May 23, 2014

My Take on SodaStream: Value & Flavor

I can't remember exactly when we made the switch to SodaStream. It had been around a while but I was quite hesitant to try it. I'm picky. I pretty much like Diet Coke. I'll have an occasional regular Coke when I have a migraine and since I live in a Pepsi-dominated restaurant area, I'll suck it up and order Pepsi when out.

My husband had pushed for a while to buy a SodaStream because he's not a huge soda drinker and is more open-minded about flavor. He drinks a lot of plain fizzy water and likes the idea of controlling what goes in the water to avoid sugars and sweeteners sometimes. Buying 12-pack La Croix waters each week is expensive, about $250-260 per year! I was spending about $200 per year on Diet Coke at home. So my husband figured if the cost of the unit, the gas, and the syrup is less than $450 per year, it's a worthwhile investment.

This plan did assume we wouldn't buy any brand name sodas or waters going forward, which isn't our reality. I still pick up a 20oz of soda when I'm out, usually to bring home with a snack and we buy non-fizzy waters like Propel.

For my husband and I, the benefits of SodaStream seem to be:

1. Convenience: This is more my husband's opinion. He likes not having to go to the store for drinks as often. Since I'm already grocery shopping frequently, I wouldn't say it's more convenient. It may be quick, but I don't like the time I spend measuring syrup, filling bottles, pumping to carbonate, adding the syrup, and letting it rest for a bit before drinking. On the other hand, there's no waiting for a bottle to chill. We use cold water right from the fridge. So, the number one benefit here is a bit debatable in our house.

2. More Earth-Friendly: I'm not really sure if I'm saving the Earth. I still generate garbage and probably impact the air negatively, but it does seem better to recycle an occasional syrup bottle compared to the many plastic bottles and cans of Diet Coke I had before SodaStream.

3. Variety: If you are very picky about Coke vs Pepsi, SodaStream may not be for you. I got used to the Diet Cola flavor. The flavor is a bit like Diet Pepsi, but the carbonation level (6 buzzes) reminds me of Diet Coke. If you are okay with generic colas, you'll probably be okay with SodaStream. My husband suggests that the unique choices are great because you can make a little of this or a little of that without opening a big bottle that would go flat if you didn't finish it quickly. You could have orange soda today and peach tea tomorrow without having to buy large bottles or 12-packs all the time.

What about the potential cost savings?
My husband estimates we spend more than $300 per year on SodaStream and while that is less than what we spent on brand name products, he'd call it closer to a wash when you factor in that it hasn't 100% replaced other beverages at home. His feedback is simple. "I wouldn't do it just for saving money. Initial upfront cost takes a long time to recoup."

Here's the breakdown:

CO2 is $180 per year
You are stuck using proprietary CO2 refills, which cost $15 each. We get a refill once a month and my husband said that would be fine if they were $5 or $10 each, but at $15, he feels like he's being gauged on the price. He's heard that there are people who hack the system, but that violates the terms of service and could lead to a lawsuit, so don't do that.

Syrup is $135 per year
How much syrup we use varies, mostly because my husband's desire for fizzy dranks varies. I'm consistent in that I fill a liter every 1.5 days or so, nearly always Diet Cola. The occasional regular cola costs much more than the Diet Cola because the naturals variety are more expensive and produce fewer liters per syrup bottle. Based on my drinking habits, I'm averaging 20 Diet Cola syrups a year. My husband has been working through samples forever, so he believes he's using three syrups per year plus a couple of the larger colas.

Initial Investment was $80
We are on our second SodaStream. We switched to the now discontinued Fizz model so we could better tell when the fizz was getting low. It was a flawed system that SodaStream no longer sells. It fizzes fine. It's the sensor that wasn't so good. If you find a deal or rebate, you can get a SodaStream system for under $100.

Here's some more info on SodaStream:

  • The SodaStream Diet Cola is sweetened with a blend that includes Splenda®. I like Diet Coke, which is sweetened with aspartame, hence the very different taste.
  • Each bottle of syrup (not including naturally sweetened varieties) makes 12 liters of soda.
  • Naturally Sweetened Cola makes half as much soda (6 liters) and costs twice as much. It tastes pretty good though. I'm a fan of the flavor. I just don't like drinking a lot of sugary drinks.
Making a Bottle of SodaStream Diet Cola
Below is a photo series showing how I make a bottle of SodaStream Diet Cola. I included a short video of the buzzing process so you can get a sense for how loud that is. I don't make soda when anyone is still sleeping in the morning or right at my daughter's bedtime because it's pretty loud.

First, I fill a bottle with water to the fill line. I usually add a couple ice cubes to make sure it's extra cold or I have to chill the bottle for a while. The fridge water dispenser isn't as cold as I like my drinks to be. The ice method works well.

SodaStream bottle filled with water
Next, I put the bottle in the SodaStream machine. This requires two hands. It's a bit awkward but I have seen improvements in newer designs. I think the company continues to work on making this process easier. I buzz 6 times to make it fizzy. That's usually 10-12 presses. You basically press to dispense air until it buzzes and count the buzzes until it's how you like it. Six is good for colas.

Inserting SodaStream bottle into machine
I pour a capful of Diet Cola syrup. It's very hard to see the fill line. I wish this was easier to see when I'm pouring. A little too much tastes too sweet and too little tastes sour. It has to be just right.

SodaStream Diet Cola syrup
I then pour the syrup into the bottle gently, turn it up and down a bit to mix and pop it in the fridge for a few minutes. You have to be kind of quick here, but it's easy to get the hang of it after a couple of tries.

Mixed SodaStream Diet Cola
And then, here's my poured soda, ironically (not sure if that's the correct use of this word), in a Coca-Cola glass.

A fresh glass of SodaStream Diet Cola
If you are curious, here's a video of the buzzing process:

video

Do you have a SodaStream system? If so, which version did you buy and what are your favorite syrup flavors?

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