- We tested six soda makers for ease of use and effective carbonation.
- The Sodastream Fizzi One Touch eliminates all guesswork and makes seltzer fizzier than store-bought.
- If you want to carbonate more than just water, go with the Drinkmate.
In the last few years, seltzer has become more than just a beverage – it’s become a way of life. From fan-favorite La Croix to Sanzo, which was founded by a Filipino-American entrepreneur and focuses on Asian flavors like calamansi, to the well-hyped Travis Scott-endorsed hard seltzer, we just love the fizzy stuff. But keeping a fridge stocked with seltzer can both add up in cost and take up a lot of space, so investing in a soda maker might be the solution.
Soda makers work by injecting CO2 into a liquid. Some machines want you to stick to plain water and add flavorings after the fact, while others allow you to carbonate beverages like juice, tea, and wine.
In order to determine the best soda makers out there, we tested six of them, assessing them for ease of use, consistency, and levels of fizziness we could achieve compared to store-bought seltzer. We also spoke to beverage scientist Adam Johnson of Imbibe, Inc. You’ll find an FAQ section below that explains the basics of carbonation as well as how to best replace and recycle your empty CO2 canisters.
Here are the best soda makers of 2021:
- Best soda maker overall: Sodastream Fizzi One Touch
- Best soda maker for flavored sodas: Drinkmate Soda Maker
- Best upgrade soda maker: Aarke Carbonator III
- Best soda maker with no CO2 canister: Sparkel Beverage System
With the press of a single button, the SodaStream Fizzi One Touch carbonates seltzer to your desired level of fizz with absolutely no guesswork.
Pros: Select from three levels of carbonation, automatically carbonates to the proper level, no guesswork
Cons: Must be plugged in, only carbonates water, bottles not dishwasher safe
Many soda makers on the market require you to manually control the level of carbonation you add to your soda. Some will buzz when they’re finished carbonating to let you know to stop, but others leave it entirely up to how long you dare to push it. This can lead to inconsistent levels of fizz from batch to batch, and in extreme cases, messy overflow caused by over-carbonation.
The SodaStream Fizzi One Touch doesn’t leave anything up to chance. Once you hook the bottle into the appliance — simply insert the top and push back to lock into the machine — you select one of three carbonation levels and within a few seconds you have properly carbonated soda. The highest setting — my personal preference — produced a level of fizz even stronger than Vintage brand store-bought seltzer.
The one downside of the One Touch is that it’s powered by electricity, so you need to position it near an outlet. Other soda makers use analog mechanisms to inject CO2 into the water, but electricity allows for the One Touch to start and stop the process at predetermined intervals. You’ll also likely get more life out of your CO2 tank because you won’t waste gas by releasing more than you actually need.
Best soda maker for flavored sodas
Carbonating anything but water can void the warranty of many soda makers, but the Drinkmate lets you carbonate whatever you like from juice to wine and even cold brew.
Pros: Can carbonate a variety of liquids, one charge produces excellent fizz, doesn’t need electricity
Cons: May overflow when carbonating liquids that aren’t water, bottles not dishwasher safe
Many soda makers advise against carbonating any liquid other than water — you may even void the warranty if you do. Some carbonation mechanisms can clog easily and make your soda maker less effective or cause it to break entirely. But the Drinkmate not only allows you to carbonate beyond water, it specifically encourages it.
In my testing, I found it to be an incredibly effective and efficient carbonator for both water and juices. Where other soda makers took two or three charges to make seltzer as fizzy as store-bought, the Drinkmate did it in just one. It buzzes to let you know to stop carbonating, and it’s one of the only machines that allows you to vent some of the built-up pressure through a valve on the carbonator lid. This helps to prevent messy overflow.
I also carbonated apple juice in the Drinkmate and was able to get the same level of carbonation I got with water using the same single charge. Because the apple juice was denser than water, it foamed up quite a bit while carbonating, which did cause some to leak out the top of the bottle. I was able to mitigate it during a second round of testing by filling the bottle slightly less and keeping a closer eye on the level of foam forming during the process. Just be sure to be ready to take your finger off the button before things get messy, and you should be fine.
If things do go awry, everything can be rinsed pretty easily with dish soap and water. But remember, the components are not dishwasher safe.
Best upgrade soda maker
The Aarke Carbonator III uses a simple pull-down handle to create intense levels of fizz, and its beautiful design will fit right in among your countertop appliances.
Pros: Sleek design, simple carbonation mechanism, doesn’t need electricity, doesn’t take up much space
Cons: No CO2 canister included with purchase, multiple charges needed to get high levels of carbonation, only carbonates water, bottles not dishwasher safe
Like every small kitchen appliance, the more your soda maker is accessible to you, the more likely you are to use it regularly, so you may want to prioritize aesthetics so you can keep it on your counter. The Aarke Carbonator III is the sleekest, most aesthetically-minded soda maker I tested, and it performs just as well.
To carbonate, you twist the bottle into the Aarke and pull the handle down until you hear a buzz. Slowly release the handle and you’ll hear a hiss similar to twisting the top off a bottle of soda. One charge will get you lightly sparkling water, but I typically go for three full charges to get the high level of fizz to which I’m accustomed.
