Tiny Bubbles
January 1, 2012 3:14 PM   Subscribe

Is there any appreciable difference between making homemade sodas by adding carbonated water to flavored syrup and making them by carbonating a more watery/liquid flavored base in a soda siphon?

I've been making my own sodas for awhile by adding water from my SodaStream Penguin to homemade flavored syrups, but I got a couple books on soda-making for Christmas and they also talk about carbonation via soda siphon (and fermentation, as well, but that's a future AskMe). One of them briefly discusses the difference between these two methods--but so briefly that it wasn't really informative. Is there a noticeable difference in taste, carbonation level, or overall quality or ease-of-use? If you've done both, which do you prefer? And bonus question: for siphon carbonation, is the Isi Twist-and-Sparkle worth it, or should I stick to a more traditional metal or glass soda siphon?
posted by rhiannonstone to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I think it would be pretty neat to carbonate fresh juice, which would not be possible with the syrup method.
posted by steinwald at 4:20 PM on January 1, 2012

The trouble with running anything other than water through a soda siphon is that one has to then clean the soda siphon.
posted by mollymayhem at 6:53 PM on January 1, 2012

A traditional soda siphon is different from the "Twist and Sparkle". The big selling point of the TS is that you can carbonate anything non-dairy, which is very much not true for the standard siphon - anything other than water makes a big sticky mess, leaks out of the container, etc. and you're told not to do so in the instructions.

It seems to me that if you're making an orange spritzer, it wouldn't much matter if you added sparkling water to a can of orange juice concentrate or made the concentrate into juice and then carbonated it. The real bonus in flavor would be if you had better quality ingredients that did not involve diluting with water - in this case, fresh-squeezed orange juice - that would then be possible to carbonate directly.
posted by aimedwander at 6:57 PM on January 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Is something besides water into a soda siphon really that messy or inadvisable? I've seen quite a few recipes in the books and online that call for doing so. I understand that cleaning it can be a pain, but I already do that when I make wacky stuff in my cream whipper, so I'm OK with that. I just want to make sure that it won't damage the siphon, or... explode? Or something.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:33 AM on January 2, 2012

Best answer: Honestly I'm not sure. In using a standard siphon, it's the "how" of using it that matters to the quality of the final result and the tidiness of the process, much more than the "which" of choosing a siphon/product to use. Water must be cold. Chilled in the fridge, not just tap water. Ideally siphon is also chilled so that the combined temp doesn't drop. Siphon must be filled up only as far as the hardware easily allows, creating the air space at the top of the siphon when you screw the lid on. Then you use a standard charge of CO2, and create high pressure in the siphon, shake it around a bit and the maximum amount of gas is incorporated into the water.
The point here is chemistry. Various laws set limits on how much gas can be dissolved in a liquid, i.e. how fizzy your liquid will get. (though yes, the bubbles in the drink are the result of the CO2 coming out of solution, the dissolved gas is basically imperceptible) The amount of dissolved gas is proportional to the pressure in the container, which is why you're creating a high-pressure environment inside the siphon and shaking it around to mix it up, and really need to container not to leak, and if you leave a glass of fizzy water sitting out it stops being fizzy but a partially-full bottle of fizzy water will re-pressurize the bottle and remain only partially flat. Pressure dependence is "Henry's Law", but it's important that the constant of proportionality depends on a lot of factors - the temperature is a major factor, but also affected by what the gas/liquids are.
The constant decreases with high temperature. So by chilling the original siphon and water down to the desired cold drinking temperature, you can make sure more of the CO2 from the charger actually mixes into the water. Otherwise the pressure in the gas portion of the siphon stays quite high because not enough gas will dissolve into the liquid. That tends to lead to leaks, either air hissing out, or more commonly a spray of water.
What I wish I could tell you, but am totally underinformed on this point, is whether adding sugar to the water reduces or increases the solubility constant. I have no idea.
Conceptually though, it doesn't matter how you arrive at the end product of carbonated sugary water - if less CO2 will dissolve in something sugary than in plain water when it's in the siphon, then the same amount of CO2 will stay dissolved when you add sugary syrup to carbonated water after you get a big rush of bubbles out as you stir it up.

My final conclusion: it shouldn't matter, but chemistry is just an approximation of the art of cooking. Try it and see if you can taste the difference. Then tell me all about it.
posted by aimedwander at 8:22 AM on January 3, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses! Since I already have something that carbonates water well (the Sodastream Penguin), I decided to give the Isi Twist-and-Sparkle a try. I am very curious if there's a difference between syrup+carbonated water and carbonating something in the bottle, so I'll be experimenting and will report back!
posted by rhiannonstone at 12:24 PM on January 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

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