Fab or fad? Scent-based system aims to fool your brain into thinking your plain water is flavoured

Tech review: Air Up uses scent-based pods for its magic trick. Does it work and is the price justified?

Air Up
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Price: €30
Where To Buy: Air Up

If you have children of a certain age, there’s a good chance you’ve been tapped for an Air Up bottle. The much-hyped bottle, made by a German-based start-up, has the backing of PepsiCo and has been seen in the hands of celebrities such as Kim Kardashian. And it is now the latest craze in classrooms – but it doesn’t come cheap.

It has already spawned some copycats, with similar products available on Ali Express and Amazon, which is probably testament to just how popular this has become.

So what exactly does Air Up do to justify the price? It promises to flavour your water without actually putting anything in, so you get all the benefit of drinking pure water – no sugar, sweeteners or other additives, just pure water. And it works with tap water, still water or your fancy water bottled at source by unicorns at Mount Olympus – whatever your particular preference.

The Air Up doesn’t have much in the way of technology built into it but at first glance, it seems like it might have a bit of magic. It uses “scent-based” pods to fool your brain into thinking you are actually getting a flavoured drink when all that’s really getting is water.


The insulated metal bottle is probably a better bet as it will keep the water cold, unlike the plastic one

It is based on the theory that scent is responsible for about 80 per cent of what we think of as flavour. So instead of adding drops to the water, you just ... breathe in the flavour.

There are two choices: a 650ml frosted plastic bottle that comes in a variety of colours, or an insulated metal one in two sizes, 480ml and 850ml.

The insulated bottle is probably a better bet as it will keep the water cold, unlike the plastic one. It is also easier to clean, because it unscrews into two parts, unlike the plastic version. If you are going to go for colour over substance, best invest in a bottle brush, because the Air Up is not dishwasher safe – for either version, and it goes without saying that the pods shouldn’t be immersed in water.

The pods fit over the mouthpiece of the bottle. Inside each one is an air-permeable carrier that has the scents, which are made from natural ingredients, such as fruits, spices, herbs, and so on. The pods are available in variety of scents, including strawberry and lemon grass (weird, but good), elderflower (too synthetic and chemical for my liking) and iced coffee (the less said about that the better). Some are better than others, depending on the strength. Subtle flavours are lost here.

You don’t have to use the pods of course, but if you don’t bother with them, there is very little to the Air Up bottle to justify its expense

To activate the pod, you pull it up to the lip on the straw; pushing it down deactivates it and you get plain water when you suck liquid up through the straw. Once activated, you should get a blast of “flavour” as you sip, but it is best to keep the bottle upright in your hand to get the full effect. It can feel a bit unnatural.

You also get a mouthful of bubbles, which can be a little disconcerting at first, but you get used to it. Apparently, that means the pod is working, and you should get a nose full of scent to go with your water.

The pods last for five litres of water each before they run out, presumably when you have huffed enough scent that it has dried out. But if you leave the pod on your bottle for too long, even without using it to drink, you’ll find the scent fades before you get the full complement of water through it.

There’s a lot of waste to it too – the pods come individually sealed in plastic containers, and in plastic bags of three. Fifteen litres of water isn’t an awful lot, so you find yourself powering through a fair few of them.

You don’t have to use the pods of course, but if you don’t bother with them, there is very little to the Air Up bottle to justify its expense. At €30 for a plastic bottle and €55 for an insulated bottle, it’s not the cheapest out there. In saying that, the insulated bottle in particular is sturdy and stands up to a bit of abuse – which it would need to, given the price.

The problem is that it may turn out to be somewhat of a novelty product. It certainly has here, with the pod serving purely as a decoration these days. In saying that, the bottle itself is used for school and after-school activities, so it has certainly earned its price tag.


The system, weirdly, works – for almost everyone, at any rate. It is not quite like drinking flavoured water but you don’t feel like you are drinking plain water either. If you want to up your water intake, it should work, but bear in mind you can get your fluid intake from food and other drinks too.

The insulated bottles are good, if pricey, and keep water cold for a decent length of time.


Because of the design of the valve, there’s a small gap at the back of the mouthpiece and if you let the bottle lie the wrong way it can leak – although if the cap is screwed on tightly, it won’t be a problem.

It’s quite expensive for a bottle – although it insists it is not just a water bottle – particularly the plastic version. The pods can be hit and miss with flavours, and can only be bought from Air Up’s website.

Everything else

The bottles are fairly customisable, with different colour straps and mouth pieces that you can swap out for the standard issue.

The verdict

If you already embrace the idea of drinking water, there’s probably very little extra you will get out of Air Up, although the novelty factor of the different scents is fun.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist