Soda gets a bad rap, and the reason is understandable. The word conjures up images of two-liter bottles or six-packs – or twelve-packs, or 24-packs – of super-sweet “empty calories” that pack on the pounds and make dentists wealthy.
Commercial Soda Is Bad for You – Diet Versions Also!
There’s really no sensible argument that can be made in favor of the soda (or pop, or tonic depending where you grew up) that we get at the supermarket, convenience store or vending machine. Most commercial soda is indeed loaded with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, aspartame or other unhealthy sweeteners.
Most of it is loaded with carbs and calories, bad for the body and bad for the teeth (don’t forget to brush with a top of the range electric toothbrush). Here’s just one statistic to think about: the Harvard School of Public Health says that drinking one can of soda per day could equate to a weight gain of 15 pounds in a year.
Many gravitate to the conscience-salving big-name diet brands, free of calories and sugar. But they still have no nutritional value, and many of their artificial sweeteners have been linked to potential cancer risks. “Natural” soda brands, for the most part, are really just sweetened with fruit juice or cane sugar instead of artificial products. They may be somewhat healthier to drink – but they’re certainly not good for you.
With Home Made Soda You Are in Control
There’s another alternative, though: the beverages produced by home soda makers. When you make your own soda you have full control over the ingredients, so you can use recipes that eliminate all of the “bad” sweeteners and chemicals found in the majority of commercial sodas.
Homemade soda is the best way to minimize calories and carbs while creating a delicious beverage specifically crafted for your own taste buds.
Home Made Soda Is Better for the Environment and Cheaper
That’s not the only argument in favor of making your own pop. It’s environmentally-responsible, reducing the number of cans and bottles you must recycle (and preventing exposure to potentially toxic chemicals in plastic soda bottles).
It saves your family money, since buying ingredients is much less expensive than laying out $10 or $25 for a soda every time you go to the store.
It allows you to control the amount of carbonation in your soda, lets you create a nearly-infinite variety of flavors, and gives the family a fun activity to enjoy together. Of course, those who still prefer good old-fashioned Coke or Pepsi can make the equivalent at home while saving money in the process.
Most soda makers aren’t very expensive, and they only require a few supplies: carbon dioxide or gas canisters for the fizz, special reusable bottles to hold the soda, and packaged or homemade flavorings.
The machines are easy to use and you can even tinker with them so they run off inexpensive-to-fill CO2 tanks like those used for paintball. As you’ll see in our best soda maker reviews, most units are small and stylish so they can fit almost anywhere and be used whenever you get thirsty.
There are some product categories which are dominated by one or two manufacturers, and this is one. SodaStream is far and away the leader in the industry, so you’ll see one of their soda makers in our listings plus another that they’ve collaborated on. The Your House Garden review team has found some other good choices, though.
Let’s get to it: our best SodaStream reviews.
1. SodaStream Source
This is a compact home soda maker that takes up less space than a coffee-maker and looks a lot slicker, doesn’t have to be plugged in, and will cost less than the average family spends for soda in a month.
It’s available in black, red and white (the white one is a little cheaper and the other two colors are a bit more expensive) and will make a liter of pop in no time once it’s been loaded. If you’re a design aficionado, you may recognize the name Yves Béhar; he’s well-known for his sustainability projects and is the principal designer of the lovely plastic-and-metal Source.
The Source uses a CO2 “carbonator” (the company’s name for its proprietary pressurized cartridges); you fill the bottle with water, snap the bottle and cartridge into place, press down on the top of the machine, and in seconds you have carbonated water – just add flavoring.
There are three carbonation settings with an LED indicator. The machine makes a high-pitched whine while carbonating the water, but it doesn’t last long. The taste of the water, once it’s fizzy, is clean and delicious.
This SodaStream model comes with a twin-pack of reusable BPA-free bottles which should last for a couple of years, a couple of the company’s SodaMix flavor packets, and unfortunately just a small “starter” carbonator.
