SodaStream

By Carolyn Shearlock, copyright 2011 . All rights reserved.

sodastream

Lots of cruisers are using or are contemplating the SodaStream — I found that out last week when a reader asked a question on The Boat Galley’s Facebook page! Several people gave their opinions there and several more sent me e-mails, plus I’ve done a bunch of research on questions they asked — as well as some others that I had.

I’ll start by saying that I don’t own one (although I have used them on other boats), so this is a compilation of information from others.  And I’ll apologize for what’s going to be a fairly long article, with two videos.  But there’s a lot of information to cover when it comes to suitability for cruisers — and no definitive yes/no answer.  But it seems that those who have decided it’s for them love the SodaStream.

There are four sections to the information below:

  • What’s a SodaStream? — including a video
  • Pros and Cons of using the system on a boat
  • Recommendations
  • Refilling the CO2 cartridges yourself — including a video

What’s a SodaStream?

A SodaStream is a method to make your own soft drinks, tonic water and “fizzy water.” There are seven different units, all about 5″ wide by 17″ high by 8-1/2″ deep.

The unit does not use electricity.  There is a CO2 cartridge, a 1-liter bottle, and flavor mixes that you can add.  This SodaStream video explains it very well (it’s about 2 minutes long):

Pros and Cons

The SodaStream takes a lot less space and weight than carrying a bunch of soda cans, not to mention getting them aboard — but there is the unit itself and the flavor bottles and carbonators.  And it produces a lot less trash and you no longer have to deal with sometimes getting paper-thins cans that develop leaks or split.  The jury seems to be out on whether it saves money — that probably depends on the cost of soda where you are.

  • Water. The unit requires water.  If you don’t have a watermaker or large tanks, that means that you’re going to be lugging bottles of water to use with the SodaStream, eliminating some of its benefits.
  • Filtered Water. Several cruisers have mentioned that tank water needs to be filtered so that it doesn’t have any funky taste. See my article on water filtering systems if you don’t have a filter and want some ideas on how to do it.
  • Cold Water. To carbonate properly, you need to start with cold water.  Now, it doesn’t have to be icy, but if you’re cruising in a hot locale and your tank water is warm, it won’t fizz as well.  You’ll need to chill a spare bottle of water in the refrigerator before using it. 
  • Flavors. SodaStream makes a wide variety of flavors, copying many sodas (regular, diet and caffeine-free), energy drinks and even having tonic water.  Most people think they taste great, although a few don’t (I’m guessing that using filtered versus unfiltered water plays a big role in this).  The little bottles of flavor say to use them within 3 months, but cruisers say they’ve lasted a year or more with no problems.  Flavors can be hard to get in some locations outside the US but they are available in 35 countries (some with wider distribution than others), but many people simply add a squeeze of lemon or lime, a dash of orange juice or even a powdered drink mix.  One 16-ounce flavor bottle makes about 13 liters.
  • Carbonation Cartridges. This is the biggie. The cartridges are reasonably easy to get and exchange for a refill (at some stores, but generally online) in the US, UK, much of Europe, Australia and New Zealand.  In other places, you’re likely to have to refill them yourself (see video at the bottom of this article on how to do it — this is what many cruisers in the Caribbean and Mexico do).  You can systems that use “small” cartridges good for making 60 liters of soda or “large” cartridges good for 130 liters — and the interesting thing is that the SodaStream units are the same size, and some can use either size cartridge.  You cannot take carbonators on an airplane (either in the cabin or in checked baggage) and they cannot be shipped by air.
  • Soda Bottles. The bottles that the soda is made in are special, heavy duty because of the pressure of the carbonation.  The company puts an expiration date of three years on them “for safety reasons” and says you can’t use an empty soda bottle from the store.  While the unit comes with one bottle, you’ll probably want to buy a couple of extras so that you can have more than one bottle made up at a time.

Recommendations

I can’t say whether a SodaStream is right for you and where you’re cruising.  So much is individual preference, but I’ve tried to lay out the things that you need to think about as one would be used on a boat. The cruisers who have them (and who gave me an opinion) all seem to love them, but others decided against getting one as they decided it wouldn’t fit well with their cruising (generally because of problems getting carbonators or they thought there would not be any cost or space advantage).

