Home Carbonation System...Cheap, Healthy, and Green.

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Introduction: Home Carbonation System...Cheap, Healthy, and Green.

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.

http://www.truetex.com/carbonation.htm

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...)

Enjoy!


- Ben


Alternatively...

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.

Step 1: Procuring Your Precious Parts...

(see pictures below for the product labels, etc.)

- CO2 regulator, available from BeverageFactory.com, Kegworks.com, Amazon, or eBay (likely the cheapest way to go, but make sure you know what you're getting...)

- CO2 Tank; either ask to put a deposit on a 20lb CO2 tank for around $100 at a local beverage supply, bar supply, restaurant supply, soft drink, or beer distributor in your area, OR buy your own...Since you won't get your original tank back when you swap it out for a full tank, I'd recommend purchasing a reconditioned cylinder from Amazon.com or eBay. Regardless of whether you end up buying or putting a deposit on a tank, you can swap out empty tanks for about $15-25. To find a supplier, first check here for the nearest Airgas supplier (a popular, nationwide chain). They're the easiest way to go, possibly a tad higher prices than other places for a co2 tank swap. Otherwise, call around, search google maps for beverage supply, welding supply, home brewery supply, or be creative; Barmade, the bar products company that I found in Los Angeles was very helpful...When I moved, I switched to swapping my empties out with Airgas.

- Locking Ball Chuck, either available at Harbor Freight or Monkey Grip part #M8871, available online or in stores at Kragen Auto Parts...in testing, users have said that the Kragen/PartsAmerica locking ball chuck wasn't as sturdy as the Harbor Freight chuck...and it's also an excuse to visit the tool mecca of Harbor Freight. (Your mileage may vary.)

- Monkey Grip Rubberized Snap-In Tire Valve part #M4130, available online or in stores at Kragen Auto Parts...

2015 Update:
After completing this instructable almost eight years ago, I've given the original to my parents, and built another one for our new house...Unfortunately, Harbor Freight AND our local auto parts store have changed the design/supplier of the locking ball chuck, so that it either slips off easily while shaking, or simply self-seals at a certain PSI. After doing some research on alternatives, I happened across a carbonator cap from AliExpress.com that's not quite as DIY, but slightly more elegant (and slightly more expensive) than the tire valve solution...It works quite well, is very sturdy, and my wife will now be able carbonate water again on her own!

$20 Stainless Steel Carbonator Cap and Locking Quick Release Ball Lock Disconnect

Also, if you're concerned with the rubber snap-in valve leaching into the seltzer water, this may be a good option for you. Based on my research, I have been replacing/swapping out the rubber snap-in valve caps much sooner than they would theoretically start to deteriorate, so it hasn't been a concern of mine over the past 5 years. As a third option, they also make screw-on, stainless-steel-based tire valves, which would result in less rubber contacting the water. I haven't tried these yet...if you end up using the stainless steel ones, drop me a line and let me know how it went !

- 1/4" Threaded Full-Port Ball Valve (inline shut-off valve), available at Home Depot...The part number is 107-701HC; the SKU on the bar code appears to be 32888 07701...

- 10 foot roll of braided vinyl tubing, 1/4" internal diameter, available at Home Depot...The external diameter of this tubing is 1/2"...

- (3) hose barb adapters, 1/4" barb x 1/4" MIP, available at Home Depot...This part is a "Watts A-192" or "A-192/225." Do not get the "192B"...

- (4) 9/16" hose clamps, available at Home Depot...I found these in a package of 10, with a listed "range" of 1/4 to 5/8.

- (3) 3/4" plastic pipe clamps, available at Home Depot...

- roll of 1/2" teflon tape...

- a 2 liter bottle and cap.

Step 2: Hose Assembly...

Wrap 3" of teflon tape around each of the three hose barb adapters in the same direction as you'll be screwing them in...

Screw 2 of the adapters into each end of the inline shutoff valve, and tighten with a crescent wrench...

Screw the remaining adapter into the Monkey Grip air chuck, and tighten...

Depending on where you want to place the inline shutoff valve, cut your braided hose into 2 pieces with a scissors...

Slip each of the 4 hose clamps over the ends of the braided hose about 1/4" away from the ends, and gently tighten just so they won't slip around...

Push each end onto the barbs on the regulator, each end of the inline shutoff valve, and Monkey Grip air chuck, and FULLY tighten each hose clamp with a flathead screwdriver.

Step 3: Regulators....Mount Up.

Connect the regulator to your tank with either the wrench that came with the regulator, or a large crescent wrench of your own...make sure that the flat washer (which should have come with the tank) is in place before you screw the regulator nut onto the tank....Don't use a washer if your regulator is made by Taprite...the regulator itself will have a sticker warning you not to use a washer...

