Say goodbye to wasteful bottles and cans with the Fountain Jet SodaStream! {Review}

No doubt you've seen these new-fangled SodaStream machines popping up in stores near you...I know I have. The appeal is strong: Make your own soda right at home. No more lugging bottles and cans home from the store or to redemption centers when empty. With big bright displays and eye catching colors and gadgets, they've definitely caught my attention! So what is this "SodaStream" machine, and how does it work?

The SodaStream is a home soda maker, letting you do everything from carbonating to mixing your own soda flavors. You'll be doing your part to help the environment by switching from pre-bottled soda to SodaStream. In 2005, consumers in the US purchased over 37 billion bottles of water alone. That's right, billion. And that's not counting soda, juice, or other beverage bottles. Yikes!

Did you know that regulations and enforcement for tap water safety are actually higher than those for commercially bottled water? For about 1/10th of a cent per gallon you can enjoy fresh (and often times cleaner) water than can be bought for outrageous prices in grocery stores. If you're still concerned about the safety or cleanliness of your tap or well water for any reason, you can use a pitcher or tap filter to fill your SodaStream bottles. Not only will you be purchasing fewer soda bottles per year, but you'll also be making unnecessary water bottles obsolete. Check out SodaStream for more information on how it can help cut down your CO2 footprint.

We received the Fountain Jet soda maker, which is the basic and most cost effective model available. This model can be purchased from your local mass retailer (Walmart, Target, Costco, Staples, etc.) starting at about $79 and includes the machine, one BPA-free carbonating bottle, one CO2 carbonator, and a 6-pack of sample sodamix flavors. Mark and Jace had fun exploring our SodaStream for the first time!

Installing the carbonator, putting the bottle in place, and fizzing!

The Fountain Jet is easy to use: All you have to do is install the 60L carbonator in the back of the appliance, fill the carbonating bottle with clean, cold tap water, attach the bottle to the front of the Fountain Jet, and press the button on top of the machine in short bursts. This releases carbon dioxide bubbles into the water a little at a time, giving you bubbly, fizzy water! It is important to note that you do not put any flavoring into the bottle until after the water is carbonated.

Releasing the bottle, adding Orange sodamix, and Jace enjoying the spoils!

A huge plus in my book is that the Fountain Jet requires absolutely NO electricity. No batteries or outlets to hassle with, no AC adapters to lose. Power out? You've still got the ability to make a tasty beverage! It makes finding a spot on the counter top much more convenient, as you don't need to set it right next to an outlet like many appliances (I'm looking at you, blender...) Another neat feature is the instant gas release when removing the carbonated water bottle from the machine. To remove, the bottle must be tilted towards you, which triggers an instant "hissing" sound of any extra CO2 gas built up inside releasing. This ensures that the bottle doesn't (a.) explode or (b.) jet itself off the machine while removing. Hurray for no explosions!

While I'm not a big soda drinker, Mark loves the ability to make his favorite drinks on-demand. We've found that his tastes lean towards the traditional and naturally sweetened varieties of cola and root beer, though the occasional orange soda or lemon lime is nice. Many of the SodaStream flavors really do taste just like their commercially-produced doppelgangers, which makes the switch that much easier. Neither Mark nor I has ever developed a taste for sucralose (Splenda,) which is what is used in the diet sodamix flavors, so those ones aren't our cup of tea but are perfect for those accustomed to drinking diet sodas. SodaStream has even come out with small glass bottles of fruit flavor essence to add to sparkling or plain tap water. These will give your water a hint of natural fruit flavor without any sweeteners, yum!

There are many versions of the SodaStream, from the basic Fountain Jet to the ultimate in home soda-making experiences, the Revolution. There are even a few varieties that use classy glass carafes to make and store sparkling water or soda! As for flavors, the SodaStream offers more than 60 different varieties of soda, water, and tea syrups to suit everyone's taste buds. One of my favorite aspects of the Soda Stream is that you're free to change flavors on a whim. Once you're finished with one liter of soda, rinse out the bottle and try a whole different flavor next. I hate it when we buy a large quantity of soda to save money, but then are stuck with one flavor until it runs out. With the SodaStream you can even combine and create your own flavors if you feel adventurous!

 Just a few of the many flavors offered through SodaStream!

Overall, we give the SodaStream Fountain Jet a strong thumbs-up! It's easy and fun to use and really does make drinking soda more convenient. It's even simple to exchange the carbonator gas cylinders (think propane exchange, where you turn in an empty and receive a full) at your local store for about 1/2 the cost of buying a new tank. Making fizzy drinks has now become a fun part of our day!

Be sure to follow SodaStream on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with the latest products, flavors, and deals.

Purchase a new SodaStream soda maker, carbonators, bottles, and flavors online or use the store locator to find a retailer near you!