What's the best/cheapest/easiest way to make soda water? Any Spärkel fans?

As I posted over in the first-world problems thread, the local store that had a reliable supply of Sodastream CO2 cylinders now only carries the newer pink ones, which are incompatible with the classic blue ones I need. My wife drinks lots of seltzer, so I’m trying to figure out the best alternative:

  1. Buy a new Sodastream that takes these cylinders.
  2. Keep the existing Sodastream and adapt it to use paintball cylinders.
  3. Keep the existing Sodastream and adapt it to use a larger CO2 tank
  4. Keep the existing Sodastream and set up a rig to refill the cylinders from a big CO2 tank.
  5. Buy a Spärkel system, which uses citric acid and baking soda to make CO2.

(For those unfamiliar with the process, here’s a site that explains several of the options.)

There are pros and cons to each, and it’s been a pain to try to balance out the expense vs. convenience aspects of all the different permutations.

I’m particularly interested in hearing from Spärkel users about their experiences with it, especially if you’ve used non-Spärkel carbonation powders. The possibility of saving a lot of money by using bulk citric acid and baking soda is a major draw to the system, but the company advises against it, says their powders are specially made, and that using others could damage the machine and void the warranty.

If that’s all (or mostly) BS, I’m very interested in considering Spärkel, because it means I can order the powders online and don’t have to run all over creation to find CO2.

Any advice, suggestions, experience to share? Thanks.

Amazon and Walmart still both have the blue, if you’re willing to go that route.

Best and cheapest: buy a CO2 tank (of whatever size you prefer) and a regulator, put a ball lock fitting on the end of a hose from the regulator, and pressurize 2 liter bottles with a carbonator cap. We did it this way for years. Here’s a prebuilt example.

The key here is that you are not locked into either Sodastream or Spärkel’s proprietary system. A standard 5, 10 or 20 pound CO2 tank can be refilled easily and cheaply, and even a 5 pound tank will last for months.

Yep, that’s what I do. The fixed cost is ~$100. After that it’s a few cents per liter for CO2.

If you want to do the dumb like we did and live like kings, just install a system that dispenses filtered and chilled sparkling water right out of the kitchen faucet. Hard to justify, but I love it.


$3k is pretty steep, though. Feels like fundamentally the tech isn’t that hard to do and maybe someone will figure out how to do this cheaper.

One office I was at, we had, at the push of a button, hot water, cold water, and, yes, sparkling water.

ETA I don’t know how much the nice dispenser cost, but the “tech” involved a bottle of CO2 hidden under the sink…

Well, I[quote=“iamthewalrus_3, post:6, topic:953252, full:true”]
$3k is pretty steep, though. Feels like fundamentally the tech isn’t that hard to do and maybe someone will figure out how to do this cheaper.

Well, I got it for quite a bit less than that from Amazon (I think for $1,800), and since we needed a new kitchen faucet and wanted some kind of inline filter, the incremental cost was not so bad.

I have a SodaStream and 2 blue 60l cylinders. I refill them from a 5-kg tank of CO2 (a repurposed fire extinguisher with a dip tube). The food-grade CO2 costs me €10 and lasts for about a year of daily use. I bought a purpose-made adapter online. Google “SodaStream adapter” and you’ll find lots of examples.

That’s the CO2 source, but you also need a compact chiller and a regulator to carbonate the water as it flows. And do it quietly, since it’s under the sink. Bar guns do this, but I think they usually have a loud compressor somewhere.

Should I buy my own tank new (I think I’d get a 5-pound one) and keep it, or get a used one from the gas place (I just found there’s one only ten minutes away) and swap them out when I need a refill?

Will they refill your own tank while you wait, and if so, how long does it take?

Get a used tank. Many places that you might find convenient don’t fill on the spot, they do swaps. So if you buy that shiny new aluminum tank, you may go to get it filled and find that either you accept a junky looking swap or go home with the empty but pretty tank.

I about half the time just do the swap at Praxair, but if I go to the brew supply place and have them fill it, it’s about a 5 minute process.

