Home Seltzer Makers
How we tested
Home seltzer makers transform tap water into sparkling, without the hassle and waste of store-bought bottles. A few years ago, we recommended the SodaStream Penguin Starter Kit ($199.95) as well as a cheaper model that has since been recalled. For a new, less expensive option, we tried two countertop machines, which carbonate with a few presses of a lever, and two handheld designs, which rely on a twist top to release the carbon dioxide into the bottle; they’re priced from $49.99 to $129.
All four models included an initial supply of CO2 cartridges and produced sparkling water that was crisp, clean, and refreshing. Depending on the amount of CO2 used, the bubbles ranged from bold and effervescent to light, gentle carbonation. And their fizz wasn’t fleeting: After four days of pouring off glasses of water and returning the half-empty closed bottles to the fridge, we noticed that the carbonation gradually decreased but never fell flat for all four samples.
In terms of design, we much preferred the convenience of the countertop models, which hold large CO2 cartridges that can produce dozens of liters before needing to be changed (at a cost of $0.50 per liter) and whose designs made it easy to customize levels of carbonation. Handheld models, by contrast, were smaller and cost less up front but were fussier to operate—and more expensive over time. Their single-use CO2 cartridges must be replaced for every liter of seltzer, so you wind up paying $0.69 to $0.83 per liter. Even worse, neither handheld model made the carbonation level easily customizable. One had a tiny, hard-to-grip dial, and both required an additional step of shaking the just-carbonated bottles for maximum fizz. Another minor inconvenience: We had to clean up drips from removing the carbonating wand after making each bottle of seltzer.
Though we liked both countertop machines, one model was the clear winner. A one-push mechanism locked the bottle in place (the other unit twisted on, which was sometimes tricky), and a light-up display clearly indicated how much carbonation we’d added. But what really broke the tie: Empty cartridges can be exchanged at dozens of retailers for 50 percent off the price of new cartridges. We’ll drink to that.