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Equipment & Gear: Soda-Club (SodaStream)
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Cooking For Engineers



Joined: 10 May 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 9:08 am    Post subject: Equipment & Gear: Soda-Club (SodaStream) Reply with quote

This is no big secret: I like food. I like to eat food, look at food, read about food, prepare food, and think about food. But, even more than food, I like beverages. More specifically - I love sweet, flavored beverages like juices, teas & tisanes, sodas, and other soft drinks. Three years ago, I published a recipe for limeade and a U.K. reader suggested using SodaStream to make it bubbly. I finally got around to trying out a SodaStream (called a Soda-Club Home Soda Maker in the United States), and it is awesome! I use the Soda-Club machine at least once a week and always keep a bottle of freshly carbonated water available at all times.

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.



Tilting the bottle releases the pressure and allows you to remove the bottle. Soda-Club's syrups use a mix of sugar and sucralose (Splenda) to reduce the total amount of sugar per serving (one of their marketing points). I found that the blends had enough sugar that I didn't taste the slightly different taste of sucralose. The syrups that I tried (orange-mango, cola, and root beer) were quite tasty. They also provided diet versions which were sweetened only with sucralose and tasted very good for diet soda.

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.

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edmong
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:09 pm    Post subject: Love Soda Club Reply with quote

I've been a Soda Club customer since they first started in the US. Back then, you could find them in shopping mall kiosks, so shopping was easier. Once you have the equipment, though, ordering supplies online is easy enough. I always wait until I'm almost out and then spend the $50 on supplies to get the free shipping. In all, I love the Soda Club products.
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FranksPlace2



Joined: 08 Aug 2005
Posts: 16

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:52 pm    Post subject: Great Review! Reply with quote

We are great fans of mixing soda water with our bourbon. Smile

I am tired of paying $1.25 a liter so this is a great alternative.

Frank
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LT
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 2:57 pm    Post subject: Hmm... Reply with quote

Is using this machine very different from buying a bottle of club soda at Walmart and mixing it with fruit juice?
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ducttapeavenger
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:34 pm    Post subject: Other liquids? Reply with quote

I wonder, would this work as well to carbonate substances other than water? I've occasionally thought about carbonating vodka, to create sparkling cocktails.
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ajanjigian



Joined: 10 Oct 2007
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 4:13 pm    Post subject: Comparison Reply with quote

Michael -

This sounds like a great item, but I'm always wary of paying for something that I can DIY for a similar price & minimal effort.

Can you comment on how this system would compare with this DIY setup?

http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Soda-Water-%26-Home-Carbonation---Pays-For-Itsel/

Also, can you use any 1L bottles, or only those supplied by the manufacturer?


Thanks
Andrew
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Michael Chu



Joined: 10 May 2005
Posts: 1631
Location: Austin, TX (USA)

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 5:57 pm    Post subject: Re: Hmm... Reply with quote

LT wrote:
Is using this machine very different from buying a bottle of club soda at Walmart and mixing it with fruit juice?

Nope, not much different at all. One nice thing is you can control the level of carbonation (lightly carbonated to "wow, I can't believe it's still bubbling like crazy!").

ducttapeavenger wrote:
I wonder, would this work as well to carbonate substances other than water? I've occasionally thought about carbonating vodka, to create sparkling cocktails.

Well, it would carbonate it, but I'm not sure what happens when you inject carbon dioxide into a mixture of 40% alcohol and 60% water. You're not supposed to carbonate into anything but water becasue if the water contained large enough particles suspended in it (such as the soda mix syrup) then the bubbles don't dissolve into the water rapidly and instead latch onto the suspended particles causing the liquid to bubble over and spray out of the machine. A device like the one Andrew (ajanjigian) suggests might work better for that experiment.

ajanjigian wrote:
Can you comment on how this system would compare with this DIY setup?

http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Soda-Water-%26-Home-Carbonation---Pays-For-Itsel/

Also, can you use any 1L bottles, or only those supplied by the manufacturer?

