It's no secret that I love love love sparkling water. I've been a huge fan of San Pellegrino, and I even had the amazing privilege this past year to attend the San Pellegrino Almost Famous Chefs Competition in Napa Valley, where we learned a lot about mineral water, how it is made, and how it pairs with food!
More recently I found out about Sodastream, a company that sells a make-your-own-soda device from tap water. I was intrigued with this idea. Sodastream says that their sodas only cost 25 cents a liter (as opposed to > $1/Liter for most bottled seltzer water). The plain sparkling water is probably even cheaper. Furthermore, you help the environment by reducing the number of plastic/glass bottles that you would otherwise be consuming.
Sodastream was kind enough to send me one of their soda-making devices to review. Better yet, they are offering another one for me to give away to one of my readers!
Sodastream offers a variety of different soda makers. Internally, they function all the same way. They vary mostly in their external design, the types gas canisters they take, and whether they use glass or plastic bottles.
I ended up opting for the Penguin (shown below). I mostly chose this model because it was one of the two models that uses glass carafes instead of BPA-free plastic bottles. I figured, if I was such a fan of San Pellegrino, I should at least try to approximate it as closely as possible, right?
The Penguin only takes the smaller CO2 cylinder, unlike some other models, which have the option of taking the larger 100 L aluminum cylinder.
He's super cute! He almost fits in with my other stuffed animals. 🙂
The glass bottles come with a nice top with a rubber stopper that keeps the gas in. The unit is mostly made of plastic, with the exception of the bottom half (the part that holds the glass carafe) being made of metal. You press on his eyes to open his belly, which holds the gas cylinder. You push down on his beak to fill the water with gas (more on that below!)
It's pretty easy to set up. I think I was up and running within 15 minutes. Basically, the unit runs on the pressurized gas, so there's no need for electricity. You just attach the gas canister, and then you're ready to go!
Fill the glass bottle with water, put the bottle in the metal holder, and then press down on the silver "back," making sure the white spigot on top goes into the glass bottle.
Lock the unit and press down on his beak. It takes a few presses before the penguin starts whistling. It can whistle up to four times, although I found that two whistles worth was plenty of carbonation for me.
And viola, carbonated water!
It's refreshing and quite good. The bottle is labeled as a one-liter bottle, though you can only fill it up to the line (for safety reasons). Up to the line, it's closer to about ¾ L of water that you're actually carbonating.
Ease of Use
I found this unit extremely easy to use. As I said earlier, set up really takes only about 15 minutes (and that's including the time it takes to unwrap the box and read the instructions). Because the unit does not require electricity, I have easily moved it around depending on where I have space (realities of a tiny kitchen and all). I like to keep the two glass bottles full of cold water in the fridge and "gas" them whenever I feel like having some sparkling water. I have found that, even with the unique rubber-stopper tops, the sparkling water in the glass bottles still loses fizz relatively quickly, and tit usually does not taste nearly as good the next day. Therefore, since it takes less than a minute to make, I have found that I prefer to just making it fresh on the spot. I can go through one bottle pretty quickly in one sitting!
It's nice to be able to control the carbonation level. As I said earlier, I've found that two "whistles" is good for me, although I would consider trying three or four whistles if I wanted to dilute the water with, say, orange juice or something.
I thought this unit was well designed and very easy to use. Though the Penguin is super cute, it is a bit tall for a tiny urban kitchen such as mine, and I actually had a hard time figuring out where to put it. It's just a bit too tall to fit under any of my cupboards (see penguin's head at the bottom picture), which means I had to leave it out on the dining table. If you have a small kitchen, I would recommend getting one of the other models (which I think is shorter - not positive though!).
Flavors of Drinks
Sodastream sells a bunch of syrups to add to their water. I served a bunch of these drinks to some dinner guests the other night. We tried flavors such as cola, orange soda, Pete's choice (Dr. Pepper equivalent), and grapefruit soda (or pop - a shout out to my Ohio roots). We also tried Soda stream's "Mywater Essence," which is essentially like adding a calorie-free fruit splash to the water. I received mixed reviews on the sodas. One thought the orange soda tasted like the real thing, while another thought that the Pete's choice tasted awful. Most people were relatively pleased with the way that the sodas tasted, although many just preferred to drink plain sparkling water. I personally thought the grapefruit soda was only OK, although the cola was decently convincing. I liked the fruit essences, and I would choose that over the sodas.
