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Highballs, Scotch and Sodas, hard seltzers, spritzes and more: sparkling water is a bar essential. To add effervescence to your drinks, you could pick up a case of soda cans, but if you’re serious about your bubbles, why not opt for on-demand sparkling soda?
A soda machine will do just that—turn your standard tap water into zippy, effervescent bubbles. Sip it instead of still water, or rev up the machine during happy hour and pour a splash into Palomas, Gin Sonics, and more. “Soda machines add vibrance to both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails without changing the flavor profile,” describes Tobias Hogan of The Aimsir Distilling Co in Portland, Oregon. "On-demand sparkling water to make all of your highball dreams come true.”
You have likely heard of SodaStream, but there is a range of brands crafting excellent bubbly machines. Here are our favorite soda makers to add bar-level carbonation to juices, flavored waters, and tap waters in a snap.
Best Overall: Twenty39 Qarbo Sparkling Water Maker and Fruit Infuser
Twenty39’s sleek drink maker carbonates water, but the two-stage pressure release valve also adds bubbles to wine, beer, fruit juice, and other liquids. To create the bubbles, fill the BPA-free bottle with cold water, press the lever, and gently tip the bottle upside down. Try adding fruit or herbs to the bottles for infused sparkling waters.
Twenty39’s sparkling water unit offers one of the sleekest designs available, with a slick chrome finish and a range of color options. The machine is light-weight and portable enough to haul to the office, or sleek enough to store and pull out only when you need it. The cylinders are not included, but the machine uses standard CO2 cylinders available at most retailers. Overall, it’s easy-to-use, stylish, and won’t take up too much counter space.
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Best for Cocktail Lovers: iSi Soda Siphon
“My favorite piece of soda equipment has to be the iSi Soda Siphon,” says Matthias Merges, a bartender at Charlotte, N.C.'s The Spindle Bar, and Billy Sunday. “The unit is compact and easy-to-use, with a great end result in your glass. I love to use this from everything from soda and lime to more complex cocktail recipes—it never fails. Plus, the cartridges are convenient. If I’m making cocktails for friends, this siphon keeps everything manageable.”
Outside of Matthias’ verdict, we also love that the unit provides carbonation without batteries or electricity. But compared to other carbonation options, this unit does require many steps (including freezing the machine) to carbonate a beverage. If that’s fine with you, this is easily one of the best carbonation machines available—perfect for the serious cocktailer.
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Best Design: Aarke Premium Carbonator III
If you’re worried about a soda machine looking clunky on your kitchen counter, this Swedish-designed unit boasts serious style. Aarke’s carbonator is made from stainless steel with a copper, white, matte black, black chrome, brass, or stainless steel finish.
Aarke makes the slimmest and most compact carbonators on the market, with an innovative design that creates bubbles with just the pull of a handle. The entire process takes under three seconds. The lever also releases extra carbonation so the bottles won’t explode or make a mess. To enjoy, simply unscrew the lid and sip away. If you want additional flavors, add a splash of home-made syrups, or add some of Aarke’s all-natural flavorings to your order. We love that the carbonation levels can be adjusted quickly and easily.
Included in the set is a sparkling water bottle plus a BPA-free water bottle. Note that the cylinder does not come with this set; it is an additional purchase.
Best With Glass Bottles: SodaStream AquaFizz Sparkling Water Maker
While most soda machines can’t use glass bottles (the pressure will shatter the glass), SodaStream’s machine comes with a glass carafe for serving your bubbly beverages. The bottles hold 22-ounces each and are perfect for serving water tableside.
The easy machines make an impressive 60 liters of carbonated beverage per use from one CO2 cylinder. Once you’re done with the CO2 tank, SodaStream offers a gas exchange via their website. Upsides include the sleek design and the easy snap locking features for quick loading. On the flip side, the unit constantly needs to be plugged in, and it is relatively large in footprint. If you're conscious of your environmental footprint, the glass carafes will help reduce the amount of plastic you use.
Note that carbonating anything besides water will void Sodastream’s warranty. If that’s a concern, consider adding syrups to your drink after carbonating.
Best Pro Set-Up: Elkay Two-Head Water System
At Aimsir Distilling in Portland, OR., Tobias Hogan uses “an Elkay Two-Head Water System for our carbonation. It’s one of the best options available because it’s very versatile: there are options for three heads, warm, cold and sparkling!”
This is not the easiest option on the market to set up: it requires a bit of investment and time. But if you are looking for long-term options for sparkling water, this has many benefits. “Another great advantage is the adjustable flow mechanism at the tap so you can be sure to get the right flow into your drinks,” continues Hogan. “It is by far the best sparkling water machine! It's a little expensive but really saves time. Plus, it’s more environmentally sound than opening bottles of soda or using other plastic carbonation systems.”
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Best Budget: DrinkMate Sparkling Water Bundle
One of the biggest draws of DrinkMate’s sparkling water machine is that it lets you carbonate any drink on your radar, not just water! Sodas, fruit juices, you name it; DrinkMate is adept at carbonating beverages. Use the carbonation system to mimic the effervescence of Cava, cocktails, flat soda, or beer. Try making fizzy orange juice or carbonating your cocktails.
The machine requires 60L CO2 cylinders to operate, though it works with any brand of 60L CO2 cartridge. Note that canisters tend to run dry relatively quickly so it will cost money to constantly refill the canisters. That said, DrinkMate has a trade-in program that offers discounts if you send back your empties.
This is one of the more affordable options on the market, plus it runs without electricity or batteries making it perfect for your kitchen table or in an RV or dorm room.
Best for Hardcore Bubbly Water Lovers: KegWorks 5lb Aluminum CO2 Air Tank
Donny Clutterbuck, the bartender at Cure Bar in Rochester, NY, recommends fashioning a soda machine from scratch. “I recommend this homemade setup because it allows you the highest level of control with the least financial upkeep. If you drink lots of carbonated water/beverages, you’ll likely be blowing through gas, and maybe have developed an affinity for a certain level of carbonation. With this setup, not only can you adjust the pressure to your liking, but bottles of pre-carbonated beverages can be stored in your refrigerator without depressurizing. When disconnected from the carbonator setup, the carbonator cap stays on the bottle, ensuring that no pressure is lost in the transfer.”
Note that you will need to purchase an additional pressure regulator and carbonator cap, but if you’ve got DIY spirit, this is an excellent option for carbonating drinks. “The quality output and cost savings of this setup vastly eclipse the slightly higher initial cost and mental strain required to learn its use,” notes Clutterbuck.
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Kate Dingwall is a seasoned spirits and wine writer and working bartender and sommelier.