Need to know
- SodaStream is the best known brand of soda makers, but we tested 10 models from brands including SodaStream, Soda King, Aarke and Philips
- It’s mostly cheaper to make your own sparkling water with a soda maker than to buy bottled water
- Convenience, health and the environment are other factors to consider
It seems like almost every kitchen has a soda maker in it nowadays. But are they actually earning their bench space or are they just an expensive dust catcher?
Well, that really depends.
We delve into the pros and cons of soda makers so you can decide whether one will bring a little extra sparkle to your life.
Pro: A soda maker could save you money
We did the maths and found that even if you use high levels of carbonation, a SodaStream or another brand of soda maker is usually cheaper than buying bottled sparkling water (especially if you have a penchant for the pricey imported stuff).
Based on a cylinder refill price of $19, we calculated the price per litre of sparkling water made with maximum carbonation for each of the 10 models we tested.
Our results showed the price per litre at this carbonation setting ranged from 50c per litre to 84c per litre, but it would be cheaper still if you used a lower setting.
When you compare that to the price of the cheapest sparkling water you can buy in major Australian supermarkets, which is their own-label brand for 80c per litre, it looks pretty appealing.
This means if your household drinks roughly 2L of sparkling water per day, you could save around $150 per year with a soda maker versus buying own-label supermarket sparkling water.
Your savings increase substantially if you use a lower carbonation setting or if you're switching from a more expensive branded sparkling water (which can cost up to $3 or $4 per litre).
You can also get more bubbles by using chilled water when carbonating, as opposed to water straight from the tap, although this uses more gas.
Pro: Easy to use
Soda makers are essentially dispensers that include a carbon dioxide cylinder and one or two reusable water bottles.
You fill the supplied bottle with water, insert into the machine, push a button, and compressed carbon dioxide from the cylinder is injected to create bubbly water.
Sounds very simple, and it is, but CHOICE test expert Adrian Lini says that some models are definitely easier to use than others.
"When you're considering how easy they are to use, one of the main things to look at is how you insert the reusable water bottle," says Adrian.
Some models require you to insert the bottle in the base or screw it in, which can be awkwardCHOICE tester Adrian Lini
"With some machines, you just pop it in the front, but others require you to insert it in the base or screw it in, which can be awkward and may be difficult for some."
Some models we tested also caused more spillage than others.
In our soda maker reviews, we've given each model an ease of use score to help you decide which one is right for you.
Pro: No more single-use plastic
Making your own sparkling water with a soda maker not only means you no longer have to carry heavy plastic bottles home from the supermarket (and find somewhere to store them), but it eliminates single-use plastic from soda bottles completely.
Anything that stops more plastic being sent to landfill, where it can take thousands of years to break down, is a good thing
On average, Australians use 130kg of plastic per person each year and less than 12% of that's recycled. And even if you do recycle your plastic bottles, there's still the carbon footprint associated with the manufacturing, transport and logistics of the bottles to consider.
Anything that stops more plastic being sent to landfill, where it can take thousands of years to break down, is a good thing. So as you sit back and enjoy your homemade bubbles, you can revel in the joy of cutting out all that waste, too.
A manual machine will put you in complete control of how much you carbonate; an automatic machine will give you preset options for convenience.
Pro: You can tailor the amount of 'sparkle' you want
Take note if you're specific about how much 'zhoosh' you like in your H20. When selecting a soda maker, you can choose between an automatic or manual machine – each giving you different ways to achieve varying levels of carbonation.
Adrian says: "An automatic machine gives you three settings to choose from that determine how much carbonation you're injecting into your water."
"If you'd rather be able to carbonate at different levels according to your preference, you should opt for a manual machine where you can hold the button down and release carbonation into the water for as little or as long as you like."
Pro: It can help you drink more water
Are you getting enough water? The Australian recommended daily intake for fluids is 2L for women and about 2.6L for men, of which 70% must come from drinking fluids rather than from solid foods (the recommended amount for you may vary depending on factors such as your body size, activity level or other health issues).
If you don't like boring old tap water, a soda maker could be a great way to encourage you to drink more water and less of other beverages that are high in sugar such as juice or soft drink.
A soda maker could be a great way to encourage you to drink more water and less of other beverages that are high in sugar
CHOICE appliance expert Chris Barnes says: "I generally much prefer sparkling water to still, so I've found that my manual SodaStream helps me drink more water each day. I usually have it plain, maybe with a squeeze of lemon, but a splash of good cordial goes well, too."
Another CHOICE staff member agrees: "We like to add a twist of lemon, lime or fresh orange to our carbonated water. It's been a great way for the family to drink more water and reduce sugar from other beverages like soft drinks."
You can buy various brands of syrup to flavour your soda maker water, but drinking plain water is certainly the healthiest option.
Pro: There are soda makers for all budgets
When calculating the relative cost of buying bottled water versus making your own, you also need to take into account the purchase price of your soda maker and the lifetime of the appliance.
The models we tested range from $70 for the SodaKing Adventurer up to $259 for the Aarke Carbonator 3.
