Published May 1, 2010. From Cook's Illustrated.
Home seltzer makers that transform still water into sparkling promise clear advantages.
Update: April 2012
The iSi Twist and Sparkle has been recalled by the manufacturer. There were eight reported instances of the bottles cracking under heavy use. Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled products and either contact iSi or the place of purchase for instructions on returning the product for a refund or store credit. For additional information, contact iSi at (800) 645-3595 anytime or visit the firm's website at twistnsparkle.com
Home seltzer makers that transform still water into sparkling promise clear advantages: no more heavy bottles to lug home from the store or clutter up the landfill. We tried four models, and found two that shined. While the winner is three times more expensive than its competitors, it’s also a superior performer that’s easy to use and turns out crisper and cleaner-tasting seltzer, and one that over time will repay the initial investment. With a few pushes of a lever it’s easy to control how much or how little fizz you want in your drink, and this product comes with two glass carafes to store your seltzer for up to a week. Unlike the other models, which require a new CO2 charger to make each single liter, our winner uses a larger charger ($15 to replace), producing about 60 liters of seltzer, depending on how fizzy you like your drinks. Our only complaint: The plastic cover over the charger was thin and hard to snap back into place.
Recently, an alternative has arrived: Our best buy, which, thanks to its contained carbonation system, doesn’t require a whole station atop the counter. It uses a twist-top design to release CO2 bubbles into a carafe holding 4 cups of water, juice, or any other non-dairy beverage—1 1/2 cups more than our winner. (The company that produces our winner warns against carbonating anything besides water.) Our best buy runs on single-use chargers costing $24 for twenty 4-cup units, or 30 cents per cup, but cheaper and equally effective generic chargers produce seltzer costing only 13 cents per cup. (The pricing for our winner is similar: They sell two 60-liter chargers, refillable via mail-order for $30, or about 12 cents per cup.) As for the drinking, the Twist ‘n’ Sparkle and Penguin each churned out small bubbles that dispersed evenly in plain tap water and held their carbonation overnight. Some tasters felt they could see bigger bubbles in the Penguin, which translated to a zestier drinking experience; fans of the Twist ‘n’ Sparkle favored the finer, more diffuse bubbles they thought it produced. With a lower entry-level price, the Twist ‘n’ Sparkle is a great space-saving alternative for putting some CO2 in your H2O.