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Home Seltzer Makers

From Seafood Specials

How we tested

Home seltzer makers transform tap water into sparkling, without the hassle and waste of store-bought bottles. A few years ago, we recommended the SodaStream Penguin Starter Kit ($199.95) as well as a cheaper model that has since been recalled. For a new, less expensive option, we tried two countertop machines, which carbonate with a few presses of a lever, and two handheld designs, which rely on a twist top to release the carbon dioxide into the bottle; they’re priced from $49.99 to $129.

All four models included an initial supply of CO2 cartridges and produced sparkling water that was crisp, clean, and refreshing. Depending on the amount of CO2 used, the bubbles ranged from bold and effervescent to light, gentle carbonation. And their fizz wasn’t fleeting: After four days of pouring off glasses of water and returning the half-empty closed bottles to the fridge, we noticed that the carbonation gradually decreased but never fell flat for all four samples.

In terms of design, we much preferred the convenience of the countertop models, which hold large CO2 cartridges that can produce dozens of liters before needing to be changed (at a cost of $0.50 per liter) and whose designs made it easy to customize levels of carbonation. Handheld models, by contrast, were smaller and cost less up front but were fussier to operate—and more expensive over time. Their single-use CO2 cartridges must be replaced for every liter of seltzer, so you wind up paying $0.69 to $0.83 per liter. Even worse, neither handheld model made the carbonation level easily customizable. One had a tiny, hard-to-grip dial, and both required an additional step of shaking the just-carbonated bottles for maximum fizz. Another minor inconvenience: We had to clean up drips from removing the carbonating wand after making each bottle of seltzer.

Though we liked both countertop machines, one model was the clear winner. A one-push mechanism locked the bottle in place (the other unit twisted on, which was sometimes tricky), and a light-up display clearly indicated how much carbonation we’d added. But what really broke the tie: Empty cartridges can be exchanged at dozens of retailers for 50 percent off the price of new cartridges. We’ll drink to that.

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The Results

Winner
Recommended

Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.

$248.64*
Recommended

Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.

$141.90*

Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

$67.99*
Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

$49.93*
Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.

$129.95*

Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.

$99.95*

Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.

$24.99*

Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.

$35.88*