The best temperature for drinking water is room temperature (20°C / 68°F) for maximum flavour, or chilled cold (6°C / 43°F) for maximum refreshment. However, there are different types of water, a myriad of reasons we drink it, and varying personal preferences. We looked into the scientific research and professional water sommelier recommendations for the most common scenarios and have compiled a list of optimal temperatures.
Table of Contents
Best water temperature for taste differentiation: Room temperature (20°C / 68°F)
In this video, when Martin uses the term "aromas" he refers to taste sensations. Martin often reminds his audience that good quality water should not have any scent except in the rare case of certain, unusual, very high mineral waters.
It is worth noting that the room temperature consensus in the epicurean world represents a change from the past. Those recommendations included slightly chilling the water to somewhere between 12°C and 17°C (54°F to 63°F). The logic behind the advice sought to provide a balance between cooling refreshment and taste. That balance represents a compromise to achieve different goals. Even in the past, room temperature was recognized as providing the purest taste experience.
Michael Mascha, founder of the Fine Water Society, explaining the ideal temperature for serving water from a water connoisseur's perspective.
Scientific research supports the room temperature argument as well:
- An article as far back as 1972 in the Journal of the American Water Works Association entitled Influence of Temperature on Taste Intensity and Degree of Liking Drinking Water found that "the intensity of taste is greatest for water at body temperature and room temperature, and is significantly reduced by chilling or heating."
- Additional research delves into how thermal stimulation of the tongue can evoke certain flavors and affect our senses. Thus, heating or cooling the tongue via the temperature of liquids or solids can alter, and even modify the intensity of flavors that come through what is ingested. Room temperature water is most effective in promoting the most authentic flavors.
Whether for gourmet tasting experiences or comparative water tasting sessions, serving water at room temperature yields the ideal conditions for water tasting.
Best water temperature for quenching thirst: Lukewarm (40°C / 104°F)
Feeling thirsty arises from a lack of fluids, or an increase in the concentration of certain osmolytes, such as sodium. When something is thirst quenching, it removes the thirsty feeling. Hydration is different as it refers to meeting the body's actual physical need for correct fluid levels, not simply the feeling.
A 2018 article entitled Drinking Strategies: Planned Drinking Versus Drinking to Thirst in the journal Sports Medicine points out that "In humans, thirst tends to be alleviated before complete rehydration is achieved." This is generally not an issue during non-exercise or light exercise periods as the body's regulatory mechanisms handle the imbalances. Meaning that "drinking to thirst" or "ad libitum drinking" is fine for health purposes most of the time. Indeed, the body's thirst quenching mechanism is designed to prevent over-hydration.
You don't want it hot like the soup, but lukewarm water will ease the feeling of thirst best.
A report from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health explains how thirst quenching occurs via two neural phases: a "preabsorptive" phase where the brain signals that sufficient fluid intake has occurred and further drinking should stop, and a more sustained "postabsorptive" phase where the brain signals that an actual fluid balance has been achieved by the body.
Drinking warm water reduces thirst most effectively. Research done by the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine found that when warm water (40°C) was provided, fluid consumption was reduced by 29%. Strongly suggesting that drinking warm water correlates directly with feeling less thirsty. Keep in mind again that hydration does not equate to the feeling of having thirst quenched. On excessively warm days it’s easy to lose extra water through sweating.
Best water temperature for effective, rapid hydration: Slightly chilled (16°C / 61°F)
When it comes to actually achieving proper hydration, research on water temperature published on The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) website in 2013 showed that a water temperature of 16°C is the optimum point for dehydrated athletes or other subjects. The study argued two reasons for this:
- This slightly chilled water temperature induces higher rates of water consumption.
- It resulted in lower rates of sweating, increasing the body's ability to hydrate efficiently.
A little ice to partially chill the water can help it cool your core body temperature. Image from Front Row Society Germany.
Studies have also found that athletes who drink chilled water tend to have lower core body temperatures, allowing them to work out longer. Drinking cold water while working out helps promote a lower heart rate and a lower core body temperature, helping to prevent athletes from feeling tired. In turn allowing them to complete longer workouts without punishing fatigue.
Best water temperature for feeling refreshed: Cold (6˚C / 43°F)
For many, the taste of the water is irrelevant, as they seek the sensation of stimulating refreshment. A research paper about oral cooling published by the NCBI in 2016 explains that when feeling overheated, cold water around 6°C provides a feeling of energizing refreshment.
Drinking Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water at 89° north will definitely leave you refreshed.
According to the US Institute of Medicine Committee on Military Nutrition Research, the temperature at which the water is consumed affects our perception of how much we like the water. Temperature preferences underlying these effects are largely a product of experience. This simply means that feeling refreshed, rehydrated, and satisfied when drinking cold water - which 79% of people do according to this survey - is a common individual preference.
Another reason to drink ice-cold water is for the experience itself. A perfect example of this is how ultra-low mineral Svalbarði iceberg water may be chilled with ice made from Svalbarði in order to enjoy it as if fresh from its source iceberg in the polar fjords of the Svalbard archipelago at 79° north.
Best water temperature for your health: Personal preference
A report on the NCBI website entitled Water, Hydration and Health shows that staying hydrated has proven health benefits. There isn’t specific research advocating that one water temperature is preferable. The best is the temperature which encourages a person to hydrate. Simply put: personal preference.
There are some specific cases where temperature may have minor health impacts. A small study from the US National Library of Medicine found that drinking cold water made nasal mucus thicker and more difficult to pass through the respiratory tract. By comparison, the researchers found that hot water helped people breathe more easily.
Drink at the temperature that will help you personally keep drinking a healthy amount throughout your daily activities.
When treating a cold or flu hydration is key to treating symptoms. Most people find warm drinks soothing, and if that helps a person drink enough water, then that is the right temperature. Ordinary water is generally considered the best solution for keeping a sick body hydrated. However, if the only water a person can access or stomach is ice chips, that is preferable to coffee or soda, both of which contribute to dehydration.
Best water temperature for weight loss and metabolism: Personal preference
Some magazines and blogs claim that drinking water at specific temperatures can boost metabolism and help lose weight. Most of these claims are based on personal reasoning or unreliable sources.
In a group of 12 studies referenced in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 11 of them found no meaningful difference regarding water and weight loss. One of the studies did specifically look at cold water, but showed no meaningful correlation other than a marginal thermogenic response.
When losing weight, there is no evidence that water temperature is relevant. Engage in physical activity, eat well, and enjoy water at the temperature you like.
But with very little research on this topic, much of which is contradictory and vague, there is no hard evidence to date proving that water temperature affects weight loss.
The "best practices" of water temperature end up being a mixture of science and personal preference. The one very clear answer is in tasting scenarios where room temperature is a well-established optimum. In other scenarios, given that even the scientifically backed scenarios show only minor impacts, water temperature remains mostly about personal experience. Drinking water should bring pleasure and satisfaction and temperature can generally be adjusted to the individual's taste. And for a water enthusiast’s experience unlike any other, tasting the Arctic is as easy as trying Svalbarði Polar Iceberg Water.