After more than 47 hours of research and 155 hours of testing, we’re confident the SodaStream Source is the best home soda maker you can buy. Over the past three years we’ve tested 12 soda makers and siphons, made our own DIY version, and talked extensively with home soda-making experts and scientists about carbonation (as well as consumed many liters of seltzer!). The Source makes some of the bubbliest, best-tasting sparkling water, and it’s easier to use than the competition.
For years, SodaStream has dominated the world of home soda makers. After looking for any other worthy competitors, we’ve found that the company still makes machines that work better than any other store-bought option we’ve encountered. We think the Source is the best of SodaStream’s offerings, with its optimal fizz-making capabilities, midlevel pricing, and sleek design.
If the Source sells out, the SodaStream Power is another good option. It made equally bubbly water in our tests, and like the Source, it allows you to pick your fizz level. But the Power requires an outlet and is currently around $50 more expensive—a price premium that buys no added functional value, just a marginally sleeker design.
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 to Emma Christensen, former editor at The Kitchn 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. We also spoke with Jeremy Faludi, a sustainable-design strategist and analyst, about the environmental impacts of home soda makers versus store-bought soda. For the science behind carbonated water, we talked to Gavin Sacks, PhD, associate professor at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science.
Anna Perling has researched and written about soda makers for The Sweethome for a few years. She’s 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. Jamie Wiebe, who wrote our 2013 review, has written about food and recipes for the likes of Men’s Journal and Eater. She also built a DIY soda maker for our original review.
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). Soda makers allow you to carbonate about a liter of water, if you’re looking to share, and to experiment with your beverage choice at a moment’s notice. Using a home carbonator represents an initial investment but will save you money over time—carbonating water from a soda maker costs less per liter than buying leading seltzer brands at the store. Since these gadgets use recyclable or refillable cylinders of carbon dioxide, you’ll also have a slightly lower environmental impact. If one refill cylinder can carbonate about 60 liters of seltzer, that means you won’t be purchasing about 60 plastic bottles.
Soda makers are great tools for creating cocktails or experimenting with homemade soda syrups, too. Certain home soda makers can carbonate beverages other than water right in their bottles; with other machines, you can add flavoring to the water after carbonating.
Soda makers work by injecting carbon dioxide into water to produce effervescence. You’ll find a lot of confusing labeling out there when it comes to bubbly water: While club soda and tonic water are bubbly, they have additives for flavor. Club soda has sodium or potassium salts; tonic water contains sweeteners and quinine, an ingredient originally used to treat malaria. Mineral waters can be naturally effervescent or have added carbon dioxide. The Food and Drug Administration defines soda water as carbonated water to which minerals and salts are added, while seltzer is the term for carbonated water with no additives. Technically, a soda maker creates seltzer.
The best soda makers add enough carbon dioxide to produce water with a Perrier-like fizz. Most models use a cylinder to inject the CO2, but over the years we’ve seen a few soda makers 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. 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.
All of the soda makers we tested for this update can use the same SodaStream refill cylinders, which can carbonate many liters of water over time, although you can also buy Drinkmate cylinders. The main issue people have with SodaStream machines and similar soda makers, however, lies in the continual need to exchange the cylinders. While you can find some options out there for hacking SodaStream’s proprietary carbonating method, exchanging cylinders is fairly simple and inexpensive, and we haven’t encountered a decent soda maker that doesn’t use them. Exchanging a 60-liter cylinder runs about $15 at the time of this writing, while a 130 L one costs about $30. You can exchange common cylinders like those from SodaStream at 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 mail in a few cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.
For this update, we skipped testing soda siphons, which take small one-time-use cartridges and are good for carbonating only about 1 liter of water. Siphons are great for experimenting with cocktails, because they can carbonate drinks other than water. But during our previous round of testing, we found that soda makers produced overwhelmingly bubblier water compared with soda siphons. In this Serious Eats article, Kevin Liu, author of Craft Cocktails at Home: Offbeat Techniques, Contemporary Crowd-Pleasers, and Classics Hacked with Science, explains how even though you can inject 8 grams of carbon dioxide into water with a siphon, your water might not turn out as bubbly. We also skipped handheld models because they have the same limitations, and because they have poor reviews complaining of leaking and subpar fizz.
Most soda makers simply require you to press a button after you install the carbonator and pop in a bottle of chilled water. Some models use electricity to help carbonate, while others are purely manual.
