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Not Just in Wine: Test Your Drinking Water for Tannins

Pop quiz: what are tannins? No, they’re not sessions in the local tanning bed — a “tannin” is a compound that can make its way into food and drinks. You have probably heard the word “tannins” when shopping for wine or when ordering a drink at a fancy restaurant, but tannins aren’t just in wine. They also can be found in pomegranates, berries, nuts, and even in some tap water. Is this a bad thing? What in the world are tannins, anyway?

What Are Tannins in Wine?

Tannins are something of a buzzword in the wine-tasting community. Tannins are naturally-occurring organic compounds that help break down proteins. They exist in the skin, seeds, and stems of grapes, and depending on how wine is manufactured or stored it can be high in tannins.

These compounds are called polyphenols in the scientific world. Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon that are high in tannins are often described as “dry,” because they dry out your mouth when you drink them. But this isn’t entirely accurate — tannins break down the proteins in your saliva, removing that slick coating that is usually present on your tongue. This is why tannic wines are often paired with oily, fatty foods like cheese, red meat, or even a croquette. Fancy!

This “drying” attribute of tannins is called astringency, and it causes body and skin cells to contract. Thus the puckering feeling you get after drinking a wine that’s high in tannins (or after eating an unripened fruit).

What Are Tannins in Water?

So why are we talking about wine? Tannins may be ideal for some wine connoisseurs, but tannins that occur in water are generally regarded as unpleasant.

That’s right, tannins can contaminate your drinking water! Tannins found in water are also organic compounds that break down protein. These tannins are generally from decaying vegetation, and can make their way into drinking water when water passes through peaty soil or old vegetation before reaching a water source.

Also called fulvic or humic acid, tannins are more commonly found in shallow wells and in surface water of coastal or marshy areas. Tannins can make your water look tea-colored, with a faint yellow hue. They can make your drinking water have a musty, earthy odor, and can create a foul aftertaste. Worse, tannins can cause staining on your dishes, laundry, and fixtures.

If your water displays these properties tannins could be present, as could iron and manganese. To determine if you have elevated tannins in your water simply order a Pelican 16-Point Rapid Water Test, which will test your water for 16 common contaminants including tannins, turbidity, iron, and manganese.

How to Remove Tannins From Water

Tannins can be removed from drinking water with a water filtration system. Effective methods of removing tannins include anion exchange, chlorination, and an activated carbon filter.

Our Tannin Removal Water Filter reduces tannins up to 10 parts per million (PPM), ridding your water of any discoloration or unwanted smells and tastes associated with tannins. While tannins do not cause health problems, ridding your well water of tannins will ensure your family enjoys pure, refreshing filter water from every tap in the home.