Lifehacker Tests The SodaStream Genesis

In prehistoric times when I was a teenager, the SodaStream was an object of aspiration for many families, while the Kidman boys sobbed into their No Frills cordial. It eventually disappeared into the same retail vacuum as Amstrad 3-inch floppy discs, but since 2010 Sodastream has returned to the market. Does it still do the biz when it comes to the fizz?

At Lifehacker, we're all for anything that cuts down on your shopping bill. We're also all for anything that stops trucks full of flavoured water being shipped around a nation where there are taps accessible almost everywhere. So we were very pleased to get our hands on a review SodaStream Genesis unit (it sells for $99.95) and a bunch of sample flavours to see how well it works.

If you're not across the basic concept, it works like this: the SodaStream lets you carbonate chilled tap water, to which you then add flavouring in order to produce your own soft drink. It doesn't have licensing deals, so you can't make Coke, but you can make cola. We got sent four flavours to try: cola, ginger beer, orange and Xstream (an energy drink, though only powered by caffeine).

Setting up the device attracted a lot of excited commentary around the office. Quite a lot of this was because everyone knows that the SodaStream makes a farting noise when you carbonate the water. (You do this first, before adding the flavour and shaking.) Kotaku editor Mark eventually stopped laughing when this happened, but our night editor Elly giggled every single time.

Operating the device is straightforward: attach the bottle, press the button until it "buzzes", stop, repeat once. In truth, the biggest challenge is remembering to fill the bottle and refrigerate it so you can use chilled water.

The flavour syrup is, well, syrupy. The bottles also look oddly like laundry detergent. Sniffing it is certainly not recommended, especially in the case of Xstream, which smells like cough syrup gone mad. Our office tech/design/carbonation guru Ben, who already owns a SodaStream, assures me you can use regular cordial just as well.

Of the flavours we sampled, the universal favourite was the ginger beer, which was very well rendered. The orange was also nice, and using a half/half mix of ginger beer and orange was much better-tasting than you might suspect. The cola tasted exactly like any generic brand cola; not unpleasant, but not, let's face it, Coke. I don't like energy drinks, but our publisher Danny is a fan. He drank Xstream, but he then felt the urge to follow with a Red Bull chaser. This may not have been wise.

For the sake of completeness, we also carbonated plain water to make a soda water/mineral water clone. This was fizzy and pleasant, but actual mineral water has a slightly salty edge which normal water obviously isn't going to replicate.

Despite my well-known klutz nature, we only had one "incident": the cola got a bit enthusiastic when the flavouring was added. That could have been due to me being over-enthusiastic with the carbonation, of course.

The economics of SodaStream stack up quite well compared to paying for your own soft drinks. The machine aside, you're looking at prices between $6.95 and $8.95 for the official syrups (which are sold through a bunch of retailers and also through the Sodastream site.

The most expensive item for what it is are the official bottles: $17.80 for a twin-pack of the official bottles. You can't use other bottles for a carbonation, since there's a proprietary cap size, but there's nothing to stop you from decanting from a single bottle and chilling water in a large jug if you don't want to buy lots of "official" bottles to keep in the fridge. Gas refills start from $20, but that's a rarer event in any case. (Weirdly, you actually "license" rather than outright own the gas cylinder because of safety regulations.)

If you consume a lot of soft drink, getting a SodaStream could well make sense. As well as reducing costs, you'll carry a lot less shopping home from the supermarket. I could suggest just drinking water, but this is Australia and soft drink is one of the top-selling supermarket products.

Got your own Sodastream stories or tactics to share? Tell us in the comments.

SodaStream

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Comments

    We use soda stream at home and one of the reasons is because we don't have a garbage service. Using soda stream means we can have soft drink without having to get rid of a great number of empty drink bottles. Since we don't have town water all our drinks are made from rainwater. The majority of the time we don't use any flavours and just carbonte the water. Sometimes we add lemon juice.

