If you drink a lot of seltzer and are tired of wasting plastic bottle after plastic bottle from the grocery store, you should get the Mastrad Purefizz. It’s simple to use, easy to clean, and made the best-tasting fizzy water we tested, almost beating our store-bought control.
We spent more than 30 hours researching dozens of home soda makers, testing five models hands-on and even building our own machine (we’ll show you how later) before settling on the Purefizz. Soda machines like Sodastream’s expansive line of models are tempting, but ultimately we decided you’re better off with a soda siphon. They’re no harder to use, take up less space, and, most importantly, they won’t lock you into any proprietary, expensive CO2 cartridges.
But if our main pick is sold out—as it was for a short time this spring—the Sodastream Jet is a good alternative. The soda water it makes isn’t as tasty as that of the Purefizz, but it’s decent. But the Jet is simple to use and has a (proprietary) CO2 tank that lasts for about 40-60 liters, making it one of the most eco-friendly options.
How we picked
Despite their resurgence in popularity (thanks to Sodastream), there’s just not much good information about home carbonation solutions. What little that does exist tends to be in the form of reviews for various Sodastream machines; the company seems to have cornered the market. Up-to-date comparative reviews were virtually nonexistent, so it quickly became clear that we’d have to do our own testing.
In order to figure out what was worth looking at, we first turned to the many out-of-date reviews done by various publications. Cook’s Illustrated’s round-up ranked the iSi Twist ‘n’ Sparkle at the top (which was later recalled), alongside Sodastream’s very expensive Penguin model. The Wall Street Journal did a taste-test with the sommelier at Le Bernardin, but we found their picks to be either unavailable, very expensive, or poorly reviewed elsewhere. Consumer Reports’ 2006 review is too outdated to be useful, and most of the products are no longer available or very difficult to acquire.
We eliminated all of the soda makers that were hard to find—many were no longer sold in the US or have disappeared from production entirely. Unfortunately, Sodastream is the only company making proper soda machines. Cuisinart’s entry into the field, the SMS-201, has remarkably terrible reviews, and it appears the well-reviewed Primo Flavorstation is in the middle of being discontinued (probably due to their acquisition by Cuisinart last year).
We eliminated soda siphon brands like Mosa and Whip-It! due to poor reviews and mediocre availability. Plus, the Mosa appears to be an almost direct knockoff of the iSi siphon, only with less-enthusiastic user reviews.
In the end, we taste-tested the outputs of four off-the-shelf siphons and machines (the Purefizz, the Sodastream Jet, the iSi Soda Siphon, and the SodaSparkle). We also tested one DIY solution, using a bottle of store-bought seltzer as the control. Results ranged from ‘meh’ to ‘acceptable’ with only one exception, the excellent Mastrad Purefizz.
The Purefizz consistently produced sharper, tinglier, and brighter seltzer that was the overwhelming favorite amongst taste testers (besides the store-bought control). One person said the taste was “consistent—almost like factory-produced seltzer,” and another said it was “so good” and “kept its effervescence, even in your throat,” unlike some others, which seemed to go flat seconds after they touched your tongue.
I turned to Andrew Schloss, the author of home-soda recipe book Homemade Soda, to find out why people overwhelmingly prefer the stronger stuff. He explained that “The main difference is the texture of the bubbles. People are used to pretty intense carbonation—high intensity, little bubbles.” He went on to explain that people expect a bit of brightness (acidity) in their beverages: “Carbon dioxide is sour, so there’s a little bit of that taste. The more something is carbonated, the brighter it tastes. That’s why [flat soda tastes worse]; it’s because it’s missing an acidic quality.”
We aren’t the only ones who like it: The Kitchn praised its versatility, and Donna Currie at Serious Eats said it was “a portable, self-contained device that doesn’t take a whole lot of space. And I got a good amount of carbonation in everything I’ve tried so far.” Julie Lasky at the New York Times found it didn’t produce enough carbonation, which we disagree with—this could possibly be the result of not using chilled water. As with all carbonation systems, it works best with very cold water. Chef Mary Moran said “The water was incredibly fizzy, delicious tasting and very easy to make” at the Washington Times.
