I’ve been a fan of SodaStream for years. All the way back in 2010, I named SodaStream my “Product of the Year.”
That almost didn’t happen. I read about SodaStream in SkyMall (remember that?), which usually served as a great list of things that I didn’t need. I researched whether it would save me money and came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t. I put it out of my mind. However, a friend had talked a lot about it and he said all the right things. Bed, Bath, and Beyond made a big marketing push and I decided to impulsively give it a shot. I was fully prepared to sell it on Craigslist after a month as a failed experiment.
Today, I’d like to look back on what I’ve learned over the last 7 years. Be warned, if you don’t already have a SodaStream, you’ll probably want to go out and buy one. You should also know that SodaStream has not sponsored article, but I may make a few dollars if you decide some products from the links here.
What is SodaStream?
Many of you are already familiar with SodaStream. If so, you might want to scroll down to “Does SodaStream Save Money?”
For the rest of you, here’s a brief introduction. SodaStream a kitchen appliance that is used to make your own soda at home. That was the concept that interested me when I first heard about it. I have a little Diet Coke addiction and usually making food at home is less expensive than buying it. The interesting thing is that its not new. It’s actually a product that’s been around since the 70’s. Check out this fantastic commercial:
It’s hard to imagine that this isn’t in everyone’s household with a slogan like “Get Busy with the Fizzy” and the cool grandma sealing the deal at the end. That commercial is entertaining enough to justify this article itself, right? Well, fortunately it isn’t just marketing. J-Lo better look out because SodaStream is the rare product that is a quadruple threat.
SodaStream can save you money, promote healthier habits, save you time/energy, and help the environment. (If only it got my kids up and dressed in the morning.)
However, let’s start with what’s probably the big question on your mind:
Does SodaStream Save Money?
Like many questions the answer is yes and no. It really depends how you use SodaStream. Let’s run through three scenarios:
All-in on SodaStream
It’s probably most common for people to buy into the whole SodaStream package. It’s easy and convenient. You buy the SodaStream machine, the carbonation, and the syrup. The initial cost of the of the machine can vary based on features, but years ago I paid $99 and that still seems to be the most popular one. You can probably save some money with the cheaper versions, but in the long run the majority of the expense is going to come from the carbonation and syrup.
The SodaStream carbonation canister is good for 60 liters of fizz. Refills are typically around $15. You might be able to save $5 by going to Bed, Bath, and Beyond and using one their $5 coupons. The syrup is $5 and it makes 9 liters. When you break down both of those costs, it is about $0.50 for a two litter of carbonation and $1.11 for a two liter of soda syrup. That’s about $1.61 for 2-liters of soda. (Note: When I wrote about SodaStream in 2010, you’d get 12 liters out of a bottle and it was only $0.80 for two liters of syrup.)
I typically buy generic soda for $0.68 at Wal-Mart. Additionally, the Dollar Tree near me sells 3-liters for $1 (#CaptainObvious) for an average 2-liter price of $0.67 cents. Sometimes, you can get Diet Coke or Pepsi for $0.99 near me, but it doesn’t seem fair to compare SodaStream syrup to Coke or Pepsi. In either case, I simply don’t see how the everyday use case of SodaStream saves you money. However, as a shareholder of SodaStream stock I recommend that you go all-in on SodaStream. (I’ll go into the investing case later in the article.)
Hacked SodaStream with Generic Syrup
Let’s pretend that you didn’t want to support SodaStream’s stock price. You can save a lot of money by buying the SodaStream machine and using third party syrup and carbonation. I’ll cover how I do that in the next section, but for now, let’s just look at cuttind down the costs of the syrup.
I did a quick search on the web to see if I can find some bulk soda syrup. The first interesting thing I found is this listing for Fox’s diet soda. I don’t know this store at all, but I did see other flavors available.
