The Carbonator Xx-thousand

Well, the Button household decided several weeks ago to go sans-soda. After several false starts we have have succeeded through a product I am calling The Carbonator Xx-thousand. Not the catchiest name, but its not for sale so….

There are similar things that you can buy in the store, like the Sodastream Fountain Jet Soda Maker Starter Kit for example. This handy device allows you to carbonate anything you can fit into their proprietary bottles: Sodastream 1l Carbonating Bottles- Black (Twin Pack)

Now, perhaps it is because I have become part of the great state of Texas, but this makes me madder then an old wet hen (I think that means I’m mad in Texan… its either that or that I am stupid…). There is a strong libertarian streak running through this part of Texas and I like to think that alittle has rubbed off. The little part that chaffes at corporate monopolies. You see, once you buy a Sodastream, you are locked into using their bottles and their CO2 cartridges.  As the great wrestler/Governor/movie star said:

“I love my country, not my liquid CO2 provider.”
Jesse Ventura

And boy, do they take advantage of this structural monopoly. A refill for their CO2 cartridge costs around 15$ and fills up and makes around 60 Liters of carbonated sparkly water, less if you decide to over-carbonate. That comes out to around 0.3 $/Liter. Not to bad, but we can purchase a 2 Liter of carbonated water at the grocery store for $0.89… or about 0.45 $/L so one would save about 0.15  $/L by using the Sodastream and to be clear, there is value in not throwing out 2 Liter bottles a couple times a week.
Again… not bad but we can do better.

The Carbonator X^x’thousand

The The Carbonator Xx-thousand featured in all its glory. This has numerous advantages over the sodastream. First, if you get the following quick connect adapter:

Quick connect adapter for 2-Liter bottles.

You can get the it at amazon here. It is a beautiful little hunk of plastic that screws onto anything with the same threading as a 2 Liter bottle. This includes 20 oz bottles, and probably some other bottles that I haven’t discovered yet!.
The second advantage? Regulators… bitches love regulators.

“Passion, though a bad regulator, is a powerful spring” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“Awesome, on the other hand, is a great regulator. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, CO2…” ~Regulator pictured above.

Never before in the history of mankind as recognized by me has anyone ever said “Look, do you think we can do this will fewer pressure gauges?”. The answer is always and emphatically NO. On the regulator pictured above has two pressure gauges, one that tells you the pressure in the bottle and one for the tank of CO2. That blue valve in the bottom left hand corner controls the flow to the bottle to be carbonated and CO2 tank has a valve on it.
The hose and quick-connector can be bought together here. The final piece of the puzzle is the tank for CO2.  I got mine from from Harbor Freight, but you can get one of these from amazon as well. Which brings up an excellent point: where to fill up your tank. Don’t start down this road until you find a supplier near by. If you are in Lubbock I can’t say enough good things about B&J Welding Supply. I walked in there one Saturday and asked to buy a CO2 tank and to fill it with CO2. These guys, being smarter then I, asked what I was going to do with it. After finding it out, they pointed me to Harbor Freight, just 8 minutes down the road, where I could get a tank for about half the price. I did just that, brought it back, and they filled it for me. More importantly, they just gave me one of the plastic washers that you put in between the regulator and CO2 tank since they knew I would be needing it.
Enough text. How does it work?
Step one: fill a bottle with something and get it cold. You really need a couple hours in the fridge so be patient. Once the bottle is cold, take it out and put on the quick-release cap. But first, squeeze all the air out just like so:

Get all that nitrogen and oxygen out so we can replace it with sweet CO2…

Next, connect the hose to the bottle.

I got hose in various area codes…. no, no, that didn’t work at all. Ctrl-z.

Open the valve on the CO2 tank and then slowly open the blue valve:

Turn the valve, evey now and then I get alittle bit turgid and I know I have to shake the bottle for five…

Once the valve is all the way open and the bottle is filled with CO2, shut the valve and shake the bejesus out of the two liter.

Mmmmm, Surface Area…..

But wait?!?!?!! Doesn’t shaking de-fiz pop? Yes it does, but not for the reason you think. Shaking just increases the surface area between the water and air which allows CO2 to enter -or- leave more quickly. So what shaking does is drive the system to equilibrium faster. Go science!

Do this several times (3-4).

When you are done, uncap and enjoy:


The bubbles tickle my mouth.

Now, most people would be done there. The slightly adventurous types might add some flavoring to the water. Like say lemon juice:

It only takes a dash.

The truly adventurous imagine the impossible. What about carbonated orange juice? Impossible you say?

So good I drank most of it before I could take a picture.

What about milk?

Kill it with fire…

Ya well, you would be right about that… It was disgusting. But why?


************************************Insert Geekout**********************************************

Ok, so when CO2 dissolves in water it doesn’t just hang out there, a small amount starts associating with water molecules and forming carbonic acid (H2CO3). This is not a first string acid, like Sulfonic, or Hydrocloric, but maybe more of a third string acid like lemon juice. Wait… lemon juice + milk = Paneer. So if we carbonate milk… we start making cheese. Which explains so much of the next couple pictures:

Here is one of the few times you would want something “Stirred, not shaken”. Well, except for when you are ordering a drink because asking for it like James Bond just makes you look like a douche bag.

Remember how one vital step was shaking the bottle to help the CO2 enter the water? Ya, not such a good idea with milk. It caused a very stiff foam to form that nearly filled the whole bottle. What was worse, is that when I opened up the bottle the foam started erupting out like a very disgusting science fair project:

My dad only helped alittle.

But wait! It gets worse. After pouring what liquid there was into the glass you saw earlier… the foam stayed. I wouldn’t even budge after I turned the bottle upside down:

I’ll be rich! “Cheese Foam”. I’ll deep fry it and sell it at county fairs.

So my conclusion is that I did in fact make cheese. And had I had the patience to keep shaking the thing the cheese probably would have ended up firm enough to do something with. What makes it worse is the stuff that I drank… cheese whey. Awesome.

**************************************End Geekout******************************************************

Now, clearly I did not build the Carbonator Xx-thousand just to carbonate random things…. right? Right. I built it to save money. So, the tank I purchased holds about 5 lbs of liquid CO2 and costs about 20$ to fill at the B&J welding supply. This is alittle over 5 times the size of the sodastream gas canister so we can expect perhaps 300 L of carbonated water. This comes out to a cost of about 6 cents per liter. Oh yes, that is about a fifth the cost of a sodastream refill.  How does the lifetime cost of the Carbonator compare though?

Only 184 liters left to go before I feel good about my decisions…

Well, the total costs end up equaling at about 375 Liters of carbonated water. Kristen and I drink about a 2 Liter of carbonated water a day now that we can so we can expect to start “saving” money around half a year from now. I can live with a 6 month ROI.

So stay tuned, I am sure that eventually something interesting to carbonate will land in my fridge and you will see the sparkly result here.

If you try this yourself and have any questions about assembly or whatnot, leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to address them.


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