Should you carbonate your own soda?

strawberry cocktails
strawberry summer refresher = seltzer + homemade strawberry syrup preserves

It’s starting to get hot here in Portland (read: upper 70’s), which means creek swimming holes, cold beers, and refreshing cocktails are in order.  At my house we tend to default to vodka + soda water cocktails.  Sometimes we leave the alcohol out because bubbly water tastes good on its own.  We usually add a splash of lemon juice to both varieties, and when we’re feeling really fancy we’ll add homemade syrups like in the picture above.

Carbonated water (club soda, seltzer water, mineral water, soda water, etc.) cocktails are great because they can be pretty cheap, they are super refreshing and clean, they don’t upset your stomach, they’re low-calorie, they don’t give you bad of hangovers, and they’re very versatile from a flavor perspective.

As I mentioned above, vodka is our traditional mixer for club soda cocktails because even the cheap stuff tastes decent.  Sobieski is our go-to and we can get a 750-ml bottle for less than ten dollars usually.  Compare this to a six-pack of craft beer at about the same price or a medium-cheap bottle of wine at around ten dollars too.  A six-pack of beer is literally six standard drinks, while a bottle of wine is closer to five.  Guess how many drinks are in a fifth (750-ml) of 80-proof vodka… 17!!  Paaarrtaaay!  Haha.

So yeah, hard liquor is the best deal in town if your main concern is tying on a nice buzz.  But the downside of hard liquor from a cost per unit of buzz is that people usually like to mix it with something.  This adds cost.  Soda water is pretty cheap at 80 cents per liter, and the lemon juice we add is basically a negligible cost.  So even with a few liters of soda water, it appears hard liquor club soda cocktails are cheaper than craft beer and bottles of wine.  It should be said, however, that boxed wine and really cheap beer are almost as good of deals sometimes.

But what if I could get costs down even further?  What if I could save more money on soda water by carbonating it myself?  That would be cool, right?  I’d save money, never have to worry about soda going flat, and reduce a lot of plastic waste.

The numbers

For this scenario, I’m looking at buying a SodaStream machine that carbonates water for you versus buying individual club soda bottles at the store.  I’m assuming eight 12-ounce drinks per week total for two people.  Here’s how the cookie crumbles:

  • 10 Year NPV: $512
  • 10 Year ROI: 64%
  • 10 Year Payback: 1.9 years
chart - sodastream

So carbonating your own water saves about $50 every year versus buying soda water at the store, but I do need to come right out and state the obvious: you save way more by not ever drinking carbonated water in the first place or just drinking a little less.  If you drink more than eight 12-ounce cans of soda water in your house each week, you save more money.  If you drink less, you save less (versus store-bought seltzer), and if you drink less than two ‘cans’ you actually start to lose money because you don’t make back your initial investment on the SodaStream equipment.

What about cola?

I didn’t even want to write about cola because I don’t drink that ‘ish! Cola (soda) is bad for you… even more so than you already thought.  You might think I’m being a hypocrite for endorsing alcohol consumption, but moderate drinking has some documented health benefits.  Anyway, my biases aside, I did run the numbers for using the SodaStream to make your own colas at home too.  Based on $4.00 for a 12-pack of Coke, you actually lose $186 over 10 years by using the SodaStream equipment and syrups.

These numbers also assume eight cans per week.  Less cans per week would lose less money versus buying 12-packs of Coke at the store, but the best case scenario is still at least minus $70 over ten years.  On the other hand, if you buy fancier, more expensive sodas normally, the SodaStream would probably save you money.  And you could also experiment with some of your own artisanal flavors, reduce the sugar content, and avoid a lot of the chemicals that come in normal cola.  But that’s another story, and I just wanted to touch on it briefly.

greyhound spritzer? don’t mind if i do!


Carbonating your own soda water will save you money, assuming that you drink at least 24 ounces of soda water each week as it is.  Not a ton of money, but at a retail price of $0.79 per liter, it’s probably not a huge household expense in the first place, so that is to be expected.  And if you switch from craft beer or bottles of wine to soda water + hard alcohol cocktails, you’re guaranteed to save even more, ceteris paribus (I’ll have to do an ROI on beer vs. wine vs. liquor soon).

For me, I’m still really on the fence about whether or not this makes sense as an “investment.”  On the upside, making cool stuff drinks hibiscus soda or carbonated fresh mint iced tea would be cool and I would save a little bit of money (and lower my carbon footprint) by drinking cheaper fizzy cocktails instead of craft beer and wine, but on the downside, I might end up drinking a lot more soda water and possibly even more alcohol because mixers are always around.  And then I would also have an extra machine in the house, which rubs my minimalist instincts the wrong way.  Combine that with the fact that cheap beer and boxed wine aren’t that much more expensive sometimes, and it’s sort of a toss-up.

But that’s okay.  We don’t always need a strong conclusion for these things, just simply knowing that it is sort of a toss-up is enough for now (better than never having run the numbers in the first place).  Check back in with me in 12 months to see if we decided to get a machine or not.  I’m putting my money on no, with just barely favorable 3 to 2 odds.

  1. One liter of retail soda water = $0.80 (experience)
  2. SodaStream costs $70 (Amazon)
  3. CO2 refill costs $20 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond or other retail locations (amazon message boards)
  4. CO2 canister lasts for 60 liters (amazon)
  5. Trip to BBB or wherever takes 30 minutes and adds 10 miles of driving (estimate)
  6. Time is worth $10.00 per hour (self)
  7. Car costs are $0.50 per mile (triple A)
  8. Drink 8 12-ounce soda drinks per week (estimate)


The Frugalwoods have a great tutorial about how to hack a soda stream for more cost savings. Check it out here.

The silver screen blues

Retire using only 401k and IRA

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