Dinner Party Theater, Drink, Read

Home Carbonation Rig

I scoffed at my sister's obsession with her SodaStream for years. She evangelized it at dinner parties, sang its praises on the phone, and eventually convinced me that I simply could not live without one. And she was right. 

In the first few weeks I owned my system I became a seltzer addict, another bubbly junkie craving that tongue-tingling hydration. And while I thought my initial enthusiasm might wain as the gadget sat on my counter, I was wrong. Till the day I left NYC I pumped bottle after bottle of soda water, drinking it more quickly than I had ever imagined. 

But then I moved to LA. And without my beloved Park Slope Food Coop, the refill tanks for my SodaStream are quite pricey. And a steep price tag is the easiest way to deflate my excitement over anything. So, heart clenched in withdrawal, I set out to find a cheaper way to have seltzer at home. 

Thankfully there are numerous tutorials on building a CO2 rig at home online. I particularly liked these two: 

  • http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/06/pros-cons-diy-carbonation-rig-how-to-carbonate-cocktails-at-home-equipment-how-to-build-cheaper-sodastream-replacement.html
  • http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2012-06/how-make-your-own-home-carbonation-system

Following their simple instructions I built my own. The rig is about as expensive as a top-range SodaStream (~$170), but infinitely more useful. While the SodaStream company cautions against carbonating anything non-water, my home system can dispense bubbles into nearly any clear liquid. Wine, apple juice, water, and lemonade have all proven mighty when jazzed with some CO2. 

Things to remember once you've built your CO2 rig:

  • CO2 needs space, leave headroom in the bottle (roughly 1/4 of the bottle's volume should be empty)
  • CO2 likes cold things. The colder your liquid, the better dispersement of the gas.
  • You'll have to carbonate twice. The initial burst of gas will help purge the headspace of extra gas (a motley crew of oxygen, nitrogen, and whatever else is floating around in our atmosphere). The second application of gas will suffuse your liquid with the appropriate amount of fizz.

And that's the beauty of having your own system. Beyond being exquisitely affordable (way cheaper in the long run than either buying individual bottle of soda water from the store of investing in a SodaStream), you can control the amount of carbonation. Do you like a gentle bubble? Using your regulator on the tank you can tamp down the output pressure to 20psi and have a light soda. Want something extremely fizzy? Crank that sucker to 50psi and enjoy the tingle when you drink.

I'm a sucker for old school soda fountains, so with my new CO2 rig in place I started cranking out classic egg creams. Of course, a homemade chocolate syrup will help that enormously. Check out this companion post for the recipe.