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How to buy the best soda maker

Want to add a little sparkle your water? Here's what to look for in a soda maker.

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A good soda maker can make entertaining easy while still keeping your daily water intake up. Whether it's plain sparkling water or a flavoured soda drink, you'll need a soda maker that'll make carbonating your water and swapping over the gas canisters a fuss-free experience.

While the majority of models on the market come from SodaStream, you'll also find models from brands including SodaKing, Philips and Aarke.

Our expert Adrian Lini has made countless litres of soda water to find out which models are best, and what you should be looking for if you're keen to cut down on plastic waste from store-bought soda water with your own machine at home.

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How do soda makers work?

To use a soda maker, you need to install a compatible gas cylinder (filled with CO2) into the machine. You'll then need to fill a compatible drinking bottle with water to the maximum line and place it into the machine.

Depending on whether you've got a manual or automatic machine, push the button to your desired carbonation level (for manual machines, you'll need to hold the button for longer or for multiple presses – we've also seen models with a lever).

Water from the fridge at 5°C can hold about 1.5 times more carbon dioxide than water out of the tap at 20°C

It's best if you use cold water, as it holds carbonisation better – lower temperature water dissolves more of the gas. Water from the fridge at 5°C can hold about 1.5 times more carbon dioxide than water out of the tap at 20°C.

You'll most likely need more than one drinking bottle depending on how much water you drink and the size of your family. A twin pack of basic 1L SodaStream bottles can be bought for around $22 plus postage from the official online store but it may be cheaper at other retailers like Kmart.

While the process is similar for all soda maker types, there is variation in ease of use. It's more awkward to install the gas cylinder in some models than others, for instance. Our soda maker reviews look at all ease of use aspects.

What brands are available?

sodastream and sodaking

SodaKing and SodaStream cylinders claim to make up to 60L of carbonated water but this will vary depending on how bubbly you want your drink.

The market leader is SodaStream, whose models include manual no-nonsense machines that let you control the fizz, retro machines that deliver soda water in glass bottles, and fully-automatic appliances with pre-set carbonation settings.

Another brand is SodaKing, whose machines are compatible with SodaStream gas cylinders as well as their own SodaKing-branded ones.

Philips and Aarke produce sleek-looking third-party machines which also take SodaStream cylinders.

SodaStream and SodaKing soda makers should come supplied with at least one of their own-brand gas cylinders to get you started (suitable for up to 60L), but if you're using other brands, you'll need to buy your own.

How much do soda makers cost to run?

Soda makers can cost around $64–260 depending on the style, and cylinders, which make up around 60L of soda water (more or less depending on how much fizz you want), can cost around $19 if you're swapping an old one over. 

In the long run, costs may be similar to buying budget bottled soda water, but with fewer plastic bottles to contend with there's less impact to the environment and you get to control the carbonation. It's also far more convenient to fizz as you go.

What types of soda makers are there?

The main types of soda makers are automatic and manual, and there's pros and cons for each type.

  • Automatic soda makers: These require a power source. You can choose from pre-set carbonation levels which are great for accurately and consistently dosing the amount of bubbles in your beverage (such as from level 1 to 3). However, if your preference is somewhere between those levels it may be harder to "fine-tune" what you're after.
  • Manual soda makers: The manual button control lets you carbonate for however long you'd like, but it may take multiple attempts to achieve the intended carbonation result. Once you have the 'art' mastered, they're very easy to carbonate. These don't typically require an external power source.

How do you swap the cylinders?

soda stream cylinder swap

A SodaStream cylinder swap at a service station. Supermarkets, appliance stores and even some newsagents are other places you can exchange SodaKing and SodaStream cylinders.

There are many participating retailers which let you do this. SodaStream charges $19 per cylinder if you swap it with a new one, or $35 if you want a spare or don't have an old one to swap. Its website lists all the available gas exchanges, which are generally everywhere you buy SodaStreams including Coles and Woolworths, appliance retailers and some petrol stations.

SodaKing lets you swap your canisters over with new ones at independent supermarkets including IGA as well as some newsagents and convenience stores, and charges similar prices. All the brands we've tested can use the same gas cylinders.

What flavours are available?

While many people prefer to simply drink carbonated water straight from the bottle, there are a number of syrups you can buy (including official Pepsi/7-Up flavours or even kombucha). These are always added after carbonation – you just add a capful to your water. Adding the syrup before carbonation can clog the machine and also not as much carbon dioxide will dissolve in the water if it has flavours added beforehand. 

You can, of course, always make your own without the need to buy "official" flavourings and there are countless recipe sites and discussion forums where people have shared their ideas.

How safe is it to use the gas cylinders?

The cylinders are safe to use if the directions are followed. As with all contents under pressure, the cylinders must not be exposed to prolonged high temperatures, and you should keep them at room temperature out of direct sunlight. Always inspect the cylinder before installation, and don't use it if it's visibly damaged.

Carbonising itself should also be safe. SodaStream says that its canisters have a safety valve to "harmlessly release the gas in the unlikely event that the pressure within the carbonating cylinder rises above threshold levels".

As for over-carbonisation of the water bottles, spillage around the top and sides can regularly occur but you won't see any "exploding" drinks. Some experimentation is needed for best results.

What features should I look out for?

Apart from the pre-set carbonation levels on automatic machines, look for these features in a soda maker.

Ease of removing/installing the canister

You don't want to fiddle with screwing and unscrewing the canister in. It should be simple and quick to do without taking too much of the machine apart or tipping it over.

Ease of installing bottle

It should be a painless process to click it in. Some models require you to screw the bottle in and out which can be finicky when the bottle is full. Some require you to hold the carbonation head at an angle and then screw the bottle in with one hand which can be tricky.

Drip trays

These are handy if you over-carbonate and water spills out of the bottle. 

Operation light

For automatic models.

Size

You need to make sure it'll fit nicely on your bench.

Design

Some have a 'retro' aesthetic, some look industrial, and some come in different colours. You can also get different bottle styles.

Expiry dates on bottles

Some of the drinking bottles may come with an expiry date. SodaStream says that this is because "the bottle has to withstand recurring pressure from carbonation" and "it cannot be used forever". Some degradation should be expected over time. 

However, if there's no visible wear and tear and it's not been put into a dishwasher or kept in direct sunlight, we think the expiry date should be taken as a rough guide only, especially if it's barely been used. SodaStream says all components apart from the seal in the cap are recyclable.