There are a few staples that appear frequently in nearly every galley. Aside from the regular can openers, chef’s knife and silverware, there is one piece of equipment that I have found impossible to take off of my counter and leave on shore. I’m talking about a countertop appliance that is rapidly gaining popularity among Americans: the soda maker. Ever since I gave into what I thought at first was a fad, I haven’t looked back at my wasteful individual cans and bottles of soda.
The popular brand in today’s home soda making market is Soda Stream, but with its overpriced gas refills, a high starting price, and lower quality soda, the Mastrad Purefizz soda siphon is at the top of the home soda making industry.
The Purefizz soda siphon ($70) looks like an updated version of the traditional soda maker that has been around for over a century. Soda water from the Purefizz is tastier and has more bubbles than the seltzer from other soda machine brands, and it puts up a serious fight when compared with store-bought seltzer. Chef Mary Moran, culinary columnist at the Washington Post said, “The water was incredibly fizzy, delicious tasting and very easy to make.”
To make soda, a CO2 cartridge is screwed into the carbonation cap. After a small spike punctures the CO2 cartridge, shaking for around 20 seconds integrates the carbon into the liquid. Then, the excess gas is released though a pressure valve on top, (a feature not seen in other siphons) and after a few minutes of settling, the soda is ready to be consumed. If storage is necessary, the Purefizz comes with a storage cap that fits over the carafe for one-vessel production and storage.
The most attractive feature of the Purefizz is its ability to carbonate darn near anything you can put in the bottle, without voiding the warranty. Fruit juice, wine, coffee, tea and cocktails yes cocktails are all fair game for the Mastrad, unlike other soda machines and siphons, whose warranty is voided by using anything besides water. This widely expands the capabilities of what you can make with the Purefizz. My personal favorite is mixing orange juice and white wine for a home-made mimosa, which is included in the recipe book. Donna Currie at Serious Eats said, “What I really liked about this soda maker is it’s a portable, self-contained device that doesn’t take a up whole lot of space. And I got a good amount of carbonation in everything I’ve tried so far.”
The Purefizz’s carafe holds just over three cups of liquid. This may seem small, but as is common with larger store-bought bottles, the carbonation is usually lost before finishing the soda, if the bottle contains more than one liter. To carbonate the liquid of your choice, the Purefizz uses recyclable steel CO2 cartridges. These are readily-available, cheap, standard sized cartridges, unlike most soda machines that use proprietary cartridges that you have to purchase through authorized dealers.
Another attribute worthy of mention is how easily the Purefizz is cleaned. The siphon is easily disassembled for cleaning, and it is entirely dishwasher safe, which is absolutely necessary after making some of the more exotic carbonated drinks. The Purefizz comes with a matching storage cap to keep the soda carbonated if you aren’t in the mood to finish the whole bottle. Brian Krepshaw, author of Stealing Food Road said, “By replacing the carbonating cap with a more traditional one, it becomes a brand new kitchen staple, hiding in plain sight,” in a review on Cnet.
Before comparing the Purefizz siphon to other siphons and soda makers, a distinction must be made between siphons and soda makers. A soda maker is a self-contained soda maker that has no external moving parts. The CO2 cartridge is held within a plastic casing, and the water bottle is usually screwed into the machine. Soda siphons, on the other hand, use small, one-use steel cartridges that are switched out after each use. Using a new cartridge for every bottle may seem like an inconvenience, but the proprietary cartridges on the Soda Stream and other soda machines are expensive, and nearly impossible to find outside the U.S. The eight-gram cartridges that the Purefizz and most other siphons use are standard-sized, cheap and fully recyclable.
Now to compare the Purefizz against its closest competitors: the SodaStream Pure, the Cuisinart CSS-100 and the iSi Soda Siphon:
SodaStream has cornered the market in home soda making. Their machines can be found at nearly every department store in the States, and they have a serious chunk of the market share. The Sodastream has a few serious letdowns for those who are looking to equip their galley.
In short, the Purefizz has everything a sailor could want that the Soda Stream doesn’t have. The large footprint of the Sodastream could prove too large for anything but the most expansive marine kitchens. In addition, when matched up against the Purefizz in a taste test, the Sodastream literally falls flat. Its seltzer might be considered passable directly after carbonation, but the 1.2L bottle becomes stale more quickly than a single person could drink it, and storing the bottles doesn’t fare much better either.
Another thing that would irk a sailor about the Sodastream is that they lock you into using their proprietary carbon dioxide canisters, which cost $25 for enough to make 60L of soda. These cartridges may be easily found at any home store stateside, but finding them internationally would nearly be a miracle. In contrast, Purefizz’s cartridges are standard sized eight-gram canisters that cost around a quarter each if you buy them in bulk. Their design may be as sleek and attractive as the Purefizz, but Sodastream machines are much more expensive initially than the Purefizz, costing around $120 new.
The Cuisinart CSS-100 is Sodastream’s only real competition in the soda machine market. It is a much smaller device than the Sodastream, but the cartridges are even less cost-effective than other soda machines. The initial price may be low, but the seltzer quality of the CSS-100 is lower than both the Sodastream and Purefizz, making it a serious step down in taste from both models.
Purefizz’s closest competition in the siphon market is the iSi Soda Siphon. At $50, it is the cheapest compared to its competition. At first glance, its sleek design looks nearly undistinguishable from the Purefizz. A closer inspection reveals the critical flaw of its design: the dispensing cap. Rather than unscrewing the cap completely and pouring the soda out, the iSi siphon has a small dispensing hose that the soda comes from. Sounds nice, but the real problem lies within when and where the soda comes out of the hose. Without a pressure release valve like on the Purefizz, the soda comes out far too fast and often would miss the glass I was trying to pour into, spraying all over my counter and floor. Spending a half hour bent over scrubbing sticky soda off the cabin sole is about the last thing on any sailors list of things to do.
One concern that some might have for the Purefizz is that its shaking may prove rigorous or difficult for some to do manually. Shaking, however, is a loose term for the action that carbonates the water. Inversion is a much more accurate term, and one Amazon reviewer said, “If you can grab a jug of milk out of the fridge then you can manage to use this.”
Researching more Amazon reviews revealed that not a single person scored the Purefizz fewer than four stars. Those who didn’t give it the full five stars were usually not satisfied with the amount of bubbles in the water. But since the Purefizz makes the best and most fizzy water, it is tough to tell how these folks might rate the soda from the other soda making manufacturers.
In conclusion, making soda on board is a cost-effective, eco-friendly way to stay refreshed during long hauls at sea. With its ability to carbonate anything; economical, standard-sized gas cartridges; a sleek, stainless steel bottle; and the most crisp, refreshing soda of those we compared, the Purefizz soda maker rises to the top of home seltzer makers. If you are thinking of ditching individual bottles and making your own delicious, healthy soda, we think the Purefizz should be your very first choice in soda siphons.