Homemade carbonated water is environmentally friendly, cost-efficient, and just plain delicious. If you still haven’t joined the fizzy water maker wagon, you are missing out.
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If you are familiar with carbonation systems and have been enjoying homemade fizzy drinks for a while, you might already know a bit about carbonators. Even so, knowing what is a carbonator and how a carbonator works can be super helpful, especially when it comes to troubleshooting problems in your home soda maker.
This article is for experts and novices alike or anyone who likes to make soda at home. Learn about carbonators, how they work, how to use them, different types of carbonators available today, where to purchase them, different exchange programs and how to make them last a little longer!
What is a Carbonator
A carbonator is a component in a soda-making machine responsible for producing CARBONATION that’s required for your machine to function! Without it, you wouldn’t be able to add in the bubbles, and where’s the fun in that? So, it’s the carbonator that does the magic of infusing your beverage with CO2 to produce the fizz that we all love. Well, it’s science more than magic, but it does feel like magic to our taste buds, isn’t it?
A carbonator made for home soda makers is usually a 60L CO2 cylinder inserted into the back of the machine. However, the Spärkel Beverage System uses a tankless system. It is unique in that it uses carbonators – sodium bicarbonate and citric acid sachets – to produce CO2. Check out our in-depth review HERE!
Most manufacturers offer their own brand carbonators for their machines, but most are compatible with each other’s machines, meaning that they can be used interchangeably. There are also companies that only manufacture carbonators to suit the various machines. In some cases, it can be cheaper than purchasing the one offered by the brand.
There are also 8g food grade CO2 chargers for carbonating water, juices, beer, and more. They can be used for any machine or device that uses 8g CO2 Chargers such as: DrinkMate InstaFIZZ, Ukeg64, Mastrad, Soda Sparkle, iSoda, Soda Siphon, Mosa and plenty of others. The simple Soda Siphon, Metal or Glass is a very easy way to add Seltzer to your drinks without the bulkiness of the large Home Soda Makers. Check out our Best Soda Siphon Review and Buying Guide Here!
How Does a Carbonator Work
Once you have safely installed the carbonator tank as per the instructions your machine is ready to FIZZ your water at the push of a button. Most machines will only let you carbonate plain water, and you add your flavours afterwards. Some machines, such as the DrinkMate OmniFIZZ, lets you carbonate almost any drink you like.
The carbonator pump in the machine is the one that releases CO2 from the carbonator to your drink in measured doses. Depending on your model, you may have to press the button, pull a lever, or dial in your preferred FIZZ level for it to work. Then, CO2 will be released with pressure at 30-90 PSI through the nozzle into the bottle. As the water absorbs the gas, your boring-looking water will begin to bubble and sparkle!
Pro Tip: For best results, always try and use as cold as water as possible as cold water absorbs CO2 better. You will also save on CO2 as you do not need as much for your FIZZ.
What is a Carbonator Machine
Well, a carbonation machine is one that carbonates water or beverages, and there are both commercial and at-home carbonation systems. Countertop machines, home soda makers, and soda siphons allow you to carbonate your water at home. You can flavour it as you please, and enjoy as much of it as you’d like without creating a small graveyard of cans or bottles at the corner of your desk or overflowing your garbage at home with empty cans and bottles. If you love soda, you will also save a fortune on store purchases and do your bit for the planet as well. Read here about plastic bottle pollution
How Are Soft Drinks Carbonated
The general process of carbonation is when carbon dioxide in the carbonator cylinder is infused into liquid at high pressure. With the removal of pressure, the carbon dioxide is released from the solution as tiny bubbles, making the solution effervescent or fizzy. A typical example is the dissolving of carbon dioxide in water, resulting in carbonated water. Here’s more about the chemistry behind your FIZZY drinks!
While this is the general method, the Spärkel Beverage System uses a different process as mentioned above. It is unique in that it uses carbonators – sodium bicarbonate and citric acid sachets – to produce CO2. All of this happens in an in-built water reservoir in the machine, but eventually, only the CO2 goes into the drink.
