Because it adds mouthfeel, carbonation is a fundamental characteristic to consider when describing the character of water or matching bottled water with food. Water is carbonated by dissolving carbon dioxide in it, which adds effervescence by creating a dilute carbonic acid solution. Carbonated water is also known as sparkling water, soda, or seltzer. FineWaters categorizes sparkling water by mouthfeel using five levels of carbonation.
Still waters — those that have no carbonation — are preferred by 65 percent of Americans. The Spanish share this preference, whereas sparkling waters are favored in Italy, Germany, and Austria. Still water is ideal with any food, but a little variety can go a long way. With Still waters, we can engage in a dialogue about sources and minerality and focus on the differences in still waters based on their terroir. It's vital to resist the temptation to pour Still water over ice — especially ice made with tap water. If you must have bottled water with ice, make sure the ice is made with the same water for full enjoyment.
Effervescent waters are an epicurean surprise to many. With the smallest possible bubbles, these sophisticated waters straddle a line between Still and Light sparkling waters. In some instances, these waters lose their "sparkle" very quickly, and some are almost still. Many naturally carbonated waters, such as Cana Royal, Vilajuïga, Badoit, Wattwiller, and Ferrarelle, fall into this category. Drinking water that is almost flat but has a hint of carbonation, and thus a hint of mouthfeel, offers a new sensation to many people. Use this element of surprise to contrast or support a dish with a water pairing.
These waters draw attention. Many people who claim they don't like sparkling water at all love light sparkling waters. If you're serving a dish with a subtle mouthfeel — for example, a perfectly pan-seared fish — a light sparkling water would be an ideal choice. It gives texture but doesn't overpower the presentation.
Classic is what most people think of when they talk about sparkling water. Many high mineral content waters fall into this category Classic waters are the workhorses of food and water pairing. Their mouthfeel matches many dishes perfectly, which makes them a safe bet. In selecting specific Classic waters to pair with food, note the mineral content. Classic waters are also suitable for mixed drinks, especially wine spritzers, a Classic water with a low TDS is a good choice for mixed drinks while one with a higher TDS would be a terrific choice with steak.
Expect bold, large, and loud bubbles. Bold waters sometimes create a "fireworks in your mouth" kind of feeling. The spacing between bubbles creates significant differences among various brands of bottled water. Some waters feel fizzy, whereas others are bold in a silent way. Served too cold, the bubbles can be overwhelming. If people say they don't like sparkling water, this is usually what they mean. Served closer to room temperature, the bubbles calm down. You can also use a spoon to stir the water to reduce the carbonation effect. Opening the bottle and allowing the water to breathe will reduce some of the impacts if desired. Careful matching with food is required if bold waters are to be enjoyed while dining. The intense sensation created by the large bubbles can distract from subtle foods or those with little or no mouthfeel. On the other hand, the bubbles can sometimes be used to contrast with subtle foods and give them texture. Bold waters are delightful at the beginning of a meal, preferably with crispy appetizers. So, where does the carbonation come from? As it turns out, it is artificial mainly but natural from some extraordinary sources.
Certain rare geological conditions can produce naturally carbonated water. The origin of the CO2 is either organic matter degradation, interaction with carbonates, metamorphic devolatilization, or magmatic degassing (volcanic activity). The slow process of natural carbonation in geology is very complex. It leads to a natural product with very distinct characteristics compared to more straightforward and faster artificial carbonation.
Joseph Priestley discovered a way to carbonate water by placing a bowl of water above a vat of fermenting beer, which gave off carbon dioxide that was then absorbed by the water. His paper "Impregnating Water with Fixed Air" was published in 1772. At about the same time, Swedish professor Torbern Bergman came up with another carbonation method, this time using sulfuric acid and chalk.