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Can homemade soda save you money?

Devices from SodaStream and SodaSparkle let you craft your own soft drinks or seltzers. Cost-effective? That depends.

By Donna_Freedman Mar 18, 2013 11:00AM

Logo: Piggy bank (Corbis)Homemade cold drinks are a hot business in the U.S. these days. We bought more than 1.2 million carbonating devices -- chiefly SodaStream and SodaSparkle -- last year, according to The New York Times

 

Making fizzy drinks at home is nothing new -- the out-of-control seltzer bottle was a staple of silent-film comedies -- but it's now a lot easier to craft your own bubbly water, all-natural sodas or knockoffs of popular pops like Coca Cola and Dr Pepper.

It's pretty simple: Pour water into the special bottle (it withstands the pressure), add carbonation and, if you like, flavor the result. Depending on which kind you buy and what's included (e.g., how many flavor mixes or cartridges), expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $170.

SodaStream cartridges are refillable and cost about $30; if you trade them in at the retailer a replacement cartridge will cost about $15. SodaSparkle's one-time-use cartridges cost anywhere from 53 to 70 cents apiece.

Can such devices save you money? That depends on whom you ask, and on what you want the machines to do for you. In fact, some people don't care whether they save moneyt.

Joshua Dorkin of BiggerPockets has never done the math. He bought the SodaStream to reduce his dependency on commercial soft drinks. Now he drinks homemade seltzer for a treat, instead of popping open can after can.

"I really saw this as a way to force me to be healthier…I'm already consuming less sugar and junk calories," he says.

An analysis on the DrPennyPincher blog indicates that SodaStream beverages cost 2.96 cents per fluid ounce. To produce the equivalent of the eight-pack of 12-ounce bottled soda that the good doctor's wife prefers costs $2.84, a savings of $1.16.

"With the cost savings plus the convenience and fun of making soda at home, as well as reducing plastic consumption, Sodastream has some advantages," he says.

KB of the Natural As Possible Mom blog reports that the "Sparkling Naturals" flavors work out to about $1.66 per liter. Some folks might blanch at the cost, but blogger Karen J. Bannan notes that "it's about the same" as the natural sodas she buys for her husband at Whole Foods -- and the smaller bottles never go flat and get thrown away, the way 2-liter bottles sometimes did.

She's definitely saving money on her own preferred beverage, natural flavored seltzer: "MyWater Essences cost $9.99 and make 60 liters -- very cost-effective."

Not everyone saves

But blogger Tim Owens ran the numbers and came to a different conclusion. "At the end of the day the SodaStream only saves you money if you regularly buy name-brand can soda and typically pay full cost," he writes in a post on his eponymous website.

 

On the other hand, Owens sure doesn't miss "lugging 12-packs of soda from the car" and also notes that his family no longer leaves half-finished soda cans to go flat.

A brand-loyal soft drink user might not care for soda machines' approximations of popular pops. Over at the Preaching to the Perverted website, a blogger named Dave found most SodaStream flavors "somewhat lacking," especially that of his beloved Diet Coke.

His advice? Buy a variety pack of mixes, which has samples of 12 flavors. "You can try them before you commit," he says in a post called "Now I'm carbonating everything."

 

Ketchup soda, anybody?
Some users prefer to make their own flavors. Dave is one of them, and warns that this can be messy since some liquids react rather explosively to carbonation.

"I fully endorse experimentation, just be prepared to do some cleanup," he says.

Putting anything other than water into the bottle could void the machine's warranty, according to the New York Times article. This doesn't stop the adventurous from fizzing-up liquids such as wine, liqueurs and centrifuged tomato juice.

That last one was a bust, incidentally; it came out tasting "like ketchup soda." But homemade sodas can include ingredients such as fresh lemon -- seldom used in bottled drinks due to the short shelf life of the fruit's acidity -- or real ginger. The adventurous are also infusing wine or vodka with herbs, fruit or even chili peppers.

Besides, warranties don't seem to matter to a certain group of soda-makers: They're using an adapter to allow the SodaStream to accept paintball C02 tanks, which are considerably cheaper to refill. Owens, who notes that paintball tanks are currently used by home brewers, says the $60 adapter will pay for itself within a few months and then allow him to "enjoy much cheaper C02 costs going forward."

So should you buy a soda maker? That depends. How much soda or flavored seltzer does your household really consume? Does that consumption vary enough -- mostly in the summer when you're entertaining, say -- to make buying on-sale commercial soft drinks a better bet?

Be realistic about this, or the soda maker could become this years Fad Device: used a while and then relegated to a high shelf in the pantry, right next to the countertop deep fat fryer and the mini-cupcake bakery. They all seemed like good ideas at the time, too.

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22Comments
Mar 19, 2013 3:23PM
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If you are saving money with soda stream, you are drinking too much soda.
Mar 18, 2013 6:14PM
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I simply cut way back on my soda pop consumption.  That's what saves me money, as well as calories. 
Mar 18, 2013 2:52PM
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I don't think it saves money, but it does give your more options.  Any sugary or fake sugary drink is bad for you.  At least making your own lets you limit the amount of sugar and to use real ingredients without the extra chemicals. dies, and preservatives found in commercial soft drinks.
Mar 19, 2013 9:59AM
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I've been mixing soda water with orange juice for years. It cuts down on the calories, and I still have something fizzy to drink.
Mar 20, 2013 4:44PM
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I got a nice sodastream using a 20% off coupon from BedBath&Beyond and collected with a rebate from them that I printed off their website.  I only use coupons when purchasing the soda syrup and cartidges, routining saving 33% off the shelf price.  The kicker is I had some discover card rewards that I cashed in for BBB and got all those things free when I piled on the coupons with the reward cards.