It is a new addition to the market, and with that in mind, we can’t speak to its long-term durability. But I will say that I’ve had my Purefizz for well over three months and have yet to encounter any difficulties.
If the Purefizz is sold out?
It does lock you into Sodastream’s proprietary CO2 system, which will require a trip to Home Depot, Bed Bath and Beyond, or another of the big box stores that are authorized refill centers whenever your machine runs out. That’s a hassle, and the canisters—which run about $15—can add up in cost quickly. But it’s nice not to think about your CO2, unlike with soda siphons, which require new 8-gram cartridges every time you charge them. And assuming each store reuses every CO2 canister, it’s very eco-friendly.
Ultimately, though, the Purefizz soda tastes significantly better. It’s easy to use and store and the 8-gram cartridges are easy to find. Assuming it’s in stock, it will always be a better pick than the Sodastream.
A more environmentally-friendly DIY option
The main problem we have with the Purefizz is that, like all siphons, it’s not the most environmentally friendly option because it uses disposable (recyclable) steel CO2 canisters. We spoke with Jeremy Faludi, a sustainable design strategist and researcher who has taught green design at Stanford, about the environmental impact of these steel cartridges versus disposable aluminum cans and plastic bottles. He concluded that the steel cartridges are marginally less environmentally destructive because they’re easier to recycle.
Using instructions from our project manager, John Mahoney, I built my own soda machine using parts bought on Amazon and a CO2 canister rented from a welding shop. This method certainly requires a lot of tweaking: We had trouble getting usable soda from the machine, and it took a lot of fiddling with the psi level to get anything resembling the quality of the Purefizz (and even then, the quality was still drastically inferior; it barely fizzed and went flat quickly).
But your results can, and will, vary, if you’re willing to take the time to tinker. And if you’re really, really serious about reducing your environmental impact without sacrificing your seltzer habit, it’s really the only option. A five or even ten-pound CO2 tank will last you forever. You’ll find lots of different sets of instructions on the web—here and here are two more. It’s more upkeep and work, but it can be a fun experiment and will go a long way towards reducing your eco-impact.
I initially had high hopes for the SodaSparkle, which looked like it might be a suitable replacement for the recalled iSi Twist ‘n’ Sparkle. However, it didn’t work with generic 8-gram CO2 cartridges and ultimately produced a weak fizz. It looks like the company is distributed and branded stateside by Cuisinart, but we couldn’t find any evidence or support on the website. Ultimately, the Purefizz beats it on taste alone.
The iSi Soda Siphon is ultimately better suited for bar use. Instead of untwisting the lid to pour out your soda, it uses a nozzle to spray it out—often wildly, all over the kitchen. The soda itself is flat, not fizzy—some reviewers say you can use two chargers to get more carbonation, but that’s more wasteful and requires extra effort that the Mastrad doesn’t.
The Mosa Soda Siphon got decent marks from Wall Street Journal, but reviewers say the soda tends to be flat—just like the iSi, which looks to be based on a similar design.
There are a lot of bad user reviews for the Liss siphon, many complaining of leakage. It also has the same, finicky nozzle spray structure as the Mosa and the iSi, which means you should pass.
What makes a good soda maker anyway?
So those are our picks for the best home carbonators, but if you want to shop around, it helps to know what to look for.
There are two good ways to make soda at home: A soda machine (like the Sodastream) where the entire process is automated by pushing a button, or a siphon, which requires a small CO2 canister. At their cores, both work the same way—using pressure to add carbon dioxide to water, creating the little fizzy bubbles that make soda water taste so delicious.
A good siphon needs a few things. First, it needs to be easily cleaned, especially if you’re using it to carbonate fruit juices or alcohol, which can be sticky. That means it should break down into parts: a dishwasher-safe canister and two caps, one that fits the charger for carbonation and one for storage.
