What Is Carbonated Water?

Chris Knippa
Written by Chris Knippa
Updated November 3, 2015
soda pop on picnic table
The bubbles in soda and champagne can lift the aroma to your nose. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

We all know the sound of a soda being opened — the fizz of trapped air escaping a tight, pressurized space.

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But what makes water carbonated? It all comes down to a chemical reaction that is spurred when carbon dioxide is dissolved into a solution. This creates carbonic acid, which is then further broken down to create bicarbonate. Open your mind to find out more about the science behind carbonated water.

Why is soda acidic?

How much carbonic acid and bicarbonate is in a solution will depend on the pH levels. For example, a solution with a low pH level will have more carbonic acid. Similarly, in a higher pH environment, you will see more bicarbonate. This explains why soft drinks are slightly acidic.

When carbon dioxide gas is dissolved into the solution and compacted into a closed space, such as a bottle, it’s forced to combine with this liquid, creating built-up pressure. The two elements will stay combined until the pressure is released.

Why does soda go flat?

This built-up pressure also explains why carbonated drinks can go flat. If a bottle is left open, enough carbon dioxide gas will escape so that eventually the beverage no longer contains bubbles and fizz. This is known as Henry’s Law, a common rule of chemistry that states that the amount of gas dissolved in a solution is proportional to the gas above the liquid. 

Why does soda taste good?

So why is it that we love the taste of carbonated beverages? For one, we enjoy the bubbles and that little kick a slightly acidic beverage provides. Also, there can be an aromatic appeal, because bubbles lift the odor of your beverage to your nose.

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