The cost to convert water to soda water is less than $0.04 per 2-liter bottle,
and a single fill of a 20lb tank will charge over 500 bottles!
Here's a quick demo of how it works...
For those looking for the "Cilffs Notes" summary of how this works: Take a 20lb CO2 Tank and regulator, attach a tube, and stick a 99 cent locking ball air chuck (tire inflator) on the end of the tube. Pop a cheap snap-in tire valve (schrader valve) into a plastic soda bottle cap and you're ready to carbonate any cold liquid in about 30 seconds. Colder liquids absorb more CO2 carbonation.
If you're intrigued, explore the steps on subsequent pages for more details...
I've recently taken to flavoring my soda water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice; when we have a bumper crop I also freeze a bunch of ice cubes of freshly juiced lemons, then take out and zap a cube for 15 sec. in the microwave to throw in my drink...Really tasty, low calorie, and no added sugar...
As far as a "soda substitute," you can easily add a splash of orange, cranberry, or other fruit juice, a twist of lemon or lime, alcoholic mixed drinks, commercial or homemade soda syrups,or whatever you like...Our family drinks a ton of sparkling water; as kids, we always preferred it to regular tap water, and it's much healthier than soda.
I've also experimented, with amusing success, at carbonating cheap wines (read: Charles "Two Buck Chuck" Shaw from Trader Joe's) to make dirt cheap champagne...Just make sure the bottle is chilled first, try not to get any wine (or sugared drinks) in the air hose, and be careful opening it after carbonating!
I had been toying with the idea of buying a home carbonator, but I was leery of the idea of being locked into a proprietary, closed system of buying expensive refill cartridges from a retail manufacturer like Sodastream...
I knew there had to be a better way. After all, this is just mixing CO2 and water.
In my research, I came across an incredibly detailed essay on carbonation by Richard Kinch, without which I could not have completed the project...I highly suggest reading over his opus before embarking on your own carbonation exploration.
All of this can be done for around $100, plus the deposit on a CO2 tank...
Given that the cost of a 2-liter bottle of sparkling water is now over $1 (California just doubled their CRV surcharges), and based on the volume of water that we drink, it's a no-brainer. Plus, there's the feeling of liberation of being able to drink as much sparkling water as you want (much like digital photography vs. wasting actual film).
I'm not an EnviroNut, but since we're all supposed to pitch in and make a last-ditch effort to save the planet, these facts on the effects of plastic water bottles on the environment were of interest:
- Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil - enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year - are used to make plastic water bottles, while transporting these bottles to markets burns even more oil.
- According to a 2001 report of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), roughly 1.5 million tons of plastic are expended in the bottling of 89 billion liters of water each year.
- The growth in bottled water production has increased water extraction in areas near bottling plants, leading to water shortages that affect nearby consumers and farmers. In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the bottles.
- Nearly 90 percent of water bottles are not recycled and wind up in landfills where it takes thousands of years for the plastic to decompose.
Personally, it's really just nice not to have to lug a bunch of 2-liters home from the market anymore, carry them all in, and find places to store them. (I'm sure she'll find other chores for me to do soon enough...)
If money is no object, and/or the carbonation system is under consideration for use by elderly / disabled (or simply lazy) individuals, there IS another option that doesn't involve shaking the bottles yourself...
- Purchase a Sodastream (from Bed, Bath, and Beyond with a 20% off coupon, or somewhere even beyond-er), procure a Co2 tank as described above, and purchase a Freedom One (or Freedom One+ system) from Co2Doctor.com to connect the Sodastream with the larger Co2 tank. (choose the CGAWG or CGA option if you're on their order page.) While the initial investment in the supplies is not quite as cheap (about an extra $200), and it's not quite as DIY, I recently set up both sets of my grandparents with this system, and they absolutely love it.