When I first heard about edible water bottles—blobs of water encased in edible membranes—I was impressed. Waste from discarded plastic bottles is a huge problem, so a product that replaces plastic with a biodegradable material should get a big thumbs up. But then I thought again. I carry water in my oversized purse—if I threw an edible water bottle in among the loose pens, notebook, and snack (why, what do you carry in your purse?), wouldn’t the membrane burst? And even if it was tough enough to survive inside a crowded bag, what would it taste like when I finally retrieved it?
I decided to make some edible water bottles and put them to a taste test. Note: The method that I used is NOT the method used to make Ooho, a commercial product that’s currently seeking beta testers. Instead, I used a method created by Inhabitat, and based on existing molecular gastronomy techniques. I mixed sodium alginate and water to get a gooey substance that would go inside the water bottles. Then I dipped spoonfuls of this mixture into a bath of water and calcium lactate, which encased them in skin-like membranes.
Finally, I placed the bottles in a bath of clean water. Then I
made asked my Popular Science coworkers to give them a try. The consensus? Edible water bottles—at least the DIY versions—taste nasty. The sodium-alginate-laced water is too thick to feel like a proper liquid, and the outer membrane is unpleasantly slimy. As for the flavor, it was slightly chalky—one taster compared it to ground-up Tums.
If you decide to make your own edible water bottles, I’d recommend adding some sort of sweetener or flavor to the sodium alginate mixture, even if that made juice bottles rather than water bottles. Or you could try to remedy the texture by using a reverse-spherification process: Put scoops of the thinner, more drinkable calcium lactate mixture into a bowl of sodium alginate mix, instead of the other way around. This might produce a drink that’s more like water and less like goo. (I would try it myself, but I ran out of taste test
victims volunteers). If your experimentation yields more palatable DIY water bottles, then let us know! Send the recipe to firstname.lastname@example.org.