Bottled Water Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

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The muddied world of bottled water can be a difficult one to navigate, with sleek bottles advertising spring sourcing and pH balancing like any of us could tell if it's true. Sure, many people have brand loyalties. And regional bottled waters can oftentimes be a source of civic pride right up there with local beers and baseball teams. But when you get right down to it, what makes water great is how it makes your mouth and body feel. And in that respect, there is some great variation.

Some waters make you want to chug the entire bottle, brain freeze be darned. Others you'll ignore as soon as you've quenched your immediate thirst. You'll find distinct differences between spring waters and purified waters, as well as glass bottled waters and stuff in plastic. So, we undertook a feat of exceptional hydration and tried 16 of the most popular brands of bottled water. We present our findings for which are best — and which are best left in the convenience store cooler.

24. Aquafina

Remember how when you were a kid, on hot summer days, you'd drink out of a moldy garden hose in your backyard but it still tasted like a cold blast of heaven? Somehow, Aquafina hasn't even managed that level of desperation deliciousness. Even after running on a hot day, when presented with a bottle of Aquafina, you often wonder if it's worth the painfully bitter aftertaste to stave off certain dehydration. The answer is usually yes, but it's a tough call.

Aquafina packs a punch, plain and simple, hitting your mouth with a heavy blast of plastic and chemicals before sedating it into a mildly refreshing flavor. But once you swallow, all those chemicals come right back up, leaving you refreshed but still unsatisfied. In the any-port-in-a-storm sense of the word, Aquafina will do. But if you're in a place where tap water is safe, that'll still probably be a better option.

23. Pure Life

Water is perhaps the most bountiful stuff on Earth, and yet Nestlé made a fortune packaging and selling it for around the same price as juice, milk, or soda. While it was once a flagship bottled water for Nestlé, the quality of Pure Life doesn't even meet its cut-rate price point. Nestlé doesn't even produce it anymore and instead has handed off operations to BluTriton. Either way, Pure Life remains a subpar choice.

Pure Life's flavor profile is anything but pure. None of the natural effects or notes that come from bottled water are here, like the mineral notes that may remind a drinker they're consuming something healthy. This is a water that somehow feels thinner, or, ironically, watered down. It leads with the taste of chalk, metals, and most egregiously, the plastic Pure Life water bottle. That could be because Pure Life doesn't come from a pristine mountain spring. Instead, it's sourced from city water supplies and well water. You might be better off drinking regular tap water that you can filter to your liking. 

22. Dasani

Have you ever seen a completely empty bottle of Dasani anywhere, ever, other than maybe the finish line at a 5k? No. And there is a reason for this. Because Dasani is the kind of water you only want to drink until you're not thirsty anymore, kind of like a public drinking fountain but with a lot fewer germs. Not that Dasani is terrible, mind you, but it has a bitterness and a bite that makes you say, "Yeah, I'm done with this," long before you're done with the bottle, which makes it especially important that Coca-Cola now makes 30% of the bottle from plants.

Dasani tastes the same whether it's warm or cold, sipped out of a bottle or poured into a glass. It's a vending machine staple, but its presence has fueled many a calorie-conscious consumer to opt for Diet Coke. It'll do in a pinch, and it won't make you sick. But it's not anything you ever want more of, and at the price point is worth passing up for a store-brand generic.

21. Poland Spring

Poland Spring is a little like the John Stark of bottled water: It's pretty terrible and the only reason it gets any respect is because New Yorkers seem to think it's great. NYC's regional bottled water of choice gets a rep almost as underserved as its tap water, but at least nobody's claiming Poland Spring makes bagels taste better. Still, it hits with a mouthful of plastic and goes down heavy, leaving an aftertaste almost as bitter as a cab driver who gets perpetually stiffed.

We'll give it to Poland Spring — it is cool and refreshing, and we guess after spending an entire summer afternoon sweating your way through an hour-long subway ride, it probably tastes like it was sourced from the Garden of Eden. But it's sourced in Maine, and while it's excellent cold, it absorbs an intense amount of plastic flavor as the water heats up. Transferring it to a glass doesn't eliminate the notes of petroleum, so if you're visiting the Big Apple, this is one local "treasure" you don't need to try.

20. Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water

One of the more mass-produced, low-cost bottled waters that are available on the market today, Arrowhead sources its water from mountain springs across the western U.S. and Canada. Despite the pedigree, Arrowhead water is wholly uninspiring. It doesn't quite enter that flavor-flee region where many other brands of water usually reside.

Instead of something from a pure mountain spring, Arrowhead water tastes more as if it has been chemically processed, making for a taste that only approximates that of water fresh from a mountain spring. The final product is a bizarre if reasonable imitation of water, with some significant hints of chemicals. The reassuring mineral edge that is so prominent in purportedly all-natural water fails to make an appearance here. Arrowhead comes across as a little too clean, less than crisp, and oddly dry. Yes, a few slugs of this water may just make you thirsty.

19. Boxed Water

Though it's technically not bottled water, Boxed Water wears its gimmick right on its packaging, which is a carton of water that is akin to a large juice box. Boxed Water is a product with a mission: to provide water without adding to the global problem of plastic waste. Unlike most other waters, Boxed Water comes in readily recyclable containers that are made from sustainable materials, not single-use plastic that lives on for decades.

That's all well and good, but Boxed Water doesn't appear to give much thought to how the water inside its earth-saving packaging tastes The liquid is vaguely promised to be "100% purified," which we suspect means it's fitlered, like almost every other bottled water available. 

None of that speaks much to the actual flavor or mouthfeel of the water, which is less than grand. Boxed Water resembles plain tap water that went through a Brita filter. Furthermore, as this is a product that proudly uses paper, that material affects the water. The taste of cardboard is prominent here, making for a beverage that tastes too much like really wet paper.

18. Essentia

Essentia calls itself "Overachieving H20." After tasting it, we do not doubt that if there were a classroom full of bottled water, Essentia would be the one sitting in the front row asking the professor questions for ten minutes after she said, "Well if there aren't any more questions ..." As those types of overachievers do, it grew up to make claims like "too pure to be tested by pH strips," and stops to tell drinkers "a better you starts with better water." Essentia tries hard to be more than it is, but it's easy to see through. And not just because it's water.

Like so many overachievers, Essentia tries to punch above its weight, using a process it says can turn water from anywhere into supercharged, ionized super liquid. The problem is that it still lacks the spring-fed smoothness of your Fijis and your Icelandics. So while it does very well for water from anywhere, it's still not as great as the ones with natural talent.

17. Eternal

According to the label you'll find on your next Eternal water bottle, the water "filters through layers of ancient rock, absorbing essential minerals and making it naturally alkaline." The curvy bottle is also an attention grabber, and since it's a relative newcomer, Eternal is a strong candidate for a novel first try.

Though it's one of the more aesthetically pleasing waters on the market, the liquid itself tastes a little like a softened-up version of the stuff that came out of your grade school drinking fountain. Lots of minerals and metal, with a smooth finish and not much aftertaste. It has an initial blast of those flavors that sets you back for a second, and it's definitely not a water that invites you to drink an entire liter. Though the bottle is alluring, the stuff inside is not. And though it's not bad, you can do a lot better.

16. Life WTR

If we could give an award for bottle art, we'd give it to Life WTR, whose bottles boast original work from rotating artists as part of the brand's effort to "advance the sources of creation and creativity." And if we could drink art, we're sure Life WTR would be absolutely delicious. As it is, it tastes more like a bronze sculpture that's spent a little too long in the local park.

While the bottles from this brand are pretty, the water inside is not, as it greets your palate with a smooth wave of metallic flavor. It's not quite the assault some of the waters lower on the list offer, but it's still enough that you feel the water's heft. Whoever added the electrolytes for taste did a nice job achieving a good mouthfeel for Life WTR. But with other options available, this shouldn't be your first choice.

