I’m all for saving money (I wrote the book on it!) and a big proponent of reducing packaging waste, so I’m pleased with the popularity of home soda machines that allow you to make your own seltzer water and soda at home. According to the manufacturer of one popular soda machine, making your own fizzy beverages at home saves the average household of soda drinkers 2,000 cans and bottles a year! But for those who don’t want another appliance cluttering the kitchen counter, there is an alternative: a stainless steel soda siphon. Soda siphons have been around for decades, and they do exactly what the new soda machines do, but for less in many cases and without the plastic molded docking station. Stainless steel soda siphons cost between $70 and $100, comparable in price to the least expensive countertop machines, and they could be a wiser investment. For one thing, soda siphons are sturdy and well made, while some countertop soda makers have been getting less than high marks for overall quality. A soda siphon also won’t loose carbonation when properly used, as those plastic bottles that come with countertop machines reportedly can.
A soda siphon uses cartridges that are good for one application and cost as little as $0.59 per 25 oz. ounces of soda (about ¾ of a liter). The one-time-use cartridges are not ideal, but they are 100% recyclable. Get the lowest price, and avoid trips back and forth to specialty stores that sell seltzer cartridges, by buying in bulk online. The largest bulk case I’ve seen is for 360 cartridges. Don’t worry, they don’t expire!
The most popular home soda makers can make seltzer water for just $.25 per liter after your initial purchase. That’s less than half the price compared to a soda siphon, however, a couple sticking points will drive that price up slightly. First, getting CO2 for these systems requires taking the empty CO2 cartridge to a participating retailer to exchange it for a full one. So you may want to factor in .07 to .20 per mile for the trip to exchange a cartridge (divided by the size of the cartridge)—especially if the retailer is out of the way or you’re making a special trip. There have also been reports of the bottle that stores the seltzer water loosing its carbonation, as mentioned above, and this will also add to the cost if you should have similarly bad luck. And finally, all the home soda makers I discovered in my research rely on refillable plastic bottles. The longevity of those plastic bottles is uncertain, but it’s doubtful they will outlast a steel soda siphon.
If you consume a lot of soda water and have extra space, a countertop soda maker may be the gadget for you. I just hope it lasts—I really do. (I’d also find out who those participating retailers are that exchange cartridges, and make sure one is conveniently located.) If you are a light consumer of soda water I’d go with a soda siphon due to its superior material make-up. My soda siphon has lasted 12 years and countin
A final word about those concentrated soda flavorings. Unless you really want a cherry cola or root beer flavor, skip ‘em. A healthier and more economical alternative can be found in your grocer’s freezer case: frozen juice concentrate. Frozen pure juice concentrate can be thawed and kept in the refrigerator. Add about 2 ounces per 12 ounces of soda—or to taste.