The DIY setup you link to is quite interesting (as is the site he links to: http://www.truetex.com/carbonation.htm). Before I got a Soda-Club machine, I considered making my own but, oddly enough, what stopped me was wondering where to get my CO<sub>2</sub>. I could buy it from the local industrial suppliers in my area in 20 lb. quantities which would be extremely economical, but they were big and bulky, and I kept wondering if it would be "clean". I don't know anything about how they fill the tanks and what else they put in it that they don't tell you (or need to tell you since it's obviously not intended for consumption as a food). For all I know, industrial CO<sub>2</sub> contains other stuff that makes the flow through the valve more regular or something else that I'd be ingesting. Since I didn't have the time to research this further, and the Soda-Club was available (and wouldn't take up as much space as an awkward hose and valve combination) I went with that.

As to the bottles, yes, you have to use the manufacturer supplied bottles. They screw into the assembly to form a tight fit. When carbonated you can hear a slight hissing as pressure is slowly released, but the connection is tight enough that a decent amount of pressure is held in the bottle. The caps to the bottle are silicone lined to form an airtight seal. Even after a week, opening a half used bottle still releases that satisfying "Ssssst!"

I understand where you're going with this - I too prefer a non-proprietary system that is easy to maintain and works for almost forever, but I found to Soda-Club a decent alternative. (I have found that as I've become more and more busy - I've been prioritizing business, work, and fun differently than I would have in the past. Just a few years ago, I would have spent a Saturday and built myself a carbonation machine, but now, I'd rather research an article, work on the software backend, play board games with some friends I haven't seen because I've been working so much, and just finding time to sleep.)
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Julie
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:16 pm    Post subject: Nice review! Reply with quote

Milk?!? Yikes. Brings back memories of Laverne from "Laverne and Shirley" drinking milk and Pepsi.
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Adam
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 8:26 pm    Post subject: Carbonated water at home DIY style Reply with quote

Hi. It was good to read your post. I was unaware of the availability of the contraption you featured...

I do make my own carbonated beverages. I realized that the equipment that I use to make beer is great for that purpose. I use stainless steel canisters that used to be used for soda before they switched to plastic bags of syrup. In beer land these are called Cornelius kegs. using those and a CO2 tank I am able to make 5 gallons at a time. Because there is no air inside the tank when it is pressurized the carbonated water lasts forever without spoiling.

I have seen portable contraptions for beer use that might work here as well such as using a "carbonator cap" for PET bottles with a "keg charger"

This arrangement would cost about $35 or so and would be much smaller. The drawback is the very small CO2 canister size.

thanks for the article

Adam
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Not the Same Adam
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Did you purchase the soda machine, or did they provide it for you to review? You said you tried it out, but it also sounds like a permanent fixture.
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Shirley



Joined: 10 Oct 2007
Posts: 1
Location: Arizona

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a soda freak, I can't believe I didn't know about this!!! And I love my Torani, as well, so this is completely made of awesome....

I agree with the whole "too busy to make one myself" thing - I don't even do my own oil changes any more, lol.
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dscheidt



Joined: 10 Oct 2007
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Wed Oct 10, 2007 11:55 pm    Post subject: Industrial CO2 Reply with quote

Who do you think supplies soda fountain operators, places selling draft beer, and the like with C02? It's the same people who provide it to welding shops, fire extinguisher fillers, and other industrial users, who are just as worried about contamination If you're really worried about the quality, make sure you get "Carbon Dioxide, USP", which means it complies with the standards of the US Pharmacopeia, and is suitable for medical use. (In fact, that's the only grade my local gas supplier supplies, for nearly everything that has a USP grade.)
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norbus
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:12 am    Post subject: No delivery to Hawaii Reply with quote

Sadly, even though I would love this product, it is not available to us folks out here in Hawaii. I assume it has to do with shipping compressed gas via air.
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Quix
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 11, 2007 3:36 pm    Post subject: Cost effective? Reply with quote

I recently saw the soda-club when I went searching for soda alternatives at one point (I like soda, but I find most of them too sweet) and got excited, but when I did the math it seemed to me to be more expensive while touting being (significantly) cheaper then soda itself. So it was hard to take the rest at face value.

Did you do the math as well, and if so did it line up for you?
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ZeWolf



Joined: 12 Oct 2007
Posts: 1

PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2007 4:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
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.


Would it be possible to heat the fruit juices slowly as to reduce them a bit and then add the water back with the carbonated water?

-OR-

What about the juices from concentrate? I don't know if making an entire pitcher at a time would be feasible or not, but you could probably play around with the non-frozen concentrates a bit and come out with a satisfactory result.

Just a thought

Chris
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