Sodastream Seltzer Maker – First Impressions

sodastream

There’s a reason I don’t do too many reviews.

First, I’m not all that good at them. I don’t like to memorize all those technical facts that make one sound knowledgeable about a product – nor do I really like to fact-check this sort of thing. I also come across very few products having to do with weight loss that I find all that interesting.

Lastly, history shows I feel no great desire to have content all the time, so I don’t have to fill my blog every day.

But I occasionally come across something neat, and like to share my experience with it. This SodaStream thing is one of these things.

Now, before I continue, I should mention that this isn’t a paid review – Sodastream did not give me this unit so I could gush about it. Apparently that does go on – but not here. I paid for the damn thing myself, thank you very much.

I bought it for Father’s day and it arrived with all the stuff shown above.

It also came with a sampler of their flavorings, which were not half bad (the sugar-free ones) and hooked my daughter. My kids were instant fans from day one.

Me – the schmuck that paid for it, withheld judgement until I learned more.

First, you have to insert one of those fat and slightly scary compressed CO2 canisters into the machine. I don’t remember doing it, so it must have been pretty simple. Next, you use one of their polycarbonate bottles, fill with water, and screw into the machine, which is a slightly awkward process, but nothing to get your shorts twisted in a bunch about.

Then, you press the button at the top and watch the probe-like plastic needle in the bottle force CO2 into the water. I found short bursts work best. You keep doing this until the unit make a loud sound of air escaping, which is probably a relief valve that prevents the thing from blowing up.

It’s not the prettiest noise – actually, it’s quite obnoxious – but if it prevents the explosion of a polycarbonate bottle that will cover me in fresh made seltzer with plastic bits, I’ll survive.

It recommends continuing to add CO2 until you hear this thing ‘burp’ (I’ll use that them, but burp-hobbyist only wish they could come close) three times. I usually go for 7 or 8.

It makes a damn good seltzer. I don’t do what they tell me and never pour drink mix into the 3 polycarbonate bottles that came with the unit – just pure, filtered water goes in there.

Also – don’t think you are going to be able to use any old bottle – the ones that come with the unit are the only ones you can use. Good thing, too, because polycarbonate plastic is way stronger than most plastics, and we’re dealing with high pressure here.

The bottles have a simple life. They get filled with filtered tap water and stored in the fridge – colder water apparently takes a CO2 charge better. As needed, they get injected with CO2, and drank soon after, with any flavorings added in the glass. When empty, they get refilled, and stored in the fridge intil injection time.

This works out well from the standpoint of quantity of flavoring used. I think we use less than if we mixed an entire bottle at the proportion recommended, meaning less artificial crap in our drinks. The kid likes the SodaStream mixes – I use 4C drink mix – a bit of powder at the bottom of the glass.

Ice usually isn’t needed because the water was refrigerated, though we do use unrefrigerated water in a pinch, add ice to our glasses – and it’s fine.

The bottles are pretty tough, and hold in the fizz nicely, though I do have a tendency to tightening it too much so my kid can’t open it. While tough, they are delicate in the fact that a dishwasher will ruin them, so clean them the old-fashioned way – and if you are just putting fresh tap water in them, how often do they need to be cleaned, really?

It sometimes seems that it can go flat faster then the store-bought – but big deal! Add water to fill to the top, give it a few more squirts, and it’s as fizzy as ever – crisis averted.

It’s changed the way we live. My wife, who polices the kitchen counter and carefully scrutinizes things that attempt to make a home there, has allowed it to stay – that means she must like it.

My kid keeps asking me to make more and to get some of the other flavors that we had in the sample pack.

We don’t buy seltzer – and not only the annoyance of getting it, but that pile of plastic and packaging we threw out each week is gone – at least we’re creating a little less trash – we won’t save the world, but it’s a start – and noticed when you could carry out an entire garbage pail of the empties.

We also don’t buy soda. And soda consumption always went like this:

  1. Mom buys cans soda
  2. Kid opens can, takes two sips, leaves somewhere
  3. Kid can’t find first can, open another, takes two sips
  4. Repeat until entire six-pack of soda is planted around the house, mostly full, flat, and thrown down the sink

My one looming concern on this is the replacement of the empty canister. The size I got is supposed to do 120 liters. It seems that I’ve done that many already – and as it comes with a loaded spare, I’m good for a while – but as of yet, I don’t know ho smoothly (or not smoothly) the swap works. You see, you don’t own the thing – it’s licensed to you for some reason I’m sure involves lawyers and potential liability involving compressed gasses.

Will this replacement process be a pain? We’ll see on that.

