At Home Soda Maker - Should I Buy?
Deciding whether or not to purchase a SodaStream machine
An at home soda maker under the Christmas tree would be nice for our one kid who is hard to shop for. The other two would benefit, too -- in fact the whole family would, especially for parties, picnics & other special gatherings where custom-made soda would be a lot of fun. But a machine that turns tap water into soda is a bit of an investment, so before taking the plunge, I wanted to do some research and answer a few key questions...
is it cost effective?
SodaStream claims that over time, there's big money to be saved when you use its machine to turn tap water into soda. The trick is to compare costs of buying soda at the grocery to the costs of the SodaStream starter kit, CO2 cartridge replacement after the initial one runs out, and any extra BPA-free SodaStream bottles you may want to purchase (so that you can have more than one flavor of soda in the fridge at a time, for instance). I've scoured customer reviews for real-life feedback on this, and here's what I've learned:
~ If you drink a lot of lower-end beverages like generic facsimiles of diet Coke, etc., you may not save a ton.
~ If you prefer higher-end drinks like fruit-flavored fizzy water, natural sodas, pricier cane-sugar brands, etc., you may indeed save over time.
~ If you are a Red Bull addict and can switch to SodaStream's version, you'll save money (though probably not your health!).
Our family likes soda but tries not to drink much except for special occasions. When I do buy it, I'm drawn to the special stuff like Italian lemon or orange soda (yum). So for us, if we could figure out how to replicate these tasty drinks using tap water & fruit juice or fruit juice concentrate, we probably would save money.
is it "green"?
This is probably the clearest benefit of an at home soda maker. There are actually several "shades of green" involved here...
Through the reusable BPA-free bottles, which reportedly last for 3 years, you use & discard stunningly fewer soda bottles/cans if you make soda at home.
Supermarket soda requires energy for production and transport from factory to store, then transport from store to your home. The only energy SodaStream requires is easily renewable compressed air, through the CO2 cartridge that comes with the starter kit. The machine uses no batteries or electricity. So we're talking major energy efficiency here.
When the cartridge eventually needs replacing, you can recycle it through the SodaStream co.
Making soda at home can actually reduce your carbon footprint in a tangible way. Pretty cool!
is it healthy?
The SodaStream flavor packets that you can buy for your machine (diet & regular varieties) do not strike me as particularly healthier than store-bought sodas. Same with Mio water enhancers & other water flavoring products you can use with the SodaStream.
However, there's no rule that you have to use this stuff with the machine. You can easily custom-make your own soda with fresh lemon, lime, or other fruit juice or fruit-juice concentrate, plus a little cane sugar or other sweetener. That's what we would plan to do. And that would be healthier than the additive-filled sodas at the supermarket.
is it fun?
This one's a no-brainer. Who wouldn't enjoy turning plain tap water into soda? Reportedly the process takes less than 30 seconds, so the hassle factor is low, too. My kids would love it, especially in terms of customizing flavor combos like they've done with milkshakes (but with fewer calories, as long as they don't go nuts with the sugar).
~~ help me decide ... ~~
Should I get an at home soda maker for Christmas?
If you have an at home soda maker, please weigh in! Do you love it, hate it, something in between? Was it worth the money? How often do you use it? How do you flavor your homemade sodas?