I was a bit worried about reviewing the Soda-Club 'make your own soda at home' gadget—I don't really drink soda, you see.
It's not that I don't dig me some pop, but as I get older and find my body less able to put up with my midwestern eating habits, I've pretty much cut it out of my diet entirely. Too much nasty stuff, not the least of which is that sticky devil high fructose corn syrup, or 'HFCS.'
But the idea of making my own soda at home, perhaps even inventing a new variety or two while I was at it, ticked off one my current life-wide projects: to make everything I drink at home. (So far I've got beer and coffee down. I'll let you know how the tea goes when my tea tree is big enough to harvest in about three years.)
What I have found myself drinking lately, having succumb to yet another of the foppish affectations of New York City livin', is seltzer. The sparkling water. The water that is not still. Tiny bubbles. And Soda-Club works just fine for that.
But is it a good value?
Well, let's do the math. The starter kit for the Edition 1 Home Soda Maker is 90 bucks. (That's the one they sent me.) It includes one of the 'Alco2Jet' carbonators, which is basically just a metal tank filled with C02, which Soda-Club intends you to refill periodically by ordering another one from their web site, which will be delivered by driver.
Did I mention that? I'm not entirely sure, but it seems that the business model is built around Soda-Club hand-delivering you CO2 and supplies. Can't ship pressurized gas by mail.
Wait a second—I see a shipping and handling fee. I'm confused. Let me just call them.
Okay, yeah. The use a courier service if they've got one in your area or UPS ground if they do not. Makes sense.
Anyway, the started kit, with enough CO2 to make 110 liters of seltzer, is $100 after shipping. So that's easy math: 90 cents a liter. That's okay, but not great. I can usually pick up a liter of seltzer at a bodega for about $2, $2.50.
With the refills, the price starts dropping pretty fast. Another 110 liters worth of gas is $19, which brings the average price down to about 54 cents a liter. (I'm playing hard and fast with the numbers, but we're not talking megahertz here or anything.)
There's so value there, especially when you factor in how much fun it is inject your tap water with an inverted fountain of bubbles, hearing the cak-cak-cakking as the pressure lock vents and the sci-fi hiss as you tile up the bottle to unscrew it from the charger housing.
What about the soda, though? In short, I'm not loving all the flavors, of which I tried probably a dozen. Most of it tastes like generic soda tastes, with a passable diet cola and a surprisingly off-target orange. (Their new 'energy drink' flavor is probably my favorite, despite a strangely tannic color and smell. Think cough syrup, not Gatorade.)
The soda additives are just little packets of sweetener, coloring, and flavor, so an enterprising soul could probably cook up their varieties in a sauce pan lickity split. And since you just dump the flavoring in the carbonated water, you really don't need the Soda-Club if you just want to dick around with some flavors; Store-bought seltzer would word just the same.
The soda flavoring is the source of my biggest gripe with the Soda-Club: They're still using that god damned HFCS. One would think this could be a huge selling point for them, should they switch to regular cane sugar like that which soda used to be made. (And still is made by some boutique shops.) If all these syrups were filled with old fashioned cane sugar, I might just be able to justify sipping them more often. As it stands, I'll keep enjoying my seltzer.
Update: The CEO of Soda-Club wrote us to note that they are not using HFCS any longer, along the old labels showing 'sugar and/or HFCS' are still in use. Good deal!
Product Page [SodaClub]