It needs to hold enough water for a few drinks without holding so much water that two CO2 cartridges are necessary. We tested machines that held between 0.75 and 1.2 liters, and we found that the smaller siphons were better able to straddle the line between high carbonation and sufficient capacity.
It should also be simple to use. To get the CO2 from the cartridge into the water, the bottom of the cartridge must be pierced by a tiny spike. The best siphons require placing the cartridge into a plastic holder, which is then screwed into the lid, pierced by the spike, and released into the liquid below. Getting the soda out shouldn’t be complicated, either; some, like the iSi Soda Siphon, use a handle to spray the soda out of the lid in a thin stream, much like a bartender might use. This ostensibly keeps the water carbonated for longer, and it might be great for the bar, perhaps, but the stream is too strong and often ended up spraying all over my kitchen during testing. A carafe you can simply pour water out of is a much simpler, and we noticed no drop in soda quality.
When you’re using high pressure to carbonate anything, whether it be water or alcohol or fruit juice, safety is of the utmost importance. The iSi Twist ‘n Sparkle, one of the most frequently-referenced models in early research, was recalled in 2012 for having a funny tendency to explode. You’ll find models with aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, and, in the expensive Sodastream models, glass carafes. Used properly, all of these should be safe, but steel and aluminum models provide an extra level of security. The cap does need to be attached securely, though, with strong threading and a plastic ring that prevents excess carbonation from forcing the top off and spraying all over your kitchen.
The economics of soda
Getting your own home soda maker might make environmental sense, but when it comes to economic benefits, the benefit over storebought isn’t as strong. But it still comes out ahead—buying 100 one-liter bottles of seltzer from the store is a pretty simple calculation, so you know it costs anywhere between $100 and $200, depending on where you live and what store you’re buying from.
But to make seltzer at home, you’ll have to get your CO2 from somewhere—either small, 8-gram steel canisters, which cost about $97 (with shipping) for 300 (available in smaller-but-more-expensive quantities as well) or a larger Sodastream canister, which costs $15 to refill at most big-box stores like Bed Bath & Beyond, Staples and Target. Sodastream’s canister is supposed to last 60 liters, but I’ve found—and Amazon commenters back me up—that if you like your soda anything more than lightly carbonated, it’s closer to 40 liters.
In addition to the initial investment in the machine itself, Sodastream costs about 37 cents per liter, coming out even with liter bottles from the store after about 125 liters—or about 4 months of use, if you drink one liter a day. The Purefizz takes a little longer to make the money back—about 220 liters or 7 months. But think of the tradeoffs—that’s 220 plastic bottles you aren’t lugging home from the store, storing in your home, or piling up in the bin. Sure, it takes a little longer to even out than the Sodastream, but you aren’t locked into a proprietary CO2 system. And the Purefizz just tastes a lot better.
(Aluminum cans cost about $1.42 per liter, giving the Purefizz an instant economical advantage, coming even after about 130 liters.)
Wrapping it up
If you’re a regular soda drinker who wants something simple, safe and delicious, Mastrad’s Purefizz is the best choice. Unlike Sodastream and other soda makers, the Purefizz lets you carbonate anything you want from wine to juice without voiding the warranty. There’s no need to spend more on the Sodastream, which locks you into their proprietary system. The Purefizz is the simplest option out there—and thus the best.
Author of Homemade Soda, Interview,
Home Seltzer Makers, Cook's Illustrated, May 1, 2010
A Missed Pop-ortunity: With their promise of convenience and inexpensive soda, can home soda makers deliver the goods?, Consumer Reports, July 1, 2006
WSJ Test Kitchen: Seltzer Makers, The Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2010,
Purefizz Soda Maker, The Kitchn
Gadgets: PureFizz Soda Maker, Serious Eats, August 15, 2013,
A Sleek Way to Add Fizz, but Not Much, The New York Times, July 31, 2013,
Product Review: Purefizz carbonated beverage maker, The Washington Times, August 23, 2013,