    long time users of a soda stream with some tips:
    for starters you don't need to zap chilled water, water from the tap is just fine.
    one press until it buzzes is also usually sufficient for us.
    we find 1 cylinder lasts 2 of us about a month or so
    most cordials are a lot cheaper per litre than soda stream syrups, in fact we've never used their syrups. A bottle of Cottees cordial is more like $2-3 a bottle and that is their new double concentrate too.
    There are other ginger beer cordials that are cheaper and as good, we found a lemon lime bitters cordial that was a nice change to the kiddy flavours.
    We also don't shake to mix, perhaps one inversion will suffice - shaking a carbonated beverage will end in tears...
    Gas refills are more like $12ish though woolies is the only stupermarket that stocks the refills (BIGW & KMart are other options). You have to remember to take the empty cylinder with you to swap. Make sure the shop assistant doesn't swap it for another empty one which has happened more than once.
    Getting the cylinders online isn't really an option, Soda Stream is the only outlet and their postage is pretty prohibitive.
    It can be a little tricky keeping the bottles clean as you can't put them in the dishwasher (as my dad discovered they can explode if you do so).
    If you just keep carbonated water in the bottles and mix your cordial to serve you will be able to keep them cleaner/fresher longer - depends on your level of laziness/OCD. A bottle brush would make cleaning the bottles a lot easier.

    It's not so much about cost for me, what I love about having a SodaStream is that I don't have to have a ton of different mixers in the fridge/cupboard, just a few bottles of water and some syrup, then I just make up whatever I need at the time.

    Gas refills are actually available at Kmart stores for about $10. Not sure if there's different types for different models as I don't own one, but might be useful info for readers.

    "Gas refills start from $20, but that’s a rarer event in any case."

    How many bottles per refill?

    "you’re looking at prices between $6.95 and $8.95 for the official syrups "

    And how much does each bottle make?

    It always seems more of a novelty to me than an actual money saver. Even if I were saving 50 cents per litre, I don't think it would be worth the price of sacrificing taste.

    I always wanted one of these as a kid but looking at it now it doesn't seem all that wonderful.

      The gas refills sell for about $17 which can carbonate about 60 litres of drink. The cordial usage is largely dependant on taste, I use the regular Cotties cordial from the supermarket. I've worked out in the past it costs me less than 50c a bottle to make, I much prefer the flavour of Sodastream as I find most commercial soft drinks to be sickly sweet, here I can put in as much or as little cordial as I want.

    Another important point: rather than buying new gas cylanders each time (cost ~$40AUD at BigW), you can swap them instead for ~$12. Most BigW, Coles and Woolies will do this and it brings the cost per litre down considerably.

    We've had our soda stream for about a year now and I keep 4 bottles constantly topped up in the fridge. I drink with sans-cordial mostly these days - nice and refreshing but without the sugar. When I do need a sugar fix, I tend to steer clear of the Soda Stream cordials and use a bottle of Schweppes or Robinsons Lemon.

    There truly is no excuse for destroying the planet with supermarket soda these days. If you like carbonated drinks, get a Soda Stream - it's a great investment.

      Ok yeh.. fair enough.. might see if I can convince the wife :) We love the Bickford's Cordial range.. especially the Lemon Barley and the Peach Tea... would be interesting to have a carbonated Peach Tea :)

        Sounds good, I have to try some of that!

        Carbonation makes everything taste better.

        We use Bickfords with our sodastream - the official syrups have artificial sweetner in them which ruins the taste. Bickfords gingerbeer and cranberry cordials are excellent. The lime cordial with some angostura bitters is great for lemon, lime and bitters.

    PS: Each Gas refill makes ~40 litres (depending on how much you like it carbonated). This works out to about $0.30/litre.

    I love my Soda Stream and drink the diet cola flavour frequently. It's not better than coke, but I find it to be better than most non-Coke cola drinks.

    My teenaged family loves the Sodastream. I do not buy the Sodastream syrups though. We prefer to just add the carbonated water to cordials in a glass. Favourites are lemon, lime and bitters made with lime juice cordial, lemon juice cordial and Angostura bitters; and sarsaparilla cordial with a dash of vanilla flavoured (icecream) syrup.

    As a further cost saving, go to you local home brew shop and buy a PET bottle cornelius adapter ($15), Mini CO2 bulb ($2) and bulb adapter ($20) and do exactly the same thing. Its DIY sodastream (no unit required!)

    If you happen to have a fishtank or keg setup with a CO2 bottle you can use the cornelius adapter with the bottle for a further saving. You can rent a 6kg CO2 bottle for about $10 a month ($35 refills) - this should last you at least 2 years depending on how much you drink. You can also buy one and get refills for about $25; you need a gas regulator though ($60).

