SodaStream provided me with a demo SodaStream Source home soda maker starter kit along with a large selection of delicious soda mixes in return for an honest review.
In addition to saving you the trouble of buying, transporting and storing heavy soda bottles and cans, you help the environment and save money by using SodaStream flavorings instead of bottles and cans. Each SodaStream bottle, usually costing less than $5, makes the equivalent of roughly six two-liter bottles of soda. This comes out to about 83 cents per two liters of soda, less than half the regular price of buying national brands of soda at a grocery store and even less than Walmart's price of brand-name two-liter soda bottles.
Setting up the device was a piece of cake - just remove the back, plug in the CO2 cartridge, replace the back, fill the soda bottle to the line with water and follow the simple instructions for making carbonated water. Then, add the flavoring to the bottle and serve.
The SodaStream machine offers three different carbonation settings. I recommend trying the lowest carbonation level for your first try. It'll give you a fairly significant level of bubbles that may prove adequate, and the lower your carbonation setting, the longer your CO2 cartridge should last.
SodaStream flavorings come in three different types - bottles, single-use caps and one-use packets. With a bottle of flavoring, after making your carbonated water with the SodaStream machine, simply tilt the water bottle slightly at an angle and slowly pour in a capful of flavoring. With a packet, snip off the top and squeeze it into the bottle. To add flavoring from a cap dispenser, press the cap down on the bottle of freshly carbonated water and watch the flavoring slowly trickle into the water, then discard the cap when it finishes.
I don't see how using the SodaStream could get any easier. I've found only one caveat - your first few tries, you'll probably make a mess when you pour the flavoring into the bottle and transfer the soda to another container. I had to use a Mr. Clean Magic Sponge or oxygen cleaner in a spray bottle with water to clean red or pink stains from my counter a few times. I recommend using a newspaper over your work area until you get used to using your SodaStream.
Of the numerous SodaStream flavors we tried, my kid testers liked the Hawaiian Punch and Country Time Pink Lemonade flavors best. I found myself favoring the diet pink grapefruit juice flavored variety, even though I don't like grapefruits or grapefruit juice. Grown-up testers liked all of the Crystal Lite assortment, which included lemonade, pink lemonade, peach iced tea and energy fruit punch, along with the Ocean Spray Cranberry. My young testers thought the lemon line soda tasted "delicious" and "just like Sprite."
No high fructose corn syrup
The SodaStream starter kit comes with a variety of single-use packets so that you can try several flavors before deciding what to purchase in full-bottle form.
Most SodaStream varieties contain no high fructose corn syrup and less sugar than standard soft drinks, substituting no-calorie sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda). This makes them lower in calories than typical soda. For example, the Hawaiian Punch and Country Time Pink Lemonade options contain 35 calories per 8 ounce serving. Other, more traditional soda flavorings such as cola or lemon-lime contain calorie counts typical of canned or bottled soda at around 100 per serving.
SodaStream also has full-on diet products with no calories such as the Crystal Lite varieties and diet cola. In addition, they offer tasty and generously caffeinated "energy" drinks along the lines of Red Bull, available in both diet and sugar-sweetened choices. Of course, you can find standard soda flavors in regular and diet versions such as cola, "Dr. Pete," ginger ale, root beer, lemon-lime, fountain mist, orange and cream soda. You can pick up SodaStream drink mixers, too, such as SodaStream Non-Alcoholic Margarita Sparkling Drink Mix.
There are so many flavor options that you're sure to find at least a few that you'll enjoy drinking. I recommend picking up a soda variety pack or diet soda variety pack to make sure you like a flavor before buying a whole bottle of it.
The SodaStream Source comes with a two-year manufacturer's warranty costs about $90 at Walmart with a $20 mail-in rebate also available. You can pick up SodaStream flavoring bottles at Walmart as well, most for less than $5, and replacement CO2 bottles for $30.
Inexpensive to operate
Many Walmart stores also carry recharged SodaStream CO2 bottles - you take in your empty bottle and they give you another for about $15. Some online reviewers have had trouble getting the refilled cartridges at their preferred Walmart stores, so you'll probably want to call ahead to make sure your Walmart has them in stock before carrying in your empty cartridge. Certain Bed Bath & Beyond stores also carry refilled CO2 cartridges for around $15 with trade-in.
The SodaStream kit comes with one bottle for making the carbonated water. You can buy additional bottles for around $15 to $20 a pair, but there's really no need. I recommend picking up some lidded plastic bottles at your local dollar store. You can pour your homemade soda into these bottles for drinking and/or transporting.
That way, you don't store soda in the plastic bottle used for making carbonated water. You can keep it filled with chilled water in the fridge, ready for the next batch of soda.
You won't want to store the soda for very long anyway. Just like store-bought soda, your home brew will lose its fizz before too long and won't taste as good the next day. You should count on making only what you can drink within a few hours.
The SodaStream doesn't need batteries or A/C power, so you can take it to the park, beach or pool along with a cooler of ice water for making your favorite drinks on the fly. At 5.98" by 11.89" by 17.72", it doesn't take up much space, whether on your counter or in a tote bag headed for outings.
With a SodaStream at your disposal, you can always be prepared for unexpected guests or excursions.