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SodaStream alternatives

Photo: AFSC

Since AFSC joined the national SodaStream Boycott Coalition, one of the questions we are most frequently asked regards SodaStream alternative or replacement products.  Of course the simplest alternative to buying a SodaStream machine is to drink plain water or other non-carbonated beverages.  However, if you’re convinced that buying your own machine makes sense you don’t have to buy a SodaStream.  There are several good alternatives (which are not manufactured in an illegal settlement) that offer similar convenience and potential savings.  The list below was developed to provide interested consumers with information about these alternative products, but we also want to be clear that in putting forward this list we are not endorsing any one of these products.

Cuisinart: Cuisinart is the first Soda Stream alternative from a well known and respected brand name and wide retail distribution. Priced at $99.95, the machine is in stock now at Amazon, and other online outlets. It’s available in black, silver, or “metallic red” and comes with one 1-liter, BPA-free plastic bottle and a 4-oz. CO2 cartridge (enough to make up to 16 liters of soda, according to the company). You can exchange the cartridge for a full one ($10 at Bed Bath & Beyond) or buy extras for $19.99.  In the near future Cuisinart also plans to offer exchangeable 16-oz. CO2 canisters that are compatible with the machine.

At the time of writing, Cuisinart isn’t selling its own syrups or powder to flavor their soda, but its customer service department says a full line will be available soon. In the meantime, both Cuisinart customer service and at least some Bed Bath & Beyond retail staffers are recommending SodaStream’s flavorings, but you don’t have to you follow their advice - you can just add fruit juice, brew your own flavorings or try the flavor packs offered by two other recent entrants in the make-your-own-soda market, SodaSparkle and Pat’s Backcountry Beverages.

SodaSparkle: The new SodaSparkle is a different style of device as compared to Cuisinart and SodaStream devices: it’s not a countertop appliance, but a smaller contraption comprised of a single-use CO2 cartridge that is screwed into a provided bottle, carbonating its contents. The company offers two kits on Amazon and on its own website: the standard kit, priced at $50, includes the charger, a 1.3-liter BPA-free reusable plastic bottle, five single-use CO2 cartridges (each one good for one bottle of soda water), and 15 single-glass flavor packs; a $60 “deluxe” kit is identical except that it also includes a 1-liter bottle.

SodaSparkle’s CO2 cartridges are made of metal and therefore recyclable, but they are not reusable. A package of 50 additional cartridges costs $24.95 from the company’s own web store or $26.99 from Amazon. Third-party CO2 cartridges are cheaper, but SodaSparkle says you shouldn’t use them.

The SodaSparkle device resembles an earlier product made by iSi called the Twist'n'Sparkle which was recalled and discontinued when it was found that its bottle sometimes exploded during carbonation. SodaSparkle says its plastic bottle contain two pressure-release valves that ensure their safety.

SodaSparkle markets its own line of “fresh, natural, sugar-free, and preservative-free” flavorings. Current flavors include lemon, pineapple, apple, cola-lemon, tonic, and lychee, and according to the company more flavors are being developed. A package of 60 single-serve packets (for one glass of water) in assorted flavors is $22 from Amazon or $20 from the SodaSparkle site.  Boxes of 10 “flavor sticks” (each sufficient to flavor one bottle) in the flavor of your choice are around $20 from Amazon and $15 from SodaSparkle.

Pat’s Backcountry Beverages: Based in Talkeetna, Alaska, Pat’s Backcountry Beverages has developed a carbonation system suited for (but not limited to) hikers who want bubbly water in the wild. Instead of CO2 cartridges, Pat’s eco2SYSTEM relies on a combination of food-grade potassium bicarbonate and citric acid powders to produce CO2 and carbonate water.  To use this product you fill a special .6-liter (20 oz.) plastic bottle with water, empty a packet of eco2ACTIVATOR (the powders) into the specially designed top and shake the bottle.

