Carbonated water, also known as sparkling water,
fizzy water, seltzer, and
water with gas, (collectively as an aerated beverage), is
plain water into which carbon dioxide gas has been dissolved, and is
the major and defining component of most soft drinks. The
process of dissolving carbon dioxide gas is called carbonation.
It results in the formation of carbonic acid (which has the chemical
Carbonated water, also known as soda water, can be produced in the
home by "charging" a refillable seltzer bottle by filling it with
water and then adding carbon dioxide. 'Soda water' may be
identical to plain carbonated water or it may contain a small amount
of table salt, sodium citrate, sodium bicarbonate, potassium
bicarbonate, potassium citrate, potassium sulfate, or disodium
phosphate, depending on the bottler. These additives are
included to emulate the slightly salty taste of homemade soda water.
The process can also occur naturally to produce carbonated mineral
water, such as in Mihalkovo in the Bulgarian Rhodopes, or Medzitlija
In 1767 Englishman Joseph Priestley invented carbonated
water when he first discovered a method of infusing water with
carbon dioxide when he suspended a bowl of water above a beer vat at
a local brewery in Leeds, England. The air blanketing the
fermenting beer-called 'fixed air' - was known to kill mice
suspended in it.
Priestley found water thus treated had a pleasant taste and he offered
it to friends as a cool, refreshing drink. In 1772 Priestley
published a paper entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air in
which he describes dripping oil of vitriol (sulfuric acid) onto
chalk to produce carbon dioxide gas, and encouraging the gas to
dissolve into an agitated bowl of water.
In 1771 Swedish chemistry professor Torbern Bergman independently
invented a similar process to make carbonated water. In poor
health at the time yet frugal, he was trying to reproduce
naturally-effervescent spring waters thought at the time to be
beneficial to health.
In the late eighteenth century,
J.J.Schweppe (1740-1821), a German-born naturalized Swiss watchmaker
and amateur scientist developed a process to manufacture carbonated
mineral water, based on the process discovered by Joseph Priestley,
founding the Schweppes Company in Geneva in 1783. In 1792 he moved
to London to develop the business there.
Ányos Jedlik (1800-1895), a Hungarian, invented consumable soda-water
that continues to be a popular drink today. He also built an
early carbonated water factory in Budapest, Hungary. After this
invention, a Hungarian drink made of wine and soda water called "fröccs"
(wine spritzers) was spread throughout several countries in Europe.
Since then, carbonated water is made by passing pressurized carbon
dioxide through water. The pressure increases the solubility and
allows more carbon dioxide to dissolve than would be possible under
standard atmospheric pressure. When the bottle is opened, the
pressure is released, allowing the gas to come out of the solution,
thus forming the characteristic bubbles.
In the United States, carbonated water was commonly known by the name
of soda water until World War II. During the Great Depression,
it was also referred to as two cents plain, a reference to its place
as the cheapest drink available at the soda fountain. In the
1950s new terms such as sparkling water and seltzer water began to
be used. The term seltzer water is a genericized trademark
that derives from the German town Selters, meaning "water from
Selters" where naturally carbonated water has been commercially
bottled and shipped into all parts of the world at least since the
Flavored carbonated water is also commercially available. It
differs from sodas in that it contains flavors (usually sour fruit
flavors such as lemon, lime, cherry, orange, or raspberry) but no
Sparkling mineral water is a
negligible cause of dental erosion; also known as acid erosion.
While the dissolution potential of sparkling water is greater than
still water, levels remain low: by comparison, carbonated soft
drinks cause tooth decay at a rate of several hundred times that of
regular sparkling water.
De-gassing of a sparkling mineral water reduces its dissolution
potential, but the total levels are still relatively low, suggesting
that carbonation of drinks may not be an important factor in causing
Intake of carbonated beverages has not been associated with increased
bone fracture risk in observational studies, and the net effect of
carbonated beverage constituents on the amount of calcium in the
body is negligible, leaving carbonated water as harmless as regular
Recent advertisements by the State of New York encourage citizens to
drink water, seltzer and milk instead of sugary beverages.
Carbonated water is also helpful in controlling nausea.
When abroad, some travelers prefer carbonated water over flat water
because it provides similar health benefits while ensuring that
potentially polluted local sources are not used in place of bottled