My Brand New Homebrew Soda Carbonator

a present? 4me?

Erik won the good husband award this Valentine’s Day. He surprised me with my very own soda making machine. This is not a SodaStream–it’s better. It’s an industrial strength CO2 tank topped with sturdy dials and valves and whatnot, all sourced from the local homebrew shop. He’s going to do a how-to post soon (tomorrow maybe?) on how to put together the parts, and how to use it. So hold on for those details! Right now, I’m just going to gush.

I’ve been wanting something like this for a long time, because I use a lot of sparkling water. For various health reasons I drink very little caffeine and almost no alcohol and I try to avoid sugary drinks as well, so that leaves me with a total drinks menu of water, herbal teas, sparkling water and for big thrills, sparkling waters with add-ins like fruit juice, shrubs, a bit of homemade syrup, etc.  I go through quite a lot of sparkling water on a weekly basis.

Now, as a rule I try not to drink stuff out of plastic bottles. Mineral waters still come in glass, but club soda is pretty much always in plastic these days. I’ve had to relax the plastic rule just to have club soda to work with, because fruit juices and delicate flavors don’t blend well with mineral waters. This gift frees me from those plastic bottles– Hallelujah!– and will reduce our recycling load overall.

The set up isn’t cheap — we’ll talk about the price of the parts in the next post. I’m the first to admit it won’t make sense for every household, but it is actually a very worthwhile investment for us.

The other great thing about this device is that it will carbonate just about anything you can cram into a bottle.  You’re not limited to just charging water and then adding flavor to it. The mind reels with the possibilities. My first projects are going to be carbonating jamaica tea, then a barely sweet white sage lemonade, and maybe some rosemary infused water. Erik suggested carbonating a bottle of terrible Riesling he’s got in the fridge, but I don’t think that will make it any better.

I also really like that this set up is so solid and simple. No extra parts. No plastic shell. No proprietary bottles. No fiddly buttons. Nothing to break which can’t be easily replaced.

And all I got him a lousy card.

cats and carbonator

Curious cats providing scale. See the tube? You connect that blue thing at the end of the tube to your water bottle and then open the valve. A minute later you have sparkling water. Easy as pie.

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19 Comments

  1. May I make a pre-emptive request for details in the how-to post?

    How about using a paintball CO2 canister? How about using a (refillable) Soda Stream canister?

    Thank you…

    • I heard a lot of conflicting information on this. Some say that paintball canisters have lubricant in them that you would not want to drink. And there are others who take SodaStream canisters and refill them with dry ice–not sure how safe this is. I decided to just go with a food grade system that I can refill at my local home brew shop.

  2. One more tip. The first commenter asked about paintball CO2 tanks.
    You can use paintball tanks, but since the paintball tank has a pin valve connection, you either need a different regulator:
    http://www.kegconnection.com/pin-valve-regulator-single-guage-5-16-check-valve/
    Or an adapter for the regulator in your picture.
    http://www.homebrewing.org/The-Adapter-CO2-regulator-to-Paintball-Tank-Adapter_p_1122.html
    I’ve got the regulator and it works quite well (I’m a homebrewer); not sure about the adapter.

    Lastly, there something that uses the small, disposable CO2 cartridges that would fit on your carb cap, but I don’t know how good it would be for actually carbing a beverage. It does work great for “pushing” already carbonated beer out of a keg (I have one of those, too.)

    http://www.kegworks.com/cornelius-keg-co2-charger-778-p21295

  3. That sounds very cool. I can’t wait to hear more about it once its been in action longer. I too am a big fan of the fizz, but tend to avoid the sugar and plastic that go along with it so very often. Good for you guys!

  4. My mother b.1925 in her single digits, had a friend whose grandparents ordered a case of seltzer water a week. In those days, it was in a wooden case/crate and each bottle had a lever. Unfortunately, she and her friend got into big trouble. They had a seltzer water bottle fight.

    • That must have been a fun fight! The home delivery selzer business is one of those old timey trades which died out along with the milkman. It’s a shame!

  5. One of the taps on our (my husband’s) garage kegerator is for carbonated water. He uses soda kegs because 4 (3 beer, 1 water) fit into the fridge, as well as the carbonation tank. That water is so yummy, I drink it all day long. I can’t wait to hear about your carbonated tea–that sounds so good, but I don’t think my kids would go for it, and I don’t think my husband would give up another homebrew tap.

  6. silly question, maybe… why r u not drinking kefir water? this is not just idle curiosity, I am hoping to start experimenting with kefir water once i score some grains, and it is supposed to make stiff fizzy plus its sure good for you, so I was wondering why its not an option (i.e. if there is sth about it that I am not aware of). Thanks for the great posts i always find sth interesting!!

    • Not a silly question. Another way to carbonate beverages is to ferment them. This is how I used to make beer–carbonated by yeast in the bottle. I put this system together mainly so that we could have carbonated water without having to buy it in bottles from the store.

  7. So you could carbonate apple juice?

    We don’t drink fizzy drinks at home very often, and I try to steer the children away from coke etc when we go out, but I am happy for them to drink Appletiser in restaurants and pubs. (Do you have it in the States? It’s from concentrate but it is just fizzy juice.)
    We make our own apple juice and (hard) cider and last year pasteurised some of the juice rather than freezing it all for the first time. I think I may win Mother of the Year if I carbonated some too!

    • Sure you can carbonate apple juice. We’ve found out that sugar makes things more fizzy, so after you carbonate you have to carefully open the bottle over the sink (just like you would a bottle that had been shaken) and let some of the foam ease off.

  8. Great post. We have a soda stream here and love it and have been looking into alternatives to fill up the CO2 cartridge.
    Companies like soda stream say that they use food grade CO2 while if you get it filled up at a paintball shop it is using non food grade (would cost about $3 compared to $18). When digging around on this half the sources said that food grade is BS and just a way to have them charge a huge price. Have you done any research on this to see if there is any validity to food grade co2?

    this is a link to the adapter to let you fill up soda stream bottles: http://www.criticalpaintball.com/SodaMod-SodaStream-Soda-Club-CO2-Adapter-Save-Mo-p/sodastream-sodamod.htm

    • Erik addressed that question a bit in the first comment. We don’t know the facts yet, but if we learn more we’ll let you know.

    • From what I understand carbonated water is essentially harmless. The studies showing harm were done with sugary sodas which also tend to be more acidic.

  9. You can also carbonate fruit like black berries. If you put them in a contain and pressurize them with CO2, you essentially carbonate the juice inside the fruit. Eating fruit that fizzes in your mouth is a very unique experience.

    • We’ve heard of people carbonating watermelon. The black berries sound like a real treat. We’ll have to try that!

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