Published on October 7th, 2005 | by Greg0
Carbonate the World!
Tired of paying outrageous prices for bubbly sugar water? Do the corporate snobs at Coke and Pepsi refuse to respond to your brilliant idea for blueberry pancake soda? Either way, maybe it’s time to stop shelling out to the massive bottled beverage industry, and start brewing your own cup ‘o’ soda.
The Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker (yes, really) allows you to do just that. You simply take one of their special bottles and fill it with water, twist the bottle onto the carbonating machine, press the carbonation button a few times, and add a small amount of their liquid soda mix. It’s fast, easy, and fresher than buying soda from one of those old-fashioned “stores”. Who needs those places anyway?
Truly Obscure tried their Edition 1 model, which was shipped with a single CO2 container. Each container makes about 110 liters of soda, and costs about $20. When a container is used up, they simply send another to you in the mail, and you return your old one. We also tested around 20 of their flavors, from Apple Peach to Cola to Root Beer. They have a Dr. Pepper flavor (called Pete’s), Fountain Mist (Mt. Dew), and lots and lots of diet and caffeine-free options. Each bottle of flavor mix can make about 12 liters of soda, and costs either $3 or $4. So you’re looking at around $0.25 cents for the soda mix, and $0.20 for the carbonation, which equals about $.045 per liter of soda- a good deal compared to a cans of soda, which typically run around $2 a liter.
Don’t get fizzy on me yet! Before you can realize the savings, you have to buy the machine- around $100 for their cheapest model, though it comes with the CO2 and several bottles of soda mix. And to really compare apple-peaches to apple-peaches, the price for a 2-liter bottle of soda can run between $1-$1.50; either way, only slightly more per liter than using the home machine. If you factor in the upfront cost of buying the Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker, you’ll need to make a lot of soda (300-500 liters) to benefit much. Considering that the average American drinks around 50 gallons (200 liters) of soda a year, you’ll need two and a half years to recoup your costs.
So what about taste, and the ability to mix your own flavors? Well, the flavors taste fine- equivalent to the off-brand sodas you can buy at retailers, and the Pink Grapefruit is especially nice. Homemade soda is fizzier, and stays fresher in their custom vacuum bottles. But creating your own concoctions is difficult- Torani-type syrups aren’t cheap, and you need to add quite a bit to get much flavor. Unless your goal in life is besting Jones Soda’s Turkey and Gravy flavor you might want to stick to the classics.
Finally, for better or worse, all of their soda flavors are at least partially artificially sweetened. This was a deal-breaker for one of our reviewers, who simply cannot stand any artificial sweetener. Some people may appreciate that even the “regular” Soda Club Cola contains a third of the calories and sugars and two-thirds of the caffeine of regular Coke or Pepsi- but it’s a real downside for people who just want the real stuff cheaper. According to the company, “The issue is one of volume; the SodaMix is concentrated in a 23:1 dilution (23 parts seltzer to one part syrup.) Natural sweeteners would not allow us to concentrate anywhere near that level. As you know, part of our value proposition is about eliminating storage problems, less lugging, fewer recyclables, etc.”
There you have it. Home carbonation is fun, simple, and affordable. But unless you really want to mix your own flavors, or don’t mind every flavor tasting a bit artificial, you might want to stick to those, uh, old-fashioned stores.