We're 60 percent liquid. And what we're gulping is pretty important, for pleasure, sustenance and good health. That's the rationale behind today's gizmo tests – a trio of gadgets that aim to improve the taste and bodily impact of beverages, from tap water to fine wine.
Waving a magic wand. Love the wine, but not the punishing aftereffects? Your classic "hangover" headache, for one. Or the allergic reactions that wine can induce – from facial flushes and skin rashes, to a tightness in the throat and nasal congestion.
All these are side effects triggered by the sulfites used as wine stabilizers for more than 2,000 years and by the histamines that reside naturally in red wines. They're bummers that hit harder in our middle or older years, as histamine-neutralizing estrogen and testosterone levels fall.
If any of this is a personal pain point, check out the Wand by PureWine. You swirl this teaspoon-size wine filtering/aerating device around in a glass of wine for three minutes or so before drinking. Secret ingredients in its tea-bag-like filtering tip (newly multi-patented) "target and remove just the histamines and sulfites in the wine," product inventor David Meadows maintained. "We're not removing the good things you want to keep, starting with the flavor profile and also the antioxidants that reduce cancer risks and improve vascular health."
Meadows is a seasoned research process engineer who cut his teeth here at Rohm & Haas labs in Spring House, Bristol, and Croydon. A decade of research and development has gone into The Wand, sparked initially by "personal need," said the chemist and wine connoisseur. "Out of the blue, I started getting bad gastric reactions to wine, so horrible I had to give up drinking it."
The project turned into a serious venture a couple of years ago "when my eldest son graduated college and wanted to start up a business. We connected with university researchers, went through an accelerator program, launched the product eight months ago. Now we're in over 500 retail locations and expanding rapidly."
Most telling, the Wand is carried in the retail tasting bars/stores of 60 fabled vineyards in Sonoma and Napa, Calif. If it can find favor there ...
In blind taste trials with wine-loving neighbors, my test subjects didn't sense any taste difference with before/after Wanding of a nice Cabernet. (Personally, I feel the Wand whisks away a bit of acidic edge.) And purely for research, I let my congenial hosts Clive and Sharon pour me three big glasses of the hearty red, instead of my usual two-glass maximum — duly swirled, sniffed, and swallowed without ill effect later.
The Wand isn't cheap: an eight-pack good for treating 16 glasses costs $24.99; a box of 24 is $69.99. Still, it's worth trying if you love the vino and all the good it can do.
Zeroing in on water. Nobody puts water-purifying technology on the line quite like the folks at Zero Water, based in Trevose. Most of their refrigerator-stored water-treatment systems ($20-$40) come with a TDS (total dissolved solids) measuring instrument, resembling a digital thermometer that measures the PPM — parts per million — of dissolved solids in the water, before and after filtering.
In my South Philly home, water out of the tap has scored anywhere from 124 to 200 PPM, pretreating, and consistently 0.0 after. In "one shot" readings, I've measured prefiltering PPMs of 247 in Lower Merion water, 287 out of a kitchen sink in Elkins Park.
ZeroWater characterizes a PPM of 051-200 as "typical," and puts tap water with 201-300 dissolved solid parts per million in the "high contaminant level." Packaging suggests there are traces of lead, chromium, and mercury in a high PPM that ZeroWater filtering removes and the "leading brand" of water-filtering pitchers does not. But the same, non-specific PPM count also includes beneficial calcium, magnesium, and potassium (which occur in far greater amounts in a healthy diet) as well as fluoride, which is considered a tooth-protector in proper dosage.
If you're now thinking forget them all, ZeroWater's ion exchange, five-stage filtering (claiming three more stages than Brita's) initially produces the same perfect score achieved in bottles of "purified" water. The count then rises to about 006 after maybe 15 gallons of processing, at which time a filter replacement is recommended.
ZW's filtering also eliminates the "aesthetic" (taste/smell) effects of chlorine and hydrogen sulfide and trace amounts of over-the-counter and prescription meds, which are the common bragging points of pitcher and built-in refrigerator filtering systems.
While the brand's new 10-cup ZeroWater filter pitcher is more transportable to the table, the equally slim profile (6-inch wide) ZeroWater 23-cup dispenser is more practical — with a much bigger drip tank and better button-activated spigot. ZW filters are pricey ($29.99 for two, $129.99 for a dozen), though users on Amazon suggest you can make the final filter last lots longer by transitioning a used, "over 006 PPM" registering filter into a pretreating first stager in another ZW pitcher.
Oh what a relief! Like some fizz in your refreshment? Although the carbonating SodaStream has better visibility, the newer DrinkMate carbonating system ($96) is far more flexible.
Along with creating flavored bubbly drinks from still H2O and syrups (SodaStream's sole claim to fame) DrinkMate also puts a sparkle in juices, ice tea, sport drinks, wine, and even (if you dare) flat beer.
The advantage comes with the detachable Fizz Infuser with dual-stage valve system that fits on top of a one-liter capacity DM drink bottle. Working the valves tames the foaming and bottle pressure which builds up with juices, eliminating spritzing. Traveling nicely to a picnic, this infuser is simply powered with a screwed-on 3.0 ounce or 14.5 ounce C02 carbonator (the latter compatible with the SodaStream's, pumping up 60 liters and selling for about $30.) Lime-flavored water and unsweetened cranberry juice came out surprisingly refreshing, post carbonation, in our tests. And no city beverage tax is tacked on!