Best Soda Maker of 2021
The FIZZpod made great soda water; it had strong carbonation and was the simplest model to use and set up. We liked that there was no need to thread the bottle into the machine; simply use the carbonator lid, place it in the slender machine, and press the top down. It was quick and easy. This machine also had the smallest footprint of any of the countertop designs and could still fit under the cabinets. We also liked that it can carbonate water, juice, and infused waters. We tested it with water and juice, and it worked for both. We used a ½ and ½ juice/water mix to cut down on sweetness, and it carbonated well. With models with this versatility, the juice tended to foam and bubble up to the top of the bottle. We recommend releasing pressure gently, as if you were opening a bottle of soda that was shaken. This product also comes with three water bottles, which is more than any other model tested.
While we liked the slim design and the versatility of the FIZZpod, it does not come with CO2 cartridges, and the bottles are tall and skinny. They are about 14.5 inches tall compared to the next tallest at 11 inches and have a narrow build that is easy to tip over. The overall structure of the bottle makes it hard to carry in a water bottle pouch or cup holder, or place in the refrigerator. The FIZZpod is a great option for someone who doesn't have a lot of counter space and wants not only sparkling water, but sparkling juices, wines, and more.
The DrinkMate is one of the slimmest countertop models tested, taking up minimal counter space, and has a unique design that carbonates all kinds of beverages, like water, infused waters, juices, and wine. It makes excellent sparkling water and made the strongest carbonated juice of any of the models in our fleet. The DrinkMate is advertised as the soda maker that can carbonate almost any beverage, and we believe it. While other models lightly sparkle juice, the Drinkmate does a great job of fully carbonating it.
While the DrinkMate is a strong choice and can carbonate nearly any liquid, we were disappointed that it only comes with one water bottle and no CO2 cartridges. It is beneficial to have two water bottles, as cold liquid carbonates best; we appreciate two, as you can have one in the fridge that is always ready to carbonate. With this model, be sure to release the valve on the carbonator lid before opening after carbonating, or you could have a volcano on your hands. The DrinkMate is an excellent option for people looking to cut unhealthy soda habits, as it's an ideal model that can make a tasty soda out of a variety of liquids.
The SodaStream Fizzi was our favorite SodaStream for a variety of reasons. It made good soda water; its simple, easy-to-use design is small and fits on the countertop well. It also has a no-hassle clip in bottle feature, eliminating the need to thread the bottle on to the fixture. With three pulses of the button, presto; the valve hisses, releasing excess CO2 and indicating maximum carbonation levels. This starter set we tested was a great deal; it came with two CO2 canisters, two water bottles, and two flavoring syrups; this made it easy to trade bottles out from the refrigerator and ensured there was enough CO2 to last.
While we liked the simple, no-frills design, the SodaStream is not built to carbonate anything but water. If you carbonate juice or anything besides water, it will void the warranty. This is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a foolproof, affordable option to make carbonated water part of a daily habit.
The KitchenAid Sparkling Beverage Maker impressed us with its heavy, durable, stainless steel frame. It made sharp and bright sparkling water and was one of the fastest to get to a high carbonation level. It was one of the larger models we tested, but it felt substantial and instilled confidence in the quality. We appreciated the dial on the front, which indicated the carbonation level, as well as the easy clip-in bottle system, and the lever-action carbonation. With its colorful design, it feels like a 1950s diner piece. It also comes in other colors, which will match other KitchenAid appliances.
Though this contender performed well, it cannot carbonate anything but water, just as the SodaStream models. This is also one of the most expensive models we tested; however, for the price, it does come with a CO2 cartridge, but only comes with one water bottle. The KitchenAid beverage maker is an excellent option for someone who wants bright bubbles in their water and loves the heft and durability of KitchenAid products or wants a machine that matches their other KitchenAid appliances.
The only model that uses glass carafes, the SodaStream Aqua Fizz is impressive. The housing the bottles sit in fully enclose the glass bottle; when opening the housing to place the bottle in or take it out, the lid hydraulically lifts, and the carafe-holder tilts forward. All this action is surprising next to the simplistic models we tested. The housing is plastic but also incorporates some stainless steel parts to give this machine an industrial look. It comes with two glass carafes and a CO2 canister. Though we didn't set out to test the sound of each model while testing, it was impossible not to notice that the Aqua Fizz is the quietest, as the carbonation action happens in a fully enclosed space. With 2-3 pulses of the button, the Aqua Fizz carbonated water well before hearing the hiss of the CO2 releasing.