(Since I was installing the entire assembly underneath the kitchen sink, I chose to attach the regulator horizontally rather than vertically.)

Step 4: Turn Up the Pressure...

Make sure the inline shut-off valve is off (perpendicular to the hose), and turn on the tank shut-off valve to full...

After you turn the gas flow on from the tank, adjust the screw until the outgoing pressure gauge (the one above the screw in the picture) reads between 45-50 psi...

Turn off any music, make her go out of the room, turn on the inline shut-off valve (parallel to the hose), and listen carefully for any small hissing leaks...

If you're feeling anal-retentive, submerge the inline shut-off valve and bitter end in a bucket of water and check for bubbling leaks.

Step 5: Put It in Your Pad...

Install the system however it fits in your place!

You can install the tank at any angle, as long as it's not completely horizontal...

I've included pics below of my under-the-sink setup...mouse over the boxes in the images to see my notes...

Step 6: Cap It All Off...

Drill a small hole in the center of the bottle cap (from the top down), and then GRADUALLY use larger and larger drill bits until you enlarge the hole to 15/32"...1/2" will also work if you only have a limited number of drill bits.

Pull the top of the tire valve up through the hole with a pair of pliers until it pops snugly into place.

Step 7: Cheers!



Sit back with a beer (c'mon, you deserve it after such hard, diligent work)...

Watch the above 1 minute, mildly amusing video on how to use your newfangled CO2 contraption...

And know that you'll never have to buy overpriced water again. The system should pay for itself in less than 6 months, depending on your water usage; the cost to convert tap water to seltzer is less than $0.04 per 2-liter bottle, and a single fill of a 20-lb tank will charge over 500 bottles...

While you can use tap water, we swap out a pair of 2-liter bottles, refill from a PUR faucet filter, and put it in the fridge before carbonating...the colder the water is before you pressurize it, the more it will carbonate...we also sometimes like to add a twist of lemon or mix it with a splash of orange/fruit juice to keep it interesting.

Again, it's really just nice not to have to deal with so many bottles anymore.

In short, the procedure is as follows...
Fill the bottle 3/4 full of cold water...Burp out the air, and tighten the cap...Attach locking ball chuck...Turn the gas on...Shake vigorously for 20 seconds (it's all in the wrist)...Turn the gas off...Shake for 20 more seconds to equalize the pressure...Remove the locking ball chuck and cap...Enjoy!

If you end up making your own, drop me a line with a picture!

- Ben
letsapocalypso@gmail.com

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    210 Comments

    Nice job putting together this Instructable! I've had trouble getting proper carbonation with the 60 psi regulator, even with the water being right out of the fridge. I'm looking for a 120 psi regulator right now, but I was wondering if you have had any problems with your beverages being flat at 60 psi.

    Not at all...For how long are you shaking the bottles?

    Actually, I already had a SodaStream that I modified to work with the tank. The SodaStream bottles are also proprietary and stiffer, so the technique to squeeze the air out of the bottle wouldn't work. Shaking the bottle is also something i don't want to attempt with the SodaStream still attached. I've found that with the SodaStream mod, you can get away with your method, a higher pressure regulator, a couple of different pneumatic connectors, and an adapter for the SodaStream (~13 bucks on ebay). Your Instructable has been very helpful for me, so THANKS AGAIN!

    Hi, would you mind doing an instructable or posting some pictures? I'd like to try your method!

    we use the valved cap and a bicycle air pump to maintain carbonation longer in our home made and store bought sodas.

    So, I made this about 3 summers ago now. I tried using it again last night... and though the tank is still heavy and relatively full, it doesn't seem to be carbonating the water. The bottle will feel under pressure, but the taste isn't carbonated at all and there's no bubbles. Also, it's doing this when I change the PSI to 55 (which some people have recommended)... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSD10S0QHX4 ... but at a lower PSI, it doesn't seem to carbonate either. Ideas?

    Also,

    I use a quick-release cap from a beer supply place and the connector is standard. I paid $100 for the 20# tank, $30 for the regulator, $12 each for the male and female quick-release connectors. A 20# tank is overkill - it takes me a couple years to go through one. I recommend a 10# tank that will fit under the sink and can be attached to the door or whatever. This is pretty dark but it should give you an idea of my setup.

    CO2 tank 001.JPG

    Anyone know if there is a thing as CO2 pills? Sort of like seltzer tablets? If so, one would be able to drop a few in a water bottle.

    dry ice - aka frozen CO2