Homemade Soda

Until now, the only times I’ve ever been much of soda drinker have been when I’ve been living in hot places in Africa and soda has offered a cool burst of sugary energy and refreshment in the midst of a long, hot, sweaty day of traveling on dusty, bumpy roads.

the Sodastream packaging says "no high fructose corn syrup" but the first ingredient in their orange soda syrup is "sucrose and/or high fructose corn syrup."

Misleading marketing alert: the Sodastream packaging says "no high fructose corn syrup," but the first ingredient in the orange soda syrup they provide is "sucrose and/or high fructose corn syrup."

(The R & D manager for Soda Club added a comment on this post affirming the claim that the company does not use high fructose corn syrup and wondering where I could have seen something like that, so I’m adding in a picture here of the label of the syrup bottle clearing displaying the ingredient list in question. Click on the image itself to enlarge it and read the words.)

This is the ingredient label on the side of the Soda Club syrup for the "Orange Naturally flavored SodaMix."

This is the ingredient label on the side of Soda Club's "Orange Naturally flavored SodaMix."

So when the Soda Stream people emailed me a press release and product offer, I wasn’t interested at first. Then a couple different people in my office mentioned that they actually have one of these home soda makers. At the same time, we were about to publish the Responsible Purchasing Guide to Bottled Water Alternatives, so my brain was filled with data concerning the wastefulness and misleading marketing of bottled water. Soda is just bottled water with some corn syrup and artificial coloring – in a sense, making it worse than straight up bottled water since at least bottled water isn’t filled with empty calories and phony ‘flavors’ and ‘colors.’ So I was curious about this contraption in so far as it potentially offered a way to make soda that was lower impact on the environment.

twist a bottle of tap water into place, and press the button to inject with CO2.

Really simple to use: twist a bottle of tap water into place, and press the button to inject with CO2.

Actually, I don’t mind the occasional glass of root beer, and I downright like grape and orange soda, particularly when I’m wanting to reach for something to drink but really don’t need to have another beer. So I decided to take this soda maker for a spin.

I’ve been surprised by how much I like it.

First of all, this thing is simple. All it does is inject carbon dioxide into liquid. And thus it uses no electricity, just a cartridge of CO2 – something many homebrewers already have on hand if they are dispensing their beer on draft at home. For them, this gadget is unnecessary since they can already carbonate a keg of flavored water.

But if you don’t have a home draft system, and you want a glass of homemade soda, this thing couldn’t be easier. All you do is fill a reusable bottle with water, insert it into the Sodastream, inject the CO2, add some syrup and oila, you’ve got soda. It literally takes less than a minute to make a liter of soda.

Add some flavoring syrup, and that's it!

Add some flavoring syrup, and that's it!

This minimalist appliance has three advantages over buying soda from the store:

  1. It’s way, way cheaper
  2. It allows you to control your soda sweetness (and, for that matter, all of the ingredients in your carbonated beverage)
  3. It eliminates a lot of waste containers and reduces the carbon footprint of soda by limiting the energy required to bottle, distribute, and retail heavy bottles of sugar water.

In short, I’m a convert.

My only complaint is that the syrups they provide are the same kind of crap used to make regular store-bought soda. I wish they had some flavor syrups made with organic cane sugar, or stevia, and that didn’t contain a bunch of completely unnecessary artificial colorings and flavorings. They do offer a straight lemon-lime essence that contains no sugar or color, and that’s a fine option, but I actually like a little sweetness.

Overall, this thing is a thumbs up. I’m looking forward to experimenting with other flavoring options, maybe some fresh home-squeezed juices?

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16 Responses to Homemade Soda

  1. Dave Bonta says:

    You missed one advantage: no exploding bottles. Traditional home-made pop recipes call for adding just a little bit of yeast, and for reasons I don’t fully understand, most of the time it works just a little and poops out. But occasionally it doesn’t. Our Amish neighbors told me they get around this by fermenting in those big plastic pop bottles. (They use ordinary bread yeast, by the way, along with cane sugar and root beer extract. For a five-gallon batch, they use 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, and ferment at room temperature at two days.) Homebrewers can skip the extract and make their own infusions using recipes on the web. I’ve used a lot of root beer roots in my ales with good results. But I’ve yet to make pop – I’m not a huge fan of sugar water, though like you, I do like a root beer once in a while.

    • Sodamancer says:

      I’ve made quite a few homemade soda batches and very rarely have a yeast batch that “poops” out. The Amish way sounds pretty similar to my process. I’ve only had one “exploding bottle”, and even that didn’t explode. I remember reading somewhere that it is suggested new soda crafters use cork tops instead of crown lids to avoid exploding bottles, so I bought cork tops. I had one batch that fermented a little quickly due to heat, and the carbonation buildup shot off the cork top-I think this was exacerbated by the fact that cork tops allow a small amount of oxygen into the bottle, which not only speeds the carbonation process quicker when the air is warm, but also spoils the batch due to contamination. Glass bottles and crown caps have never done me wrong, but it helps that my home location seldom gets above 80 degrees outside.

