Under Pressure, da da da da da da da! (White, white baby?)
June 2, 2012 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm on a quest for inexpensive (over the long haul) home carbonation. The big limit here is NO PLASTIC. HomeBrewFilter?

I know about the SodaStream Crystal and the SodaStream Penguin. I also know about the article(s) (1, 2, 3, 4) on building your own home carbonation system with a 5 or 20 lb CO2 cylinder and a pressurizing cap from home brewing. My goal is to achieve something in between those extremes (cost-savings-wise, where in the long run the SodaStreams are expensive and the home carbonation system is cheap but as far as I know requires plastic bottles - Regarding the issue of buying pre-pressurized glass bottles of seltzer: San Pellegrino, yes, but VERY expensive comparatively).

My main question is, can I use a beer brewing keg home system to pressurize water into seltzer and dispense into pressurized glass bottles or possibly dispense directly into glasses from taps? I realize that the lines are likely to be a plastic or plastic/latex composite. I'm asking here because I know a lot of you are home brewers and I'm not and aside from folks like Wil Wheaton (like he's gonna have time to answer my dumb-ass questions), I don't really know of a lot of home brewers in daily life.

Any other ideas would be much appreciated. Remember that my goal here is to use only containers of metal and glass. Plastic is actively discouraged in my home and family life.

Thank you very much in advance.
posted by kalessin to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You could definitely use a homebrew keg system to do this. The basic process a homebrewer uses to carbonate a keg is exactly what you'd use for water. To carbonate it quickly, you'd probably just need to set it to a high PSI and roll or shake the keg around a bunch. Not sure how long that would take though—I've only carbonated my beers with the "set and forget" method, where I just set it to my serving PSI and let it sit for a couple weeks as it carbonates.
posted by deansfurniture5 at 8:47 AM on June 2, 2012

but as far as I know requires plastic bottles

Two SodaStream models use glass carafes, if that makes any difference.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 9:02 AM on June 2, 2012

I didn't check for pricing (my guess is that it would not be cheap), but there are options for having sparkling water come out of a kitchen tap.
posted by Forktine at 9:14 AM on June 2, 2012

Why not just buy a standard issue seltzer bottle?
posted by chairface at 9:25 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Did you see this article? About halfway down the page, he gets into the details of a carbonated tap system:
In the summer of 2002 I bought a number of items to upgrade my apparatus to a continuous, automatic system for carbonation. I wanted the luxury of having seltzer on tap rather than having to fill and shake single-bottle batches. Indeed, I got so lucky finding new equipment for sale cheap, that I experimented with three different systems: (1) a commercial countertop soda fountain, (2) a commercial bar gun, and (3) a used Flomatic fountain dispenser head removed from a soda fountain. All of these work with (4) a commercial McCanns carbonator. The fountain contains its own chiller, while the bar gun and dispenser head use (5) a cold plate and ice bin for chilling. I happened to already have (6) a Frigidaire ice machine (this is an undercounter unit that only makes ice, not to be confused with an ice maker in the freezer side of a refrigerator) that maintains a bin of "wet" ice for use with the cold plate. And with all this invested, of course I had to try making real fountain soft drinks, not just seltzer, so I had to acquire (7) six pneumatic FloJet syrup pumps, and (8) 2.5 and 5-gallon boxes of soft drink syrup from the local distributor.
But when you get to the section on the complications of refrigeration and the cost of the equipment, you can see why people default to the bottle-based systems for home use.
posted by Forktine at 9:26 AM on June 2, 2012

If the SodaStream is more than you want to spend, you could always just get an old-fashioned seltzer bottle or soda siphon. Although it looks from the reviews like it doesn't make soda that's as fizzy as the SodaStream without a LOT of effort.
posted by KathrynT at 9:32 AM on June 2, 2012

Did you see this previous question?

The site that Pogo_Fuzzybut linked looks like what you want.

On the other hand, we bought a SodaStream Penguin in March, and after drinking about two carafes a day since then, we've only just run out of the carbonator. (but the glass carafes are awesome. So easy, and besides they look nice in the fridge. )
posted by leahwrenn at 9:46 AM on June 2, 2012

So in the long haul, an old fashioned seltzer bottle is way more expensive than SodaStream because the chargers cost $1 - $2 each and charge about a liter to 1.5 liters of water. In comparison a SodaStream costs about $0.25 - $0.50 per liter if you assume the starting costs are zero (which, if I have my way will be close to accurate, since I drink 2-4 liters of seltzer a day).
posted by kalessin at 9:56 AM on June 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mosa C02 chargers are $0.50/ea on Amazon.

posted by snuffleupagus at 9:58 AM on June 2, 2012

err, CO2.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:59 AM on June 2, 2012

Or rather, Lelands, (to hit the $.50/ea mark after shipping.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 10:03 AM on June 2, 2012

Huh. A sourcing problem! Now I need to figure out the relative carbon footprint for disposing of those tiny CO2 Soda chargers. But also I know that one could use a keg system to do this, which is awesome to know. I may check back and update when I make a final determination and purchasing decision.
posted by kalessin at 10:03 AM on June 2, 2012

I've done what you're trying to do. These was a considerable amount of up-front costs, but now I only pay for tap water and have to buy $15 worth of CO2 a year...