Are CO2 Water Carbonators Safe
Yes, both the 60L CO2 carbonator used in home soda makers and the 8g CO2 chargers used in soda siphons are very safe when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The Spärkel Beverage System is extremely safe as it does not use a pressurised carbonator cartridge. CO2 carbonators, as sold by authorised resellers/exchange services, are also FDA-approved. So, the CO2 gas contained in the cylinder is safe for human consumption.
If you venture into refilling your CO2 cylinders, make sure the CO2 gas you are using is FDA-approved for human consumption or approved for human consumption in your country because otherwise, it may contain harmful toxins.
What can you add Fizz to with a Carbonator
Here is where you can have some fun and disasters all at the same time. In addition to just plain old water and with a little bit of imagination, patience, experimentation and luck you can carbonate practically any liquid. Here are some of our own experiments and that of other brave Home Soda Maker aficionados:
- Orange Juice: More pulp in the orange juice will make carbonating more complicated and much messier. Orange juice carbonates more quickly than water, which produces more fizz.
- Coffee: Though it may sound strange, carbonated coffee has been around for a while, like a coffee-flavored Coke. You can also find Coffee Soda, and people have been adding espresso or coffee to various types of soda for years. Try it, you may be surprised. Please let us know what you think or pass on your delicious/disastrous recipes we may just use it in our RECIPES section.
- Tea: Tea doesn’t fizz nearly as much as coffee or orange juice. You may want to add some flavoring or sweetener to the tea after you’ve carbonated it, but it usually tastes excellent as-is. We like green tea with monk fruit sweetener.
- Cocktails: Make the cocktail as you usually would and shake it with ice to chill it further. Strain the cocktail into the SodaStream bottle and slowly charge it. Some liquors carbonate differently from others, so you will have to experiment with how much they should be carbonated. Cocktails are extremely fun to experiment with. Personal Tip: It is best to experiment early on with your carbonating genius ideas/concoctions as your kitchen, Soda Machine and yourself can be a bit of a messy problem to clean up if you have not correctly inserted your bottle into the machine while in an ever increasing happy frame of mind, just saying!
- Wine: Experts explain white wine works better than red due to a lower viscosity and lower sugar content. Give both a try but our favorite is icy cold white resiling with as much maxed out bubbles your machine can produce.
- Hard Liquors: Whiskey and Vodka seem to carbonate well, with Whiskey being the best option. While Gin, Rum, and Tequila do not hold the carbonation well.
What Happens If You Run Out of Bubbles
Well, there are plenty of options listed below to ensure you keep your sparkle ongoing. We personally keep 4 60L CO2 cylinders on hand at all times and exchange 2 at a time. We have found this works best for us as a large family, but you may prefer a different combination.
However, it’s always best to keep at least one full carbonation unit (cylinder) on hand at all times because, as we have regretfully found, you tend to run out of gas when you need it the most, usually in the middle of fizzing a drink, and when you need that little bit more.
Now that we have discussed the topic of ‘what is a carbonator?,’ let’s dive into the many carbonator options available and see what types are interchangeable with the others. Below, we cover carbonators offered by reliable and well-known brands.
SodaStream 60L CO2 Cylinders
SodaStream aims to reuse every gas cylinder to minimise plastic waste and marine pollution. It has a great exchange service, and the colour makes it easy to identify the type of carbonated suited for each model. Please ensure you exchange the right carbonator for your particular SodaStream model. Click on the images to see which cylinder is the correct one for your machine.
Their threaded or screw-in cylinder is interchangeable with many other carbonator brands that also offer the standard 60L CO2 screw-in cylinders.
Return Shipping: Be sure to save the original shipping box in which these carbonators are delivered. It comes with a USPS return label, and you need it for returning the empty carbonators for the Exchange Program. Only CO2 cylinders sold by sellers SodaStream USA are eligible for the Exchange Program.
Soda Sense 60L CO2 Cylinders
Soda Sense also has a great exchange service and a CO2 refill club. They also make it easy with there colour identification of it’s carbonators for choosing the correct carbonator for your Home Soda Maker . SodaSense Cylinders are compatible with most Home Soda Makers including Sodastream, DrinkMate, Aarke, DrinkPod, Twenty39, Ninja, Philips and more.