This was our major objection to the product; after you use up the small one (it will make about six liters of soda), you have to return it to a big box store with a coupon that’s in the box in order to get a “free” full-sized 60L carbonator. It’s a pain. After that, you can exchange empty carbonators for full ones for about $10-$15 apiece.
Some people like the taste of the expensive SodaMix flavors. The Your House Garden review team doesn’t, but we didn’t plan on using the Source with pre-packaged flavors anyway; you can use any flavors you like, and the finished product is delicious.
When you consider just the cost of running the soda maker itself, you’re getting the equivalent of 30 2-liter bottles of soda for about $10 – carbonated and flavored to your exact specifications. That works for us. (One important note: SodaStream’s construction doesn’t make it easy to jury-rig the system to use CO2 tanks, but you can find directions online on how to use alternative tanks with their units.)
As mentioned SodaStream dominate this industry and in this case, it is for a good reason, they simply produce the best product.
Facts and figures for the SodaStream Source:
2. KitchenAid KSS1121OB Sparkling Beverage Maker
We’ll be completely honest here. This is a very good soda maker that deserves praise. But the review team rank it at #2 in our list of the best soda maker reviews primarily for those who have other KitchenAid appliances on their counter and want a sturdy, dependable soda machine that will match them. (This unit is available in eight KitchenAid designer colors.)
For everyone else, there are two reasons you might want to look elsewhere. First is the price, which is two times more than you’ll pay for the SodaStream Source.
Second: the KSS1121OB is “powered by SodaStream” – meaning it’s basically the same soda maker in a much nicer package.
It probably sounds like the review team was torn, and we are. There’s no question that this is the best-looking and strongest machine on our list, with a premium die-cast metal housing made in America that should last just as long as your KitchenAid mixer will – but is it worth the extra cost?
The carbonation is governed by a four-position soft-grip handle that makes the soda maker look like an upscale orange juice machine.
The rest of the details and operation, though, are just what you’d expect from a SodaStream. The KSS1121OB requires similar 60L CO2 cartridges (which have to be acquired/exchanged in the same manner) and accommodates the same one-liter bottles.
In effect, it’s like having a SodaStream that feels like it will last longer and one that you’re proud to have on your KitchenAid-equipped kitchen counter. Is that worth an extra cost? That call is up to you.
Details for the KitchenAid KSS1121OB Sparking Beverage Maker:
3. iSi Soda Siphon
You may remember your grandparents making something called “seltzer” with a handheld contraption that looked a little like a fire extinguisher. That seltzer bottle actually dates back to the late 18th century and is still very much alive today, and it’s more commonly called a siphon.
The iSi Soda Siphon is the best example of the technology as it’s now used for creating homemade soda, and it’s a lot safer than those old seltzer bottles that could explode under pressure.
The iSi operates with a small CO2 tank that sits inside the combination handle/dispenser, and the assembly screws onto the stainless steel water container (which has a ceramic liner). You press the handle and out comes fizzy water, into which you can mix the flavorings of your choice.
This is a solid unit and feels like it will last forever since there’s “very little to it.” As with SodaStream, the cartridges are proprietary, so you’ll need to replace them with similar ones. However, you can buy them online, most food-grade CO2 cartridges will work, and they’re less expensive than SodaStream ones.
On the downside, though, this soda maker is much fussier than the two models already reviewed. To get decent fizz the water has to be chilled until it’s very cold, as do the siphon and cartridge.
You’ll also have to shake the cartridge for at least 30 seconds before use. Once you get used to the process it’s not bad, but the need to re-chill the machine’s components will prevent you from making more soda for an hour once you’ve used up your first batch of carbonated water. Also, you need a special tool to remove the inner chamber for cleaning.
The iSi sells for around the same price as the SodaStreamSource (it varies depending on your color choice) and won’t take up any space on the counter. The review team doesn’t think it’s as convenient to use, but for some, the process itself may be part of the fun.
More info on the iSi Soda Siphon:
Here’s a machine that can do something that SodaStream can’t: the Drinkmate will carbonate nearly any beverage, not just water. In other words, it doesn’t just make water and flavoring into carbonated soda. You can put juice, beer, wine or another favorite drink into it, and you’ll end up with a sparkling beverage.
