Become your own bottling company?

Recycla has written before about her search for the perfect soda.  She doesn’t drink sodas very often — perhaps once every month or two — but she does love the occasional Coke with her pizza or one of her husband’s divine grilled burgers.

What Recycla does not love is the fact that Coke uses high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in their U.S. sodas, as opposed to the sugar used in Europe and Canada.  Recycla can assure you that European and Canadian Cokes are superior to the American version.

Because Recycla is so anti-HFCS, she has searched far and wide for sodas that contain only sugar or honey as sweeteners.  She is even willing to pay more for a superior product.  This search has been going on for two years and is ongoing, as the products she likes are not always available.

For example, Recycla’s daughters don’t drink sodas all that often — only once or twice a month — but when they do have sodas, they like root beer or creme sodas with their pizza.  Recycla found a great root beer that is produced in her home state of Virginia; unfortunately, it appears to be no longer available.  She also found a creme soda that is made by a family-owned company.  Alas, her local Whole Foods no longer carries it and she has not been able to find another local store that does.  She looked into mail order but found the costs to be prohibitive.

Recycla’s husband is a different kind of soda consumer.  He has a three cans/day Diet Coke habit that stretches back more than 20 years.  Yes, Recycla recognizes the health issues associated with this level of soda consumption but has been unable to convince her husband to change his ways.

Because of the sheer number of sodas that Recycla’s husband consumes and the rest of the family’s desire for quality products with no HFCS, Recycla and her husband have discussed the possibility of making their own sodas.

As it happens, several weeks ago, someone from Sodastream, a company that sells home soda makers, approached Recycla and asked if she would be willing to review their products for this blog.

Whenever any of the Eco Women are asked to review products, they have a group conversation about the product first and decide it if fits in with their mission.  The Eco Women agreed that, while reducing soda consumption is something most Americans should do, Sodastream’s products offered the possibility of at least cutting back on waste.  Recycla agreed to do the product review.

When Recycla’s sample soda machine arrived (via FedEx because of the CO2 canister that is the water carbonator), she was so excited.  Unfortunately, this excited waned when she opened the box and discovered that the soda maker was made entirely of plastic and not a very durable one at that.

Recycla was sent the Fountain Jet, which is the company’s basic model that sells for $89.95, including one carbonator and two plastic bottles.  While Recycla is not entirely opposed to plastic, this is the kind of plastic that will surely end up in landfills and she doesn’t feel that this particular product will stand the test of time.

Recycla also received assorted soda mixes.  A 16.9 oz. (500 ml) bottle of soda mix produces approximately 33 cans (12 liters) of sodas.  Each bottle of soda mix costs $4.99 at the Sodastream online store and you can buy ten bottles for the cost of only nine, which helps increase the savings.

Recycla received two BPA-free plastic 1 liter bottles with her soda maker.  The bottles may not go in the dishwasher and must be handwashed, which is almost never convenient  for anyone.  Stainless steel bottles are available, however, they are twice the price.  Recycla thinks it would be a better choice environmentally if the company eliminated the use of plastic bottles altogether and provided only glass and stainless steel options.

As for the carbonators, they come in steel bottles and the empties can be returned to the company for refilling.   Once the canister is empty, one can order a pair of new carbonators online for $49.95 plus shipping.  Frankly, this seems a bit expensive.

But let’s get to the soda-making part…

To get started, Recycla had to first insert the carbonator in the back, which she did easily.

Then, to make sodas, she filled one of the bottles with very cold water and attached it to the front of the soda maker.  Attaching the bottle was an awkward process that never really got any easier with practice, but would have definitely been easier if Recycla had been born with a third hand.

Once the bottle was in place, she pressed a button at the top of the machine to activate the carbonator and add lots of lovely fizzy bubbles to the water.  This part of the process took less than 30 seconds.  Unfortunately, no matter how tightly Recycla attached the bottle to the machine, water leaked out of the top of the bottle and made a mess on the soda machine and the kitchen counter.  She was also afraid to tighten the connection too much, as she was concerned about breaking some of the plastic parts.

After the water was carbonated, Recycla added in the soda mix.  She was sent a nice variety of flavors, including diet cola, orange, and crème soda.  She poured a small amount of the soda mix into the green cap from the mix’s bottle and then s-l-o-w-l-y poured the mix into the bottle of carbonated water.  Note: If you don’t pour slowly, the entire mixture will fizz explosively and go all over your counter, your floor, and yourself.  Trust Recycla on this.

For reasons Recycla cannot fathom, the soda mix cap has a double rim around it.  Try as she might, she was not able to pour the mix without some of it ending up between the two rims, where it pooled until it then leaked out and made yet another mess.

Messes aside, let’s talk about flavor, because that’s the most important part, right?  How do the different soda mixes taste?

The Sodastream company makes a big deal on their website and in their marketing materials about how their soda mixes are not sweetened with HFCS.  What they do not mention — except in small print that’s not easily found — is that they sweeten the soda mixes with Splenda.  Recycla recognizes that not everyone has an issue with artificial sweeteners, but she does.  She would prefer to stick with ingredients that were not created in a lab, plus she thinks that artificial sweeteners taste terrible.

Before agreeing to review the Sodastream products, Recycla had searched through their website and found the information on the Splenda, which was almost a deal-breaker for her.  However, after a great deal of thought, she was willing to open her mind a bit and give it a try, just in case it was better than she thought it would be.

When the Sodastream kit arrived, Recycla made crème soda first.  She took a sip and gagged.  The Splenda had a very heavy, chemical flavor.  She didn’t tell her children about the Splenda and, when they tasted the crème soda, they immediately screwed up their faces in displeasure and pronounced the soda to be “disgusting.”  Recycla then made diet soda for her husband.  He gave it the college try but ultimately pronounced the product “undrinkable.”

Unfortunately, Recycla now has several bottles of unopened soda mixes that she and her family refuse to drink, as well as a soda making kit that is now useless to her.

Recycla has since gone online and read dozens of reviews of Sodastream’s products.  There are quite a lot, as it appears that the company’s marketing people have been effective in reaching bloggers like Recycla.  She thinks it is important to disclose that, in general, she found that many (but not all) bloggers were complimentary about Sodastream’s products.  In most cases, they were not eco-bloggers like the Eco Women, so they were not looking at the products from an environmental point of view, not to mention that quite a few of the reviews were by bloggers who were self-admitted soda addicts.

Recycla recognizes that this review will not please the people at Sodastream, but she believes that it is her job to be honest with her readers.  Plus, she hopes that maybe the Sodastream company will read about her concerns and then make some positive changes to their products.

Recycla is not an employee of Sodastream and, other than receiving a free soda kit, received no other compensation for this review.  All photos courtesy of the Sodastream website.

4 thoughts on “Become your own bottling company?

  1. I remember having Sodastream as a kid, and that one of my friend’s mums was a Sodastream rep, you took the empty carbonator to her house and bought a refilled one.

    Don’t remember it being that much hassle then, but I guess I am remembering from a child’s perspective.

  2. I bought my hubby a root beer kit from Bed, Bath & Beyond. I don’t know what’s in the ingredients packet but it’s definitely a DIY soda kit. For his first try, he liked the results and noted what he could do differently the next time. It comes with four (I think) large plastic bottles that are reusable and you can get new packets of flavoring. I think there was at least one other flavor besides root beer but I can’t remember what it was.

  3. I agree cane sugar soda is the only pop worth drinking. You can get it at Mexican grocery stores sometimes. I also think kosher Coke has sugar in it, or at least kosher for Passover, because Passover stuff can’t have corn in it. Something like that.

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