I didn't want to take up TOO much room in my fridge so I bought a 3 gallon Cornelius (corny) keg on eBay. You can get used ones for $50 or so at home brew shops, craigslist, ebay, etc but nobody sells used 3 gallon ones so I had to spring for a new one which set me back about $150. I then went to the home brew store and they set me up with everything I needed. CO2 tank, regulator, tubing, fittings, tap, etc. They even hooked it all up for me. In total I think I spent about $180 at the home brew store.

Then I took it home, filled the keg with water, hooked up the CO2, turned up the regulator to a high PSI (50-ish), then sat the keg on the floor of the kitchen and rocked it back and forth for 15 minutes. Unhook the CO2, hook up the tap, put the keg in the fridge, and we're done!

The rate at which we go through the soda water, we run out about every two weeks and I have to fill it again, hook everything back up, rock it back and forth.

There are some other tips and tricks I've picked up along the way and anyone should feel free to email me if they're interested. My setup takes up a bit of room in the fridge and luckily I have an understudying spouse. It probably hasn't paid for itself yet, but I bet my investment will be recouped soon.
posted by pwb503 at 10:14 AM on June 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

You can get used ones for $50 or so at home brew shops, craigslist, ebay, etc but nobody sells used 3 gallon ones so I had to spring for a new one which set me back about $150.

What I meant to say was that you can get 5 gallon ones for $50 or so used... but nobody sells used 3 gallon ones.
posted by pwb503 at 12:33 PM on June 2, 2012

I do exactly what you are trying to do. I used to be a regular homebrewer, but I kind of let go of that hobby as the kids came along. I still held on to my kegging system and we now use it to make seltzer.
I've got 2 five-gallon soda kegs, a 5lb CO2 tank, and a regulator with a splitter set up in an old refrigerator on the basement. I only have one keg tapped at a time and move the tap to the other keg as one is emptied and refilled. I keep the pressure at a steady 30 psi, which is enough to carbonate a 5 gallon batch in about 48 hours without rolling the keg around.
I believe that I probably paid $150 for the kegging set up and I already had the old refrigerator. We go through a ton of seltzer in our home, but $15 of CO2 lasts us about 5 - 6 weeks, or produces about 80-90 gallons of seltzer. That's a pretty significant savings compared with drinking store-bought seltzer.
posted by ttrendel at 11:22 AM on June 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Update: I moved to the Bay Area so I called and visited the Oak Barrel on San Pablo in West Berkeley where, surprise! They sell brewing equipment for precisely this purpose (for seltzer). I bought a new 2.5 gallon Cornelius keg (spendy but the form factor is right for my fridge and smaller needs - at $145), a 5 lb CO2 tank (aluminum, which is lighter than the used steel cylinders they also sell), a single output adjustable regulator and gas and water lines and a picnic (all plastic) tap.

The total inital outlay was $319 for a new keg and new tank. You could totally do it cheaper if you wanted to buy used and the reason I went with an aluminum tank at the Oak Barrel is because it's lighter (8 lbs empty) and they will replace it with a full aluminum tank when I get it "refilled". Also I paid a premium for a new keg instead of a used one because when I went eBay and craigslist shopping I couldn't find any smaller than 5 gallons, which are harder to fit in a fridge than a 2.5 gallon.

I just asked ttrendel and pwb503 via MeMail for a little more detail on the pressurizing/dispensing protocols they use, because the guy at Oak Barrel described a slightly more complicated method than either of them did, so I'll post another followup when I figure out the best method for dispensing for my needs.
posted by kalessin at 9:56 PM on July 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Another update: Getting a texture (bubble size, bubble density, bubble intensity) like a seltzer siphon or indeed a SodaStream is going to take some experimentation and tweaking. My goal is to use the system in a way that lets me chill just the keg in a refrigerator for dispensing seltzer via a tap from within the fridge.

Currently, pressurizing at 30 - 45 psi and not sloshing the keg around much is carbonating, definitely, but bubbles are really tiny and taste is not totally ideal.

I'm tracking my experimentation and changes on a Google Drive spreadsheet and my Food Wiki.

Drop me a MeMail or GMail if you want an invite to the spreadsheet, which will be pretty raw data about PSIs, infusion method, wait times, etc.
posted by kalessin at 2:51 PM on July 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Update: Turns out pressurizing at 50 psi gives the bubbles we want. Also pushing the carbonated water through the keg with an additional 10-15 psi tends to keep the bubbles more bubbly.

Finally, I ditched the picnic tap which was able to maybe resist 10 psi if we were lucky and got a real metal tap instead. It's on a ball lock quick disconnect so it's just jutting out of the top of the keg in a usable orientation but it's as direct a connect as I could manage. The new tap was about $50 but it can be kept connected to the keg without leaking.

Here's a typical ball lock quick disconnect fitting:

Here's a faucet tap like the one I got mated to it for outgoing seltzer:

Now, I got these two parts mated properly by buying them at a homebrew store and asking them to hook them up, so I'm not sure what the interconnect parts were that were required.
posted by kalessin at 9:31 AM on March 27, 2013

« Older Common Law, Taxes and Immigration in Canada...   |   Children's books without children Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.