If you drink a lot of seltzer and are tired of wasting plastic bottle after plastic bottle from the grocery store, you should get the SodaStream Fizzi Sparkling Water Maker. It’s dead simple to use, easy to clean, and made the best-tasting fizzy water we tested, almost beating our store-bought control. Even better, it’s the only siphon we found that can be used to carbonate any liquid without voiding the warranty, which means it’s great for creative cocktails and homemade soda concoctions.
We spent more than 30 hours researching dozens of home soda makers, testing five models hands-on and even building our own machine (we’ll show you how later) before settling on the Purefizz. Soda machines, like Sodastream’s expansive line of models, are tempting, but ultimately we decided that you’re better off with a soda siphon. They’re no harder to use, take up less space, and, most importantly, they won’t lock you into any proprietary, expensive CO2 cartridges.
1.SodaStream Fizzi Sparkling Water Maker
- Comes with a warranty
- Gives drinks which are better loaded up
- Versatile flavor
- Quick and easy to use
- Not visible enough when put an empty bottle on the machine
2.KitchenAid KSS1121CU Sparkling Beverage Maker
- Die-cast metal housing-premium
- Carbonation lever fitted with a soft-grip handle
- Compatible with over 60 flavors including SodaStream products
- Easy to clean
- Makes over 60 flavors
3.Drinkmate Carbonated Beverage Maker with 3 oz Test Cylinder
- It allows you to carbonate any drink in your fridge
- Comes without CO2 cylinder
- Two release buttons and patented fizz infuser which allows you to have better control when releasing the CO2.
- It is easy to use
- Carbonates any beverage
- Compatible with other makers
4.AARKE – CARBONATOR II (PREMIUM CARBONATOR/SPARKLING WATER MAKER)
- It requires no electricity
- It’s high quality
- Comes with warranty
- You have to buy a carbonator cartridge separately
5.Drinkmate Carbonated Beverage Maker
- It allows a user to carbonate any beverage in the fridge
- Enables the user to control the CO2 effectively
- Easy to operate and clean
- No battery or electricity required
- Takes less counter space
- Easy to operate
How we picked
Despite their resurgence in popularity (thanks to Sodastream), there’s just not much good information about home carbonation solutions. What little that does exist tends to be in the form of reviews for various Sodastream machines, but they seemed to have cornered the market. Up-to-date comparative reviews were virtually nonexistent, so it quickly became clear that we’d have to do our own testing.
In order to figure out what was worth looking at, we first turned to the many out-of-date reviews done by various publications. Cook’s Illustrated’s round-up ranked the iSi Twist ‘n’ Sparkle at the top (which was later recalled), along with Sodastream’s very expensive Penguin model. The Wall Street Journal did a taste-test with the sommelier at Le Bernardin, but we found their picks to be either unavailable, very expensive, or poorly reviewed elsewhere. Consumer Reports’ 2006 review is too outdated to be useful, and most of the products are no longer available or very difficult to acquire.
We eliminated all of the soda makers that were hard to find—many were no longer sold in the US or have disappeared from production entirely. Unfortunately, Sodastream is the only company making proper soda machines. Cuisinart’s entry into the field, the SMS-201, has remarkably terrible reviews, and it appears the well-reviewed Primo Flavorstation is in the middle of being discontinued (probably due to their acquisition by Cuisinart last year).
For soda siphons, we eliminated brands like Mosa and Whip-It! due to poor reviews and mediocre availability. Plus, the Mosa appears to be an almost direct knock-off of the iSi siphon, just with less-enthusiastic user reviews.
In the end, we taste-tested the outputs of four off-the-shelf siphons and machines (the Purefizz, the Sodastream Jet, the iSi Soda Siphon and the SodaSparkle) and one DIY solution, using a bottle of store-bought seltzer as the control. Results ranged from meh to acceptable with only one exception, the excellent Mastrad Purefizz.
The best soda maker was the Mastrad Purefizz soda siphon. At $80, it outperformed the far more expensive Sodastream Source, easily making the most consistently delicious seltzer of all the machines we tested. Plus, it’s easy to clean and dishwasher friendly. And unlike other ones we tested, the warranty doesn’t limit you to water or pre-approved mixes.
You can use the Purefizz to carbonate anything. Things I carbonated: orange juice. Wine. (And together, in the mimosa recipe that comes with the siphon!) Gin. Drinks with chunks of fruit in them. 90% of the time, it worked just like I was using water; every once in a while, it was a little extra fizzy, but there was nothing opening it over a sink wouldn’t fix. Yes, you’ll find hacks online to use the Sodastream and other machines to carbonate all sorts of liquids, but in a lot of cases, it will void your warranty. The Purefizz encourages you to use it to carbonate whatever you can think of and will do it exceptionally well.
