Which soda maker should I buy?
December 26, 2011 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Alternatives to Sodastream? Or maybe convince me to buy it anyway despite my concerns?

I've been looking into trying to make sodas and other carbonated drinks at home, and while the Sodastream looks cool, I have some issues with it. First, the whole setup just looks a bit pricy, and one of my reasons for doing this is to save money. Second, I really don't like the fact that their device can only use their proprietary co2 canisters. I am naturally suspicious of any such arrangements. Has anyone found a decent alternative?
posted by backwards compatible to Food & Drink (22 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
There's the traditional soda siphon. It's a little less up front, but the cartridges cost more and make more waste.

You could pretty easily rig your own by just fixing a hose with a valve to a 2 liter bottle lid. Then you'd have to get industrial CO2, but it wouldn't be food grade, so it might have some oil contaminants. I think generally the larger the tank you get the less significant this becomes.

Personally, I just wound up getting a soda stream. But I didn't get it for the cost reasons - I got it because I don't use seltzer that regularly so it goes flat and then when I want some I don't have any, or I have the wrong size bottle and it all goes flat and I feel like a moron or whatever.
posted by aubilenon at 6:31 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I buy 12 packs of the cheapest seltzer water cans. I mix them with sweetened frozen fruit during the summer, and sometimes add gin to make cocktails. Over time it might not be cheaper, but I am quite put off by the overhead of that device. If you live in a state where you can make money recycling cans, I'd stick with cans and call it a day. No plastic.
posted by oceanjesse at 6:34 PM on December 26, 2011

Sorry, meant to say "no plastic with the cans method."
posted by oceanjesse at 6:35 PM on December 26, 2011

I did a lot of wembling about the sodastream too: pondering in agonizing detail the pros & cons of that vs. a soda siphon vs. a home made carbonator with a CO2 canister built into our cabinetry. But I ultimately decided to go ahead & buy one. We turned out to really love the sodastream, and as a bonus it really gets my spouse to drink enough water (which he really needs for a specific health reason. It's a big deal because he's always been terrible about proper hydration - but he loves plain seltzer from the sodastream.) On sale it was ~ $70, and our local department stores will exchange empty gas canisters for full ones for about $16. A full one lasts us 3-4 weeks filling a bottle or two a day. I & my spouse use it only for seltzer water. I looked at several diy setups and instructions, but decided that ultimately, it was worth it for me just to go ahead with the sodastream because it's so much easier and more convenient, and I don't have to go hunt down a specialized business that'll fill an industrial CO2 canister, or tear apart the cabinets, or build some ugly rig, etc. Using a soda siphon would actually be much more expensive because the small gas charges add up to much more expense than the Sodastream's canister (you have to use a whole charge for every time you use the siphon.) But if you're interested in diy, there are many instruction options out there, including parts. But it was just too much work: Sodastream is easy, quick, and accessible. If you prefer they can do canister exchanges by mail order.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 6:43 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, fwiw -- you can take the nastiest cheapest wine ever and make it into instant Good Wine by carbonating it carefully in the sodastream. So I've heard.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 6:45 PM on December 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I went with the iSi twist-on carbonator, because I don't really have kitchen space for a Sodastream, and it stows away a lot more easily. It uses standard siphon cartridges -- cheaper alternatives to the iSi-branded ones are available in bulk on Amazon. They do generate waste, but they're supposedly recyclable. Like others in the thread, I use it mainly for fizzy water and spritzer-type drinks (with lime juice cordial and other concentrates), and after half a year of use, I'm pretty pleased with it. You get the best results with water that's been well chilled.
posted by holgate at 7:09 PM on December 26, 2011

We got a sodastream xmas present, (it hasn't had much exercise yet, but shows promise) and reading the small print in the "manual" it's obvious that the reason for the gas-canister lock-in is to minimize legal liability risks, which somehow seems less offensive than the razor-blade (or ink-jet ink) scenario.
posted by anadem at 7:17 PM on December 26, 2011

I bought a standard soda siphon a few years ago and it rusted out and became unusable after a couple of months.

Last June I got a SodaStream. I was apprehensive about it as well, but I couldn't be happier with it. The thing just works and it's incredibly easy to use. As far as cost goes, you'll be paying more up front for the hardware, and you'll find yourself paying just under what you'd spend buying seltzer in bulk fron a warehouse store. (How much you'll ultimately be saving will depend on how long and how often you use it.) On the plus side, you'll save on gas -- fewer trips to the store, less weight to haul around.

But for me, the biggest plus is the convenience. A single canister of CO2 lasts for a month (I drink a lot of seltzer, and I add more CO2 than they recommend as the standard), so I don't have to constantly worry about running out and (gasp!) having to drink tap water. Instead of hauling 12-liter packages up and down the basement stairs, I carry a canister that's smaller and lighter than a single bottle. Plus there's less recycling to haul out every week.

As far as the proprietary canisters go, check to see where you can buy/exchange them near you. I'm near a bunch of the national chain stores that carry them, so it's pretty convenient for me to pick one up. The door-to-door delivery service, from what I've read, doesn't seem to be that reliable. So your mileage may vary.

