Soda

Written by Zac on February 11th, 2010

A while back, I realized a strange predicament.. I like to serve nice cocktails, and soda water is a key contributor, but I always run out and can’t really justify buying a case of it for some unknown reason (the hauling, the storing, the fact that it goes flat so fast…). For awhile, I bought bottled soda, and I did pick up a great little device called the Soda Saver; for about $4 this little screw-on hand pump does wonders for keeping bottled soda and soft drinks from going flat by pressurizing the bottle and preventing CO2 from escaping the liquid, though in the end it still does go flat eventually. One day it hit me: ‘What’s Soda Water but CO2 and water?” I began looking into what I could do to fill plain water with bubbles (aside from farting in the tub of course).

It began with Soda Siphons (aka Seltzer bottles)– a classy old world bar essential that runs on single-use CO2 cartridges (food grade intended for Soda or Seltzer, NOT ones made for paintball or pellet guns as those contain oil). You will find these things kicking around in hotel bars and cocktail lounges, and it does seem that they do the trick . After doing some research, I found a great deal on Mosa soda siphons: $50 CDN on ebay compared to $120 in a local restaurant supply store who claimed to be selling them like wildfire, having delivered 4 to a local Four Seasons (ironic?) moments before my arrival. That said, it’s worth shopping around. After checking out Mosa’s website and skimming their patchwork mastery of English, finding nearly no details on the product, I started looking into ISI siphons (about $80-100 CDN), and a few other competing brands (Mr. fizz etc), all the while keeping my eye on periodic glass siphons on eBay selling pretty cheap and reportedly in working condition…

I read that any of the new age (i.e. made in the last few years) aluminum ones with plastic heads (ISI, Mosa, Liss, Mr. Fizz, etc) had overly protective safety valves that wouldn’t allow the water to get heavily carbonated; it might work for soda, but it’s probably not the best for mixing. The plastic heads ran the risk of breakage, and the protective coating on the aluminum would eventually wear out, rendering it unusable (unless you like sparkling bog-water). Stainless steel versions with metal heads were an improvement, and old world glass bottles  are reportedly some of the best options (depending on age and whether the head would work with modern CO2 cartridges.. oh, and then there’s the risk of explosion). Lots of people are satisfied with their siphons, but that just wasn’t enough for me!

While reading up on siphons, I saw that plenty of people were singing the praises of the Soda Stream system (there are notably a number of nearly identical systems made in china, but not readily available in Canada). These are in principal the same thing as a soda siphon, but come with a few twists… You’ve got to invest in the basic equipment, which is more expensive, bulkier, and less attractive than a Soda siphon. The CO2 canisters and distributors have custom fittings, so you can’t refill them just anywhere – you’ve got to go back to your Soda Stream dealer for refills (I need my fix, cracker! I’ll do anything!), and they’re overpriced for what you get (the same stuff you’re breathing out as you read this – CO2). The non-premium setups also come with plastic bottles, and no glass bottle option. That said, this system allows you to add as much or as little carbonation as you want, and the sodastream products do have a professional look to them. I would have further considered this option if their prices in Canada were as reasonable as those down south – sadly, this is not the case.

After pursuing the out of the box options, I stumbled across some discussions on the DIY options. Amidst all my soda siphon soul searching, there was this perpetual intuition that I could do better; if I’m carbonating water to add some sparkle to other things, and not for the sake of sparkling water (nice as it is), why do I have to water them down? Both of the above optionsonly allow you to make soda water, but what if I want to make soda milk? How about soda wine (champagne)? Why can’t I carbonate whatever the heck I want, and why do I have to be locked into these single-use cartridges or proprietary CO2 tanks with pricey refills when CO2 isn’t really a hot commodity these days (with all the talk of carbon caps, you’d think they’d be PAYING me to take their CO2!)?

Thanks to the wonderful world of home brewing , salvation arrived. One option is to buy a ‘keg charger’ that runs on single use food grade CO2 cartridges (i.e. Cornelius Keg Portable Co2 Charge) and can be ‘shut off without using the full charge, a fitting for a Cornelius or Firestone keg, and a fitting for a 2L bottle (such as the one sold by liquid bread). This would be a bit dangerous as your plastic bottle would be liable to explode if overcharged, but it would be a fairly inexpensive solution (about $40) that would allow you to carbonate more than just water.

If you can get your hands on a proper CO2 tank, a regulator, the right hosing, and a fitting for a 2L bottle cap (Liquid bread), you can carbonate just about anything water based with little risk of explosion so long as you stick to a few basic rules. You can look into the details further, though the gist of the story is that you fill a 2L bottle with whatever you want to carbonate making sure it’s cold and leaving some air space, screw on the liquid bread adapter, plug your tank in with your regulator on minimum, open the tank’s valve, attach the tubing to your liquid bread adapter, pressurize to about 30 PSI, turn off the tank, give your bottle a vigorous shake, and you’ve got bubbles!

A CO2 tank might seem a little bulky, especially when looking at YouTube videos and DIY instructions where they’ve got massive 20LB tanks to play with, though it doesn’t have to be any bulkier than what the Soda Stream uses! With the right adapter you can use a 12oz or 20oz Paintball CO2 tank (not the cartridges, but a refillable canister)!  Your CO2 tank can be refilled at a local welding shop, a fire extinguisher refilling shop, or potentially a paintball place (from what I’ve read there’s no oil in actual tank filling stations as it would ruin the tanks). As all of these locations are reportedly supplied by major industrial companies that distribute industrial grade CO2 that’s 99.999% pure, and most home brewers use these kinds of shops for their CO2 supply.  From what I’ve read, the risk of contamination should be negligible at best due to the standards that CO2 tanks are required to meet, though if a tank has been poorly maintained, that could be another story.

The best deal I could find on an all-inclusive CO2 tank and keg system (28L keg for homebrew or soda) was from KegWorks.com; considering the prices, their packages are a great solution for someone who may also consider making homebrew for parties someday! They have a store on eBay, and shipping to Canada is very reasonable (though I would talk to them before ordering). Don’t forget that you would want to order the LiquidBread bottle fitting for bubble-making purposes..

Some other sites that discuss and compare Soda Siphons:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/appliances/kitchen-appliances/soda-makers/a-missed-pop-ortunity-7-06/products/0607_soda-makers_ratings.htm

http://cocktailnerd.com/2007/06/fight-night-soda-siphons/

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/gadgets/good-product-soda-siphon-for-homemade-fizzy-water-053653

http://prairiemoon.biz/fuliofsosise.html

 

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Sharon says:

    I’ve been for a resource on soda chargers and makers and here you are! Whew! Thanks for explaining the mechanism to it better. Wikipedia, may help but sometimes the words are just gibberish to understand.

    Great article!

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