Let’s run the math on this:
There 4 bottles of 1 gallon syrup in this $27.49 case. That’s 4 gallons of syrup – #mathBabySteps. That’s a total of 15.1416 liters of syrup in the case (obtained by Lazily asking Google, “how many liters in 4 gallons?”). It is one part syrup for 5 parts water. That 6 total parts or a total of 90.8496 liters. We probably don’t need 4 decimal places, so let’s just call it 90 liters. That’s 45 of your typical 2-liter bottles. If we divide $27.49 by 45 we get $0.61 for a 2-liter bottle.
If we are still paying $0.50 for carbonation, that’s going to be $1.11 for a 2-liter bottle of Fox’s diet soday. There may be shipping costs with the case of Fox’s diet soda. I didn’t explore that. I can’t compare taste because it’s very subjective and I’ve never tried Fox’s diet soda.
For fun, let’s imagine that the Carbonation Fairy gave you free carbonation. In this scenario, you’d spend just the $0.61 for the syrup and it would be a minimal savings over my Wal-Mart and Dollar Tree costs. Unfortunately these is no Carbonation Fairy giving out free carbonation. Fortunately, I possess Carbonation Fairy-like magical powers that can make your carbonation very, very close to free. I’ll cover this in a little bit.
Hacked SodaStream with True Citrus
In the next section, I’m going to show you how to easily modify your SodaStream to almost eliminate the costs of carbonation. For now, let’s invoke the magic of our Carbonation Fairy like we did above and presume free carbonation.
Let me introduce you to a product called True Citrus. It’s crystalized dried fruit designed to be a flavoring to add to water (or cooking seasoning). True Citrus has four flavors that are zero calories and no crazy chemicals that you can’t pronounce. In my opinion, they are a much healthier option to diet soda.
So instead of paying $1.11 for 2 liters of SodaStream syrup or $0.61 of 2 liters of Fox’s diet cola syrup, I pay $0.10 for two packets of True Citrus flavoring.
You might be thinking, “But what about the caffeine in soda? I need my boost!” I got you covered. You can buy caffeine pills and powder for pennies.
I believe that for most people a modified SodaStream with True Citrus will save them 90% of their overall drink costs. I don’t know how much you drink, but I think a family could easily save $500 a year. We can use Financial Mentor’s Latte Factor Calculator to figure out the lifetime impact of this one change. I hope to live to 90 (especially since I’m cutting down on soda now!) so this $500 savings carries for 50 years. At the recommended 8% interest I’d have $318,545.16 because that money would have earned $293,545.16 in interest.
So who wants $318,545.16?
Hacking Your SodaStream for Cheap Carbonation
It’s time to unmask the Carbonation Fairy. This SodaStream hack is where all the magic happens. There’s no need to pay $0.50 to carbonate two liters of water.
When I first wrote about SodaStream, several commenters suggested that I get a FreedomOne from Co2 doctor which allows one to use CO2 tanks from sources other than SodaStream’s custom tanks.
While I recognize the savings, I was hesitant to buy into it. My wife wouldn’t want a big CO2 tank hanging around in the kitchen. I wouldn’t want to go to the basement to make the SodaStream from a tank. I didn’t know if the CO2 that I’d buy from my local welding shop is really the kind of thing I want to consume. And there’s the risk in using pressurized gas incorrectly.
However, all these concerns proved to be overblown. I’ll explain, but first here’s my SodaStream set-up:
Let’s start with the CO2. That 20lb tank came from a local “indoor plant growing” hobby shop. I think that’s code for Weed-R-Us. I thought I’d be the only person to go in there for carbon, but beer enthusiasts get CO2 for their kegerators. It’s definitely a consumable grade gas.
Second, the design of the CO2 Doctor is very safe and the instructions were easy. It probably took about 5-minutes. I think the warnings are just to cover the manufacturer’s butt in a legal sense.
Third, my wife is a fan of this new set-up. I found that it fits under the sink in the bathroom. Now the SodaStream doesn’t sit on the kitchen counter. I don’t have to go to the basement to make it either #LazyWin.
How Much Money Can You Save with the Hack SodaStream?
