For months I have been hearing good things about the SodaStream. It is basically a system for making your own homemade soda.. water, syrup, carbonation… everything. While I was intrigued about its inner workings I doubted I would ever purchase one because soda wasn’t something I felt good about bringing into the house…even if it was greener and cleaner to do it that way. It seemed like an awesome product for soda drinkers though. Except we aren’t 100% soda free here either. My husband drinks soda quite a bit actually and since he drinks out of cans that can have BPA this product started to sound better. My kids also like to have soda when they can possibly get it and not wanting to demonize it and make it even more intriguing to them, I don’t make a big deal it. When I go out to eat I almost always get a root beer if they have it. It reminds me of happy childhood moments at the root beer stand during summer vacations.
When SodaStream asked if they could send me their Penguin model recently, I almost said no. I figured we didn’t need it and we didn’t want it. I asked my husband what he thought and he insisted we take it for a test run. I was also VERY curious to see if you could use it to carbonate juices and make flavored seltzer waters and make it healthier than regular soda. I don’t know about you but it isn’t the flavor of the soda that I find attractive… its the carbonation… it just wakes up your taste buds and makes your mouth all happy. So, I confirmed that we would get a unit with glass bottles (not plastic) and accepted their generous offer.
My initial reactions are that this is a greener and healthier way to make soda if you are already buying and drinking it. The Penguin model I have uses glass carafes, so there are no BPA lined cans and no plastic bottles to drink out of. So right away it looks likes less to recycle than the typical soda drinking home and less chance of exposure to plastic chemicals. The syrup provided to make their sodas comes in plastic bottles though, so it is a wash in that department. The flavors for their seltzer water come in glass bottles though so that is a BIG plus… healthier than soda and no plastic. They also taste REALLY good.
When I accepted the SodaStream I also had some devious intentions. I wanted to find a way to make drinks without purchasing their flavoring or syrup. I figured I would take some fresh squeezed orange juice and carbonate it for sparkling OJ right? Well, the instructions expressly tell you that you cannot carbonate anything but water (syrup and flavoring go in afterwards) or risk ruining your Soda Stream. At first I thought this was just their clever way of keeping you buying their syrups but after making our first soda I saw why you cannot carbonate juice. After we added a cap full of soda syrup to our first carafe of carbonated water it fizzed all over the place… I cannot imagine the mess you would make if you carbonated AFTER you put the syrup in. It would be disastrous I suspect. My secret tactic was shot down.
We did find an alternative though. You can add organic fruit concentrates in jars or from those cardboard tubes to the carafe after carbonation and you have sparkling juice. You can also add sparkling water instead of plain water to your lemonade. This summer, when fruit comes back in season, we plan on making our own fruit concentrate syrups and making our own sparkling fruit juices.
The basic process is this: You fill the carafe with carbonated water (we use filtered), then you put it inside the penguin and push the penguin’s beak down 2-4 times to carbonate the water. Remove the carafe and pour in your syrup or flavoring and voila. The carafes can go directly in the frig for storage and they get sealed with a special plastic cap that seals. It is pretty darn easy.
My husband also likes the soda syrup from the SodaStream company. I participated in a couple of his taste tests and it tasted just like regular Cola or orange pop to me. I could taste no difference from the store bought stuff. We may keep ordering some of those for him but mostly I think we will stick with the little flavored water bottles.
The other issue that concerned me was the CO2 bottles. I was worried that they would be expensive to replace, hard to recycle or trade in, and that they wouldn’t last very long. At $30 to replace two, I wanted to make sure that this would not be an issue and I am happy to report that it is not. You can send them back to the company to be reused and get two fresh ones back AND they last quite awhile. We have made about 30+ plus bottles of sparkling juice, soda, and flavored seltzer water and are still using the first CO2 bottle. I also heard from a friend that has the Soda Stream that she trades in her CO2 bottles at her local Williams-Sonoma and according the web site there are a couple near me that will do the same. That eliminated a wait time and the $8 shipping. Bed, Bath, and Beyond also does this.
So would I recommend the SodaStream? Yes… if you drink soda or flavored seltzer water. If you don’t drink those things you probably don’t need it. I would also recommend the models that utilize glass carafes instead of the ones that use plastic bottles, and those models are a bit pricier but again…if you already drink the stuff then why not?
The body of the penguin is plastic and metal but if the product helps you avoid buying plastic bottles of soda than it seems like a good trade to me. If you drink soda from a can or plastic bottle then this option will be helpful in reducing your exposure to chemicals. I also like the fact that it requires no electric to run it. It helps reduce your ecological impact, not create even more.
For us it gives my husband a slightly greener and healthier way to drink something he already drinks. It gives me a way to make my own sparkling juices and seltzer water as well make my own club soda for sparkling fruit smoothies. It gives my kids a treat that I might otherwise say no to AND they love to watch the process. So yes, we like our SodaStream and I am pleasantly surprised to find that I do. I look forward to seeing what we can make with it this summer. If anyone has any tips or ideas I would love to hear them!