A soda maker that’s efficient at injecting carbon dioxide will not only make fizzier water but also increase its bite, the quality that sparkling-water enthusiasts love. Gavin Sacks, PhD, associate professor at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science, explained that when carbon dioxide combines with water it makes carbonic acid, which produces a slightly sour tang. But as Sacks said, “This is only half of the story (if acidity was all of the story, then lemon juice should cause the same tingle). The other part of the story is that carbon dioxide stimulates tactile receptors responsible for sensing chemical irritants, such as the active compounds in mustard.” It’s this mild irritation that seltzer produces on the tongue (a sensation called chemesthesis) that attracts people. “You can put your tongue over a bottle or glass of soda and you can feel that irritation,” said Sacks. “It’s not the bubbles that you’re feeling that cause that irritation, it’s dissolved carbon dioxide.” People crave this tingling sensation—akin to the pungency of mustard—and that’s why half-flat seltzer isn’t nearly as fun to drink as the bubbly stuff.
A soda maker that creates larger, more prolific bubbles also helps mixed drinks stay carbonated and zippy. Water sommelier Martin Riese said, “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.”
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—and we didn’t find much out there. We referred to a soda maker review from Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required), as well as a list from Good Housekeeping. While a few lifestyle blogs have published listicles of the best soda makers, no one has produced any new comparative reviews of soda makers since 2015. We did come across a Wired article that alerted us to the iDrink Drinkmate, which we decided to include in our tests this year.
After talking to experts over the past three years and comparing what’s out there, we’ve concluded that SodaStream remains the brand to beat, and it has a good reputation for longevity. True Brews author Emma Christensen said, “I have the SodaStream, and I’ve used it for years. I keep waiting for it to break so I can replace it with something that’s shinier, but it won’t break. I like being able to serve sparkling water at dinner parties and not buy a ton of bottles.”
SodaStream has discontinued several models and consolidated its lineup of soda makers. We compared the remaining SodaStream models side by side, eliminating the more expensive glass models such as the Penguin and the now-discontinued Crystal as well as the older, clunkier Jet. We considered the retro KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker (made by SodaStream), but at around $250 currently, it’s quite expensive, and we learned from a SodaStream rep that its carbonating qualities are no different from those of any other SodaStream machine, so we decided to skip it.
For this update, we tested the SodaStream Fizzi (a newer model, released in 2016) and retested our previous top pick, the Source, and upgrade pick, the Power. We also tested the iDrink Drinkmate, the only countertop soda maker we’ve encountered that claims to carbonate anything, not just water.
To find the best soda maker, we tested the four finalists and also conducted a blind taste test with a panel of seltzer lovers and soda-making professionals. We set up the soda makers to observe how easy they were to assemble and use. We then carbonated water that we had chilled to 39 degrees Fahrenheit, because to make the fizziest results, the water should be cold. As food scientist and blogger Jeremy Butler explained, “Gas is more soluble in a colder liquid than it is in a warmer liquid.” Carbonating warmer water requires more pressure, which would translate into more pushes on the SodaStream button and going through cylinders faster.
When carbonating water, we took into account how easily each soda maker allowed us to control the fizz levels with buttons, levers, or presses. We visually observed the overall fizz level and bubble size in the sparkling water from each soda maker. Then we tasted the sparkling water from each machine to compare mouthfeel and flavor (we used filtered water, but CO2 does add carbonic acid to water, which produces a slight tang). In addition, we noted how much space each soda maker took on the counter, as well as any extra design features.
We also conducted a taste test with two soda experts, Chris Onstad and Dan McLaughlin of the craft soda-syrup company Portland Soda Works, plus three other seltzer lovers. We filtered the water using our favorite water filter pitcher, the Pur Classic 11-Cup, and we stored the water in a fridge overnight in each machine’s proprietary bottle. After carbonating according to each machine’s instructions to the maximum fizz level, we gave each tester 4 ounces of soda water in a smooth-walled drinking glass (to avoid any extra nucleation sites, which increase carbonation, caused by ridges or bumps). We asked the testers to rank each soda maker’s water based on overall fizziness, bubble size, mouthfeel, and taste, in a blind tasting on a scale of one to five, with five being the best.
Although SodaStream machines can carbonate only water, the iDrink Drinkmate can carbonate anything. To explore the Drinkmate’s capabilities, we gave our testers a sampling of precarbonated, bottled sparkling apple juice to compare blindly against a sample of 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 mocktail or cocktail).
The SodaStream Source makes the best range of bubbly water, and it produces water that’s just as fizzy as that of higher-end soda makers. Our taste testers said that the Source’s water was just as fizzy as the pricier SodaStream Power’s. And thanks to this machine’s straightforward design, the Source is also one of the simplest soda makers to use, clean, and refill, so you can keep carbonating with ease.
