Soda is one of the most consumed beverages in the United States, despite all the bad rap it’s been getting lately. It’s because it tastes so damn good. It’s quite expensive if you think about it, at a buck or so for a bottle of fizzy, flavored sweet water. The good news is that you can make your own soda at home for pennies per bottle.
OK, maybe not pennies per bottle, more like a dime or two. Still, it’s a heck of a deal. And it will taste good and will even be healthy if you make your own soda syrups that use natural ingredients (my favorite recipes provided below).
There are many reasons to make your own soda, from health to taste reasons. The worst thing about many sodas is that they include such unhealthy ingredients as high fructose corn syrup (a slew of potential health risks), phosphoric acid (linked to kidney issues) and artificial sweeteners and flavorings. Some include caffeine which is not bad in general, but you wouldn’t want your young kids to consume it and get addicted to it before they fully wean off diapers.
Millions of people love Pepsi, but I personally don’t like its taste. When pressed, I will choose Coke or 7Up over anything else. Mountain Dew tastes way to sweet for me, as many other soft drinks. My preferences in soft drinks are not the point though. The point is our tastes differ and, ideally, we want to drink what we really like. That is perfectly possible when you make your own soda. You can flavor homemade soda any way you want, the sky is the limit.
So, how do you make your own soda at home? It’s very simple. Here are the basic steps:
- Make your own or buy soda syrup
- Make your own or buy plain carbonated water
- Mix the syrup with the carbonated water
There are a couple of ways to get carbonated water:
- Buy. This is the worst options as it is the most expensive one and requires you go to the store each time you want to make your own soda. Seriously, good carbonated water costs a fortune these days. A 33.5oz bottle of generic sparkling water sells for about a $1. Perrier sparkling water sells for twice that much.
- Carbonate your own water. This is not that hard with a few pieces of eqipments. Depending on the option you go with, carbonated water will cost you anywhere between 2-3 cents to 40-50 cents per liter/quart.
How to make carbonated water
If you want to learn how to carbonate water, I wrote an extensive and detailed article on How to Make Carbonated Water at Home based on my personal experience. Check it out. It will save you hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars in the long run if you love drinking carbonated water.
In a nutshell, there are four options:
1 – SodaStream or a similar off the shelf water carbonator
SodaStream Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker Starter Kit is the obvious first choice to look into if you want to carbonate water yourself. It comes in a compact package, ease to use and has excellent reviews. I used it and liked it a lot, but in the end had to upgrade – it wasn’t very easy to use for my young kids and the cost per liter of water was many times higher than it could have been using other carbonation methods.
2 – Modified SodaStream water carbonator
To make SodaStream more cost efficient, fit it with the popular SodaMod SodaStream CO2 adapter to use standard paintball tanks. These standard paintball tanks can be refilled at paintball shops and sports goods stores at about $3 a pop. By the way, Amazon sells a similar CO2 Conversion Adapter for SodaStream Paintball Tank Canister for less than half the price of the SodaMod adapter. You will need to splurge for a paintball CO2 tank too if you go with the adapter.
When SodaStream’s $15 dollar refills, cost per liter / quart of carbonated water varies from $0.25 to $0.4-$0.5 depending on the level of carbonation. The modified SodaStream will bring the cost down to about $0.05 to $0.1 per liter / quart, again, depending on the level of carbonation.
3 – The Carbonater system
For this you will need a Carbonater cap that screws on to almost any soda bottle, including 16 oz, 22 oz, 1 quart, and 2 liter bottles, connected to a CO2 tank. Water is carbonated by filling a bottle with cold water, screwing the cap on, turning on the CO2 gas and giving the bottle a gentle shake until the water is carbonated. The cost per per gallon of carbonated water is only $0.08, or $0.02 per liter / quart. That’s right, only 2 cents per liter / quart of carbonated water.
To build this simple carbonater system you will need a CO2 tank
which is then connected via a gas line assembly
to the Carbonater cap.
Or to this Stainless Steel Carbonater Cap.
4 – The kegerator
Finally, if you are looking for the ultimate setup that is also super easy to use even for younger kids, consider getting a Kegerator, like this EdgeStar Full-Size Kegerator.
Or build one yourself, which is not that difficult and will save you a few bucks. A Kegerator looks very elegant and can be easily incorporated into any interior. Cost per liter of carbonated water is the same as with the Carbonator setup, or about $0.02 per liter / quart.