Mefi me if you have any other questions -- I'll be happy to help.
posted by PlusDistance at 7:18 PM on December 26, 2011

I have a full-size CO2 tank. Nearly a year in, and I haven't even made a dent in the CO2 reading. It cost more up front, but I'm pretty sure I'm up by this point compared to the SodaStream.

Rather than using the homemade system described by some, I bought the quick connect system described here and it's been perfect. Easy to use, all it requires is a bit of lubrication in the form of a dab of olive oil every month or two and it works like magic.
posted by zug at 7:22 PM on December 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Nthing the SodaStream. Great product. Got it as a gift for my wife, who drinks tons of seltzer. She could not possibly be happier with it. If you do get it, I'd suggest going for one of the models that can take the larger-size canister. Less-frequent refills, and I believe it's a bit cheaper.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 7:40 PM on December 26, 2011

This site is a pretty good reference.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:06 PM on December 26, 2011

We've had the SodaStream for a number of years now, and find our cost for two liters of soda is about $.55 to $.60. Plus, you're not lugging the heavy soda bottles home and then throwing the empties into the recycling bin. Yes, there's the upfront cost for the machine and the bottles, but I'm certain we've more than made our initial investment back since then. Now that lots of stores (including Bed Bath & Beyond) carry the exchange canisters, it couldn't be easier. They're $15, but then with the coupons, the final price is even cheaper. This is so much simpler than it was a few years ago, when you had to mail order the refill canisters and put the empty out on the front porch for the delivery guy to show up, take your empty, and leave you a full one. In addition to using their soda mixes (most of which are pretty good), we use the Crystal Light (and other brands) on-the-go tubes to make flavored sodas.
posted by DrGail at 8:13 PM on December 26, 2011

I drink a LOT of seltzer. Usually 1 liter bottle of cheap store brand or vintage seltzer. When someone recommended the SodaStream I did the math, and found that it would take me forever to recoup the costs given what I pay for 1 liters (usually around 3 for $2). I did, however, find that there were more places around me that refilled the CO2 canisters than I had expected (and I also considered the homemade set-up as well, but the thought of getting my primary drinking water equipment from a shady welding supply store kinda sketched me out).

However, the other day, I missed the trash pickup, so I had recycling pile up for an extra week or so, and I was shocked...honestly kinda revolted at the volume of empty 1 liter bottles I had built up -- I definitely hadn't really been factoring in those externalities. I still recycle all the bottles, but I think if you are on the fence it may just be nice to reduce the overall "stream" of waste heading out to the trash and recycling bins as well.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 9:18 PM on December 26, 2011

I got the Sodastream as a Hanukah gift a couple days ago and I am already in love with it. Love. So easy, so fast, so much less waste than we used to generate by buying seltzer cans and bottles, and we are all drinking a lot more water. Plus, I'm not sure about this yet, but I think the cartridge is going to last longer than they predict because the instructions say to squeeze (add CO2) up to 5 times per bottle but I find 1 time is plenty so I'm optimistic about cartridge longevity.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:46 PM on December 26, 2011

I followed this instructable and it is totally awesome and cheap. A 20-lb CO2 tank will last you at least a year. I paid $70(?) up front and "refilling" it is as easy as taking my tank to the Praxair storefront and swapping it for a new one. I think the swap is free, though it happens so infrequently I can't remember...
posted by bendy at 10:53 PM on December 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've used my sodastream for over a year now, and have been completely happy with it. I haven't found it pricey.
posted by Edna Million at 11:40 PM on December 26, 2011

I bought a soda siphon to use and I love it but my husband has the annoying habit of using the last of the water and just leaving the empty container on the counter instead of filling it back up again. It takes literally 30 seconds to refill and charge with a cartridge but for some reason he avoids it even though he loves fizzy water.

So, if there are others you are sharing with you should be aware that this might happen to you. I know with the Soda Streams, you can fill up a bunch of bottles in advance so that might be a bonus for you.
posted by dottiechang at 11:59 PM on December 26, 2011

It sounds like sodastream is the answer. Thank you all for your input!
posted by backwards compatible at 3:15 AM on December 27, 2011

I have the the ISI Twist N Sparkle and find it to be less bulky than the SodaStream - it takes up no room at all. The difference, I think, is that the ISI requires a new cartridge every time you carbonate something - but the cartridges are super cheap. I really like it because unlike the SodaStream, you can carbonate anything (juices, alcohol, etc...) instead of being tied to just water or their proprietary syrups.
posted by echo0720 at 4:57 AM on December 27, 2011

Oh, and with the ISI, you don't have to use their branded cartridges, there are generics that are cheaper.
posted by echo0720 at 4:58 AM on December 27, 2011

For me, the lack of having to lug cases of supplies in and then have lots of crap to dispose of is huge.

I love my soda stream. I go back and forth about whether drinking as much seltzer I do is a good thing, but god damn if there are few things as awesome as an ice cold glass of seltzer first thing in the morning, before or after brushing your teeth.

I'm good for at least a liter a day, if I had to go out and buy and then get rid of that many soda bottles I'd hate myself.
posted by nevercalm at 8:05 AM on December 27, 2011

We have a Sodastream and love it, and they keep sending us coupons to buy them at a discount as gifts. If you do decide to go with the Sodastream, ask around for the coupons, which can cut some of the initial cost down.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:00 PM on December 27, 2011

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