Water as a Flavour Enhancer?

Seems counter intuitive but apparently not.

I don’t like water. My first inclination is not to grab a glass of water unless I have to endure a three-hour tennis match in 35 degree weather.

Don’t like the taste. If I have to drink it, it has to be room temperature (absorbs better anyway) and it is only really tolerable to me with some lemon or in ice cube form in a tall class of almost anything else.

My bias against drinking water aside, here’s the deal:

Water dilutes and this change in the balance of flavours can be positive.

Mind Blower #1: Weak cocktails can be more aromatic than stiffer drinks.

When alcohol makes up more than 10-12% of a liquid’s volume, one begins to notice its irritating effects in the mouth and nose, thus interfering in the enjoyment of their flavours. I know some people who would beg to differ on the “enjoyment” factor of a strong drink (or drinks) but I think they may be drinking for reasons other than experiencing flavours.

So, how can water reduce pungency and amplify flavor?


Aroma molecules are more similar to alcohol than water molecules, so they tend to bond to alcohol and are quicker to evaporate out of a drink when there is less alcohol to cling to.

Therefore, more alcohol = more aroma molecule clinging = slower evaporation =more pungent + fewer aroma molecules released into the air and into your nasal passage.

And we all know that our sense of smell is an important factor in how we taste. Proof? How does something taste when you have a cold and are congested compared how it tastes when you can actually breathe?

Play around with the dilution and non-dilution of your alcoholic beverages (even wine???) and see how the flavours and your enjoyment of them change. If nothing else, it is a great excuse to get your friends together to drink.

Drink in the name of science- what better?

Mind blower #2: One can make tastier coffee by brewing it with less coffee and more water.

Industry standards for brewed coffee vary greatly, from 1.25% extracted coffee solids in the U.S. to 2% in Brazil and specialty coffee houses.

The fractional percentages may seem a little extreme but that extra tablespoon of water can have a big impact. How the coffee is brewed is also a huge factor, brewing time, temperature, the roast…. My head is spinning.

I think I need to find some experts and sit in on a tasting.

Starting with good beans goes without saying but experiment with the ratio of water to bean, dare I say, weigh each, and tinker away.

The scientific method can be the way to a better cocktail and a better brew. If nothing else, find your own personal sweet spot and save a little money at the same time.


~ by angryegg on July 29, 2010.

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