15. Deer Park Natural Spring Water

Deer Park Natural Spring Water doesn't purport to be anything that it isn't. It's a simple, unpretentious, and functional bottle of water. While some of the more premium brands offer a thick, even velvety mouthfeel, the bargain brands are decidedly thinner. Deer Park is that kind of water, thin but still smooth and perfectly drinkable. It's even got a pronounced sweetness, which more than covers the clunky hints of minerals and chlorine that one usually encounters in packaged water. This is a product that isn't too much of anything, and aims to be forgettable, wanting only to hydrate. Deer Park water is tap water, just turned up a notch. 

The only significant drawback to Deer Parks is that because manufacturer BluTriton utilizes four different sources around the East Coast to make Deer Park, the water is inconsistent. Every serving offers every benefit — sweetness, crispness, and drinkability — but the level of each can vary greatly from bottle to bottle.

14. Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water

In theory, water isn't supposed to taste like anything. It should be a tool to replenish the very stuff of life the body needs to function. For these reasons, Ice Mountain is arguably the most watery of all bottled waters because it tastes like nothing. Where other bottled waters pack a bit of flavor derived from minerals or other added ingredients, Ice Mountain rather impressively has none. 

It tastes like unadulterated tap water, although since it's been harvested from clean sources, processed, and packaged, it packs an even softer, less pronounced taste because it lacks the chemical hint present in so much municipal water. Ice Mountain is impressively ordinary, being all crispness and wetness. Sometimes, a person is just thirsty and needs to get some water into their body as quickly as they can. Ice Mountain is the unmemorable water for just such unmemorable moments.

13. Just Water

Probably the most direct competitor to Boxed Water is Just Water. Created by celebrity Jaden Smith after he was haunted by the image of a plastic bottle floating in the ocean when he went surfing at age 10, Just Water comes in a purpose-built container that is reportedly made with methods that produce low carbon emissions and reduce waste. The bottle is constructed primarily from sustainable paper products, along with aluminum and sugarcane that are used to make the cap.

The non-paper ingredients prevent the taste of paper from seeping into the water, which is itself very refreshing and not bogged down by too many mineral traces that so often negatively impact flavor in other bottled water brands. Just Water appetizingly sources its stuff from springs in New York's Adirondack Mountains. That water is noticeably crisp and provides a smooth drink of moderate thickness with a clean and sweet finish.

12. SmartWater

SmartWater benefits from its placement in the cooler maybe more than any other brand of bottled water. Because when you walk up the case, it's usually situated right next to small, sketchy-looking bottles of store-brand water and imported bottles that cost about $1.25 a sip. SmartWater, however, looks like you can be relatively confident it didn't come out of a garden hose but won't cost more than a martini. Add in a nifty nozzle cap, and it's the perfect middle choice, right?

Well, tasing the stuff, you realize it's not so much SmartWater but smart marketing. It does, as the label says, have purity you can taste, and the vapor-distilled water is a lot smoother than other non-spring waters out there, especially if you let it breathe a little (yes, this applies to water as much as wine). But it still finishes with hints of bitterness and minerality, keeping it at the bottom of the top ten.

11. Icelandic Glacial Water

This water, which the label asserts is taken from the Olfus spring in Iceland, boasts hands-down the coolest bottle on the shelf — a jagged glacier that makes you feel a little like Sir Edmund Hillary every time you take a sip. It claims to come from an underground spring caused by a massive volcanic eruption 5,000 years ago, meaning the glacial water is filtered through lava rock. This creates a water that's about as close to visiting Iceland as you can get without having to search for a $99 bargain fare.

The lava filtration gives this water a taste unlike any of the other spring-fed brands, which can come across as bitter and aggressive. However, this problem can be solved by chilling the water to near-freezing temps, at which point the extreme cold somehow nullifies the bitterness. This might explain why the water tastes better in Iceland. Either way, Icelandic, like hakarl, can definitely be an acquired taste.

