When you’ve just finished a heavy session in the gym or simply taken a break from working in the yard on a hot summer’s day, nothing quite hits the spot like a glass of cold water. It’s thirst-quenching, rehydrates the body, and most importantly, it tastes good.
And yet, if someone were to leave that same glass of water out in the sun for an hour, it suddenly becomes quite unappealing. If you were to taste it, you’d think it tasted much worse than a cold glass of water. And yet, it’s the same water.
You might wonder how on earth that’s possible, and trust me, you wouldn’t be the only one. Why cold water tastes so much better than warm water is one of the great mysteries of life, and we’re here to help solve it. Join us as we find out why cold water tastes the best!
A Word On Taste
Before we can answer the question as to why cold water tastes better, we should probably first discuss the concept of ‘taste’. We all know that taste, or the gustatory system as it is more properly known, is one of our five senses.
Nearly everybody will also be familiar with the concept that the tongue is covered with thousands of taste buds that help us to taste. But how exactly does taste work?
Is it entirely the result of chemical reactions on the tongue, or does the mind have a part to play? After all, people experience taste differently, right?
To put it simply, taste (gustation) is the result of the chemical reactions that happen when food or drink come into contact with the taste cells in the mouth. Different kinds of flavor are experienced by different parts of the tongue and are sensed differently.
Saltiness, for example, is tasted by taste receptor cells on the very tip of the tongue. However, a lot of taste is psychological, based on the signals sent to the brain from these reactions.
What Does Water Taste Like?
There are an awful lot of people around who think that water doesn’t have a taste simply because it doesn’t have a strong taste. Of course water has a taste!
In fact, the taste of water can vary quite a lot, depending on where it’s come from, how it’s been treated, and other factors.
A lot of the taste in water comes from the minerals present in it, and how concentrated these minerals are. For, example, ‘hard’ water, rich in minerals like calcium and magnesium, has a stronger taste than ‘soft’ water.
Soft water has lower levels of these minerals and often has higher sodium content, so will naturally taste different.
The pH of water can also affect its taste. Even distilled water, which is meant to be completely pure, has a slight taste. Although the water itself might be pure, impurities in the glass and in your mouth will mix with the water to give it a taste.
Why Does Cold Water Taste Better?
So we’ve looked briefly at how taste works and what water tastes of, but we haven’t answered the question. So, let’s get on with it! Here are some of the reasons why water tastes so much better cold.
Temperature Affects Taste
That’s right, temperature affects taste. In essence, cooler temperatures dull the sensitivity of your taste buds. So, counterintuitively, your ice cold glass of water tastes better than a warm one simply because it tastes less.
When a glass of water is warm, any impurities in it that may make it taste sweeter or more acidic (for example) are experienced more intensely, which may give it a less pleasant taste. Instead, cold water has a crisper, more balanced flavor.
Yes, some scientists believe that our preference for cold water is a survival adaptation. Think about it- you’re alive 10,000 years ago and you’ve worked up a bit of a thirst.
What are you going to drink from; the stagnant puddle of water that has been warming in the sun, or the cool water from the mountain stream? Obviously, the stream is the sensible choice.
The warm water from the puddle is more likely to be full of dangerous bacteria and parasites. As a result, humans over the millennia have instinctively grown to associate cooler water with safer water, and warm water with water that is best to avoid.
Cold Water Is More Thirst-Quenching
Scientists have done studies that suggest that cold water is just more ‘thirst-quenching’ than warm or room temperature water. When asked which glass of water left the participants feeling the most hydrated, cold water was the winner.
The theory is that the colder the glass of water is, the stronger the signals to the brain that we are re-hydrating. As a result, the glass of water is more satisfying, and your thirst is quenched more quickly.
Much like food that tastes better when you are hungry, water tastes better when you are thirsty, especially when it quenches your thirst quickly.
Cold Water Helps To Regulate Body Temperature
Ok, so this isn’t strictly do with taste, but it does play a part! When you’ve been working out on a warm day and have worked up a sweat, a cold glass of water helps to cool you down and regulate your body temperature.
Naturally, this will make you feel refreshed and just generally better, which is sure to make the glass of water taste better to you. After all, if there’s one thing we’ve learnt about taste is that a huge part of it is psychological.
Unlike what some people claim, water definitely does have a taste, and it certainly tastes better when cold. There are several reasons why cold water tastes better.
Cold water dulls our taste buds, making the impurities in water taste less intensely. Scientists also believe we have evolved to instinctively prefer cooler water.
Cold water also helps to regulate your overall body temperature and is believed to be more thirst-quenching because it sends stronger signals to the brain.