large bubbles can distract from subtle foods or those with little or no mouthfeel. On the other hand, the bubbles can sometimes be used to contrast with subtle foods and give them texture. Bold waters are perfect at the beginning of a meal, preferably with crispy appetizers.
Recommended Serving Temperature: 62°F (17°C)
Carbonation: larger then 7.5 mg/l
Because it adds mouthfeel, carbonation is the most important characteristic to consider when matching bottled water with food. Water is carbonated by dissolving carbon dioxide in it, which adds effervescence by creating a dilute carbonic acid solution. Carbonated water is also known as sparkling water, soda, or seltzer. The FineWaters Balance categorizes sparkling water by mouthfeel using five levels of carbonation (see page 43).
In a study published in 2001 by the Journal of Medicinal Food, high mineral content was found to be favorable for carbonated waters (within a specified limit) but not still waters. The report did find, however, that still waters with high mineral content made good mouth cleaners when drinking red wine.
Joseph Priestley discovered a way to carbonate water by placing a bowl of water above a vat of fermenting beer, which gave off carbon dioxide that was then absorbed by the water. His paper “Impregnating Water with Fixed Air” was published in 1772. At about the same time, Swedish professor Torbern Bergman came up with another carbonation method, this time using sulphuric acid and chalk. He was inspired by the springs from which water emerges naturally carbonated.
Current carbonation techniques involve pressurizing carbon dioxide before adding it to the water—the pressure increases the amount of carbon dioxide that will dissolve. Opening the bottle of water releases pressure, allowing the carbon dioxide to form bubbles that hadn’t previously been visible. The size, spacing, and quantity of bubbles in carbonated water is governed by the amount of carbon dioxide added to it. Most artifically carbonated waters have 1 to 10 mg/l of carbon dioxide.
Certain rare geological conditions can produce naturally carbonated water; often the carbonation can be attributed to volcanic activity. Naturally carbonated waters have historically been highly sought after for their supposed curative properties.
The carbon dioxide helps this water absorb minerals in high levels. Apollinaris is an example of a naturally carbonated water. Volcanic activity in the Eifel region of Germany enriches the water there with minerals, and magma gives off carbon dioxide. Other naturally carbonated waters include Badoit, Gerolsteiner, Wattwiller, Ferrarelle, and Borsec. Perrier has a unique carbonation story. The water is distinguished by its natural carbonation, which comes from volcanic gases in the rock near the source.
But as international demand for Perrier grew, the company improved efficiency by capturing the water and the carbonic gas separately. The two substances are taken from the same geological formation, but they are extracted at different depths; the gas is then filtered before being added to the water. When you open a bottle of Perrier, the level of carbonation matches that found at the spring exactly.