While we enjoyed cold sparkling water from the glass carafes and the relative robotic nature of this machine, it was one of the tallest models tested. It fit under the cabinets when closed, but when open, it towered over the other models, and we had a difficult time fitting it under our cabinets. The Aqua Fizz is an excellent SodaStream for someone who prefers using glass bottles instead of plastic and doesn't mind adding a large new appliance to their kitchen.
The SodaStream Jet features the same carbonating action as many of the other countertop soda makers, a button on top to press in .5 to one-second increments until desired carbonation. It is a simple gadget that offers adjustable carbonation. The Jet provides consistent carbonation and is comparable to the other models. We like that it comes with a CO2 canister, too.
While this SodaStream gets the job done, it, like the other SodaStream models, is only designed to carbonate water. This model also has a tricky bottle attachment feature, requiring you to press the button on the top to tilt the top so you can thread the bottle on; however, it was challenging to manage the lever at the top while using one hand to properly thread the bottle. This SodaStream model didn't feel user-friendly as some, and only comes with one bottle. This is an excellent option for someone looking for an inexpensive countertop soda maker.
The Aarke Carbonator is the only model we tested, made completely of stainless steel, minus the CO2 injector. It made super-carbonated water and has an attractive stainless steel lever system. The carbonation levels and actions were similar to the KitchenAid model, but on a much more lean machine. We liked the simplicity of the design and the feature of a drip-tray at the base to catch any overflow; it is not only functional but attractive.
This machine is possibly the most attractive and most durable; it's also a sleek countertop centerpiece, but it comes with a high price tag. It was the most expensive model we tested, did not come with CO2 canisters, and only provided one water bottle. This model is great for someone looking for a high-quality appliance with a sleek and modern stainless steel design.
The iSi Steel Soda Siphon was a fun tool to test. We liked the stainless steel bottle; it's heavy, durable, and substantial. This would be an outstanding bar tender's tool or a cocktail enthusiast's party trick, as it can shoot pressurized carbonated water out when squeezing the trigger. It has an attractive design and quickly carbonates cold water while taking up virtually no counter space, as it can fit in a cupboard or even a drawer. The soda siphon is also a versatile tool; it carbonates water well, and lightly carbonated wine. We were even able to leave the siphon in the refrigerator overnight with the liquid, and it held carbonation. The liquid in the soda siphon needs to be cold to work well, so keep refrigerated water around to refill the bottle.
While we like the iSi soda Siphon's small size and durable stainless steel construction, it is limited to a single serving at a time (about one quart). As the bottle is part of the carbonation process, every piece is needed to make sparkling water, and you cannot open the bottle until the water is gone and the bottle is no longer pressurized. This contraption also uses single-use 8g CO2 cartridges that would pile up quickly. This is an excellent option for someone who wants an occasional glass of sparkling water, or who likes to add some soda water to homemade cocktails.
The Sparkel Beverage System dazzles in so many ways. It's an electric machine, and offers light-up buttons and chimes when the carbonation process is finished. It also features the versatility to carbonate a wide variety of beverages. In testing, we carbonated water and juice. We found the carbonation of water to be comparable to other models, while the juice had lighter carbonation; all this without using CO2 cartridges! It uses carbonation packets with Citric Acid and Sodium Bicarbonate to cause a reaction, and that creates CO2 and injects it into the Sparkel bottle and pressurizes it until it reaches the selected level of carbonation. It is easy to select the level of carbonation wanted, based on the 1-5 button options on the front of the machine.
In testing, we found that the carbonation in the drinks made with Sparkel did not last as long as with other models tested. There are also many parts and pieces to deal with; there's a water reservoir on the back that feeds water into another chamber, where water mixes with the powder from the packets. This last chamber needs to be emptied and cleaned after each use. The bottle also gets the CO2 injection from the bottom, so there is a valve in the bottom of the bottle that can leak if accidentally pressed. After using the machine, we found we had to clean it more than the other models because the process is a little messier. This machine took the longest time to carbonate beverages; at the lowest level of carbonation, the process takes one and a half minutes — at the highest level of carbonation, the process took just over four minutes. The Sparkel system is ideal for someone who doesn't like purchasing or exchanging CO2 canisters, and would appreciate a versatile machine that can carbonate without them.
The Sudaba Portable soda water maker is one of the smallest models we tested. The carbonating mechanism is in a screw on the lid to the bottle. Just pop a single-use 8g CO2 cartridge in the lid and screw it on tight, and it quickly releases the CO2 into the bottle, carbonating the contents. It is a simple contraction that can carbonate any liquid. We carbonated water with good results in testing, and when carbonating wine, it created light carbonation.
