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Home Seltzer Makers
Home seltzer makers that transform still water into sparkling promise clear advantages over buying bottled seltzer from the store. We put four models to the test.
Our favorite home seltzer maker by SodaStream has been discontinued, as has our runner-up by Cuisinart. Stay tuned; a new review will soon be available!
What We Learned
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 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 about $50.00 to $130.00.
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 about $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 about $0.70 to $0.80 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.
Everything We Tested
- Ease of Use
This countertop model is both the simplest to use and the sleekest. Applying light pressure to the carbonating block allowed testers to choose between gentle carbonation and intensely effervescent bubbles. CO2 canisters are long lasting and convenient to exchange in dozens of retail stores (including Crate & Barrel, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Sur la Table) for half of the retail price.
- Ease of Use
Twisting the neck of the bottle into this countertop machine required a little finesse, but we loved that we could adjust carbonation levels with just the press of a handle. Our main complaint: Replacement CO2 cartridges are only available at Cuisinart’s online store, without the option to exchange at a discount.
Recommended with reservations
- Ease of Use
A twist-on metal carbonating wand rivaled the power of countertop models, but it was hard to customize the level of carbonation with this model. Without dials or handles, the only way to adjust carbonation was to shake it less—which is imprecise at best.
- Ease of Use
This handheld carbonating unit had a tiny adjustable dial (to change the amount of carbonation) that was imprecise and difficult to grip. In fact, the entire model was difficult to use. Halfway through testing, we still found ourselves reaching for the instruction manual.