    Part etc can be bought cheap from here:

    kegking.com.au

    Happy Carbonating!

      So I had a look at your link, and finding that equipment is a tad confusing.
      Do you mean that you use a soda siphon screw-in bulb adapter with the cornelius adapter?

    We have a sodastream purely to make fizzy water...for our daily Mojito's!

      Just have a quick question....we bought a sodastream today. I wanted to just make carbonated water (no flavors), but after carbonation, the water is so bitter, it's almost undrinkable. Everyone in the family said it was horrible (so I don't think it was just me). It was fine with the flavors added, but just plain water was bad!! Wondered if this is normal or are we doing something wrong??

    We have one because we drink an ungodly amount of soda water. Bit less plain that tap water and a heap better for you than soft drinks. Having said that I sometimes crave that real Coke taste. Has anyone had any luck using the Sodastream with commercial post-mix syrup from Coca Cola?

      At the sevo I work at I managed to take home an out of date 15 litre coke post mix bladder, with the soda stream it just takes like coke.For best results use a 1:5 mix ratio.

        Cheers Boomzzilla. Will have to get one of my bartender mates to steal me some syrup. The Coca Cola are borderline impossible to buy without having a post-mix machine and if you do, they are super expensive. Plus they're meant to only have a shelf life of like 12 months, probably won't go through that much by in that time. So petty larceny it is.

    Depends on where you live, but in Perth you have to use filtered water in Sodastreams. Sodastreams make very good gas extraction devices, so without filtering, the heavy summer chlorination here results in an awful chemical taste after gassing.

    Harvey Norman do bottle exchanges as well.

    Ancient SodaStream(TM) used to have licenced cylinders too. Well, possibly not exactly the same "licence" idea, I wasn't really that informed about the legalities of SodaStream when I was 7 years old, but I do know it was a lot like your BBQ gas tanks - you take one to a store and you get it /replaced/ with a new one. You didn't get to keep the old one, and the old ones had to be disposed of in a special manner that required shipping back to SodaStream.

    Like David we mostly use the soda stream for soda water, but I make six or eight liters of homemade lemon cordial when the lemon tree is loaded and that's great with fizzy water (and a dash of gin). Rather than add cordial to the bottles we just put it in the glass and top up. Saves having to clean the bottles and I can have a little and hubby can have a lot. I want to have a go at making a tonic water syrup, but can't get all the ingredients in Australia :-(

      Mmmm a Tom Collins with fresh lemon and soda water is the greatest drink on a hot summer's day

    We've made champagne (I'm calling it champagne) by filling the bottles with white wine and then adding the fizz. It was great!

      I believe that's called a White Wine Spritzer.

        white wine spritzer is a combination of white wine & soda water, very refreshing in summer.

    I will do this tonight. I have some chateau d'goon that someone left in my esky- I was going to cook with it, but this idea sounds too good not to try...

    I paid around $60 for a soda stream at Kmart, including a full gas bottle and 2 water bottles.

    Mixed with Cottees by the glass, it's nearly as good as schweppes. Saves a lot of money, bottles in landfill and very stretched arms.

    The problem is that by the time you add up the syrup and gas it works out about the same as generic home-brand sodt drinks any way,I likw woolworths cola that costs $1.05 for 1.5 litres and I recycle the bottle so that works out to 63 cents a litre same ballpark as soda stream.

    We've got one, it's been great, I get through quite a bit of soda water. I've also tried filling a bottle with espresso coffee, I the the water run through the double shot basket until it filled a jug, then did it again with more fresh coffee, left it on a bottle to cool over night and tried it in the morning. Result: very frothy and made a bit of a mess. I liked the taste, though it was slightly metallic. Interesting, but I haven't tried it again, a bit too much of a kick for regular consumption, though I wonder how it would go as a mixer

    Love it. But I find the fizz gets pretty weak after a couple of days. sooooo I generally make it as I need it.

    If you have a soda steam and you want to make your own flavours (for health and taste) this will change your life

    Start here
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEHk0jJGTK8&feature=player_embedded

    then start looking for recipes

    I have one of these!! All I can say is, try it with yoghurt! Seriously. I haven't done it yet, but I want someone else to try it out. Please post results in comments. Thanks. K.

    SodaStream + APPLE JUICE = awesome.

    "an energy drink, though only powered by caffeine"

    Um. What else would it be powered by.

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