Home / Gadgets / The best soda maker

The best soda maker


Why you should trust us

In reporting this guide, we sought the advice of some of the best soda experts we could find: Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the bar manager at Portland, Oregon’s Clyde Common and Pépé Le Moko; water sommelier Martin Riese; and craft soda-syrup makers Chris Onstad and Dan McLaughlin of Portland Soda Works. We previously talked with Emma Christensen, managing editor at Simply Recipes and author of True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home; Jackson Anderson, founder of Blue Blaze Soda & Syrup Company; and Jeremy Butler, food scientist, blogger at The Homemade Soda Expert, and author of Making Soda at Home: Mastering the Craft of Carbonation. For the science behind carbonated water, we talked to Gavin Sacks, PhD, associate professor at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science.

Updates writer Dorie Chevlen’s prior experience with fizzy drinks was mostly limited to a healthy appreciation for gin and tonics, but after consuming liters’ worth in researching and testing soda makers for the 2019 update, she’s an enthusiastic seltzer convert. Staff writer Anna Perling, who wrote the 2017 update, is a longtime seltzer lover who, before she got a soda maker herself, was known for going through 12-packs of seltzer cans in just a few days. This guide also builds on the work of Jamie Wiebe, whose research included building a DIY soda maker.

For this update, we looked at the soda maker offerings at home-goods retailers such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Williams-Sonoma, as well as Amazon’s top-rated models. We also combed the internet for any new soda-maker reviews and roundups.

Who should get this

Soda maker

A home soda maker will let you fizz water anytime. Photo: Sarah Kobos

If you love sparkling water and are tired of lugging home bottles or cans, investing in a soda maker allows you to carbonate regular tap water easily (although we recommend filtering your water first). Since the models we recommend come with reusable plastic bottles and use refillable cylinders of carbon dioxide, they generate less waste than you would buying cans or bottles. If one refill cylinder can carbonate about 60 liters of seltzer, that means you won’t be purchasing about 60 plastic bottles.

Using refillable CO2 cylinders is more cost-effective than paying for store-bought seltzer, too. Generic seltzer costs about 80¢ per liter, while LaCroix costs about $1.50 per liter. In contrast, SodaStream promises that each proprietary $15 60-liter refill will fizz about 60 liters of water, so it costs about 25¢ per liter to carbonate with a SodaStream (plus another 5¢ per liter to add flavor). To save yet more money, you can find DIY alternatives to purchasing refill cylinders, such as this one from mixologist Jeffrey Morgenthaler. But these DIY rigs still take an initial investment, and they may be too bulky for some kitchens.

How we picked

Soda makers work by injecting carbon dioxide into water to produce effervescence, making seltzer (not to be confused with club soda, soda water, or mineral water, which contain salts and minerals, or with tonic water, which contains sweeteners and quinine). At its simplest, a good soda maker should easily add enough carbon dioxide to produce water with a zippy, Perrier-like fizz. But beyond that, there are a few criteria we looked for when deciding what to test:

Allows you to adjust the fizz

We preferred soda makers that make it easy to choose and adjust the level of carbonation in your water. While some people may prefer seltzer with a light fizz, others like a more robust, nose-tickling beverage, and it’s nice to have a machine that can do both. It’s also great to be able to pump up the fizz if you’re planning to use the seltzer for mixed drinks. As water sommelier Martin Riese explained, “When you want your cocktail to have bubbles in it, you need a base product that has tons of bubbles in it. If the bubbles are already small and then you dilute it with a cocktail, you can barely taste the carbonation anymore.”

Uses CO2 cylinders

Most soda makers use a cylinder to inject the CO2, which is the most effective method. But over the years we’ve seen a few that use alternative carbonating methods such as sodium bicarbonate tablets or pods filled with carbonator beads. Siphons and handheld soda makers use one-time CO2 cartridges that are good for carbonating only about one liter of water. These alternative carbonating methods don’t allow you to adjust the level of carbonation, and we’ve found that they don’t make especially fizzy water (this Serious Eats article explains why). They also create more waste, so after initially trying a couple, we’ve decided to skip anything that doesn’t use a CO2 cylinder.