The Sudaba portable model cannot modify or control the level of carbonation and has just one bottle. Similar to the iSi Soda Siphon, the bottle is an essential part of the carbonation process; if it came with two bottles, you could carbonate more than one thing at a time. This model also uses the single-use 8g CO2 cartridges that can pile up if used regularly. This portable option would be good for someone looking to make occasional sparkling beverages and who would enjoy being able to carbonate a variety of liquids.
Why You Should Trust Us
The lead tester in this review is Kristin Anderson, a long time cook, outdoor enthusiast, and artist. She loves detail-oriented tasks like thoroughly testing products side-by-side and analyzing details. Kristin considers herself a connoisseur of sparkling water; living in a place that can be over 100 degrees in the summer demands cold bubbly water!
To start our scientific testing, we did our research, sifting through products. After purchasing ten different models to test, we created a test plan. When all soda makers were lined up in the kitchen, we tested their performance, looking for differences in carbonation and taste. We enlisted two additional tasters to help us carbonate and taste a lot of water and juice; we also looked at how easy each was to use and whether the carbonation levels were adjustable. Then we evaluated design features like size and storability, whether it needed electricity, and the materials and durability. Finally, we looked at versatility; some soda makers just make water, some promise more, and we wanted to test each as it was meant to be used.
Analysis and Test Results
Whether you are looking to up your water intake or kick a soda habit, we have a recommendation for you. We tested and compared ten leading soda makers for over eight hours per machine, carbonating over 13 gallons of liquid for each model (of water, juice, and wine). We tested each contender's performance and their ability to carbonate water and other liquids; we tasted the water and took notes on the function and mechanics of each one.
We noted that many of the machines make comparable sparkling water; some have finer bubbles than others, but the difference, once practiced with each machine, was nominal. The important thing in carbonating water is to use cold water; CO2 bonds with the water better when it is cold. Other factors that were important to us were ease of use and adjustability of carbonation. We then looked at the design features of each, like size and storability, and whether or not it required electricity, as well as materials and durability. Once we ran out of cold water, we compared the products that promised the versatility of carbonating any liquid; we did this by carbonating juice and wine and comparing carbonation levels.
To see which soda maker made the best water, we chilled a significant amount of water and carbonated water with all of the soda makers at once; using two volunteers, we took turns tasting the water and taking notes.
Some outliers were the Sparkel Beverage System, which produces finer bubbles and loses carbonation faster, and portable devices like the iSi Soda Siphon and Sudaba Portable do not have any adjustability, and therefore could not get as sharply carbonated as the countertop models.
Ease of Use
When looking at ease of use, we evaluated how many parts and pieces there were to assemble each time we wanted to make water, as well as how easy it was to adjust the level of carbonation. Most models allow for a quick connection of the bottle and a few presses of a button or pull of a lever to control the carbonation levels. The portable models like the iSi Soda Siphon and the Sudaba Portable Soda Maker require assembly and insertion of single-use 8g CO2 cartridges each time and do not have adjustable carbonation.
The FIZZpod was simple to use; it does not have a difficult bottle attachment and features a simple carbonating mechanism. The SodaStream Fizzi has an easy click in bottle attachment and button press for excellent level of carbonation. The KitchenAid has a click in bottle attachment, quick lever pull mechanism, and an easy to read dial measuring the pressure of the bottle, while the Sparkel Beverage System allows you to place the bottle, lock it in, and select a carbonation level of one to five.
When looking at the design of each contender, we were looking for size and storability, the materials and level of durability, and whether they needed electricity. The only model that needed electricity was the Sparkel Beverage System.
The FIZZpod has the slimmest, most minimalist design. The DrinkMate, SodaStream Fizzi, and Aarke all feature a small counter footprint and are similar in size, with the Aarke having a slight edge with its sleek profile. The Aarke Carbonator II and the KitchenAid are made of stainless steel and were the most durable materials wise. The KitchenAid has a heavier, bulkier build and feels substantial on the counter.
When testing the versatility with juice and wine, we realized that wine and juice do not carbonate as well as water, even when cold; there were two standouts in the versatility category in performance testing, and those were the FIZZpod and the DrinkMate.
Both provided stronger carbonation than the portable soda makers, and the Sparkel Beverage System and DrinkMate took first place in this category because it created the strongest carbonation of juices.
When shopping around for a home soda maker, some brands dominate the market and present several options. Upon looking closer, there are many companies filling this niche market. We hope the research, testing, and comparisons conducted will help you make an informed decision on which soda maker is best suited to your needs and budget.
— Kristin Anderson