The Purefizz consistently produced sharper, tinglier and brighter seltzer that was the overwhelming favorite amongst taste testers (besides the store-bought control). One person said the taste was “consistent—almost like factory-produced seltzer, and another said it was “so good and “kept its effervescence, even in your throat, unlike some others, which seemed to go flat seconds after they touched your tongue.
I turned to Andrew Schloss, the author of home-soda recipe book Homemade Soda, to find out why people overwhelmingly prefer the stronger stuff. He explained that “The main difference is the texture of the bubbles. People are used to pretty intense carbonation—high intensity, little bubbles. He went on to explain that people expect a bit of brightness (acidity) in their beverages: “Carbon dioxide is sour, so there’s a little bit of that taste. The more something is carbonated, the brighter it tastes. That’s why [flat soda tastes worse], it’s because it’s missing an acidic quality.
The only way to get that intense carbonation is more pressure, which explains why the Purefizz’s smaller 0.75-liter capacity actually works to its advantage. If you have the same amount of gas in a smaller amount of liquid, the resulting concoction will be much more concentrated (and thus have smaller, more intense bubbles and a brighter flavor). Machines and siphons with bigger carafes, like the 1-liter Sodastream or 1.2-liter SodaSparkle, produced more dilute seltzer with larger, flatter-tasting bubbles. You’d have to use two soda chargers to get the same level of carbonation as the Purefizz. Its small size also means it’s easy to store, and it won’t take up much space in your kitchen, unlike the bulkier Sodastream machines.
Great taste aside, the Purefizz has a lot of other things going for it. First, it was the easiest to use: Just insert the CO2 cartridge into the provided slot and twist. Shake for 20 seconds, push the pressure valve to release the excess gas, and voila—seltzer, ready to pour. There’s no tricky maneuvering to get the CO2 canister to fit into a tiny hole, and no handle that sprays the carbonated water to and fro about your kitchen. I also appreciated the included pressure release valve, which drastically reduced the number of spills and overflows compared to competitors (although it is a bit loud and will probably scare your cats). None of the other machines offered anything similar. Finally, a plastic o-ring and sturdy threading helped ensure the cap stayed on securely and kept seltzer fizzier for longer—I often notice my Purefizz soda is still bubbling 30 minutes or an hour after serving. Sodastream soda often went flat in fewer than 30 minutes.
We aren’t the only ones who like it: The Kitchn praised its versatility, and Donna Currie at Serious Eats said it was “a portable, self-contained device that doesn’t take a whole lot of space. And I got a good amount of carbonation in everything I’ve tried so far. Julie Lasky at the New York Times found it didn’t produce enough carbonation, which we disagree with—this could possibly be the result of not using chilled water. As with all carbonation systems, it works best with very cold water. Chef Mary Moran said “The water was incredibly fizzy, delicious tasting and very easy to make at the Washington Times.
It is a new addition to the market, and with that in mind, we can’t speak to its long-term durability. But I will say that I’ve had my Purefizz for well over three months and have yet to encounter any difficulties.
What if it’s sold out?
If our pick is currently unavailable, you should wait until it’s back in stock. We tested a lot of these and the Purefizz is really the only one we’d recommend—unless you want to build your own. Everything else either had serious design flaws or produced subpar seltzer.
A more environmentally-friendly DIY option
The main problem we have with the Purefizz is that, like all siphons, it’s not the most environmentally friendly option because it uses disposable (recyclable) steel CO2 canisters. We spoke with Jeremy Faludi, a sustainable design strategist and researcher who has taught green design at Stanford, about the environmental impact of these steel cartridges versus disposable aluminum cans and plastic bottles. He concluded that the steel cartridges are marginally less environmentally destructive because they’re easier to recycle.
That might be good enough for most people, but not if you’re serious about reducing your carbon footprint. The problem is that store-bought options with refillable CO2 tanks (like the Sodastream) simply don’t produce quality seltzer—and since in some cases you drop off the CO2 canister at the store to be refilled and reused by another customer, you don’t always know what will happen to it at the end of its life. Enter the build-it-yourself option, which is refillable and fully repairable.