12/06/09 UPDATE: I’ve written a post on how I feel about this thing now that I’ve had it for around six months – you can check that out here.

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16 thoughts on “Sodastream Seltzer Maker – First Impressions

  1. Dude! If only I had known you were interested in such things, I could have told you that I got one last December and I absolutely lu-huh-huh-huh-huv it! My husband loves it too. We really like all the flavors of soda that you can get. I only wish the diet fountain mist and diet Pete’s choice came in caffeine free, since I kicked my habit in May (yay!)

    You’ll want to jury-rig your set-up to take regular CO2 cartridges instead of shelling out $15 bucks a pop at Williams-Sonoma or (god forbid!) having to use their courier service. http://www.sodaclubrefill.com/ I think we got the FreedomOne option so we can use paintball CO2 refills. We have a paintball gear store about 2 miles from our house, or we can get it filled at Academy Surplus. A 20 oz. fill costs about $3 a pop, so after not very long, the cost savings in CO2 will more than pay for the initial outlay for the adapter hardware. It rocks too!!

    • Yeah – this is one appliance that gets used every friggin day. It IS the refills that scare me though – how much will it suck to get a refill? And what is this ‘Freedom One Option’ You talk about. The thing that scares me there is CO2 that is not food grade *might* be like eating sushi that isn’t from sushi-grade fish There’s a big difference, apparently. Sushi-grade fish is flash-frozezn to spme Godawful low temp to kill parasites. So it’s a bid difference.

      What is in industrial CO2 that isn’t in food-grade? I imagine I’ll research THAT if returning the existing containers sucks too much.

      • Well, if you have a well-stocked Williams-Sonoma nearby, it doesn’t suck if they have ’em in stock. You walk in with your used cylinder to trade in, pick up a new one, pay ’em $14 dollars and go home a happy camper. My local stores were out for a month or so, and there was no way my 3 cylinders were going to last that long, so we had to come up with another way. That’s when we bought the conversion kit from sodaclubrefill. The “Freedom One” is basically a specially-machined thread conversion piece to get around the proprietary thread pattern that the bastards at sodaclub.com have hamstrung you with so that you are dependent on them for refills.

        There is only one kind of CO2, that’s just more marketing shite. Unless you need to do chemical assays and such, you’re going to get exactly the same gas whether you get it from W-S or sodaclub.com or the local paintball or welding supply store. The only difference is the tank. You can get a glass-lined or aluminum one if you’re worried about it. This may help better explain: http://www.micromatic.com/forum/us-en/trouble-shooting-beer-quality-home/3180-food-grade-co2-vs-regular-co2.html

        The magnet I put against my paintball tank fell right off no matter where I put it, so I’m thinking it’s aluminum. I think it’s this one: http://www.amazon.com/20oz-Aluminum-CO2-Tank-Valve/dp/B0018LBD6A/ref=pd_sim_sg_1

        Aquarium hobbyists (which I am also) sometimes use this stuff in their planted tanks to facilitate photosynthesis reactions by making sure there is enough CO2 in solution in the aquarium. I assure you, they will neither take chances with their expensive wee fishies, nor waste money on special “food grade” CO2 when it’s exactly the same as the gas you get at the welding supply store.

        Don’t worry! Be happy! And fizzy water makes you happy! 🙂

        • I found out last week your right. I stopped in at our local welding supply place & asked about using their “industrial” co2 for making soda. They said it is the same thing as they supply most of the restaurants in the area. So I guess it is as safe as co2 can get. Plus, why spend $15 for one little bottle from Soda Stream when you can get a 20lb tank for $20!

    • We also have the soda stream and my husband is worried the CO2 would be contaminated–maybe with oil or some other thing. They are not concerned with cleanliness with a paintball gun. What do you think?

      • It’s a great question that I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to.

        If I called Sodastream and asked, they would probably reassure me that – of course – they use only food-grade CO2.

        But do we really know?

        Let’s take it to the next step – next time you go out to a local restaurant – that budget restaurant – and order a soda from the fountain – how do you know *they* didn’t get their CO2 from the welding supply company? And how do you know that the cheap store-brand soda isn’t contaminated either?

        The crappy answer to your question is – yeah – it could be – but the chance of it being contaminated is no greater or lesser than other things you might drink that have CO2 in them.

        I’m playing probabilities here, but I think that Sodastream would have everything to lose by not using food-grade CO2 – selling CO2 is their core business.

        Go to Amazon and search for a book called ‘Swindled’ – it’s about food adulteration. It’s a great read, but afterward, you’ll be scared to eat *anything*.

