Soda-Club makes three different soda makers: Fountain Jet, Edition 1, and Penguin. The Fountain Jet and Edition 1 uses 1 liter polycarbonate bottles and a large CO2 gas canister that can make 110 liters of carbonated water before it needs to be replaced. The Penguin model uses smaller 620 mL glass carafes and CO2 canisters that make 45 carafes (the Penguin looks cute and the carafes are really nice, but it costs about $250). Both the Fountain Jet and Edition 1 start at $80.
The model that I tried out was the Edition 1. The basic kit comes with the soda maker (the big plastic contraption), a CO2 canister (Alco2Jet Carbonator), 2 carbonating bottles, and an assortment of soda mix samples.
Putting together the soda maker was a breeze. The CO2 canister fits easily into the back of the soda maker. Just remove the back of the soda maker, tilt the front forward and place the canister into the base. The front of the maker then tilts back onto the canister.
The canister then screws into the receptacle that lines up with the valve on top. The back panel then snaps in to cover the canister.
The 1 liter water bottles included in the kit should be pre-filled with drinking water and refrigerated before using the soda maker. (Cold water is able to hold more CO2 than warm water.)
The next step is to attach the water bottle to the soda maker. This is facilitated by a lever that tilts the socket and nozzle so the bottle can be easily screwed in. (The tilt mechanism also makes it easy to remove the bottle after carbonation is complete.)
Pressing the large button on top of the maker causes the CO2 canister's valve to open and squirt the gas into the water. Short bursts are necessary so the water doesn't overflow out of the bottle. A few bursts are enough to cause a buzzing sound to come from the canister - a signal that the pressure is at the max. Soda-Club recommends about three buzzes, but I found that when mixing with juices or syrups, it helps to over carbonate a little, so I wait a minute and carbonate again.}?>
Soda-Club instructs you to simply measure out the syrup in the cap and pour it into the bottle of carbonated water. (You don't want to add syrup to the water first or else you'll have an explosive mess on your hands when the CO2 is injected.) Rotate the bottle a couple times to mix, and viola! You have soda pop!
I didn't stop there - I proceeded to mix carbonated water with everything. Fruit juices were quite good, but I didn't want to dilute them too much so they came out a little less carbonated than I would have liked. Trader Joe's Strawberry Lemonade and carbonated water (half-half mix) was one of my favorite combinations. I also used a variety of Torani Italian Soda syrups (ranging from raspberry to praline) which worked wonderfully (as expected). Mixing carbonated water with milk was probably the only not-so-good idea.
In the end, since the device simply carbonates water, I realized that I could just buy carbonated water, but at $20 for a refill (they exchange canisters with you) that carbonates 110 liters of water, using the Soda Club is a lot cheaper than buying Crystal Geyser carbonated water at the grocery store (even at Trader Joe's who seems to have the low price at about $1 for a 1.25 L bottle).
In case you're wondering, the soda maker isn't small - it's about the same size as other medium sized appliances (but a little slimmer than food processor or standing mixer) measuring in at 5.5-in. (14 cm) by 8.5-in. (21.6 cm) and 18.5-in. (47 cm) in height.
I find that I use my Soda-Club Edition 1 so often that I just keep it on my countertop. My other appliances have their own storage places, but the Soda club seems to have found a permanent home. If you like experimenting with beverages or just like to drink fizzy drinks, then I suggest you look into buying one for your home too.
Note: The Soda-Club product line is sold under different names in different countries. It's easiest just to go to Soda-Club's main website and select the country you're in to find out information on which models (and what their names are) are available in your location.