I have a confession to make: if I didn't worry about what my friends and family would say to me, I'd probably drink soda all day, every day — I love it that much. So when I got my hands on SodaStream's Soda Maker, a SkyMall-like contraption that claims to "turn tap water into sparkling water in three seconds," I knew I'd be in for some fizzy fun. According to Soda-Club, the company behind the machine, the SodaStream is more convenient (since you make soda instantly at home) than buying soda, less troublesome (no need to lug soda bottles), healthier (no high-fructose corn syrup), economically sensible, and better for the environment. Did the soda maker stand up to its claims? Find out when you


I received a starter kit ($99.99) with a Fountain Jet Home Soda Maker, a 110-liter carbonator, two carbonating bottles, and an assortment of diet soda flavors and sparkling water essences. Following instructions, I assembled the machine, which requires no electricity, in under 10 minutes. To make soda, you fill a carbonating bottle with water, screw it into the machine, press a button four times to create fizz, and pour in some flavoring.

The soda machine is certainly easy to use, less troublesome to transport, and better for the environment. After the initial cost for the machine, a cup of soda will set you back less than $0.10. As far as taste, however, this is no match for store-bought soda.

The pop flavors (which included diet cola, diet grapefruit, diet cranberry-raspberry, and diet root beer) taste artificial with an odd aftertaste, and the bubbles aren't as fine or long-lasting as canned or bottled soda. "It's like Italian soda meets Crystal Light," a friend lamented. The flavored fruit essence drops taste even less natural. The soda bottles, despite being BPA-free, aren't dishwasher-safe.

If you're a heavy club soda drinker, or frequently make Italian sodas with traditional syrups, then this machine would actually be a good investment for you. But if you're a regular canned Coke drinker, the soda system's syrupy flavors won't likely be the replacement you're hoping for. Have you ever tried SodaStream? Did you come to the same conclusions about it?