Every outdoorsman knows that if you boil water it will kill bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. With great purifying power comes one major downside. It seriously changes the taste of your water.
When I first started backpacking this always drove me crazy. For some unknown reason I couldn’t get my water to taste right. I always thought it was in my just head until I started asking around.
Everyone I talked to knew exactly what I was talking about. Water just seems to taste different. So why does the taste of boiled water change?
Does Boiling Water Make it Taste Better?
When I first started camping I was convinced that boiling water would make it taste better, but it’s actually awful. I though maybe I would need to run it through a filter or find a different water source. Unfortunately nothing seemed to work.
I decided to boil some water at home to see if there was a difference. I came to the conclusion that boiled water just tastes different. It doesn’t taste disgusting it’s just weird, tasteless and generally bad.
It’s almost like the water loses all its taste. You never realized how good a bottle of water is until you taste flat stale water.
Why Does Boiled Water Taste Funny?
When was the last time you questioned the taste of your drinking water? Before I started backpacking I thought all clean water should taste the same. Unfortunately, boiling water tends to taste terrible, which is a shame because it’s one of the most effective ways to purify water.
All over the world people have adapted to boiling water to clean up their water supply. It’s the way they’ve learned to deal with unsafe drinking water.
Since I grew up in the United States, I never had to deal with dangerous drinking water. I never really realized just how bad boiling water tastes until I started taking backpacking seriously.
I get that green/muddy water might taste weird, but my relatively clear water tasted nasty. For some reason, the water always tastes flat. After doing a little research I was actually embarrassed that I hadn’t realized the cause.
Why Does Boiled Water Taste Flat and Tasteless?
So what causes boiled water to taste funny? It should have been obvious that boiled water tastes flat because all the air was released through the boiling process. To make it taste better you need to aerate the water by pouring it back and forth a few times.
How Do I Make Boiled Water Taste Better?
We need to start off with a few ground rules before I tell you how to fix the taste. I’m assuming your water is relatively clean, not green/brown and doesn’t contain salt. This the easiest way I’ve found to make boiled water taste better.
- If you’re starting off with un-sanitary water you first need to boil it. Since this post isn’t about how to boil water I’m not gonna get into that topic.
- After boiling the water it should be tasteless, flat and just generally bad. You’ve boiled all the oxygen out of the water so you need to put it back in. Don’t worry! It’s free and really easy to do.
- The easiest way to refresh boiled water is to blow air into it for like 30 seconds. You can use a straw, hydration tube or just your mouth to blow air into the water. The other way to add air to water is just to pour it back and forth from one container to the next or just shake your water bottle or hydration bladder.
Why Does My Boiled Water Taste Like Metal?
Freshly boiled water should never taste like metal. This means that you have metal leaching into your water supply. Most of the time this is caused by your pipes leaching into the water, but it can also happen on the trail.
Metal can leach into your water when using cheap cookware. Do yourself a favor and buy a halfway decent pot. For backpacking, I really like the Toaks 750ml pot(On Amazon), it’s the perfect size and relatively lightweight.
Getting Rid of The Plastic Taste
Plastic water bottles and hydration bladders almost always taste like plastic. Obviously, this isn’t a result of the boiling process it’s just plastic leaching into your water.
After a few wash cycles you should be able to get the taste out of your water bottle, but it gets tricky with hydration bladders. Check out my post on how I get rid of the plastic taste in hydration bladders.
Other Ways to Make Your Water Taste Better
- Powder Mix: I really like to add powdered drink mix when using water bottles. Go with the sugar-free individual drink mixes they sell at Walmart, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Etc. They cost like 1$ for ten tubes so they’re fairly cheap. Just try to avoid sugar because it will quickly cause mold/bacteria issues on a hike.
- Electrolyte Tablets: As a backpacker/hiker you should always pay attention to your electrolyte levels. I really like the taste of Nuun Electrolyte Tablets(On Amazon).
- Lemon/Lime Juice: I like to carry a little bit of lemon/lime juice to drop in my water. You can also use a little bit of lemon juice in your dinner. It’s great on rice.