For those boating in the US, Canada, Great Britain, Australian or New Zealand, where supplies are easily available, the decision is much easier.  But several cruisers in the Caribbean absolutely love theirs, as do many in the Sea of Cortez — they’ve figured out ways to either get supplies or developed do-it-yourself alternatives.

There are 7 SodaStream models available.  The company has a nice comparison chart, and it’s useful to know that the prices roughly increase as you go from left to right.  For use aboard a boat, however, I’d opt for the lowest priced unit, called the “Fountain Jet” model (sometimes just called the Jet) — it is the simplest mechanism, uses plastic bottles (some of the high end ones use glass) and is all-plastic construction. Further, the product comparison page says that it can use either the smaller OR larger carbonators (I’d think that the large ones would be more convenient on a boat).  Wherever you buy it, note that it comes with a SMALL carbonator, not a large.

You can buy them on Amazon or directly from SodaStream:

Do-It-Yourself CO2 Cartridge Refill

Yes, it’s completely possible to refill the carbonators yourself, as long as you’re in a place where you can get a tank of CO2 — depending on where you are, check with restaurants or bars to see where they get tanks for their soda and “on draft” beer.  If there are paintball enthusiasts around, find out where they refill their cartridges. (If you already have a paintball refill setup, you may only need an adapter, available from SodaCo2.com. The adapter won’t work as a standalone, though — you need the refill kit detailed below.)

Because SodaStream (formerly called Soda Club) makes a proprietary cap and thread, designed to thwart DIY refills, you’ll have to get an adapter.  And of course, several entrepreneurs sell them.  A company called SodaCO2.com seems to be the leader, with how-to videos and promising plenty of customer support — and they’ve found all the right parts to make it all work.

I have not used this product so I can’t vouch for it — but I’ve spent hours online researching what is available and this is the setup that other cruisers were talking about on CruisersForum (Thanks to Laurie on Facebook for telling me about it!).  After looking at some others as well, I’d say that this looks to be the best solution if you want to refill the tanks yourself.  And no, it’s not endorsed by SodaStream.  In fact, they discourage it.  That happens a lot with adapting things for cruising — it’s up to you whether you are comfortable going against manufacturers’ recommendations.  It’s your decision, not mine (in other words, I’m not responsible, I’m just providing information if you decide you want to do this).

The adapters aren’t cheap — about $125 as I’m writing this.  A tank of gas is about $20 (and could fill 10 to 20 carbonators — it won’t all transfer, but one tank is likely to be more than just one boat would use).  But just one “large” carbonator refill from SodaStream costs $30 plus shipping, so it can definitely save you money in the long run.  And if you’re not in a country where you can get them refilled, it may be what makes SodaStream a workable idea for your boat.

  • SodaCo2 Refill Station — hoses and valves (note that the “pro” version is only about $10 more than the basic, and makes the fill easier).

The video on how to do it is below.  One thing that’s not mentioned in the video is that you need what’s called a “feeder tank” as the large tank (that’s a tank with a tube running down to the bottom of the tank from the valve at the top, so you get the liquid CO flowing) or you have to hang the large tank upside down so that the liquid will run through the hose.  It also works better if there is a temperature differential — when he’s venting the small tank initially, it’s chilling the small tank (same principle as a refrigerator and the expansion tube).

This video is a little less than 2 minutes long and is better than any other “refill” video I could find but (as noted above) misses a few points.

If you have a SodaStream or have refilled the cartridges or decided against getting a SodaStream, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Comments

  1. Sami on Facebook says:

    We have had ours now for 5 years. First on our sailboat and now on our trawler…….and love it. An amazing space saver that has paid for itself over and over. The flavors are good, the diet ones do not use aspartane and there is a huge choice including no caffeine cola. Be sure to get the size that can use the small and large canister interchangeably. That will make it easier to get either size ‘fizzer’. Bed Bath and Beyond carry them as well as Kohls and of course you can order supplies over the internet as well. I recommend them highly and hope my spelling is OK this early in the morning!

  2. Karen Taylor says:

    We have a SodaStream on board. It has been especially great on reducing our use of plastic bottles. Not everywhere we have been recycle. So we don’t contribute to the trash dump which sometimes is actually the ocean. Also, my husband’s favorite, Root Beer, is often hard to find So we can just make our own.

