Let’s start off with the hardware. The machine is mostly plastic, but it appears durable. I’m a great abuser of products and I haven’t managed to break anything on it yet. The bottles are of above-average plastic thickness, so they’ll probably last as long as the company claims they will. The CO2 canisters are well made and the only disadvantage is that they’re proprietary and need to be send back to Soda Club for refill. Use of the machine is so easy that it’s trivial — screw on a bottle filled with water, press the button, wait for a buzzing noise from the relief valve. It doesn’t get any simpler than that. No electricity required and no mess to clean up. In short the hardware is a 100% win.
Now we get to the software (or maybe I ought to call it "softdrinkware"). In order to make soda / pop / "soft drinks", you need to use syrup which the company calls "soda mix". The company sells a variety of soda mixes in both regular and diet forms. As many people have noted, the regular mixes are actually hybrid mixes with 2/3 artificial sweetener and 1/3 real sugar. That’s a real shame as choice has been taken away from the consumer in favor of a perceived health benefit by those who think they know better than you. My initial order contain five regular mixes: Cola, Orange, Grape, Root Beer, and Pete’s Choice. Let’s walk through them from best to worst.
Pete’s Choice and Root Beer were both excellent. Pete’s choice tastes like Dr. Pepper. Both of these mixes tasted as good or better than store-bought soda. There was no annoying aftertaste from the artificial sweetener. I’d highly recommend them and I expect that most of my refills are going to be these two flavors.
Orange and grape …. not so much. Fruit flavors demand a certain sweetness to taste right, and it just isn’t there. The annoying artificial sweetener aftertaste is prominent among these two flavors although it’s tolerable. They also don’t taste that orange-ish or that grape-ish. I might try mixing the syrup in at double the amount next time to see if I can raise the sweetness and strength of flavor while hopefully not ramping up the aftertaste. I’m skeptical. And then there’s the cola mix. This has to be one of the foulest concoctions I have ever had the misfortune of drinking. It doesn’t taste like regular cola. It doesn’t taste like diet cola. The artificial sweetener aftertaste is overwhelming. It kind of tastes like the old diet sodas that would spoil after sitting on the shelf for 5 years. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they’d mixed in some of that chemical is in cough syrup that makes you gag when you put it in your mouth.
Since my initial order, I’ve had some more time to evaluate the machine. I’ve actually grown quite used to the orange and grape taste so that they no longer bothers me. I ordered some “lemon-lime” which tastes just like 7-up or sprite, some “fountain mist” which tastes like mountain dew, and some “lemonade” and “energy drink”. The energy drink tastes exactly like red bull, but costs about 10% as much. All of these flavors are pretty good. I can say that at this point the only one that I truly detest is the cola flavor.
I’ve also had my first carbonator refill. The delivery man who brings the refill asks for your used CO2 cartridge and sends it back for you with no hassle.
I’ve had a chance to try “sparkling water” (carbonated water without sugar) and the flavor essences used to make sparkling water. I’ve learned that I really do not like sparkling water. Not my thing. In my opinion it tastes like alka-seltzer. Maybe someone who enjoys sparkling water can enlighten me as to why you enjoy the stuff and perhaps let me know if this machine makes good sparkling water or not.
In summary, the major issue I had with this machine is the cola flavor. The orange and grape flavors, while not perfect, are something that you will grow used to. The other flavors are all really good. I wish that Soda Club offered more variety though. They should try some more radical and experimental flavors.