Stephen’s Teaview Snapshot
|"For those who love to drink sparkling water, this is a no-brainer. Saves time, money, effort and the environment all at the same time."|
A few months ago I remember reading about carbonated iced teas – a new trend that started in Europe but was slowly tip-toeing its way over to the United States. It registered briefly in my mind as a “hmmm, that’s interesting” sort of moment, and so it remained filed away until I came across a company called Sodastream which sells an at-home water carbonation system. It was with the “cabonated iced tea” idea in mind that I contacted the marketing team at Sodastream, and lo and behold, they were kind enough to send a unit to Teaviews for review.
What arrived was their Fountain Jet Starter Kit – a nicely designed black and silver model complete with two 1-liter, capped bottles and one 60-L carbonator. (The Sodastream web site says their starter kit comes with two 60-L carbonators – but I checked the packaging several times and I’m sure I received only one.) Setup was pretty straightforward – open the back of the fountain jet, take out the spare bottle, replace it with the carbonator charger, screw it in tightly, and you’re good to go. There’s no electricity or batteries involved here, which is a nice touch.
The set comes with two special 1-liter plastic bottles, but they come with very particular handling and care instructions. You can’t wash them in the dishwasher. You can’t wash them with hot water (only lukewarm, up to 120 degrees F). If they sustain any damage or scratches you’re told to stop using them and replace with new ones. And finally, each comes with an expiration date, after which you’re told to replace with a new bottle. (Mine was October 2011, so that gives it a lifespan of just over 2.5 years). A little odd, perhaps, but then you have to remember we’re dealing with pressurized gases, so I guess there’s a lot of wear and tear these things need to put up with.
The first step in the process is to fill one of the 1-liter bottles with water up to the fill-line, and then upt it in the fridge to get it nice and cold. The instruction manual emphasizes this point, since cold water will hold carbonation much better than room-temperature water. Once you’ve got the bottle nicely chilled, you just screw the top into the front of the Fountain Jet until its tight. Then press the button on top until you hear a (somewhat nerve-wracking) BUZZ noise. They recommend doing this three times for a “standard” amount of carbonation. I like my seltzer heavily carbonated, so I did it 5 times – that came out very bubbly. I’ll probably stick to 3 or 4 charges in future batches.
The whole process (not including refrigeration time) takes all of about 30 seconds to complete, so this is super-fast and easy. The resulting seltzer was great – just like the expensive stuff you have to lug from the grocery store, only cheaper and more convenient. I used filtered spring water (we have a monthly water-delivery service) but you could just as easily use filtered tap water and more than likely get similar results.
Now, I should mention here that carbonated iced tea at home probably won’t work with this product. Or at least, it could work, but you’d be voiding your warranty. The manual specifically says you can not carbonate anything but pure water or you may damage the machine. I imagine you could carbonate some water and then pour in some powdered tea (such as Rishi’s Premium Tea Powder), but my idea of brewing up some tea, cooling it down, and then carbonating it directly is apparently a no-no according to Sodastream. Ah well.
Personally, I’m loving this machine – but I’m also a huge fan of fizzy water. I regularly lug home big bottles of Perrier and San Pellegrino from the grocery store – but no more. 30 seconds with this little miracle worker results in fresh, clean-tasting sparkling water that tastes just as good as the brand-name products. Sodastream also markets a huge line of 20-30 different flavors so you can make proper sodas – cola, root beer, fruit sodas, you name it. I’m not big on sugary drinks, so I didn’t try those, though I did try a few of their “My Water Flavor Essences” – they were ok, but really for me I prefer just straight-up, unflavored sparkling water.
The one big question for me is what to do when the carbonator runs out. Supposedly its good for 60 bottles of water, so that should last us about 2-3 months. I read a bit more in the manual and online and found the answer – they offer a pick-up and by-mail replacement service. Technically, the carbonator isn’t sold to you – its simply “loaned” and remains the property of Sodastream. When it runs out, you either call their 800 number or place an order online for a replacement carbonator. They’ll either schedule a driver to come pick up your charger from your front porch and leave a new one, or if that’s not possible, they’ll ship it to you UPS along with a pre-paid box to send back your old one. Since I only have one charger, it looks like my only option is the “Carbonator Kit C”, where I send back one empty and get three full ones in return, for $62.49.
So my verdict? I love it. If you really enjoy sparkling water, and if you already have at-home access to high-quality water (either delivered or via a good home-filter), its a no-brainer. It saves you money, it saves you the hassle of lugging heavy bottles of soda-water from the store, and it saves the environment from all those discarded glass and plastic bottles. Although I’ve not tried most of their soda-flavors, my guess is those looking to replace actual soda-pop might be less enthused – let’s face it, water is water, but soda lovers tend to adhere to specific brands and flavors, and no two colas are exactly alike. But again, that’s just an assumption on my part – they may have some really excellent flavors available, I’ve just not tried them.
UPDATE: Well, it’s about five weeks since I received my Sodastream, and I’ve just today run out of gas in the carbonator. I’d say I averaged about 0.9 liters of water carbonated per day during this time, which would come out to around 31.5 liters of carbonation per “60 liter” charger. Or roughly half of what they claim it will charge. To be fair, I charge my water about 4 times instead of the recommended 3, so I’m not too disconcerted that it ran out so early.
I’ve ordered a set of 3 60-liter replacement chargers this evening, and will report back on how the “refill” process works out. Supposedly they ship them UPS along with a pre-paid box for me to ship back the empty one. As long as I return the empty within 14 days, everything’s kosher. Finger’s crossed – I’m dying for a seltzer tonight and it’s killing me that I’ve run out of gas! 🙂
UPDATE TWO: Now you can save big on a Sodastream Fountain Jet Starter Kit.
— To purchase Sodastream Fountain Jet Soda Maker, or for more specific information on ingredients or the story behind this particular tea, click here to go directly to the manufacturer's web site.