10. Mountain Valley Spring Water

Staying consistently hydrated is more than just a matter of life and health — it can also be a performative act. For instance, the durable, refillable jugs produced by Stanley and Yeti are a way to show off how much water one drinks, without much attention paid to the quality of water inside. In that vein, Mountain Valley Spring Water is bottled water for fans of water vessels, because it seems to be mostly about the looks. Often seen in gigantic, deep-green glass bottles, a Mountain Valley water bottle makes its presence knowns. If the reviews on Amazon are any indication, customers choose Mountain Valley over competitors' products in large part because of the bottle. 

But water is water, right? Wrong — Mountain Valley has a taste profile all its own. The water inside those lovely bottles, collected in the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma, is crisp, refreshing, and thoroughly pleasant. Furthermore, it's naturally alkaline and full of minerals, which makes it taste like a still version of the Perrier it emulates, and only a hint better.

9. Core Hydration

Core is the ideal water for people who don't want their water to taste like anything. The big, ergonomic bottle with a standout O on the label is like the liquid equivalent of high desert air: It's thin and crisp, but you know it's clean. You'll get a tiny hint of minerality from Core, likely from the electrolytes and minerals added during the reverse osmosis process. But that same process removes pretty much any mouthfeel, which is perfect if you're looking for something to chug.

That said, the emptiness of the flavor might lead some to call the water lacking. It's like an emotionally unavailable ex who never did anything wrong, per se, but never really lit up a room either. If you prefer your bottled water — and maybe your people — not too complex, Core might be the water for you. But if you're looking for something deep and interesting, you may want to look further down on the list. That's why it landed straight in the middle of our rankings.

8. Bai Antioxidant Water

This unflavored addition to Bai's line of beverages is water with antioxidants added, offering consumers an extra level of wholesome ingredients. Bai is far better known for its line of infusion drinks or sweetened, vitamin-rich juices. However, its Antioxidant Water doesn't contain any sugar or fruit products, and instead consists of foundational Bai water laced with electrolytes and antioxidants. Electrolytes regulate body functions and help keep muscles working smoothly and effectively, while antioxidants fight cell-hurting free radicals.

Despite lacking all the ingredients that make the other Bai products so tasty, Bai Antioxidant Water is just as tasty as those infusion drinks. Selenium is present here, though it doesn't impart the taste of chalk or bitter dirt as you may detect in mineral waters. Bai Antioxidant Water is so bright and so smooth that it makes a drinker realize that water from other companies can have some rough edges, 

7. Evian

Once upon a time, Evian's brand name was so strong it was used generically to describe any bottled water. Like, the Google of bottled water. But the industry has gotten far more saturated since those days, and while Evian is still a luxurious standard, it's far from the best bottled water on the market. Sure, the bottle molded to resemble the French Alps is impressive. And the water is the odd bottled water with a signature flavor. But if you're not into minerals, it may not be for you.

This, we assume, is what happens when you source your water from French snow. And if you've ever bailed out hard while skiing Chamonix and gotten a giant mouthful of the stuff, you know they're not lying. That being said, French snow isn't necessarily the flavor one wants in bottled water. And while it is clean and refreshing, it's also thick with minerals. Evian's not bitter and doesn't have much of an aftertaste, and those who love it will insist — usually in French — it's the best on the market. But if you don't love it, you'll probably pass it over in favor of something less earthy.

6. Penta

Those ever-loving fans of alliteration at Penta call themselves "purity perfected." And among the purified bottled waters, that claim is pretty solid. Its patented 13-step process takes 11 hours, according to the label, and the result is bottled water with the lowest levels of heavy metals, salts, and organic compounds on the market. Or at least, so claims the California-based brand.

While it doesn't taste completely pure, it boasts the cleanest flavor of anything not coming out of a spring. And while minerals have been added, the taste is subtle and innocuous to anyone drinking it. Despite being cased in plastic, it doesn't take on much of the bottle's flavor. And when transferred to a drinking glass, Penta has even less of an edge. Penta still has a bit of a mineral flavor, but the purification rounds it off nicely. Of the smaller bottles on the shelf, this one might be the easiest to drink.