        When we put something in our mouths, there needs to be some level of trust – and I have decided to trust them, only because I think that it would be bad business on their part.

        • Thank you–I did not phrase my question the right way. I would trust the sodastream CO2. We love the soda stream and are trying to figure if using the adapter and the paintball cartridge would be contaminated if one fills it where paintball cartridges are filled. Someone talked about it earlier so that is my real question. It would be so much cheaper!:)

          Is there anyone who has done this that is willing to give insight on using the paintball cartridges and the adapter for the sodastream?

  2. I also ordered the SodaClubRefill.com “FreedomOne” adapter, but I got it with CGA threads instead of paintball tank threads I also picked up a used 20 pound CO2 tank on Craigslist. It has CGA (Compressed gas association?) threads, of course.

    Unfortunately, I did not know it at the time, but the tanks need to be “hydrotested” every 5 years or they can’t be refilled. The guy at the refill place gave me the name of an outfit that would do the test and refill the tank, but the test was $25. the refill was $35. Tank itself was $65 and the SodaClub adapter another $120 or so.

    In other words, quite the outlay upfront. More than I was expecting, but I use the machine constantly and now I shoud be set for a long, long time. If Williams Sonoma charges $15 for a refil tank that doesn’t even contain a pound of Co2, paying $35 for 20 pounds works a lot better for me.

    As far as food grade Co2 – I am not concerned at all. Any fountain machine in any restaurant in the US has a CO2 tank somewhere, and they’re all getting them refilled at the same places – there is no difference between what fish tank enthusiasts use, restaurants nor paintball stores. Any oil in the mechanism would be introduced at the valve, and get blown out at first use even if there were any, which I seriously doubt there would.

    To determine if it makes sense for you, just do some math. I don’t know, for example, anything about paintball tanks. Do they need to be hydrotested too? No clue. I assume so…find out and see what those costs would be.

  3. I have had my sodastream for 7 weeks. My daughter and I use it daily. It took 7 weeks to use one of the CO2 cylinders. So at that rate its 7.5 cyl per year – let us say we were more engnaged with it cause it is new. So on average 7 per year at $15. $105 per year to operate. We also La.a.a.a.a.ove it!
    I have not investigated what commercial CO2 will cost. But the adpater is about $100 bucks to hook up to a tank. Then you need a tank and still have the CO2 to pay for. As far as CO2 quality – there are CO2 filters that are used to remove impurities from the gas that can effect taste in beverages. Also aluminum or stainless tanks would be prefered to steel that could rust. Just my opinion. For the hassle – as long as Billy Sonoma has gas – I am tanking up there. With a 3 year ROI. I can live with the WS mark up.

  4. So the person who wrote this “review” said
    “Now, before I continue, I should mention that this isn’t a paid review – Sodastream did not give me this unit so I could gush about it.”

    But why all the soda stream ads all over the page…? Someones getting paid for this review, methinks I smell a rat.

    I have the sodastream unit, however the sodastream cola syrups taste like crap, all have aspertame for sweeteners, diet and regular. Ignore their claims that “its just like coke or pepsi”. Unless you have no taste buds in your mouth, there is a definite difference. I am on a quest to find real Pepsi syrup and its not an easy task.

    On the subject of CO2, all CO2 gas dispensed comes from the same process, welding, drink carbonation, paintball etc. Unless you order laboratory grade hi purity, the stuff is all the same and welding shielding gas is far more critical for purity than drink manufacturing. Gas up and drink away!
    Now back to searching for real Pepsi syrup…

    • Hi Ron,

      Send me a screenshot of the ‘sodastream ads all over the place’ page you’re seeing – I don’t see ’em on MY computer. My posts HAVE been stolen in the past and used without anyone asking me – if you found one, I’d like to see it.
      As to the syrups, they contain sucralose (Splenda) – not aspartame.
      As to how they taste…well, that’s personal. If you don’t like ’em, you don’t like ’em.
      As to the CO2 gas, the issue seems to tick a lot of people off, and some people think there IS a difference in contamination levels – some don’t. For me, I use my unit nearly every day – and the big canister lasts me maybe 3 months. For me, getting a refill once every 3 months via mail order is not a great expense nor a hassle compared to spending over $100 for a conversion kit that lets me refill it at anyplace that has CO2.

      Regards,

      LCC

    • I would like to know if you found that Pepsi syrup. As far as I am concerned, Pepsi is the best soda. It would be nice to have real Pepsi with my Sodasteam. I only can find them in five gallon boxes. They also have expiration date you have to drink by. I drink a lot of Pepsi, but I don’t think I could keep up with the expiration date.

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