There are as many ways to force carbonate as there are paths up the holy mountain. I wanted to avoid both the SodaStream’s loss-leader economic model (expensive refills) as well as hacked systems that use non-food grade materials. One trip to my local home brew shop, and I had all the equipment I needed to safely and economically carbonate any liquid. Here’s how I put it all together.
The system consists of thee components: a CO2 tank, a regulator to step down the high pressure in the tank and connectors that connect the regulator to a plastic soda bottle. It will cost around $150 to $200 to put together a system like this one.
Tanks come in different sizes. The home brew shop I went to had 20 pound tanks so that’s what I went with. A 20 pound tank will carbonate around 1,000 liters of water.
There’s considerable controversy on the interwebs about the kinds of tanks and CO2 you can use. Some say that welding and paintball tanks have lubricants that you don’ t want to drink. And gas comes in different grades. I went with a food grade tank and gas from the home brew shop. Refills will cost around $15, the same price as the much smaller SodaStream bottles.
The regulator is the heart of the system. Regulators step down the high pressure of the tank and are adjustable. Higher pressure equals more fizz but also a greater chance of blowing up bottles. More expensive regulators have an additional dial that lets you know how much gas is left in the tank. I have the cheaper one-dial version. The tank has a tare weight on it, so you can figure out how much gas is left by weighing it on a scale.
To connect the tank and regulator to a plastic bottle you’ll need a carbonator bottle cap (the blue thing on the left) which clicks into a ball-lock keg coupler. A three foot length of vinyl tubing, with two hose clamps at either end, connects the keg coupler to the regulator. My bottle cap is plastic. A Root Simple reader suggested a more durable stainless steel carbonator bottle cap.
Here’s how you carbonate:
- Chill first. The colder the beverage the faster it carbonates.
- Take any size plastic soda bottle and fill to around 3 inches below the top. Squeeze out the air.
- Screw the carbonator bottle cap onto the bottle and snap it into the keg coupler.
- Check to make sure the outlet fitting valve is in the closed position.
- Open the cylinder valve.
- Turn the regulator adjusting screw to the desired pressure. Thirty-five pounds seems just about right to me. You can always recarbonate if you don’t get enough bubbles.
- Open the outlet fitting valve.
- Shake the bottle around a bit to distribute the Co2 through the water, and make it go faster. You should be able to carbonate 2 liters in about 1 minute.
- Close the outlet fitting valve.
- Close the cylinder valve.
- Disconnect the carbonator bottle cap from the keg connector.
- Slowly unscrew the carbonator bottle cap and replace with a regular bottle cap.
Spray all connections with soapy water to check for leaks. Close the cylinder valve after each use. Do not use glass bottles.
While I’ve provided some Amazon links, I’d recommend heading to a home brew shop if there’s one near you. It might cost a bit more, you’ll be more likely to get all the parts you need as well as good advice.
When you’re holding a hammer everything looks like a nail. When you’re holding a carbonator, everything needs to be carbonated. So far we’ve carbonated a lot of Los Angeles tap water (surprisingly delicious), Americano cocktails (recipe here) and jamaica. Someone please stop me before this gets out of control and I start carbonating soup, greywater or cat urine.