SodaSense’s green capped, threaded screw-in cylinders are compatible with screw-in connector soda machines. Their pink capped easy connect cylinders are compatible exclusively with SodaStream Quick Connect Machines. There proud to source 100% of their CO2 sustainably in the USA. Each 60L cylinder replaces the use of over 170 single-use plastic bottles. Read Here for more information on plastic bottle pollution.
Drinkmate 60L CO2 Cylinders & 8g CO2 Chargers
DrinkMate’s famed OmniFIZZ Soda Maker is the only home soda machine boasting the ability to carbonate any drink. A big claim, but it is definitely a fun machine to use to experiment with different liquid beverages! Check out our detailed DrinkMate OmniFIZZ review to learn more!
As for its carbonators, Drinkmate guarantees compatibility with all home soda makers that use threaded/screw-in 60L cylinders. It includes Sodastream, DrinkMate, Aarke, DrinkPod,Twenty39, Ninja, Philips and more. Drinkmate’s online exchange program makes it easy to recycle empty cylinders. SodaStream and Soda Sense cylinders are also accepted for easy recycling if you choose to switch over and use DrinkMate Cylinders.
EASY RETURN SHIPPING: Each cylinder order includes a return shipping label, simply keep the box and apply the label once your cylinders are empty!
Drink Mate also produces 8g food grade CO2 chargers for carbonating water, juices, beer, and more. They can be used for any machine or device that uses 8g CO2 Chargers such as: DrinkMate InstaFIZZ, Ukeg64, Mastrad, Soda Sparkle, iSoda, Soda Siphon, Mosa and plenty of others.
Aarke 60L CO2 Cylinders
As a pro-sustainability brand, Aarke produces CO2 gas in its cylinders using renewable resources available in the agricultural industry. It means they don’t contribute to adding CO2 gas to the atmosphere as they utilise what’s already present. Aarke gets its CO2 from biomass, or more specifically, corn-based bioethanol production that’s refilled repeatedly. This CO2 is purified and certified, ensuring its fresh, food-grade gas is suitable for consumption.
Aarke CO2 Renewable CO2 Cylinders pair perfectly with Aarke Carbonator III and Aarke Carbonator Pro models. It’s also compatible with most other home soda makers that use the screw connector. It’s not compatible with SodaStream machines using the Pink Cap Quick Connect system, such as Soda Stream Terra or SodaStream Art.
Return and Shipping: Aarke offers a convenient on-demand gas cylinder exchange service known as the Cylinder Loop that you can use to minimise waste.
Leland 8-gram CO2 Seltzer Soda Cartridges
MrFizz 8g CO2 Seltzer Chargers. Durable non threaded stainless steel construction cartridge.
100% Naturally Pure CO2 – Pure Co2 gas, and cylinders are made of steel and can be recycled like a tin can.
These are for use in Soda Siphons. Check out our review of The Best Soda Siphon (Review and Buying Guide)
The Spärkel Beverage System uses a different type of carbonator compared to other models. The tankless carbonation system is eco-friendlier, and the sachets come in recyclable packaging. You also don’t have to go through the hassle of installing or exchanging CO2 cylinders.
It carbonates water using a solution of citric acid and bicarbonate soda, which come in different sachets in the right quantity to produce the right amount of CO2, so there’s no hassle on your part. Of course, you can customise the fizz level as with other home soda makers.
Only Spärkel Carbonators can be used with the Spärkel System. Using unauthorised carbonator material can void the warranty, damage the machine, and may even pose health hazards. Check out our in-depth review of the Spärkel Beverage System for more on this unique system!
We hope our detailed guide on ‘what is a carbonator’ answers your questions on how it works, the different options available, and how to optimise its use to prepare different varieties of beverages! Some use the term carbonator and soda machine interchangeably because ultimately, you need the whole unit for the carbonation process. So, it’s not wrong either!
Got any FIZZ questions? Get in touch with us!