5. Ethos

If you have ever walked into a Starbucks hungover and thought to yourself, "You know, I should probably have some water before replacing all the alcohol in my system with caffeine," you've probably had Ethos Water. You won't find it in stores, but you can often find it between pre-made paninis and Odwalla juice in the Starbucks cooler, as it's the coffee chain's own brand of bottled water.

Ethos Water has a cool, smooth finish, and really doesn't have near the bite of most waters you find in plastic. Transferred into glass, it's similarly refreshing and not bitter, kind of surprising from the people who made bitter coffee cool. An added bonus: Starbucks donates five cents to humanitarian causes around the world for every bottle you buy. So you can feel a little better about yourself as you nurse your hangover headache and scroll through last night's regrettable texts.

4. Acqua Panna

A favorite of waiters who answer your request for water with, "Still, tap, or sparkling?" Acqua Panna is a restaurant staple that tastes just as good when it's not adding $9 to your check. Like so many fine items that come from Italy, Aqua Panna has a story that just sounds higher quality, boasting of the water's 14-year journey through limestone on its way to your bottle. And though we have no way to verify or dispute this claim, we'll go with it so we feel better about the price.

Acqua Panna is the only water on this list that's most commonly found in a glass bottle, and much like it does with soft drinks, a glass bottle makes a difference. The water is the smoothest on the market, offering a clean flavor with just a hint of minerality. Even sitting indoors, it's as calming to drink as a lazy afternoon in the Tuscan sun. For those who like some mineral flavor, though, Acqua Panna can sit a bit flat on the tongue. And if you don't serve it chilled, it can feel a little thick. But it is clean and crisp, and it's the perfect to wash down a big, heavy meal.

3. Zephyrhills

Easily the best thing to come out of greater Tampa since the Cuban sandwich, this smooth, cool, refreshing spring water tastes like a spring-fed river on a hot summer day. Or, at least what one tasted like before it was surrounded by condominiums. To sip Zephyrhills is to taste natural Florida, a place where limestone aquifers purify water providing life to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the nation.

Of course, herons and manatees are a little less picky when it comes to their water tasting a little too much like it comes from the earth. And while Zephyrhills certainly tastes more natural than most plastic bottled waters, it can lean a bit to the mineral side. That said, if you blind taste-test it next to Fiji, you won't know the difference. And the only reason it didn't top Fiji on the list is the bottle, a thin plastic container that's indistinguishable from lots of generics.

2. Fiji

Fiji water has become culturally synonymous with spoiled celebrities, where jokes about over-indulged celebs include barbs like, "He even demands a nightly bath in room-temperature Fiji water." It's the kind of water Miss Piggy would drink and then send poor Uncle Deadly back to the store because it got warm between the car and her office. And while we wouldn't condone acting like a diva to drink it, it does taste pretty darned good. It is, legitimately, bottled from a spring in Fiji and is brought to your mouth via an iconic square bottle embossed with a scene that looks like a tropical vacation.

The water tastes like a cool trip to the South Pacific, refreshing and revitalizing despite not fitting a single cup holder on earth. It's got a hint of minerality, but only enough to give the water some life. And it would top the list if not for a faint note of bitterness brought on by the plastic bottle.

1. Voss

Voss has somehow positioned itself as both a high-end bottled water to have with dinner, like Acqua Panna, and as a refreshing, small bottle for quick refreshment, like a cylindrical Fiji. Bravo. Or as they say in Norway, godt jobbet. It tastes amazing, and it looks just as good. You can grab it from a local convenience store or serve it at a nice dinner, so it has a diversity we can't help but like.

Voss also has the smooth, crisp, food-complementary tastelessness you want with dinner but just enough minerality to know you're not drinking wet air. That's certainly something we can't say for a lot of the other bottled waters on this list. The bottle fits perfectly in cupholders, and Voss has just enough cache behind it to look impressive. And on the plus side, it's just ubiquitous enough that people know you didn't demand it in your rider.