One nice thing is that none of their syrups are made with high fructose corn syrup, although a lot of them are made with sucralose (Splenda). In fact, out of the 12 syrups I received in the sampler, only two (Pete's Choice and lemon-lime) were made of sugar. The rest were diet.
You void the warranty if you try carbonating anything other than water, though people have tried all sorts of things, such as, my favorite idea - making prosecco from cheap white wine. In the end, I'm not much of a soda drinker anyway, so I would stick to plain sparkling water, optionally dressed with my own fruit juices.
After doing some internet research, I learned that Sodastream has a proprietary CO2 cylinder head. This means that it's harder to get the canisters refilled elsewhere. In fact, the canisters are technically on loan to you only. You license the use of the canister and essentially buying the gas. Once the canister is empty, you can exchange it for a full one either through mail order or at a local participating store, such as Williams-Sonoma. I have yet to replace a canister, but it apparently costs $30 each, which is a lot more than the market price for CO2. In the end, this still comes out to be cheaper than buying your own bottled water, but just keep in mind that if you do get this unit, you are, in a way, stuck with getting your refills at a higher price through Sodastream. Some people have tried replacing the proprietary head with an industry standard head, while others just go to non-approved third party CO2 fillers. As I mentioned earlier, I have not tried any of this myself, so I can't really comment much more on this topic.
Of course, a lot of people get their own soda machines not so much for the cost, but for other reasons, such as for the environment or for the luxury of having access to sparkling water at any time. You can save on a lot of plastic bottles, no question. I have made sparkling water with the Penguin and then transferred the water into a Nalgene bottle for transport, and that works beautifully.
This water tastes pretty good, though in the end taste of the water will be governed by the quality of the water you put in. I did a 3-way taste test comparing Brita-filtered water, water straight out of the refrigerator (filtered), and San Pellegrino. Bryan thought that the San Pellegrino had the most flavor (most likely due to the mineral content), and that the Brita filtered water tasted the most flat (which makes sense - the Brita probably filters out a lot of the minerals). We both agreed that the differences were somewhat subtle, and if you're going to be adding a flavored syrup anyway, it really won't make that much of a difference.
Finally, to the end! The folks at Sodastream were kind enough to offer a SodaStream Soda and Seltzer Maker Starter Kit to one lucky Tiny Urban Kitchen reader! This particular version is their most popular and best-value soda maker. It has the flexibility in that it can take on the larger 100L aluminum CO2 canister. This particular one uses the BPA-free bottles, which are actually much more convenient when it comes to taking it along with you.
It includes the winner's choice of black/silver, white or red/silver Fountain Jet, CO2 to make over 100 liters of soda, 2 reusable carbonating bottles, a sample pack of flavors, and 3 full-sized flavors of the winner's choice.
The winning prize can only be shipped in the continental US.
How to win . . .
I am always looking to improve this blog, so I would love feedback about it. To enter the Giveaway, please leave a comment below telling me what aspects of this blog you like the best, and/or suggestions for improvement/change. Some examples of aspects on which you can comment: restaurant reviews, recipes, photography, length of posts, frequency of posts, number of pictures, cuisines covered, types of dishes, layout of the blog, giveaways, trip series (e.g., The Big Apple, A New York Birthday, Napa Valley, A California Christmas), and the new series "Tiny Urban Tidbits."
If you absolutely have no comments but still want to enter, please give me your favorite sparkling water recipe. I loved reading your egg recipes last time, so keep those ideas coming! For an extra entry, you can tweet about this giveaway.
Giveaway! Win a Sodastream Soda Maker Kit @tinyurbankitchn! http://bit.ly/cAXh5V
Good luck! Drawing will occur on Thursday, April 29th, 2010 at midnight!
If you want to support Tiny Urban Kitchen, you can get one at Amazon (Here are links to the Penguin Starter Kit ($199.95 - what I got), Genesis Starter Kit ($99.99), and the Jet Starter Kit (what the winner will receive).
Disclaimer: Time to time I receive free products from vendors to review. I do not receive any payment for these posts/reviews. The views expressed in the posts are completely my own. For this post, I received a Sodastream Penguin Starter Kit and a Jet Start Kit for a giveaway.
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