Perhaps one of the oldest soda gadgets out there is also one of the hottest items you can find on store shelves these days. The SodaStream line of products has been around for decades, and is an excellent alternative to traditional pre-bottled sodas filled with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and/or aspartame.
The SodaStream flavors (around 50 of them currently available) use sugar and Splenda to deliver that sweet taste soda drinkers are looking for. The result is a beverage that is lower in calories (about 70% lower), carbs, sugar, sodium, and caffeine than the equivalent mainstream beverages. In essence, SodaStream beverages are promoted as being a healthier (though still not “healthy”) alternative to drinks bought in stores.
To further sweeten the deal, SodaStream is also budget friendly. With CO2 and flavoring taken into account, you should expect a cost of around $0.25 for 12 ounces of soda and $0.25 for one liter of sparkling water. That’s a significant savings over the nearly $1.00 per can you can expect to pay in most stores for the pre-packaged stuff. As the resident frugal geek here at LockerGnome, this point makes me very happy.
With an initial investment starting at around $80 for a starter kit, this isn’t exactly an impulse item. While it could save you money in the long run, if you find that the product itself doesn’t work very well for you, you’ll actually lose money on the investment.
This is perhaps the most important thing to consider with this item, as taste is where the fun of drinking a soda is.
When it comes to the obvious equivalent beverages, such as the Coke Zero clone, the flavor is far from spot on. It isn’t bad, but it’s a lot like drinking a grocery store branded version of a more popular beverage. Dr. Pete (a SodaStream flavor) is about as close to Dr. Pepper as Mr. Pibb. The same could be said for the lemon-lime flavor and its similar taste to Sprite or 7UP.
Over all, I’d say the flavor of these drinks is quite good as long as you aren’t expecting an exact duplicate of their mainstream cousins. The taste also depends on the amount of carbonation you place into the drinks. While three buzzes (a term used to reference the buzzing sound made when the carbonation is added to the water) is great, five buzzes makes things taste better for some users.
The convenience of using a SodaStream drinkmaker is in being able to produce a high quantity of soda with a minimal amount of waste. Hauling in 12-24 packs of soda cans or bottles can be a real chore, and it’s one that you end up paying more to take part in.
The SodaStream doesn’t take very long to use. I’ve timed myself making a couple batches for the purpose of this interview, and I was able to make a liter of pop in about a minute. All you need to do is fill the bottle, screw it on the Fountain Jet, hit the button a few times, and add a measured amount of flavoring before it’s ready.
While this is certainly no contender against taking a bottle out of the fridge and opening it, you get the benefit of having less fridge space taken up in storage. Making a measured amount at a time also helps you avoid pouring out flat soda you didn’t drink right away.
One thing I have to note here about the SodaStream is that it’s remarkably easy to use. Once you screw in the CO2 canister and the bottle, everything else is push-button easy. You literally just fill the bottle with water and push a button a few times. Once that is done, you have seltzer. You can then flavor the seltzer by adding one of the SodaStream flavors. Voila! you’ve made soda.
SodaStream uses no outside power from batteries or outlets. This makes it travel fairly well, allowing you to take it to the park for picnics or to a buddy’s house for a get-together. Not to say folks would be particularly thrilled to see a SodaStream, but budget-conscious parties could save a lot of money and the idea of making your own drink has a novelty factor to it which might add to the overall experience.
This is a brilliant idea for kids. A lot of people (including myself) have a strong distaste for high fructose corn syrup and don’t want to feed it to their kids. This is a great budget-friendly solution that allows you to avoid this particular aspect of modern soda.
Over all, I’d have to say the SodaStream is a good investment for many folks that want to have the experience of making their own carbonated beverages while saving some money in doing so. That said, you’re probably better off tasting what the SodaStream produces before committing yourself to the $80+ investment.