Using instructions from our project manager, John Mahoney, I built my own soda machine using parts bought on Amazon and a CO2 canister rented from a welding shop. This method certainly requires a lot of tweaking: We had trouble getting usable soda from the machine, and it took a lot of fiddling with the psi level to get anything resembling the quality of the Purefizz (and even then, the quality was still drastically inferior; it barely fizzed and went flat quickly).
But your results can, and will, vary, if you’re willing to take the time to tinker. And if you’re really, really serious about reducing your environmental impact without sacrificing your seltzer habit, it’s really the only option. A five or even ten-pound CO2 tank will last you forever. You’ll find lots of different sets of instructions on the web—here and here are two more. It’s more upkeep and work, but it can be a fun experiment and will go a long way towards reducing your eco-impact.
But what about Sodastream?
Sodastream is everywhere, and is easily found at any big-box store or on Amazon. It’s the first name that people think of when they think home seltzer maker, but it’s not actually a good choice. They’ve got a number of options, but we narrowed it down to the Jet, Sodastream’s basic option, for several reasons.
First, it offers the ability to use both 60 L and 130 L CO2 cartridges, which means you can spend less time going to and from the store for a refill, especially if you’re a frequent seltzer drinker. Second, we don’t think there’s any good reason to spend more than $100 on a soda maker—any more than that, and you’re spending more for unnecessary features, like the ability to choose how carbonated your beverage is (you can already do this by using the carbonation button 1, 2, or 3 times) or a LCD readout of how much CO2 is left. Not important.
Unfortunately, the Sodastream just didn’t taste good, especially compared to the Purefizz. Plus, they lock you into using their proprietary CO2 canisters, which can’t be refilled anywhere but licensed shops. Some people have managed to rig the canisters to be refilled at a paintball or hardware store, but that’s not a reliable method.
And while, of course, you don’t have to use Sodastream’s soda mixes, they certainly aren’t a net positive: I tried almost all of the ones sent to me, and none of them tasted good (and several were just borderline drinkable). Plus, once they were added, the soda went flat very, very quickly. Not a good replacement for Diet Coke at all.
I initially had high hopes for the SodaSparkle, which looked like it might be a suitable replacement for the recalled iSi Twist ‘n’ Sparkle. However, it didn’t work with generic 8 gram CO2 cartridges and ultimately produced a weak fizz. It looks like the company is distributed and branded stateside by Cuisinart, but we couldn’t find any evidence or support on the website. Ultimately, the Purefizz beats it on taste alone.
The iSi Soda Siphon is ultimately better suited for bar use. Instead of untwisting the lid to pour out your soda, it uses a nozzle to spray it out—often wildly, all over the kitchen. The soda itself is flat, not fizzy—some reviewers say you can use two chargers to get more carbonation, but that’s more wasteful and requires extra effort that the Mastrad doesn’t.
The Mosa Soda Siphon got decent marks from Wall Street Journal, but reviewers say the soda tends to be flat—just like the iSi, which looks to be based on a similar design.
There are a lot of bad user reviews for the Liss siphon, many complaining of leakage. It also has the same, finicky nozzle spray structure as the Mosa and the iSi, which means you should pass.
What makes a good soda maker anyway?
So those are our picks for the best home carbonators, but if you want to shop around, it helps to know what to look for.
There are two good ways to make soda at home: A soda machine (like the Sodastream) where the entire process is automated by pushing a button, or a siphon, which requires a small CO2 canister. At their cores, both work the same way—using pressure to add carbon dioxide to water, creating the little fizzy bubbles that make soda water taste so delicious.
You want a siphon. Soda machines are tempting, because they’re dead simple to use and don’t require using a new cartridge every liter, but the soda they make isn’t as tasty and they’ll trap you into proprietary CO2 cartridges that need to be refilled in-store. Plus, high-quality soda machines can easily run up to and above $150; there’s no need to spend more than $80 on a siphon.
A good siphon needs a few things. First, it needs to be easily cleaned, especially if you’re using it to carbonate fruit juices or alcohol, which can be sticky. That means it should break down into parts: A dishwasher-safe canister and two caps, one that fits the charger for carbonation and one for storage.
It needs to hold enough water for a few drinks without holding so much water that two CO2 cartridges are necessary. We tested machines that held between 0.75 and 1.2 liters, and we found that the smaller siphons were better able to straddle the line between high carbonation and sufficient capacity.