For more details on these four options above, their pros and cons, and how to set them up read How to Make Carbonated Water at Home.
It should be mentioned that good tasting water will give you good tasting carbonated water and vice versa. You want to use good quality spring or filtered water. I’ve been using a Reverse Osmosis with Remineralization system with great results, which I posted about in the Picking the Best Under Sink Water Filter article.
Same as with carbonated water, you have two options:
- Buy. They have familiar flavors of cola and root beer that can be difficult to replicate at home. On the flip side, this option is relatively expensive and the selection would be limited to what is made available. These extracts and syrups may contain the same unhealthy ingredients you will find in some sodas. That kind of defeats the purpose of making your own soda if you do it for health reasons, doesn’t it?
- Make your own soda syrup. This options is extremely cost efficient, literally pennies per glass, and enables you to try just about any soda flavor you can imagine. You are in full control of what goes in the syrup. Once you find your favorite recipe, you will realize that nothing beats homemade soda syrup.
Pre-made soda syrups
The good thing about pre-made soda syrups is that you don’t need to do anything, just mix them with sparkling water and enjoy. I tried several commercial soda syrups and here are the ones that I liked:
SodaStream SodaMix 500ml/16.9 fl.oz. syrup is a very good value and tastes good. Costs about $4.99, depending where you buy it. Makes 12 liters of soda, about $0.42 per liter or $0.14 per can.
Good selection of commonly known flavors, such as Cola, Creme Soda, Dr. Pepper (they call it Dr. Pete), Ginger Ale, Root Beer, etc. They are not the same as real Coke or Dr.Pepper, dah, but still taste pretty good.
Made by Rainbow Flavors, these extracts are very similar to SodaStream SodaMix syrups, except you need to add your own sugar.
2 oz / 60 ml bottles sell for about $9 and can make 4 gallons of soda. That translates into $0.6 per liter or $0.2 per can, not counting sugar.
There are many other soda extracts and syrups on the market, from good to really bad ones. You just have to sample them to pick the ones that you like.
Homemade soda syrups
In my opinion, nothing beats homemade soda syrups. I am not talking about Coke or Dr. Pepper flavors, which would be hard to replicate at home due to the hard-t0-find-for-an-average-Joe ingredients they use and the fact that no one (outside the few technologists in the company) knows their secret formulas. I am talking about natural, fruit and berry based soda syrups. Healthy, refreshing and very inexpensive to make at home.
I am a huge fan of this homemade soda recipe because of the perfect balance of sweet, salty, tart and bitter from the grapefruit zest. Very refreshing, and can be had guilt-free even for breakfast. As a matter of fact, it’s full of vitamins and is perfect for breakfast.
Adapted from Make Your Own Soda: Syrup Recipes for All-Natural Pop, Floats, Cocktails, and More. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 cups of soda syrup.
2 cups drinking water
Pinch of salt
1½ cups sugar
Zest of 2 grapefruits
¾ cup freshly made grapefruit juice
Bring the water, salt, and sugar to a boil in a medium size pot over medium heat. Add the zest and remove the pan from the heat. Cover and let the syrup steep for 20 minutes. Add the grapefruit juice to the pot and stir well. Strain the syrup through a clean piece of cheesecloth and let cool. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.
To make grapefruit soda, fill a tall glass with ice, add about 3 tablespoons of the syrup, and top with carbonated water. Stir gently and enjoy.
Pear, grape and honey syrup
Pear juices and drinks are so under-represented in North America. It’s too bad, really. You will find many pear based drinks in Europe, they are delicious. Try this pear, grape and honey homemade soda, and I guarantee you, you will love it. This syrup makes a rich, sweet autumn soda.
Adapted from The Artisan Soda Workshop: 75 Homemade Recipes from Fountain Classics to Rhubarb Basil, Sea Salt Lime, Cold-Brew Coffee and Much Much More. This recipe makes about 1 cup of syrup.
1 1/2 cups chopped Bartlett pears (about 2 medium)
1 cup grape juice
1/4 cup honey
Combine the pears and grape juice in a medium pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low, and simmer until the pears are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the honey and stir to combine. Remove from the heat, and use a masher to smash the pears. Let cool, then use a fine-mesh sieve to strain the pears from the liquid, making sure to press the fruit against the strainer to extract as much liquid as possible. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 5 days.
To make Pear, Grape, and Honey Soda: Stir 2 tablespoons Honey, Grape, and Pear Syrup, or to taste, into 10 ounces (1 1/4 cups) seltzer.