CO2 cylinders are easy to find

The main issue many people have with SodaStream machines and similar soda makers lies in the continual need to exchange the CO2 cylinders when they run out of gas (though you can find some options out there for hacking SodaStream’s proprietary carbonating method in order to use much larger cylinders). We looked for soda makers that were compatible with SodaStream cylinders, the most readily available refills. SodaStream cylinders are easily exchangeable at retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and a range of grocery and specialty kitchen stores. SodaStream has a participating-store locator for finding one near you, and you can exchange cylinders by courier in a few larger cities. Exchanging a 60-liter cylinder runs about $15 at the time of this writing.

Soda maker

We’ve found that the best soda makers use refillable CO2 cylinders to carbonate water. Photo: Michael Hession

Over the years we’ve found fewer and fewer competitors against SodaStream that meet our criteria. It remains the brand to beat and has generally performed well in our tests, producing satisfyingly fizzy water. But there are downsides to SodaStream’s domination. We were disappointed to learn that our long-time top pick, the SodaStream Source, was discontinued and not replaced by a similar mid-priced model. Instead, SodaStream now offers the Fizzi, a more basic model that lacks the Source’s clear indicators of fizz level, for almost the same price as the Source. The next step up from that, the automated Fizzi OneTouch, is easier to use than the Fizzi but more expensive than the Source was, and it needs to be plugged in. SodaStream’s newer models also come with only a two-year warranty, which is typical of many small kitchen appliances but a downgrade from the limited lifetime warranty SodaStream offered with older models.

For our 2019 update, we tested the SodaStream OneTouch and Fizzi against our previous top pick (the Source) and upgrade pick (the Power); both have since been discontinued.

How we tested

We began our testing by setting up each soda maker, noting how easy it was to assemble and how much counter space it occupied. We then carbonated water that we had filtered and chilled overnight in the fridge, because to make the fizziest results, the water should be cold. We took into account how easily each soda maker allowed us to control the fizz levels and then visually compared the overall fizz level and bubble size in the sparkling water from each soda maker. Finally, we conducted a blind taste test with a panel of seltzer lovers. We gave each tester soda water from each machine in a smooth-walled drinking glass (to avoid any extra nucleation sites, which increase carbonation, caused by ridges or bumps) to compare mouthfeel and flavor, looking for seltzer with good bite and no off tastes.

In our 2019 test, we also judged the fizz level by adding a Mentos to a glass of soda water from each model, which accelerated the nucleation process and released the carbonation quickly. We wanted to see if any seltzer maintained its fizz longer (an indication of more bubbles), but they all fizzled out about equally. Ultimately, our picks hinged more on the mouthfeel of the bubbles and how easy it was to adjust their level to our taste.

Although SodaStream machines can carbonate only water, the iDrink Drinkmate can carbonate anything. To explore the Drinkmate’s capabilities in our 2017 testing, we gave our panel a sampling of pre-carbonated, bottled sparkling apple juice to compare in a blind taste test against apple juice from the same brand carbonated with the Drinkmate. To see how the Drinkmate worked with different beverages, we also tried carbonating rosé and chilled water mixed with Portland Soda Works’s Rose Cordial Syrup (to mimic a premixed cocktail or mocktail).

Our pick: SodaStream Fizzi OneTouch

Soda maker

Photo: Sarah Kobos

The SodaStream Fizzi OneTouch makes great-tasting sparkling water, and it’s easy to customize your level of fizz. Like most SodaStream models, the water it makes is consistently delicious and perfectly fizzed. And thanks to the machine’s sleek and straightforward design, the Fizzi OneTouch is also one of the simplest soda makers to use, clean, and refill.

In our tests, the Fizzi OneTouch produced very fizzy water with a rounded, zippy mouthfeel from a mix of large and small bubbles. “Like champagne bubbles” is how one tester described them.

The Fizzi OneTouch gives great control over fizz level: You simply press one of three buttons at the top of the machine to select a low, medium, or high amount of carbonation. Then the OneTouch carbonates automatically. If you’d like it fizzier than the fizziest button provides, you can just press one of the buttons again for a second round. While other machines left us unsure whether we had carbonated sufficiently (sometimes even resulting in over-carbonated spillover, in the case of the more basic SodaStream Fizzi), with the Fizzi OneTouch you can just press the button and walk away, knowing the machine is doing exactly what you’ve asked of it.