The Daily Meal Tap Water Taste Test (slideshow)
March 17, 2015
We samples water straight from the faucet from ten cities around America — and guess whose water we liked the best?
The Daily Meal Tap Water Taste Test
We procured 10 samples of tap water around the country, mailing large-sized glass Ball jars as the vessels (glass was used to avoid that weird, vaguely carcinogenic-tasting yuck that can seep into water from plastic containers). We requested that the jars be filled by submersion in a clean vat of water straight from the faucet, so that there were no air bubbles that might disrupt the flavor. To create a fair study, we took the New York tap water (from our studio kitchen) and set it aside with our collection, so that the New York water was no fresher than the rest.
10. Los Angeles
Everyone we know in Los Angeles will be absolutely unsurprised by this result. The tap water there is not exactly lauded — Los Angelenos frequently complain about it, and if our study determines anything, it’s that they all have a reason to be sipping bottled or filtered. Our panel was unanimously disappointed by the flavor of this tap water, all of them commenting on the city’s “swimming pool water.” When chlorine is the overwhelming flavor — and scent — of a water, it earns ratings like these: on a scale of 60 to 100, not one panelist ranked Los Angeles over a 63. Maybe this is a trade-off for that perfect weather you guys like to boast about?
Also low on the list was Cleveland’s tap water, although for very different reasons than L.A.’s. Rather than tasting like a swimming pool, most of our testers thought the Forest City’s water tasted “briney,” “vegetal,” and “like algae.” Sorry, Cleveland: your brackish swamp water is decidedly not up our alley.
Most of our testers said that they noticed a “chemically-treated” taste, some describing the flavor as “rubbery,” or “plasticy.” While we understand the childhood joy of gumming soft plastic toys, most of us lose our taste for this flavor sometime around age four, and we definitely don’t want our drinking water to be reminiscent of a My Little Pony’s hoof.
Not one of our tasters ranked Philly’s water higher than a 68, largely because the City of Brotherly Love’s water supply tastes “flat,” and “has a faint chlorine smell,” according to our tasters. We’re sorry, too, Philadelphia: but don’t worry, you’ll always have cheesesteaks.
Denver may have been the biggest surprise of the test. When we envision the city of Denver, we think — well, okay, first we think of wildly uncomfortable altitude sickness, but then we envision Colorado’s beautiful mountains, reputation for nature conservation, and clean landscape dusted in pure snow. Apparently this isn’t enough to create delicious tap water, however. Our tasters said that Denver’s tap water has “no aroma,” which brings it a step up from Philadelphia, but that it suffers from a “chemical” flavor, and “tastes just like a pool smells.”
Boston had the most varied scores of all the waters we tried, with a 20-point range of 60 to 80. Most of our testers found the city’s water “inoffensive,” although they also noted that it had an odd, slightly off quality, “like water from a bathroom tap.” Sorry, City on a Hill: yours may be technically just as potable as a kitchen’s tap water, but everyone knows you’re just not quite as good.
Unlike the Windy City’s beautiful architecture and killer Italian beef, Chicago’s tap water is decidedly “middle of the road,” according to our testers. While the water had “no smell,” it also tasted “subtly chemical,” and “without much mineral content.” According to the City of Chicago’s most recent Water Quality Report, Chicago has a relatively low sodium content compared to many other cities’’ water, which may be responsible, in part, for the lower mineral flavor.
All of our testers agreed that Houston’s tap water was very good, and that whether you enjoyed the flavor or not was a matter of personal preference. If you enjoy “softer, sweeter” water, with a “slightly oily” texture, water from Space City is right up your alley. The comparison most often made during the trial was to Evian, which is pretty high praise in many people’s books.
Given Portland’s reputation for being an environmentally focused city that takes its natural resources seriously, we were delighted but unsurprised to find their water is quite lovely, ranking almost exclusively in the '80s among our testers. “Rich,” one tester pronounced Rose City’s water, while others dubbed it “complex,” “mineral,” and with a “nice body.” One tester even paid it the highest compliment a New Yorker is capable of: “it’s familiar — it reminds me of New York water.”
1. New York
It’s official: Gotham has the best-tasting city water in America. Granted, we understand that there may be some outside factors at play here. All of our panelists are New Yorkers through birth or choice, so a preference for the familiar water may be an intrinsic challenge to the test’s validity. However, the results were clear: New York water was the overall favorite, although our tasters still had some minor complaints. While some of our taste-testers found that the city’s water “looks and tastes clear,” and has “no aroma,” others stated that it tasted “faintly of chlorine,” and one acknowledged only that it tasted “clean,” and just “okay.” This might be because we get a lot of, ahem, unintentionally added flavors in our water. Still, the number one spot is held by Gotham! We’ve never been prouder.