 

I didn't buy it for myself, I got it for my dad specificly because he drinks a lot of lemon lime soda.  I figured out I spent about $50 out of pocket to get the machine and about a years supply of soda.  My parents live in a rural area, now they travel to town less to buy pop and return them for the 10c deposit that pop cans have in Michigan.

 

It also makes nice seltzer water for fresh lime or a dash of apple juice.

 

If you get one, just get one smart.

Mar 20, 2013 9:37AM
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I never thought about putting vodka in a Soda Stream machine.  Hmmm....
Mar 20, 2013 4:47PM
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should add, it has already saved them about $30 a month on soda, which makes a difference on their retired fixed income
Mar 27, 2013 1:29PM
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Stupid how people spend MORE money in their futile attempts to SAVE money.
Mar 20, 2013 11:34AM
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I don't drink much soda, so I don't see it as a real cost-saving measure.  For me, the attraction to the SodaStream lies in the opportunity to make interesting flavored soda that you can't buy anywhere.  I would try to make lemongrass soda, lavender honey, hibiscus, or rosewater soda.
Apr 3, 2013 9:21PM
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As a critical diabetic with leg nerve damage I can't believe I drank Coke since young with all that sugar. I stopped drinking sugar based cola many years ago. But 6-16oz. bottles of Coke, a day, has done permanent damage. Wish I knew back then what I now know.
Mar 20, 2013 2:39PM
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Does not save you money, huge gimmick. Cost of the equipment plus the cost of the ingredients to make it, just like the Keurig coffee makers with the "pods" about triples the price of the coffee. And the fizzy stuff if you don't use it up quickly it goes flat real fast. When you get the name brands on sale for less than $1 for a 2-liter bottle, well you'd drown in soda before you could drink enough to make up the $$ difference. Unless you have $$ to pour down the drain, forget it.
Mar 21, 2013 10:24PM
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You can get 62 cent two liters at WalMart so it cost more to make your own
Apr 1, 2013 10:25AM
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Doing the math in my area, the home made brands cost way more than commercial products. Plus, you have the high startup cost and a constant need to feed the machine !   I see this as another fad, like the Cusinart,  the fondue set, the bread maker, or the ice cream maker, that will end up stored in a closet or rented storage facility.
May 27, 2013 12:10PM
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Well I have the Soda stream system, It does not save money.  It is convenient when the cartridge is full and you have the syrup.  That is where it ends.  You can buy seltzer or club soda and add your flavoring simple.  If you buy the Genesis starter kit and add one bottle of syrup it costs about $2.08

per liter. (you need to add a bottle of syrup so you will have enough to use up the whole bottle of carbonation. So after that it would cost about a $1.00 per liter.  I buy 2 liter bottles of name brand soda 10 for 10 dollars on sale (which is often) or $1.35 - 1.67 not on sale.  It is only worth it if you do not care about cost or worrying about running out of flavor or carbonators ....you still have to go to the store ....this is a "fad" or "novelty right now.  Buy off brand seltzer and syrup its cheaper ...  

May 15, 2013 8:20PM
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Or you could do what I did, put in a real soda fountain with a real carbonator, and bag-in-box syrups.  I use real Diet Coke, ginger ale, etc. and have a Wunderbar bar gun in my sink.

I never run out of soda, and have pretty much unlimited carbonated water (club soda).

Aug 2, 2013 12:02PM
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Have Soda Stream...most have missed the point....no lugging home of bottles/too heavy for a senior citizen;  less sugar/needed for a healthier body;  less use of plastic bottles, and FUN to do!   ways

 

always use coupon from Bed, Bath & Beyond so cartridge Is cheaper! 

Apr 15, 2013 5:29PM
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I have a SODA STREAM- I LOVE it i have to admit some of the flavors leave a slight aftertaste. But the "regular" cola is just as good as national brand that astarts with a "P". One way to REALLY save money with it, is if you drink the energy drink R#@ B&^%.  it is $5.99 for the mix.. This makes equal to 12 liters. I can not taste any difference. And you can adjust how much to add. If it makes you jittery, back off a little.

Its also GREAT to take camping! 

Aug 29, 2013 1:25PM
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I used to have a Sodastream, but I quickly learned that it really doesn't save much money.....especially if you like your soda real fizzy. (I do) Currently, I am leasing a 20lb. commercial tank of CO2 for about $50 a year, which costs about $15 to refill. So far this year, I have made well over 200 (2) liter bottles of soda, and haven't needed to exchange the tank yet. You can learn how to do this on YouTube with about a $125 initial investment, using standard one or two liter plastic bottles, and it's really very easy. Yes, they can certainly handle the pressure. One place that I used to work at had equipment for pressure-testing, and a supermarket 2 liter bottle held over 500 psi before bursting. That's at least ten times the pressure needed for making your own soda. I use Sodastreams flavors, and I make my own as well, but my own equipment. If you're really into soda, this is undeniably the cheapest way to go.
Aug 26, 2013 9:19AM
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Regular soda is not that expensive and im hooked on DR PEPPER 10.  This sounds like that money saver KEURIG which also supposedly save you money.Just another fad like last years craze the PANINI maker that now sits on the shelf.

Aug 1, 2013 1:02PM
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Yes and no...  If you drink a lot, then refills of the Co2 canisters are going to cost you more than buying sodas off the shelf every month.
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