There’s a learning curve, however, because you have greater control over what the Drinkmate produces. With the SodaStream you push the control one, two or three times for specific levels of carbonation. By contrast, the Drinkmate allows you to tap the button any number of times and for as long as you want, in order to get just the right amount of “fizziness.” That’s important because every beverage has a different optimal level of carbonation; after a few tries, you’ll figure out how much fizz you need to put into each type of liquid. (Not every liquid comes out great when carbonated, but it’s fun to discover the nuances as you play with the machine.)[youtube id=”__3PVCRHkTs” width=”750″ height=”340″ position=”left”]
The Drinkmate is also different from the Soda Stream because of its “fizz infuser,” which lets you gently release the pressure inside the bottle once you’ve removed it and are ready taste the finished product. That eliminates any messy dripping, spitting or spraying when you just hit the release lever on a normal soda maker.
This model comes with only a small three-ounce CO2 cylinder. The good news is that you can buy standard 60-liter cylinders from the company (which had an exchange program available at this writing), or you can use the SodaStream CO2 cylinders sold widely. The Drinkmate also comes with a proprietary one-liter BPA-free bottle. Unfortunately, SodaStream bottles or other types of containers are not compatible.
Using the Drinkmate requires a bit more work, but it’s much more flexible and fun to use than the SodaStream since you have extra control and can carbonate all types of drinks. You’ll pay a higher price for this soda maker, though.
Looking further at the Drinkmate Beverage Carbonation Maker:
5. Flavorstation Home Beverage Maker
This is our budget choice. It’s a counter-top model that’s smaller than the other soda makers on our rundown, but that means its capacity is smaller as well.
You fill a 0.5-liter sports bottle with the water you want to carbonate, attach it to the counter unit, press the button and hold it down until the machine beeps three times, and you have your water fizzy and ready for flavorings.
The real plus to the Flavorstation is that it uses standard 20-ounce CO2 canisters that can be refilled for five bucks at some paintball stores (not all of them will do it, so call first). Other than that, the small capacity could be a deal-killer unless you’re buying this machine for a dorm room or man cave – in which case it could be just what you need.
A budget choice that has a small capacity.
Specifications for the Flavorstation Home Beverage Maker:
SodaPlus SP76327 Soda Carbonating Starter Kit
Note: Unfortunately the SodaPlus no longer seems to be available on Amazon.
This is another siphon model, larger than the iSi but without the dispenser handle (and priced quite a bit lower). To use the SodaPlus, you chill everything (just like with the iSi), shake, let the unit rest and then push the single button on the siphon. A few seconds later, you take off the top and pour out your carbonated water.
As they say on the commercials…but wait, there’s more! Unlike the other soda makers Your House Garden checked out, this one doesn’t restrict what you put into the dishwasher-safe stainless steel container.
You can use flavored water to make soda without having to mix ingredients after the fact, you can make sparkling wine, you can carbonate fruit juice or re-carbonate soda that’s gone flat. The cartridge story is the same as with the iSi Syphon, less expensive than SodaStream with replacements easier to find.
So why does the SodaPlus come in below the iSi in Your House Garden’s best soda maker reviews? Simply because once you’ve fizzed-up the liquid in the SodaPlus container it starts losing its carbonation immediately, while the dispenser handle on the iSi lets you dispense one or two glasses of fizzy water at a time without “ruining” the rest.
If you are serving a few people with the SodaPlus the last person might get a drink that has less carbonation than the first person that was served.
Another siphon model that, on the plus side, allows you to add any flavors you want to its container. However, on the downside, it carbonates everything in the container at the same time.
Digging deeper on the SodaPlus SP76327 Soda Carbonating Starter Kit:
If you decide that carbonating drinks is not for you, but you still want to stay hydrated and healthy, then the other option might be to go for a juicer. Luckily the team at Your House Garden has reviewed the 5 best selling juicers on the market. If you still love your soda but want to avoid cavities, consider picking up better oral health habits and read our great piece on flossing and flossing alternatives.