Why We Love Our SodaStream

I have a fondness for soft drinks. Soda, Coke, fizzy drink--around here, we simply refer to it as pop, and it's a guilty pleasure of ours despite its near complete lack of nutritional benefit.

Now don't get me wrong: we have never regularly over-indulged a soda pop habit, but we do enjoy a fizzy drink with dinner or as part of a movie night snack a few times a week. In the past, this has meant transporting and storing large plastic bottles or twelve-packs of cans just to have some pop on hand for when we want it. Then we have to deal with the increased recycling that results from drinking beverages out of cans and bottles on a regular basis. In a small home, this is a big deal.

This is why we have allotted a small section of our coveted kitchen counter top to one of these:

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What It Is

The SodaStream is a small kitchen appliance that uses a proprietary carbon dioxide canister to infuse CO2 into a pressure-safe plastic or glass bottle that the user fills with water prior to carbonating. The user can then drink the soda water as is or add liquid flavoring to create carbonated soft drinks such as root beer or cola or cream soda. Once the CO2 canister is empty, the consumer can exchange it for a full canister at a number of local stores.

How It Works

The SodaStream is really simple to operate. On our model (the Source), you install the CO2 canister under a panel on the back of the machine. You then fill the included soda bottle with water, making sure to stop at the max-fill line. (We usually chill our water at this point since it carbonates best when it's cold.) You attach the bottle of water to the machine by inserting the carbonating spout into the bottle and simultaneously pushing up and back on the bottle until it locks into place on the dispenser. Then you push down on the top front of the machine until your preferred level of carbonation is reached as indicated by three symbols that light up to indicate how much CO2 has been added. (We usually stick to the middle setting.)

If flavored soda pop is the goal, one can add any number of liquid flavorings to the bottle; the simplest addition is one of SodaStream's flavor syrups that can be purchased separately. About a quarter cup of SodaStream syrup will flavor one liter of pop, and the syrup bottle lid functions as a measuring cup for determining how much flavor to add. Once the syrup is carefully poured into the soda bottle, you screw on the soda bottle lid and gently turn the bottle end over end until the flavoring is mixed into the soda water.

The bottles that came with our machine are not dishwasher safe and must not be exposed to heat. They have a limited safe-use lifespan of about three years, after which they should be recycled and replaced to ensure safety due to the pressure involved in carbonating water. Only water should be carbonated using a SodaStream machine.

Why We Love Our SodaStream

Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of single-purpose small kitchen appliances because, as small space dwellers, we simply do not have room for many such items. We have to be choosy about what we make room for in our kitchen and what we do without.

Since we make pop several times a week, our SodaStream actually saves us space by freeing up room in our kitchen that would otherwise be taken up by plastic bottles or aluminum cans prior to our enjoyment of the beverage as well as after in the form of extra recyclables.

There are other benefits as well:
  1. By making our own pop, we get to decide what goes into it. We've made homemade lemon-lime soda with actual lemon juice and lime juice. We've tried scratch-made ginger ale. We've used Torani flavoring syrups and various drink mix powders. When we're really lazy, we buy the premade SodaStream syrups. Making pop using the SodaStream also allows us to carbonate and flavor the soda as strongly or weakly as we'd like so every cup is made just the way we prefer.
  2. It saves us money (but not much). I've done the math a few times, and I'm honestly not convinced that we're saving more than a few cents per cup over store bought generic soda, but it adds up over time. We save the most money when we don't use SodaStream's premade soda flavoring. Scratch-made ginger ale and lemon-lime soda is pretty cheap.
  3. It's better for the environment. I haven't done the math on this one myself, but the sheer number of bottles and cans that don't have to be created, transported and recycled is staggering. Of course there are other considerations including the manufacture and transport of the machine itself as well as the carbon dioxide canisters and any flavor additives, but the common consensus seems to be that DIY soda is in fact better for the environment than store-bought soda.
  4. It's fun! It makes a neat whooshing sound when you turn it on, and watching the bubbles swirl into the bottle of water is kind of entertaining all on its own.

What Are the Drawbacks?

  1. Our particular model doesn't fit under our upper cabinets. It's about two inches too tall.
  2. The bottles are hand-wash only. For those who don't have a dishwasher in their small home, this is irrelevant. We have started making it easier on ourselves by adding flavoring to our individual cups instead of to the full bottle so we can just refill and reuse the bottle without having to wash it, which is an idea that we got from Chris's parents. (Yes, we might be a little bit lazy when it comes to washing dishes.)
  3. There's no clear indicator that the CO2 tank is empty. You just figure it out when your pop is flat.

How Much Is It?

The biggest cost upfront is the machine itself, of course. SodaStream currently sells eight models ranging in price from about $50 for a Walmart exclusive to $200 for a model sold only at Williams-Sonoma. We own the SodaStream Source, which is currently available on Amazon for $115 with two extra soda bottles included in the price. Ours was a gift, but I believe my parents purchased it for us at Costco.

You can also find older styles on sale and on clearance racks pretty frequently. Chris's parents own the SodaStream Genesis, which has been discontinued but can still be purchased at retailers like Amazon.

Each machine kit includes one CO2 canister that can be exchanged for a new one when it is emptied. If you want a second canister, you can purchase one at retailers like Bed, Bath, & Beyond; Best Buy; or Walmart for about $30. Amazon currently sells them for $40. If you bring your empty canister in to a participating local store to exchange, you can get a new one for half-price at $15. We have found that the best place to exchange our CO2 tanks is Bed, Bath, & Beyond because it seems like we always have a 20% off coupon lying around that can be used on SodaStream products, knocking the exchange price down to about $12. One canister lasts us a few months making two or three 1L bottles of soda a week.

The SodaStream syrups can be purchased at many local retailers and online for $5 or $6 each. There are fruit infusions and diet flavors and regular old fashioned soda syrups to choose from, or you can make your own from any number of recipes online.

One of the cheapest and easiest flavor additions we like to use is the single-serve drink packs sold by companies like Crystal Light and Wylers. Chris has a bit of a caffeine habit due to his early working hours, and he is a big fan of Walmart's Great Value brand powdered energy drink mixes, which offer a pick-me-up similar to what he'd get from a Mountain Dew.

We were thrilled to find actual pop flavors sold in single-serve pouches meant to be added to flat water, but excellent for use with a SodaStream. The A&W Root Beer Drink Mix tastes just like root beer when added to soda water, and we even found it at our local grocery store for about a dollar per six pack. It takes two single-serve drink pouches to make one liter of soda. (The powder mix must be completely dissolved into a small amount of plain water or you will have a bit of a volcano on your hands when you try to pour it into your soda water.) We have also tried the Crush Pineapple Drink Mix, and it is one of my favorites. I'm hoping to try the Squirt flavor soon.

Another option for flavoring is to use carbonated water in place of tap water when mixing juice from concentrate. This would need to be done in a separate pitcher, but it is a fantastic way to get that fizzy drink experience with a little nutritional benefit added by way of 100% fruit juice from concentrate.

We Still Love It A Year Later

We have owned our SodaStream for more than a year now, and when we first got it, I was afraid it would be one of those novelty appliances that quickly loses its appeal. That has not turned out to be the case for us at all. We use it regularly still, and we're always on the look out for new flavors to try. We love being able to have pop to drink whenever we feel like it without having to worry about where we're going to put it after we bring it home from the store, and we like that we can choose our flavors on a whim from whatever we happen to have stocked in the cupboard that day. Having that kind of variety in a small home without much storage space is pretty amazing.