  3. Got one 6 mnths ago n absolutely love it! Space saving is a big plus, especially with my club soda addiction we save lots of money, and no negatives so far.

  4. Also got one about six months ago. Love it!

  5. Sandra Parsons Hall on Facebook says:

    Got one for X-mas. Can’t live without it now!!

  6. Jacqueline Rauch on Facebook says:

    My husband and I have this crazy dream…so everyone tells me…. to sell our home, buy a big sloop and sail the world. So…I’ve been buying things we’ll need….the Soda Stream is one of them. But I just can’t get myself to open it or use Anything that we’ve bought (believe me there is a good sized pile now) before we buy the boat. Call me crazy but I want everything to be new! And I guess I’m just afraid if i use anything, that something will happen and ruin all of our plans. Superstition maybe…..I guess?

  7. Just recently got a Soda Stream “Fizz” – actually won it on a penny auction for under $3 including the sampler of flavors ($149.91 at Amazon). Takes both size cartridges. So far we like it. Saw the flavor bottles tonight in WalMart (smaller size) for under $5. The large bottles weren’t much more. The 60L carbonators were about $20. Once I came home and checked Amazon prices, I’m going back tomorrow to buy all they had!!! Hope they weren’t mismarked!! Each time I’ve made up a new bottle of “soda”, I used cold tap water – did not chill in ‘fridge. Still carbonated fine and held the carbonation as long as a traditional 1 -2L bottle of soda does. Now if I can just figure out where to store it on the boat….

  8. Susan Parker says:

    We love our SodaStream also. I have one at home and one on the boat. There’s a simpler and cheap way to refil the CO2 cartridges. You unscrew the valve from the cartridge and fill the bottlw.it with crushed dry ice. Then replace the valve.

  9. We love ours too.

  10. Sue Waudby on Facebook says:

    We have had one on our boat since 2005. Love it but you can’t get CO2 canisters or the syrup outside of the US. We had friends drive down to the Baja so not a issue but had to stock up as we won’t be back in RI for several years. We fly home with our empty ones.

  11. Sue Waudby on Facebook says:

    We have had one on our boat since 2005. Love it but you can’t get CO2 canisters or the syrup outside of the US. We had friends drive down to the Baja so not a issue but had to stock up as we won’t be back in RI for several years. We fly home with our empty ones.

  12. Patti Gay Hartzell on Facebook says:

    I use mine daily. It’s one of the best things I have on the boat! Saves space and is such a treat on a hot day in the islands!

  13. Katherine Whitby on Facebook says:

    Love my sodastream!!!!

  14. We love ours. It also works great with mio flavoring drops and crystal light.

  15. Steven K. Roberts on Facebook says:

    There are some excellent how-to articles on the web for DIY alternatives that don’t lock you in or cost nearly as much.

  16. It’s a simple matter to buy bulk CO2 and refill canisters. It’s also simple to buy syrups, etc and skip the markup of sodastream.

  17. Steven K. Roberts on Facebook says:

    You can also buy a widget that frees you from the tyranny of their proprietary adapter, if you want their tabletop unit. But here is one of many DIY articles…

    http://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Soda-Water-%26-Home-Carbonation—Pays-For-Itsel/

  18. While making your own soda is practical and with some effort you can get the stuff to taste acceptable, it’s pretty nice just to pop the top on a can of soda. I confess I don’t make my own as often as I could. My life is about minimizing hassle.

  19. Kathe Spidell says:

    We love our Soda Stream, it was a sad day when we couldn’t refill the CO2 cartridges in Guatemala or Panama. Now that we have the boat back in the states, we are going to see about getting an adapter and a bigger cartridge before we head down to the tropics again.

  20. Jennifer Bradley says:

    We purchased ours in S Africa however we are now sailing in S America and wishing that we would have stocked up before leaving. So now we are going to find what we need to fill them on board. This was a really useful article. Thanks for taking the time to research.

  21. Gloria Dawn says:

    We deal directly with Soda Stream since 2006. We keep three large CO2 tanks in the loop of exchange. When we leave the states every year we have three fulls with 6 each ginger ale & Tonic Water with 2 prep bottles. The machine housing is tough. Long runs store snugly but day runs pop in galley sink. They deliver tanks by courier or ups in states. Just tell them you live on a boat and can’t go to bog box stores. Coffee pot & Soda Stream must haves.

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