Thanks to the flavored sparkling water trend ignited by La Croix and Spindrift, it seems like new seltzer brands are popping up every day. But why buy sparkling or seltzer water when you can make it at home? There are several excellent countertop soda makers on the market that can produce affordable carbonated beverages in a matter of seconds.
Aside from saving money, homemade sparkling water and carbonated beverages can reduce the amount of packaging and energy waste versus store-bought. Also, lugging 12-packs, liter bottles, and cases from the store to your home can be a real pain.
Besides plain fizzy water, a benefit is the ability to customize flavors. There are countless recipes for making homemade soda syrups, and you can come pretty close to mimicking the flavor of your favorite fizzy beverage. Companies like SodaStream even sell packaged flavors you can add to the water, creating anything from colas to lemonades.
Some soda makers require batteries or electricity, but with most, you simply load the CO2 cartridge, fill the reusable bottle with cold water, attach it to the unit, and press a button to release the CO2 into the water.
The CO2 and syrup are your main long-term costs when purchasing a soda maker. Some brands have CO2 cartridge exchange programs, where you can bring in your used cartridge and get a filled one. This typically works out to about 25 cents per liter, which is much less than you would expect to spend for even generic seltzer.
While researching the best soda makers, we examined hundreds of buyer and expert ratings and reviews of popular units. Our guide features models that have a track record of performance, durability, and ease of use.
Here are the best soda makers you can buy:
Pros: Can carbonate liquids other than water, two-year warranty, pressure control valve decreases the chance of messes
Cons: Requires several steps to operate
The Drinkmate Beverage Carbonation Maker distinguishes itself from other soda makers on the market by "sparkling" just about every beverage in your fridge: cocktails, flat beer, lemonade, coffee, and so on. Heck, make your own spiked sparkling water (sorry, White Claw). However, iDrink, the Drinkmate's manufacturer, warns against using juices with pulp since it may clog the pressure release valve.
The process for carbonating your beverages has a few more steps than other models, but you also get more control over the release of the CO2. The Drinkmate doesn't require any electricity or batteries to operate. Another popular feature is the ability to control the pressure so the beverage doesn't overflow. The device is compatible with 3 oz. and 14.5 oz./60L CO2 cartridges, and iDrink operates an eco- and budget-friendly exchange program, where you can send in your empty cartridge to get a full one at a reduced price.
However, as mentioned before, the Drinkmate is trickier to operate than the SodaStream. It also doesn't dole out quite as much carbonation as Soda Stream's devices do, so if it's just water you're carbonating, you may want to look to our other recommendations by the brand, below. Some users even ran flat soda through the Drinkmate to reinvigorate it.$80.98 from Bed Bath & Beyond $102.52 from Amazon
Pros: Inexpensive, easily fits in the fridge, user-friendly
Cons: Slow, water must be ice cold, doesn't come with a CO2 cartridge
The soda siphon, or seltzer bottle, is the original Soda Stream, and adorned most kitchens, bars, and parlors until we started taking our beverages in plastic bottles. If you've watched old-timey slapstick comedy, or have elderly family members that have difficulty parting with tradition, you're likely familiar. Though the design is similar, today's soda siphons, like the Innovee Soda Siphon Ultimate Soda Maker, are self-pressurized using an 8-gram CO2 cartridge.
You fill the carafe with up to four cups of very cold water, put on the cap, insert the cartridge, and screw the charger holder in place, which releases the gas. The water is carbonated within 10 to 15 minutes.
The Innovee Soda Siphon doesn't come with CO2 canisters, but it does come with extra O-rings and a black fork key for removing the inner tube of the siphon. Innovee Home also offers a cocktail recipe e-book and a money-back guarantee.
Owners like that the Soda Siphon gets water just as bubbly as a SodaStream, and people seem to like the fact that it works with a variety of different CO2 chargers. However, some note that they would like to be able to see how full the carafe is as they fill it.$39.95 from Amazon
Pros: Easy to use, three automated levels of carbonation, many excellent flavors available
Cons: Requires electricity, CO2 canister can be a pain to replace, bottles can be hard to clean
Sodastream has had a dizzying array of models, (our previous picks, the Fountain Jet and Source, have been discontinued, although many can still be purchased online), but its lineup has narrowed down to three options that are easy to choose from. Our pick is the Fizzi One Touch, a Sodastream that carbonates water with the touch of a button.
All Sodastream models work similarly: You pop in the CO2 canister, then when you want carbonated water, just press one of three fizz-level buttons until you hear a buzz. The starter kit comes with a 60L carbonator and a reusable 1-liter bottle.
Les Shu, Insider Reviews' senior editor, has used the now-discontinued Power Source for years. In terms of operation and features, the One Touch and Power Source are similar except in design. He finds the touch-button operation simple and elegant. Sodastream does a good job of carbonating water, but he recommends doing at least two rounds of fizzing to get the right amount of carbonation.
The One Touch requires electricity, which can be a hassle if you don't have an easily accessible outlet. Changing the CO2 canister is also more involved than we would like, especially if you have the unit tucked away. We also wish the bottles were easier to clean, as Sodastream does not recommend putting the plastic bottles into a dishwasher. Note: Make sure you trade-in empty CO2 canisters at participating stores, which lets you grab a new one at a discounted price.$99.99 from Bed Bath & Beyond $129.99 from Best Buy $119.95 from Williams-Sonoma $117.99 from Amazon
Pros: Incredibly easy to use, easily accessible CO2 refills, comes in colors
Cons: CO2 canister can be a pain to replace, bottles can be hard to clean
The Sodastream Fizzi Classic is true to its name. Despite sporting the latest design, it functions exactly like previous Sodastream models. You simply fill the supplied reusable bottle with cold water, lock it into place, and press the mechanism over the bottle until you reach your desired level of fizziness.
Think of the Fizzi Classic as the simplified, non-electric version of the Fizzi One Touch. Because it doesn't require electricity, you'll have to manually pump to create the carbonation (the brand recommends a minimum of three pushes of the button, and a max of up to five). For most people, this is more than adequate and you can save yourself some money, too, if you don't care about gadgetry.
Like the Fizzi One Touch, this unit comes with a mail-in rebate for a 60L CO2 carbonator, the 1L reusable bottle, and a mini 9L CO2 carbonator. The 60L CO2 carbonators can be refilled at select Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, and Walmart locations, as well as other stores for about $15, which works out to about 25 cents of CO2 to carbonate a full 1L bottle of water. However, unlike the One Touch, you can get the Classic in a variety of colors.$89.99 from Target $69.00 from Walmart $71.98 from Kohl's $89.99 from The Home Depot