A kit containing one bottle, six packets of eco2ACTIVATOR and five samples of Pat’s flavor concentrates costs $40 plus shipping direct from Pat’s online store, through Amazon, or from several other online and brick-and-mortar suppliers of outdoor gear. Extra bottles are $27-$30, while 12-packs of eco2ACTIVATOR powder are $6 plus shipping.

Pat’s offers five preservative-free flavor concentrates - Ginger Trail, Lemon Clime, PomaGranite, Terra Cola, and BearFooot RootBeer. They come in packets designed to flavor 16 ounces of water and 12-packs of each are $34 plus shipping from Pat’s website.

My Pop Old Fashioned Soda Shoppe: If you’re willing to put in a little bit of extra effort in order to go green and save money on carbonated drinks, consider a product called My Pop Old Fashioned Soda Shoppe from My Pop Soda of West Hills, CA. Priced at $75 and apparently available only by mail order from the company’s online store, this device consists of seven plastic bottles, six of which are connected by a maze of tubes, clamps, and valves, all packed into a bright green shopping satchel.

The beauty of the Soda Shoppe is that you never need to worry about buying, filling, exchanging, or disposing of CO2 canisters - you make your own CO2! All you do is fill one or more of the six connected bottles with a cup of sugar, two teaspoons of baker’s yeast, and cold water, shake up the mixture, and then wait as the yeast digests the sugar and produces CO2. Within a two or three days a gauge attached to the tubing will show that there’s enough pressure to begin carbonating your beverages. At that point you attach another bottle (the seventh one provided, or any standard glass or plastic beverage bottle) to the system, open a couple of clamps, and listen to the CO2 whoosh in. According to the product’s developer, single bottle of yeast, sugar, and water will generate enough CO2 to make 10 liters of soda per week.

You do have to shake the bottle you’re filling for a minute or two to achieve good carbonation, and every month or so you have to take the system apart, rinse out the bottles and tubes, and start the process all over. That’s more work than the other products require. But in return you will save quite of a lot of money - the cost of the sugar and yeast comes out to only pennies per liter of carbonated liquid while with other products you can spend 10 or 20 times as much for CO2.

Italia: Precious Products LLC of Garland, Texas ( markets a $90 countertop soda-making appliance called the Italia, made by Mr. Butler’s in Kerala, India. However, Precious Products markets flavorings from SodaClub, the parent company of SodaStream, for use with the Italia.

Soda Siphons: Several companies, including iSi, Liss, Mosa, Mr. Fizz, and Whip-It, make “soda siphons,” the modern equivalent of the old-fashioned seltzer bottle. The siphons are bottles or pitchers made of stainless steel, aluminum, or reinforced glass with a small CO2 charger attached. They are available, generally at prices between $40 and $80, on Amazon and other online retailers, as well as at Sur La Table and other kitchen stores. One disadvantage is that the small CO2 cartridges are single-use - you need to be replaced each time you refill the siphon. (Online, packages of 100 standard chargers start at about $35.)

Fizz Giz: If you want a lower-cost, U.S.-made alternative, consider the Fizz-Giz, a kit developed by a North Carolina tinkerer named Mike Harvell (a.k.a. Mr. Fizz). It consists of a banana-shaped charger "wand" and two special bottle caps, plus one single-use CO2 charger. You fill your own bottle (you can reuse a standard store-bought soda bottle), screw on one of the Fizz-Giz caps, put a CO2 cartridge into the wand, then insert the wand through the bottle cap and carbonate your beverage. The product sells for $28.75 on the Fizz-Giz site or $59.95 on Amazon (plus shipping in both cases).

Home Delivery: In a few places you can still get locally-made seltzer water delivered directly to your doorstep. In New York the Gomberg Seltzer Works in Canarsie, Brooklyn, supplies through home-delivery. In California the Seltzer Sisters of Redwood City deliver throughout the Bay Area. There are similar services in Toronto, Vienna, and Argentina.

Research by Henry Norr