SodaStream is the best known soda maker brand and has various models available ranging in price from $69 for the SodaStream Jet to $149 for the SodaStream Crystal and $299 for the new SodaStream Duo, which uses both glass and reusable bottles.
CHOICE staff with soda makers all say their appliances have lasted much longer than the two-year warranty period
All the soda makers we tested from SodaStream, Philips, SodaKing and Aarke come with a warranty of two years, but the life of your machine will depend on various factors, such as how often you use it.
There are many fans of SodaStream and soda makers in the CHOICE office, and all of them say their appliances have lasted much longer than the two-year warranty period.
Pro: There's a style of soda maker to suit you
We tested every soda maker that is currently available in Australia – six SodaStream models (the Crystal, Jet, Power, Source, Spirit and Spirit One Touch models), two SodaKing models (the Classic and Adventurer), the Philips Go Zero Sodamaker and the Aarke Carbonator 3.
CHOICE tester Adrian says the main differences between the performance of the models are:
- how easy they are to use
- how easily you can tailor the level of carbonation to suit your preferences.
Otherwise, your preference might come down to simply how the model looks, whether it uses glass or plastic bottles, or how it carbonates. For example, the Aarke Carbonator 3 has a vintage-style metal lever you pull for carbonation (rather than pressing a button) which may appeal to you aesthetically. It has a hefty price tag though at $259.
Whichever aspects are important to you, check our expert soda maker reviews before you buy to ensure you get the best value for money.
Con: You need to remember to replace your gas cylinders
When your gas cylinder is empty, you need to swap the empty cylinder for a full one at participating retailers that include supermarkets, some petrol stations and homeware stores such as Target, Kmart and Big W.
A new SodaStream cylinder will cost you around $35, but the price to swap an empty cylinder for a full one is around $19.
The SodaStream cylinders are the most widely available and are compatible with all the soda makers that we tested from competing brands, such as the Philips GoZero, Aarke and the SodaKing.
How long each carbon dioxide cylinder will last depends on how much carbonation you use each time you press the button. If you're light on the bubbles, your cylinder will last longer.
How much sparkling water will I get from one canister?
SodaStream says that each of their cylinders makes up to 60L of sparkling water, depending on the level of carbonation and how often you use the machine.
So, if you're drinking approximately a litre of sparkling water a day, one cylinder could last you up to 8 to 9 weeks.
But our tester Adrian found his canister lasted 3 to 5 weeks drinking one litre a day, which goes to show that the level of carbonation you're using makes a huge difference to how often you'll need to replace it.
(Adrian tested how many litres of carbonated water he could make from one cylinder using a high carbonation setting. The resulting yield from the 10 models tested ranged from 22 to 38 litres from one cylinder.)
Con: You'll want extra bottles 'ready to go'
Many soda maker fans we spoke to advise having at least two bottles so you can keep them chilled in the fridge ready for carbonation (some experts say chilled water holds carbonation better, and SodaStream also advises using cold water).
This means that if you only have one bottle of chilled water ready to go, once you've zhooshed and drunk that carbonated water, you have to refill and wait for that bottle to chill (unless of course you keep chilled water in the fridge in another type of bottle and transfer it to your soda maker bottle).
Some experts say chilled water holds carbonation better, and SodaStream also advises using cold water
CHOICE staff member Rachel says: "There are no words for how much I love my SodaStream. We have four bottles and three cylinders. My local servo now swaps the cylinders which is more convenient for me than taking them to the supermarkets."
But even though cold water holds carbonation better, Rachel uses tap water.
"A big point of contention in my extended family is whether you zhoosh before you put in the fridge, or after – some put un-gassed bottles in the fridge and only gas them when they're ready to drink it. Ours are always bubbly and ready to go."
The slimline Aarke and Philips soda makers (the two models on the right) have much the same footprint as the SodaKing and SodaStream models (on left), but look smaller on the bench.
Con: It takes up bench space
Do you have space for yet another kitchen appliance? To ensure you get the most use out of it, your soda maker needs to be out on your bench where you can easily access it every day. And some models are larger than others.
"These units are generally quite slim with a small footprint," says Adrian. "Both the Philips GoZero Carbonator and the Aarke Carbonator 3 have slimline designs. Although they have a footprint that's a similar size to the SodaStream, the body of these units are much thinner, so they look much smaller on the bench. Most of them have to be a similar size though to hold the bottle and the gas cylinder."
Con: Carbonation increases the acidity of water
Is it just as healthy to drink sparkling water than standard H20?
In terms of hydration, experts say they're created equal, but sparkling water contains carbon dioxide, which is more acidic in our mouths, and acidic drinks can be corrosive to your teeth enamel.
While plain (or 'normal') water with no added flavour or bubbles is overall the best drink option for your body and your teeth, carbonated water is still a better option than fruit juice or other fizzy drinks that are sweetened.
Just enjoy your sparkling water in moderation and, as extra precaution if you're concerned, drink alongside a meal (as the act of eating produces saliva that can help neutralise acids), or drink it with a reusable straw to minimise contact with your teeth.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.