When I was asked to test a Sodastream machine recently, I got stupidly excited ! A Sodastream machine !! I always wanted one as a kid (along with a Mr Frosty slush maker and a candy floss machine !) but it never got crossed off my wish-list. Awwww ! I remember it being dismissed as a fad and "you might as well stick a bit of squash in some lemonade" and "I bet it'll only be as fizzy as a bottle of flat coke". Well, here was my chance to finally see if it was as good as it always was in my childish imagination.
And the answer is ... too right !! I called the girls (5-year-old Juliette and 8-year-old Sophie) to come and watch because they'd been all excited about trying it out ever since it had arrived ! I emptied out the contents of the cardboard box and followed the instructions - it all sounded quite complicated but is actually dead easy and you have everything you need (machine, carbonation bottles, gas canister) in the starter pack. You screw the gas canister into place, fill the bottle up to the line with tap water, screw the bottle of water into place, push the button in short bursts and watch the bubbles fizz through the water. The instructions tell you to keep pushing until you hear three buzzes, so the three of us stood intently listening as we pushed the button until ..."oooh it farted", squealed Juliette and fell on the floor laughing ! Opening a bottle of shop-bought fizzy pop is never this much fun !
Once you've got your fizzy water, you just add the cordial of your choice and shake. We were lucky enough to receive a Taste Sampler Pack of the 12 most popular Sodastream flavours - you can buy one in their shop for £9.99 and it's a great way to discover the flavours on offer. Zero Cola, Sugar Free Orange, Sugar Free Lemonade, Sugar Free Cranberry Raspberry, Cola, Lemon Lime, Orange Mango, Apple, Lemonade, Tonic, Ginger Ale, Xstream (which is an energy drink, with caffeine, guarana and vitamins). There's something to suit all tastes. Each 42ml sample in the Taste Sampler Pack makes 1 litre of soft drink, but each 500ml bottle makes up to 12 litres - that's the equivalent of 33 cans - so at £2.99 a bottle, that works out as great value.
Taste-wise, it gets a huge thumbs up too. We tried the orange and mango flavour and it's delicious, tasting just as nice as the stuff you buy in cans or bottles. Having been brainwashed that it wouldn't be as fizzy as "real" shop-bought fizzy drinks, I read the guidelines - three "buzzes" for regular fizziness, or go for an extra one (two or three extra pulses of gas) for extra fizziness - and decided to go for extreme fizz. I have never burped so much in my life (which the girls again found hysterically funny !). The good thing about controlling the amount of fizz is that Juliette, who doesn't like really fizzy drinks because she doesn't like the bubbles going up her nose (!), can finally enjoy lightly carbonated drinks and not feel left out.
If you're going "eurgghh don't like the taste of our tap water", you can always use bottled water or filtered tap water. Whatever you choose, I would suggest you chill it before carbonating it so you have ready-chilled fizzy drinks to drink straight away (the kids won't want to wait for it to chill in the fridge once it's made, trust me !).
They're actually a reasonably healthy alternative to shop-bought fizzy drinks. The regular flavours have around two thirds less sugar than pre-mixed non-diet drinks and there is also an extensive sugar-free range. On the website, they say : "SodaStream cares about your health and diet. Our regular flavours contain no high-fructose corn syrup and diet flavours contain non-calorific sweeteners, which are suitable for many diabetics."
The best bit though (apart from the fact that it's such great fun !) is that, as well as saving money, it's actually a very environmentally-friendly gadget too. No more empty bottles to throw away or recycle and fewer trips to the supermarket. For those of you without a car who have to struggle home on foot or on the bus, it avoids carrying heavy bottles and cans too.
You will eventually need to replace the gas canister and the carbonation bottles. On the website, they explain : "SodaStream's gas cylinders are designed out of lightweight aluminum alloy or steel, and are easily inserted into our drinks makers. Our cylinders make up to 60 litres of sparkling drinks but you control the fizz! A full CO2 gas cylinder is included with the purchase of our system in our starter packs. When the gas in the cylinder finishes, you exchange the empty cylinder for a full one, paying only the cost of the gas refill." And for the carbonation bottles : "SodaStream produces specially designed, high pressure-resistant screw fitting bottles for use with our drinks makers. All our bottles are BPA-free and can be used for up to 3 years. They are supplied with a hermetic sealing cap to keep your finished drink fizzy for longer. Also available is the iconic glass carafe for use with the Penguin drinks maker only."
Hold on, did someone say Penguin ?! Yes, you really can get a Penguin-shaped Sodastream machine ! They also come in a range of funky colours so you can coordinate them with your kitchen. Very posh !
Well, I was worried it wouldn't live up to the hype - you know how you hanker after something as a kid and when you finally get your hands on it, it's a total let-down - but I needn't have worried. I'll be getting busy with the fizzy until the gas runs out, that's for sure (and even then, I'll just have to get a refill !).
star rating : 5/5
RRP : £59.99
for more information : www.sodastream.co.uk