It should also be simple to use. To get the CO2 from the cartridge into the water, the bottom of the cartridge must be pierced by a tiny spike. The best siphons require placing the cartridge into a plastic holder, which is then screwed into the lid, pierced by the spike, and released into the liquid below. Getting the soda out shouldn’t be complicated, either; some, like the iSi Soda Siphon, use a handle to spray the soda out of the lid in a thin stream, much like a bartender might use. This ostensibly keeps the water carbonated for longer, and it might be great for the bar, perhaps, but the stream is too strong and often ended up spraying all over my kitchen during testing. A carafe you can simply pour water out of is a much simpler, and we noticed no drop in soda quality.
When you’re using high pressure to carbonate anything, whether it be water or alcohol or fruit juice, safety is of the utmost importance. The iSi Twist ‘n Sparkle, one of the most frequently-referenced models in early research, was recalled in 2012 for having a funny tendency to explode. You’ll find models with aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, and, in the expensive Sodastream models, glass carafes. Used properly, all of these should be safe, but steel and aluminum models provide an extra level of security. The cap does need to be attached securely, though, with strong threading and a plastic ring that prevents excess carbonation from forcing the top off and spraying all over your kitchen.
The economics of soda
Getting your own home soda maker might make environmental sense, but when it comes to economic benefits, the benefit over storebought isn’t as strong. But it still comes out ahead—buying 100 one-liter bottles of seltzer from the store is a pretty simple calculation, so you know it costs anywhere between $100 and $200, depending on where you live and what store you’re buying from.
But to make seltzer at home, you’ll have to get your CO2 from somewhere—either small, 8 gram steel canisters, which cost about $97 (with shipping) for 300 (available in smaller-but-more-expensive quantities as well) or a larger Sodastream canister, which costs $15 to refill at most big-box stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples and Target. Sodastream’s canister is supposed to last 60 liters, but I’ve found—and Amazon commenters back me up—that if you like your soda anything more than lightly carbonated, it’s closer to 40 liters.
In addition to the initial investment in the machine itself, Sodastream costs about 37 cents per liter, coming out even with liter bottles from the store after about 125 liters—or about 4 months of use, if you drink one liter a day. The Purefizz takes a little longer to make the money back—about 220 liters or 7 months. But think of the tradeoffs—that’s 220 plastic bottles you aren’t lugging home from the store, storing in your home, or piling up in the bin. Sure, it takes a little longer to even out than the Sodastream, but you aren’t locked into a proprietary CO2 system. And the Purefizz just tastes a lot better.
(Aluminum cans cost about $1.42 per liter, giving the Purefizz an instant economical advantage, coming even after about 130 liters.)
Wrapping it up
If you’re a regular soda drinker who wants something simple, safe and delicious, Mastrad’s Purefizz is the best choice. Unlike Sodastream and other soda makers, the Purefizz lets you carbonate anything you want from wine to juice without voiding the warranty. There’s no need to spend more on the Sodastream, which locks you into their proprietary system. The Purefizz is the simplest option out there—and thus the best.
- Great value
- Reusable carbonating bottle
Thanks for this article, I received a sodastream as a gift this year but was a little concerned about the size of the unit and the proprietary c02 canisters. I ended up returning it after reading this article, and just got my Purefizz yesterday. Having had both units in my home for a short time, the build quality of the purefizz is so much better, and the water/drinks it makes are fantastic. And I was able to get 100 c02 canisters and the purefizz for less than the sodastream’s price.
Thanks! I wanted a soda maker and then I needed one (for deacidifying paper, for reals, this is what I am learning to do). I didn’t want a soda stream because of the proprietary chargers and I didn’t want to fuss with the DIY. Then you showed up and I bought a pure fizz. Yay!
Setting it up couldn’t be simpler. The regulator comes pre-assembled, with all the hoses already attached. All you do is screw it on to the tank (the tank should come with a plastic o-ring, which you place between the regulator and tank). Dialing in the the pressure is just a matter of adjusting the screw on the front of the regulator until it’s at your desired pressure. I use about 60 PSI, which gives my soda an amazing kick.
I experienced the oily taste and couldn’t get it to go away. I suspect the actual paintball bottles were the culprit—I read somewhere online that you need to buy specially-cleaned ones or do it yourself. As for CO2, the stuff they use to refill paintball tanks is, by regulation, the same they use for Sodastream et al, so people shouldn’t worry about that.
I have been thinking on and off about the DIY option for a while now, but putting it off because of all the fiddly parts you have to source. That Keg Connection regulator sounds like a great alternative. Two questions: which did you get, TapRite or Chudnow? And, what is involved in setting it up? Did you get a CO2 tank with your kit, or can you just buy one from a welding shop?