I've recently become sort of … obsessed with carbonated water. It all started with my trip to Germany last year, where carbonated water is nearly as common as regular tap water. But if, like me, you have an addiction to sparkling water, you know how it can quickly become an expensive habit. So I set out to find a cheaper way to make it myself.
Surprisingly, this setup is very easy to build and super cheap to maintain, even if the initial costs are relatively high.
If you buy sparkling water (sometimes even in bulk) from a grocery store or online, you're probably spending nearly $1 per liter. With a SodaStream, using the official means of refilling canisters, you're looking at $0.40 to $0.50 per liter. Using this method, you're looking at about $0.05 to $0.10 per liter.
Not bad at all.
Step 1: Materials
What you will need for this are all actually pretty common items.
- 2 or 5 lb CO2 tank (any size will do, really, but a larger tank means fewer trips to the machine shop or welding supply store)
- Dual-gauge regulator
- Gas line with ball lock quick disconnect
- 20z ball lock converter cap
- Repurposed 20oz or 2L bottles
There is some debate over whether CO2 tanks from a machine shop or welding supply shops. The truth is, these tanks and CO2 is no different than what you will find underneath the counter in bars and restaurants.
Also, I purchase the CO2 tank online, thinking I might come out a little better if I could just have a 5lb tank filled on the spot. Turns out, no local places fill tanks on the spot and I ended up surrendering my pretty tank for another at the machine shop. But it wasn't a big deal, really, since it came out to the same price anyway, around $90 for a filled 5lb tank – $70 for the tank deposit (which I didn't pay, since I turned one in) and $20 for the CO2.
The dual-gauge regulator I purchased works perfectly fine, but two things are worth noting. It has a safety release valve that engages at 45psi. If you want extra bubbly water, you may want to look for a different regulator. Also, you don't necessarily need a dual-gauge regulator – it just serves as a visual aid for how much CO2 is remaining in the tank.
Save for the ball lock disconnect, you can easily find the hose clamps, gas line, and other connectors at your local hardware store. However, it's almost positively easier and cheaper to just order this pre-made assembly online. It's difficult to find a rubber gas line under 20' long and for less than $20. This entire assembly plus the quick disconnect is about $15 on Amazon.
Step 2: Tools
You really won't need a lot of tools for this. Just some scissors, a pipe wrench or slot and groove pliers, and a screwdriver. And you should definitely consider some thread seal tape.
Step 3: Attach the Gas Line to the Regulator
Begin by attaching the gas line assembly to the regulator. Slide a hose clamp over the open end of the gas line, then slide the hose over the barb on the bottom of the regulator.
If you have trouble fitting this hose over the barb, simply soak the end of the hose in warm water for a minute or two, then try again.
Slide the hose clamp to about 1/8” from the end of the hose and use the screw driver to tighten the hose clamp over the connection.
Step 4: Attach the Regulator to the CO2 Tank
Next, wrap some thread seal tape around the threads of the CO2 tank valve (in the direction you will be screwing the nut on, unlike what I'm doing in the above photo, because I goofed).
Make sure the included nylon washer is in place, and screw the regulator onto the tank valve. Use pliers or a pipe wrench to snug the nut.
Step 5: Make Some Fizzy Water!
And that’s it! Seriously, you’re ready to carbonate some water.
Turn the valve on the CO2 tank and adjust the regulator pressure to approximately 45psi, and twist the pressure valve on the regulator to the on position.
Remove the cap from the bottle of water, squeeze out as much air as possible, and screw on the the ball lock converter cap – or carbonator. Then connect the bottle to the ball lock disconnect. When you do this, the bottle will immediately inflate and harden. Shake the bottle for 60 to 120 seconds and remove from the ball lock disconnect.
Turn off the valve on the CO2 tank, pull the manual pressure release valve to release the remaining pressure in the gas line, and switch the regulator pressure valve back off.
Twist off the cap on the bottle, pour into a glass, and enjoy some refreshing homemade sparkling water!