  2. This looks perfect for my son, who is 21 and a Mt. Dew addict. I think he would get a blast from making and drinking his own pop, enough so that he might just consume a bit less Mt. Dew.

  3. Beer Drinker says:

    You should check with the distributor, because I know in Germnay they have “healthy flavors” with natural sugars

  4. Ido Rosenthal says:

    hi brian,
    my name is Ido and i am R&D manager for soda club,
    we do not use any HFCS in our syrups, only white sugar and fructose.
    can you tell where have you seen this ingredient list you are talking about?
    as you probably know there is a big difference betweeen Sucrose, fructose and HFCS.
    there is no misleading in our products as far as i know.

    Kind regards,
    Ido Rosenthal

    • Sam Hobbs says:

      Ido, I know that you were replying to someone but I do not know who you were replying to so I will post a reply to you.

      In the 60 Minutes show on CBS, I have heard an expert say there is no difference between Fructose and High Fructose Corn Syrup. There is nothing more natural than Fructose. I don’t understand why everyone criticizes HFCS, except I assume the morivation is financial; it might be the makers of sucrose sugar that is attacking HFCS. If you listen carefully to experts like Doctor OZ, you will not hear an actual prolem with HFCS; he implies there is, but his words are carefully stated to imply there is a problem but he does not have an actual explanation.

      Note that the Dr. Oz does not exist anymore, and I assume it is because he is an alarmist and much of what he said seems to be financially motivated.

      I think a lot of what is said about sucrose, fructose and HFCS is financially motivated, not nutritionally motivated.

      • Sam Hobbs says:

        I meant to say that the “Dr. Oz show does not exist anymore”. Dr. Oz still exists, but there are no new episodes of the show being made.

  5. beeractivist says:

    Dave – I’ll have to look up some of the recipes you mentioned. Some real root beer sounds awesome.

    Morning Angel – Hope he likes it!

    Beer Drinker – thanks for the tip, though I think I’ll look into using some fresh ingredients I can find locally like some of the roots Dave mentioned above.

    Ido – First, my name is Chris not ‘brian,’ but no biggie. At least you didn’t call me Eric, which, for some unknown reason, I have often been called. I’m posting a picture of the side of the syrup bottle into the post above so you can see the ingredient label for yourself.

    Cheers,
    Chris

  6. Brendan says:

    If you like root beer, it’s tough to beat a good PG-13. I learned of this drink at Dogfish Head – it’s their Beach Beer + vanilla vodka. Happily, for anyone looking to avoid fructose, sucrose, and other nasties, it works just as well in diet root beer (Saranac being a favorite) but, staying local, I still go for DH vodka.

  7. Margaret says:

    I’m considering buying a Sodastream soda maker. I would personally drink mostly soda water, plain unsweetened or with a touch of fruit essence, but my kids would surely like to make soda pop (cola, cream soda, orange, lemon-lime, etc.). I would greatly prefer to avoid both HFCS and artificial sweeteners, if possible.

    Have you found any plain sugar-based syrups that contain neither HFCS or artificial sweetener? Any success with flavoring with fruit juices? Are you still happy with the machine and process?

    Thank you for any input you can give!

    Margaret

  8. Nicholas says:

    does anyone know where you can get the CO2 container refilled? Most suppliers only fill 5lb containers for beer carbonators. Soda Stream makes you send it back and buy their bottles, when all you need is some more CO2. Any one know what type of shop would refill?
    Thanks!
    Nicholas

    • beeractivist says:

      Margaret – I think the company is now making some syrups sweetened with cane sugar. Double check on their website.

      Nicholas – Try a fire station or EMT supply store. I’ve had small CO2 canisters filled at places like these.

  9. Margaret says:

    Thanks for the reply, Chris.

    Looking at SodaStream’s website http://www.sodaclubusa.com/default.htm , I can’t find anyplace it specifies the use of cane sugar syrup.

    Their Comparison page (linked near the bottom of the Nutrition page) says they don’t use HFCS: “Regular flavors of Soda-Club sodamix use a mixture of are sweetened with [sic] a blend of sugar and Splenda®* brand sweetener and contain no high-fructose corn syrup. Soda-Club diet flavors are sweetened with Splenda® brand sweetener and contain no aspartame or saccharine.”

    So evidently no HFCS, but I’m also trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, and even their regular flavors contain Splenda, so I’m still on the hunt for soda flavors with neither HFCS or artificial sweeteners…preferably cane sugar, or maybe stevia, though I don’t think my kids will care for stevia.

    Thanks again!

    Margaret

  10. Tammi says:

    I’m also considering the purchase of a Soda Stream, but am disgustingly disappointed at the use of Splenda in all of their syrups. We drink Zevia (soda made with Stevia) at home, but at about a $1 for a 12-oz can, I’m looking for an alternative. Besides the cost, I’d like to avoid the use of cans (even though they’re recyclable) and having to store the in our home. I have searched the internet to the best of my ability (and I’m pretty computer-savvy) for an unsweetened version of a cola-flavored syrup, but have had no success. If anyone has a solution for me, I’d love to hear it.

    Thanks.
    -Tammi

  11. Soda says:

    Soda…

    […]Homemade Soda « Beer Activist[…]…

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