Everything You Need to Know Before Buying a Soda Maker
Last Updated on December 28, 2016
Like with any big purchase, you must do a certain amount of research before choosing a product. With the wide variety of soda makers currently available on the market, it is essential to look at many criteria to find the right one. Here are the 8 most important ones.
Soda Maker Machine or Soda Siphon?
Broadly speaking, all soda makers can be sorted into one of two categories: soda siphons or soda maker appliances. Soda siphons are small devices attached on top of a bottle that allow you to carbonate the water that is found in the bottle. To do so, it uses a small CO2 cartridge that can be inserted inside the siphon. These have many advantages: lower cost, easy to store and move around, simple to use and generally have a lesser chance of breaking. However, it takes them more time to carbonate water and the process will become laborious if you are an avid consumer of sparkling water. They also allow a lesser degree of control over the level of carbonation you want to put in your drink and even if the cartridges are bought in bulk, you will spend more per liter of soda than with most appliances. Thus, siphons are ideal for casual soda drinkers that don’t indulge in excessive quantities of carbonated water and prefer something simple that can procure them with sparkling water from time to time.
Soda machines on the other hand are actual appliances that produce soda. They generally use a carbonator filled with CO2 that is inserted inside the soda maker to provide the fizz to the water in a bottle that is attached to the soda maker. While these have a higher upfront cost, their cost of production per liter of sparkling water is lower than siphons. They are also easier and faster to use and some of them come with features that make them even more efficient or give you a high degree of control over the level of carbonation. However, they are less portable, take up more space and are more likely to have issues. Therefore, they are ideal for people who consume large amounts of soda and need a quick source of carbonated water each time they feel like having some.
On top of the fact that there is a myriad of different soda makers, there are also many brands that manufacture these soda makers. While their products differentiate them, it is also important to look at what each brand offers. Some of them, like SodaStream and Cuisinart, have unique refill systems that can be either good or bad. Different brands also have different warranties for their products and different levels of customer service. For more information on the main soda maker brands (siphon brands, machine brands).
Other People’s Reviews
Another thing that should be an important factor in your decision is other user’s reviews. Most retailers nowadays give buyers the power to leave a review of the products they sell. While some of these are short and generally useless, a lot of them, especially on Amazon provide well structured and informative reviews of the issues, shortcomings of the product but also what they enjoyed about it and their overall impression. A general summary of these reviews can be found for each soda maker by going to the review page for it on this site. For example, if multiple people comment on the fact that they had the same issue for a product, you should be wary of the fact that it might happen to you.
How to Refill it
There are many different types of refilling that exist for soda makers and each of them has its pros and cons. The three most important ones are CO2 cartridges, SodaStream carbonators and manual refills. A more extensive article on the different types of refilling for soda makers.
SodaStream carbonators are used by SodaStream and KitchenAid machines to provide fizz to your drink. These are long metallic cylinders that come in 60L and 130L variants (this is the volume of water they can supposedly carbonate). Once your carbonator is empty, you need to go to a participating retail location that exchanges SodaStream carbonators. There they will take your empty carbonator and give you a full one for $14.99 (60L) or $29.99 (130L).
Manual refills are methods to refill your CO2 carbonator without using the official methods. Instead of going to a retail location, you can either fill your carbonator with dry ice, switch it for a paintball tank and an adapter or hook up a tank to your soda maker. A complete article with steps detailing these methods of refilling your soda maker.
Cartridges are small metal pellets you insert in your soda maker. They must be replaced after every use.
The Build Quality
Another important factor in your decision should be the soda maker’s construction, i.e. what material it is made of. All soda makers are made of either plastic, metal or a combination of these. The only exception to this is one variant of the SodaStream Source that includes a wood variant.
The construction of your soda maker will have a major impact on its quality, durability and aesthetic. In general, soda makers that are made of metal are more solid, durable and look more appealing. Also, when it comes to metal, stainless steel is superior to aluminum when talking about food related applications since it has less of a tendency to react with food which would the affect the flavor. It is also stronger. That being said, aluminum is lighter and less expensive. As for plastic soda makers, they can still get the job done and last for a long time. They are however more likely to break and will feel less sturdy.
The Bottle Mechanism
While nearly all soda siphons need to be screwed onto the bottle, this isn’t the case for soda maker appliances. There are 2 main types of bottle mechanisms that exist: snap-lock and twist-on.
Twist-on is the less efficient and harder mechanism that exists. As the name says, it implies twisting the bottle on to the soda maker to attach it. It is also the more common mechanism.
Snap-lock is a more efficient and easier to execute mechanism. It implies pushing the bottle into position so that it snaps into place. It is less common and touted as an extra feature.
For more casual drinkers, the twist-on mechanism is fine since you won’t be using the soda maker that often therefore the slower mechanism won’t become a major annoyance. However, if you consume a lot of soda, a soda maker with the snap-lock mechanism is recommended so that you do not struggle excessively each time you want soda.
Finally, this one may seem obvious but it is necessary to determine what soda makers you will have access. All soda makers can be put into 4 price ranges:
- 0-60$: All soda siphons (see below) fit into this category.
- 60-100$: Basic soda makers with no additional features.
- 100-180$: Mid range soda makers with additional features.
- 180-250$: Top of the line, high quality soda makers.
Once you’ve compared each of the soda makers using the aforementioned criteria, you will find that extra features are an important point of differentiation. While some of these seem small and unimportant, you fill find that others are very practical and useful. There are many extra features that are available such as:
- The ability to control the level of fizz. This one is quite common and most soda makers that require multiple actions from the user to carbonate the drink will have this feature.
- Carbonation indicator. A few soda makers have the ability to display how carbonated your drink is either with an LED indicator or an actual display
- Buttons to carbonate. Electronic soda makers usually have buttons that will allow you to carbonate your drink and even sometimes choose the level of fizz by simply pressing one button.
- Glass carafes. While most soda makers use plastic bottles, 2 SodaStream models use glass carafes instead that are more aesthetically pleasing and dishwasher friendly.
- Infusing drinks. The Bonne O comes with the ability to, on top of carbonating your drink, infuse your drink with the fruits you put in it.
Now that you know everything about soda makers, it’s time to find the perfect soda maker for you: