The Best Soda Maker
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 Sodastream Jet. It’s simple to use, easy to clean, and made the second-best-tasting soda water.
Unfortunately, we have to revoke our former top pick, the Mastrad Purefizz. Some users reported rusting in their units, and despite promises from Mastrad to evaluate the problem, forward motion was slow. This also brought up another major deal-breaker: Mastrad’s customer service is severely lacking. Despite multiple promises of improvement, we saw none. What’s the point of having an excellent soda maker if it’s impossible to get fixed if there’s an issue, or to get in touch with someone at the company if you have a shipment problem?
We spent more than 30 hours researching dozens of home soda makers, testing six models hands-on and even building our own machine (we’ll show you how later) to ultimately decide the Sodastream Jet is the best option for now. We don’t like how Sodastream locks you into their proprietary CO2 refills, which require taking a trek to Target or Bed Bath and Beyond (or a variety of other retailers—the full list is on their website). And they just can’t replicate the full-on fizziness of bottled soda. But if you’re in the market for a home soda maker, the Jet makes the bubbliest soda we’ve found.
Table of contents
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, but they seemed to have cornered the market. Up-to-date comparative reviews have been pretty hard to find, which is why we knew we had 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 In order to figure out what was worth looking at, we first turned to the many out-of-date reviews done by various publications.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), along with Sodastream’s very expensive Penguin model. (They updated their recommendation in September 2014 to the SodaStream Source Starter Kit.) 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 Consumer Reports’ 2006 review is too outdated to be useful, and most of the products are no longer available or very difficult to acquire.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). For soda siphons, we eliminated brands like Mosa and Whip-It! due to poor reviews and mediocre availability. Plus, the Mosa appears to be an almost direct knock-off of the iSi siphon, just with less-enthusiastic user reviews.
In the end, we taste-tested the outputs of five off-the-shelf siphons and machines (the Purefizz, the Sodastream Jet, the iSi Soda Siphon, the Best Whip SodaPlus and the SodaSparkle) and one DIY solution, using a bottle of store-bought seltzer as the control.
Because the Jet is a soda machine, not a siphon, it’s by far the easiest to use: There’s no need to use a soda charger, just fill up the provided bottle, screw into the machine, and pump once, twice, or three times, depending on the level of carbonation you prefer (although all but the most subtle of seltzer-lovers will find anything besides three pumps to be “barely carbonated”). Unscrew, and ta-da—seltzer. It does require some prep, though, most notably making sure your water is very, very cold. If you can remember to refill your Sodastream bottle and keep it in the fridge between uses, you’ll have much more success with the machine. In our blind taste test, the Jet scored third, behind the Purefizz and the store-bought control. It’s neutral-tasting, and not as fizzy as the store-bought version, but it still tastes effervescent and bubbly. Bubbles were definitely bigger than those produced by the iSi, the SodaSparkle and the Best Whip, and the overall taste was better. As mentioned above, chilling your water will drastically improve taste.
The Jet comes with a 60-liter CO2 tank, which we found filled about 40 liters consistently, although this will depend on how carbonated you prefer your seltzer. It offers the ability to use both 60 L and 130 L CO2 cartridges, which means if you like, you can spend less time going to and from the store for a refill, especially if you’re a frequent seltzer drinker. It’s nice to not think about your CO2, unlike with soda siphons, which require a new 8-gram cartridges every time you charge them.
Unfortunately, you have to take them back to big box stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (more options on their website) to refill, meaning once you’re out, you’re stuck with their proprietary CO2 refills, which cost $15. That’s costly, and can add up over time. It is, however, the most eco-friendly option, considering everything is reused again and again—assuming you haven’t wandered across a particularly unscrupulous retailer, the CO2 tanks will be refilled and reused. Theoretically, nothing goes into the recycling bin, and definitely not into the trash. Even siphons have to recycle the steel CO2 canisters. This is one of the biggest plusses for the Sodastream, and, in the absence of the Purefizz, more than justifies the pick. The Sodastream didn’t wow us in our first testing, but with our initial pick out of the running, it’s the best option we’ve found. No, it’s not as tasty as the Purefizz, and we’re really not impressed with the expensive, proprietary CO2, but if you want a seltzer maker, it still does an admirable job.
If you’re willing to take a risk, we still like the Mastrad Purefizz for its pure performance. The best soda maker was the Mastrad Purefizz soda siphon. At $80, it outperformed the far more expensive Sodastream Source, easily making the most consistently delicious seltzer of all the machines we tested. Plus, it’s easy to clean and dishwasher friendly. And unlike other ones we tested, the warranty doesn’t limit you to water or pre-approved mixes.
Unfortunately, Mastrad’s customer service leaves a lot to be desired. Our readers have complained about unresponsiveness, poor communication, and significantly delayed shipping times, even for rusting-related concerns. We just don’t feel comfortable recommending it as our main pick for these reasons, although we do still feel it is an excellent soda maker. You can use the Purefizz to carbonate anything. Things I carbonated: orange juice. Wine. (And together, in the mimosa recipe that comes with the siphon!) Gin. Drinks with chunks of fruit in them. 90% of the time, it worked just like I was using water; every once in a while, it was a little extra fizzy, but there was nothing opening it over a sink wouldn’t fix. Yes, you’ll find hacks online to use the Sodastream and other machines to carbonate all sorts of liquids, but in a lot of cases, it will void your warranty.
The Purefizz encourages you to use it to carbonate whatever you can think of and will do it exceptionally well. 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.
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.
Some of our readers have complained about the Purefizz developing rust, and this is something that one of our editors (me) has also noticed. We aren’t entirely sure why it’s happening, but we’re working with Mastrad to determine a cause. Unfortunately, we don’t expect this to be resolved soon, but we are reassured that the problem is uncommon.
A DIY option
We spoke with Jeremy Faludi, a sustainable design strategist and researcher who has taught green design at Stanford, about the environmental impact of the steel cartridges used in soda siphons versus disposable aluminum cans and plastic bottles. He concluded that the steel cartridges are marginally less environmentally destructive because they’re easier to recycle.1 That might be good enough for most people, but not if you’re serious about reducing your carbon footprint. Enter the build-it-yourself option, which is refillable and fully repairable.
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 10-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.
We tested the BestWhip Soda Plus hoping it would be a suitable replacement for the Purefizz. It’s also made of aluminum and uses the exact same cap and CO2 charge. Unfortunately, it’s also a lot larger—which means the soda isn’t nearly as strong and delicious as the Purefizz, or the Sodastream.
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 Sodastream 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 Sodastream 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.
Even though our current pick is a soda machine, ideally, you want a siphon. Soda machines are tempting, because they’re dead simple to use and don’t require using a new cartridge every liter, but the soda they make isn’t as tasty and they’ll trap you into proprietary CO2 cartridges that need to be refilled in-store. Plus, high-quality soda machines can easily run up to and above $150; there’s no need to spend more than $80 on a siphon.
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, the Sodastream Jet is the best choice right now. It’s not as delicious as our former top pick, which is currently and indefinitely unavailable, but it creates great soda easily, and is super environmentally friendly.
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,
Originally published: August 26, 2014