Like I posted in the other thread, I refill my older canisters with crushed dry ice by weight. It’s a bit of a project every 6 months or so, but kind of fun. Costs about $15 for 10 lbs of dry ice, which fills 3 120L canisters or 6 60L canisters. Equipment: 1 wrench, some freezer Ziplock bags, a mallet, gloves, a food/postal scale, and a funnel. It’d be simpler if someplace nearby sold pelletized dry ice.

Okay, I hadn’t heard of that method, but I found a video and it looks feasible, if a bit labor intensive.

We use at least one cylinder a month, maybe a little more.

I like the convenience and control of using the Sodastream machine, so a rig to use a larger tank that either replaces the SS cylinders or refills them is my preference over using a rig to directly carbonate water in 2-liter bottles.

However, my wife often has trouble properly seating the water bottle in the machine, and somehow ends up spilling water all over the counter. For the life of me I can’t figure out how she does it, but I’m wondering if newer models of SS (ours is probably 7-8 years old) have more foolproof bottle holding mechanisms. Anyone?

When the large Sodastream canisters were discontinued, I bought an adapter hose off eBay (they’re less than $15 now) and bought a new 5-lb tank from the local gas supplier. Advantage to a new tank is the hydrotest date means they’ll be allowed to refill my tank for several more years. My empty Sodastream canisters all had hydrotest dates that didn’t allow further refills.

I built a simple cabinet to hold the tank with the Sodastream on top, and I’m quite happy with the setup. Drinking roughly a liter each day, I get about 8 months from a 5 lb. $22 refill.

I did #3 with a Drinkmate soda maker. I went through the first two canisters the Drinkmate came with in just under a month. I decided to buy a 10 pound CO2 tank for around eighty bucks with shipping and the hose and adaptor to go with it for like around another forty bucks or so (I didn’t buy the cheapest one, but the one with the best reviews for reliability.) This was back in February. I was predicting that I would need a refill around June. It’s almost November and my ten pound tank is still going. Clearly our usage must have declined, but we still use it several times a week/almost daily. And it’s only $25 to refill. Doing the math, a 10 pound tank should be the equivalent of about 11 of the normal Soda Stream/Drinkmate canisters.

I’m about to go for the 5-lb tank option, but there are a few things I’m trying to figure out. First, why is the one on eBay so much cheaper than most of the ones on Amazon? I was thinking about this one, and it’s 3x the price. Now, it does have a pressure gauge and release valve, and the hose is supposedly stainless steel braid (although there is contradictory info about that in the listing), but others that are similar to the eBay item are also much more expensive. Are they significantly higher quality? Admittedly, even the most expensive of these is still easily affordable, but I’m puzzled by the wide gap.

A more significant concern is the question of a regulator. Before deciding on a direct connection to a 5-lb tank, I had been looking at things like this to either refill the SS cylinders or carbonate directly water in 2-liter bottles. But the direct connection seems obviously simpler and easier than any of the other methods (providing you have room for the cylinder), and the videos, product listings, and posts here I’ve seen indicate there’s no need for a regulator, or even a gauge.

But when I spoke to a guy at the local Airgas store about getting a cylinder, he said I had to use a regulator, or I’d be wasting gas. I suspect he’s simply misinformed about the Soda Stream machines, but is there anything to this?

Okay, another problem has just reared its head: I was planning on storing the 5-lb tank laying on its side in the counter under the SS machine. Apparently, this is not a good idea, since liquid CO2 can then get into the line. (I didn’t realize that CO2 is liquid under these pressures.)

All the comments about this I’ve found online are from home brewers warning it will mess up the regulator, but I guess that it wouldn’t be good with a direct connection to a SS machine, either. Anyone have any relevant experience?

I have never tried storing a tank on its side, but I just took a look at the phase diagram for co2 and, yes, a full co2 tank at room temperature will have liquid co2 in it, and you do not want liquid co2 in a system designed to handle gaseous co2. I’m not sure exactly what will happen, but probably not good things.

I got a 5-lb cylinder, and it fits standing upright inside the door, because the upper shelf is recessed just enough. Whew!

I’ve ordered the hose set from Amazon Iinked to above. It comes on Sunday.

Further reports will follow.