What Makes Sparkling Water Sparkle?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Sparkling water is an attractive name that sounds like something complicated to produce, but this drink, also called soda water or seltzer, derives its bubbly nature from the simple process of adding carbon dioxide (CO2) in gas form to regular water, and then bottling it. The result is the effervescence that tickles the taste buds and makes a nice change from regular water.

Sparkling water.
Sparkling water.

Carbonated water is not always mineral water, though it is frequently misnamed as such. Mineral water is defined as water that contains more than 250 parts per million of a dissolved mineral source. Though some mineral water can be sparkling with the addition of carbonation, the two terms are not interchangeable. All water needs to be considered sparkling water is carbonation.

Sparkling water is made by adding carbon dioxide gas to regular water.
Sparkling water is made by adding carbon dioxide gas to regular water.

The process of carbonating water began in the 18th century. A brewer named Joseph Priestly discovered that passing water over fermenting beer produced an interesting taste, and he began offering this water to his friends. Today, pressurized CO2 is forced into bottles or can be made with a soda maker at home or in bars and restaurants. Soda pop gets its sparkle from the same process.

It is generally not a good idea to shake a bottle of sparkling water.
It is generally not a good idea to shake a bottle of sparkling water.

In bottled water, when the pressure releases, as when the bottle opens, bubbles form. This is also why it is not a good idea for people to shake a bottle of sparkling water, because it builds the pressure of the carbon dioxide. Given time to settle down, it will, but a freshly shaken bottle is opened, the result is a spray of water.

Sparkling water was once promoted as a drink to cure stomach ailments, but those with acid reflux are now advised to avoid it.
Sparkling water was once promoted as a drink to cure stomach ailments, but those with acid reflux are now advised to avoid it.

A recent experiment with diet soda revealed that the combination of the ingredients in MentosĀ® candy and the aspartame in the drink causes CO2 to become extremely reactive, and it rapidly shoots virtually all the contents of the bottle into the air. This experiment may impress the kids, but it is a bit messy.

Sparkling water was once celebrated as a drink to cure stomach ailments, but now, most medical professionals recommend that people with acid reflux avoid it. It may however be helpful in calming nausea, however.

An experiment with diet soda revealed that the combination of aspartame and Mentos candy causes carbon dioxide to become extremely reactive.
An experiment with diet soda revealed that the combination of aspartame and Mentos candy causes carbon dioxide to become extremely reactive.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

widget2010

I tend to avoid sparkling water, because I have IBS and my stomach be easily upset or or bloated. However, people often offer it to me because they do still believe that sparkling water cures stomach ailments. On that note, I also get very sick from peppermint tea, another supposed stomach "cure".

sapphire12

Some sparkling water definitely, well, sparkles more than others. For example, flavored sparkling water sometimes is less strongly carbonated. However, I once went somewhere in Europe where I was offered "still" water that was also sparkling, just slightly less so- if you have a reason to avoid sparkling water, or simply don't like it, I would recommend avoiding bottled water whenever possible if traveling to European countries, or other places where sparkling is more popular than still.

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