Yes, you’re paying for style here — and keep in mind that a CO2 canister is not included with your purchase — but the performance is certainly not lacking. It’s a bit more manual than the One-Touch, but the auditory trigger that your soda’s carbonated is a nice safety mechanism that removes a lot of the guesswork.
Best soda maker with no CO2 canister
The Sparkel Beverage System used a proprietary mix of baking soda and citric acid to generate CO2 without a canister, and you can carbonate any liquid and even infuse it with solid ingredients.
Pros: No CO2 canister needed, dishwasher safe bottle, can infuse sodas with solid ingredients, can carbonate any liquid
Cons: Much more complicated process than other soda makers, bottle is smaller in capacity than other soda makers, takes much longer to carbonate than other soda makers
Most soda makers work by injecting CO2 gas directly from a metal canister housed in the machine into the liquid. Once the canister is empty, it needs to be replaced, and most companies allow you to order new canisters and mail back your empties. But if you can’t be bothered with this process or simply don’t want to deal with canisters of pressurized gas, the Sparkel has provided an alternative.
The mechanism is a bit more complex than other soda makers. Each charge requires you to add two packets of powder into the machine — baking soda and citric acid. These chemicals mix with water from a reservoir in the back of the machine to generate CO2. That gas is then pulled out of the reservoir water and injected into the liquid you’re carbonating. Wastewater then moves into a separate tank you’ll toss away.
The whole process takes much longer than your average soda maker — 90 seconds for a level one slight fizz all the way up to four minutes for a level five stronger-than-store-bought fizz. Aside from not having to deal with CO2 canisters, the other distinct advantage of the Sparkel is the ability to infuse solid ingredients into your sodas such as fruit and herbs. The Sparkel not only injects CO2 but also pressurizes the bottle as it does so, which allows the flavors of the ingredients you add to infuse into the soda.
I carbonated both water and apple juice on the highest setting and was very satisfied by the level of fizz and consistency of carbonation. It is definitely more of a process than other soda makers, though.
What else we tested
What we don’t recommend and why:
SodaStream Fizzi: This is SodaStream’s basic model, and it was outperformed by every other soda maker I tried. It’s a simple single-button design, but it doesn’t give you any visual or auditory signal to stop carbonating. I wasn’t able to get as strong a fizz as other models even after holding the button down for as long as 15 seconds. There’s just too much room for user error and second-guessing yourself. It’s affordable, but you’re better off spending a bit more for consistency and ease of use.
iSi Soda Siphon: A soda siphon like this is fun to use, but is better suited for vaudevillian sight gags than getting consistently carbonated seltzer. It produced the least fizzy seltzer of any soda maker I tried and the batches varied widely.
Our testing methodology
We tested six soda makers for ease of use, consistency, and strength of carbonation. For each soda maker, I took note of how easy each was to assemble, the steps required in the carbonation process, and the cleaning process. For machines that provided less guidance in how long to carbonate for, I tested how easy it was to get consistent batches of soda.
I carbonated both tap-cold and fridge-cold water in each machine. I also carbonated apple juice in the two machines that allowed for carbonating liquids beyond water. I compared each batch to store-bought Vintage brand seltzer to determine the difference in fizziness.
I discovered that carbonating fridge-cold liquids produced a much fizzier soda than water straight from the tap. I also discovered that some models required multiple charges in order to get the level of carbonation I desired.
What we’re testing next
FIZZPod: This is one of the more attractive carbonators on the market with its sleek design and cylindrical bottles. It’s also very affordable, but it doesn’t come with a CO2 canister. I’m interested to see if it’s more than just a pretty face.
How long does a CO2 canister last?
All of the soda makers on our list (with the exception of the Sparkel) use 60L CO2 canisters. That means each canister is rated to carbonate roughly 60 liters of water. Each bottle holds roughly one liter, so you’ll get about 60 bottles of soda out of one canister. This can vary, though depending on how fizzy you like your soda. If you use more CO2 per bottle, you’ll likely get fewer total bottles out of your canister.
How do I get replacement CO2 canisters?
The great thing about 60L CO2 canisters is that the design is universal. This means that regardless of the brand of your machine, you can order CO2 canisters from any manufacturer and they will fit. Many brands offer recycling programs that allow you to return your empties when you order new ones.
SodaStream‘s exchange program is the most cost-effective we’ve found. For a total of $37.97 ($29.98, plus $7.99 shipping), you’ll get two full CO2 canisters and a prepaid USPS shipping label that allows you to send back two empty canisters. The box can be dropped off at any post office.
How does carbonation work?
I spoke with beverage scientist Adam Johnson of Imbibe, Inc., and he explained that carbonation is simply the suspension of carbon dioxide gas in a liquid. A soda maker forces a concentrated stream of gas into water to create soda.
Johnson explained that we find carbonated beverages so appealing because it actually causes us a very low-level pain. Think of it like enjoying a hot sauce or spicy food. “You get a little bit of a body response to the spicy food, but people like it,” he said. “It might just be kind of that, um, you know, people like pushing their body to certain limits. This is just a very, very low-end pain that people enjoy.”
But it’s not just that we’re indulging our masochistic side whenever we crack open a seltzer. The CO2 also helps carry flavor and increase the soda’s acidity to give it what Johnson called “bite.” “The bubbles help lift or carry the aroma, and so you get better flavor delivery,” he said.
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