In our tests the Source produced very fizzy water with medium-size bubbles that were larger than those in the Fizzi’s and Drinkmate’s results, and its water had a rounded, zippy mouthfeel. “Lots of bubbles; good, even distribution of bubble size, and great fizz. This is my favorite one,” said a taste tester of the Source. Overall, testers ranked this soda maker’s water second best after the near identically fizzy water from the Power, giving it high scores all around for bubble size, fizz, and mouthfeel.
Of the soda makers we tested, the Source gives you the most control over your fizz level. Unlike SodaStream’s Fizzi, the original SodaStream Jet, and the Drinkmate, which all require you to press a button and count the number of loud buzzes or hisses the machine makes to determine the carbonation level, the Source does the work for you. On the Source, you simply press and hold a large button until a battery-operated light indicates your desired level of carbonation. While other machines left us unsure whether we had carbonated sufficiently, the Source’s LED indicator helped us accurately gauge when we had reached our desired bubble level.
The Source offers the best combination of ease of use and streamlined design among the soda makers we tested, thanks to its easy carbonating button and its bottle, which snaps onto the machine. Simply attach the neck of the bottle to the machine at an angle and push it in until it locks into place. While the other models in the SodaStream lineup offer a similar method of attaching the bottle to the machine, in comparison the iDrink Drinkmate requires some maneuvering to attach the fizz infuser cap to the bottle before locking both into the carbonator. The Source has a sleek design and a minimal counter footprint. It measures 16 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 8½ inches deep. In contrast, the Fizzi looks a little clunkier and cheaper with its rounded edges, and the Power requires an outlet, which might limit where you can place that machine.
Although the Source does use a battery, it’s only for the LED lights that indicate the carbonation level. If the battery dies (which SodaStream says may happen after a few years), you can replace the machine under the Source’s limited lifetime warranty (PDF). In addition, the machine will still keep carbonating even after the LED indicator dies.
The Kitchn also loves the Source, and Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required) recommends the Source (subscription required to view video) as its preferred home seltzer maker, noting that it’s impressively easy to use. Although none of our experts told us they’d upgraded to the Source, they all said that they used SodaStream machines: Emma Christensen (author of True Brews) and Blue Blaze Soda’s Jackson Anderson recommended the brand, and the Portland Soda Works crew said they used a SodaStream, too. SodaStream clearly has a great reputation among soda connoisseurs.
The Source doesn’t take the larger, 130 L SodaStream cylinders, so you’re stuck with purchasing the 60 L ones more often—but neither does the Power.
The Source’s bottles are not dishwasher safe, and they have scratched and yellowed a bit during our long-term testing. If this is an issue for you, we recommend buying a new double-pack of bottles, which is $20 currently. But unlike other soda makers we previously tested and dismissed, the Source doesn’t require a flushing cycle for cleaning.
Note too that SodaStream will void your warranty if you carbonate anything other than water in its machines. Fizzing beverages such as juice or wine may also cause leaking or overflowing. Instead, to add flavor after carbonating water, you can buy sparkling-drink mix.
If you can’t find the Source, we also like the SodaStream Power. Its carbonator and refill systems are the same as the Source’s, and it also offers three levels of carbonation to choose from. With the Power, you just press a button once to carbonate, a more convenient method than holding down a button on the Source for about 10 seconds.
The Power also has a sleeker look, sporting brushed-steel accents on the back of the machine, the buttons, and the bottle. But the Power requires an outlet to carbonate water, which means you’ll be more limited in where you can place it if you want to keep it, say, at a home bar or in an office. In our tests, the Power fizzed water to equal bubbliness as the Source, but at this writing it costs around $50 more. Aside from its buttons, the Power is nearly identical in design to the Source, so for more versatility and a lower price, we would definitely grab the Source instead.
If you want to carbonate beverages such as juice, wine, or cocktails, we recommend the iDrink Drinkmate. Although in our tests the Drinkmate produced slightly fizzy water that wasn’t as bubbly as the Source’s or Power’s, it did live up to its unique claim to carbonate beverages other than water. In contrast, SodaStream will void your warranty and money-back guarantee if you carbonate beverages other than water in its machines, and your beverage will likely explode everywhere (SodaStream does offer flavoring that you can add after carbonating). In our tests the Drinkmate carbonated apple juice, wine, and a mocktail with no problem. We also like that the machine comes with two bottle sizes, which can be handy if you’re making components of a cocktail, for example. Plus, the Drinkmate is compatible with SodaStream’s carbonator cylinders, so you can easily find refills.