That’s what you are here for right? Okay, let’s dig in.
SodaStream’s canister is filled with 14.5oz of carbonation and it is estimated make 60 liters of carbonated water. My 20lb carbonation tank (320 ounces) is more than 22 times bigger. It will make around 1,324 liters of carbonated water. I pay $20-25 to refill that big 20lb carbonation tank.
When you do that math, I pay about 1.8 cents a liter. So for around 3.5 cents, I get a 2-liter of unflavored seltzer. That’s a lot better than the $0.50 that two liters of SodaStream’s carbonation costs me.
I’m not a true Carbonation Fairy as I couldn’t pull off free carbonation. However, with the True Citrus above we are looking at a cost of around 14 cents for 2 liters of great tasting flavored carbonated water. My wife and I can’t tell the difference between what I make and Fresca. We certainly aren’t getting caught up in overpaying for some fancy LaCroix fad.
I’ve glossed over one important detail: the start-up cost of the system. This one-time cost shouldn’t be ignored, but in the long run, it doesn’t amount to much. The tank itself cost me $125 (it’s kind of a deposit) and the FreedomOne was another $100. That’s a combined cost of $225 in addition to the machine and bottles. It might sound like a lot, but this is going to pay off year after year. If you are anything like me, you probably saved all those costs in the first 9 months, giving you a long time to realize that $318,545.16 in savings and interest.
Bonus Hack: Saving Money on SodaStream Bottles
Perhaps I should have mentioned this above, but the bottles that you make SodaStream in expire in 2-3 years. It’s a safety issue. Since you are pressurizing gas, you want a strong container that isn’t going to explode. Every 2-3 years, I have to buy new bottles that are in date. I bet some people out there just throw out the bottles. I use the bottles that are still in date to make the carbonated water. Then I transfer it to one of the expired bottles. It’s the same principle behind the standard soda bottles that you buy in the store. The factories don’t carbonate soda in those cheap plastic things. Instead they carbonate before and pour the carbonated product into them.
At this point, I have 9 bottles as they are generally sold in groups of 2 or 3. Now that I can make 9 liters of water at a time, I can do a few days in just a couple of minutes.
Four Non-Money Reasons to Buy a SodaStream
Maybe the first 318,545 reasons are not enough to convince you. I understand. While I write a lot about money here, let’s dig into some other reasons why you might want to buy a SodaStream:
I don’t know if too many people out there believe that soda is good for them. Maybe there are a few of you. If that’s how you feel, you can make soda with a SodaStream. However, by making carbonated water, you can be more mindful about what you are adding to your drink for flavor. The True Citrus that I use is only one example. I’ve added orange juice, pomegranite juice, etc.
Consider SodaStream as a gateway to making drinks that are more interesting than plain water, but not as bad for you as soda.
Additionally, I don’t know what kind of water is going into the diet soda that I buy, do you? We use this Pur water filter which is great.
I still have to spend a couple of minutes making all the carbonated water which certainly is not “the Lazy way.” However, the alternative is carrying a bunch of two-liters and going to recycle the bottles later. My Aldi doesn’t even sell bottles of diet soda, so I’d have to get it from somewhere else.
I touched on the environmental impact in the last point. Recycling bottles is good. The only thing better is not using them in the first place, right? I think I’ll get more than a decade out of my SodaStream plastic bottles. The True Citrus packages create some waste, but you could probably fit a few years worth in kids-sized shoebox. Or you can buy bigger shaker bottles of True Citrus that will last years and use very little plastic. Additionally, a half gallon of orange juice provides enough flavoring for a long, long time.
My dog Jake (see photo) appreciates you doing whatever you can to help keep our oceans clean.
Investing in SodaStream Stock
I fully intended to cover this in the same article, but as you can this article is already very long. I am a shareholder, which I wrote about here. I believe that people are looking to make smarter decisions about their health. SodaStream appears to be leading that movement (even though they have some unhealthy options).
For now, I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader, but maybe in a few months, I’ll revisit the investing case.