The Drinkmate requires a few extra steps to carbonate and then release pressure. That’s because drinks such as juice or wine have more solutes in them, which form smaller and more copious bubbles when combined with CO2. This reaction makes beverages extra fizzy, and in the case of home soda makers, it can cause the liquid to fizz out of the bottle. Most of the experts we spoke with described experiencing a SodaStream overflow or explosion at some point when trying to carbonate juices or other beverages, and the pressure release valve on the Drinkmate helps counter this effect.
But compared with all of the SodaStream machines we tried, the Drinkmate was more difficult for us to use. Instead of just popping the bottle in, you need to remove the Drinkmate’s fizz infuser cap, secure it to the bottle, and then slide the bottle into the machine. The instructions say to press the button until you hear a hiss, which isn’t an exact process. Then, you must remove the bottle, shake it gently, and release the pressure using a silver tab before removing the cap. Alternatively, you can press a quick-release valve to relieve the pressure.
In our tests, the Drinkmate didn’t produce especially fizzy water—its seltzer was bubblier than the Fizzi’s, but not as great as the Source’s or Power’s. The Drinkmate also doesn’t offer any fine-tuning options for fizz control—you repeatedly press a button until you hear a hiss that signals you’ve carbonated your beverage.
But the Drinkmate stands out for its ability to directly carbonate drinks such as juice and wine. We carbonated apple juice in this soda maker and compared the results side by side with bottled sparkling apple juice from the same brand. While the Drinkmate bottle did fizz over a bit when we pressed the quick-release valve, the machine produced a lush, bubbly carbonated juice with large bubbles and a zippy mouthfeel that our testers unanimously loved. Testers said it was “way better” than the bottled juice. Our experts also noted that the Drinkmate’s system is special. “[With the] SodaStream, you can’t add anything else because they’ll pretty much explode,” said Jeffrey Morgenthaler. “There are the closed systems that won’t explode, and those tend to be homemade.” Using the Drinkmate, on the other hand, is a more convenient option than building a DIY carbonating rig.
We also tried rosé and a mocktail in the Drinkmate, and it successfully carbonated both. When we used the slow release valve, the carbonated drinks didn’t fizz over the bottle. Because this machine is the only countertop model we’ve found that can carbonate anything, we think it’s a great option for people who are interested in carbonating juice, wine, or premade cocktails in addition to water.
Currently SodaStream has seven models of soda makers, and we looked at them all before deciding which ones to test. SodaStream has discontinued many of its models (such as the Genesis, Pure, Fizz, Dynamo, Play, and Revolution) in an attempt to redesign. Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the SodaStream models we looked at:
We wanted to check out the Primo Flavorstation, but we confirmed with a company representative that it has been discontinued.
Keurig Kold: The concept behind the Kold was to make flavored soda using pods to carbonate instead of directly injecting carbon dioxide into water. We weren’t impressed with the soda from the Kold, and apparently other people weren’t, either: Keurig discontinued it a little over a year after we tested it.
Bonne O Sparkling Beverage System: The Bonne O, unlike any other soda maker we looked at, uses tabs of “citric acid, potassium bicarbonate, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), potassium carbonate” to carbonate water instead of injecting carbon dioxide. The first four times we tested the Bonne O, the water was not carbonated and had a salty, sulphuric taste. Although the tabs go into a separate chamber and are not supposed to enter the water bottle, we could immediately tell from the water’s taste that they did. We also found the bottle difficult to attach and the machine cumbersome to clean.
iSi Soda Siphon: We tested the iSi for the first two versions of this guide. It ranked the lowest overall among our taste testers in taste, bubble size, and overall fizziness of the water. Cleaning is also hard: To remove an inner chamber to clean the bottle, you need a special tool (and that’s something we’re sure we would lose in about two weeks).
KitchenAid KSS1121TG Sparkling Beverage Maker: This soda maker had high ratings on Amazon at the time of our research. But it’s made by SodaStream, and although it has a unique vintage aesthetic, its carbonating qualities are the same as any SodaStream’s, and its high price tag at the time of this writing prompted us to skip testing it.
Hamilton Beach Fizzini: This model is an extremely inexpensive option, but it gets varied reviews, and it produces only 1 liter of water per cartridge. On Amazon, at the time of our research, a pack of 10 8-gram refill cartridges cost around $15, almost as much as the machine itself, so we decided to dismiss the Fizzini.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
That dinner was delicious.