REVIEW – I love bubbly drinks, the bubblier the better. Mostly, those come in the form of soft drinks. Since I spent most of my life in Michigan, that means “pop”, not “soda”. East coasters and southerners, don’t hate me. Anyway, my pop of choice is Diet Coke, Diet Mt. Dew for the missus. Yes, we know how bad pop is. We drink diet pop to avoid all the sugar in regular pop, but still, if you believe all the current health hype, pop in any form is bad for you, either because of the sugar or artificial sweeteners. We had previously tried a SodaStream as a means to both save some cash over pop and perhaps drink something with bubbles that was a little more healthy. After doing the math on buying the syrups from SodaStream and paying for the CO2 tanks, the bottom line was that there was no cost savings, and to our tastebuds, not as good a taste. I tried adding flavorings to carbonated water, but neither of us like the taste of carbonated water. There’s just something bitter about it that neither of us can get past, even when adding flavorings. We ditched the SodaStream and continued with the pop habit.
When the opportunity to review Spärkel came up, I was excited. Spärkel’s big differentiator is that it can carbonate any liquid, not just water. Would this be the game-changer we’ve been looking for to pop us out of our habit? Read on!
What is it?
Spärkel is a drink carbonation system that uses dual packets containing citric acid and sodium bicarbonate to produce CO2 and add carbonation to any liquid.
What’s in the box?
- Spärkel carbonator
- Spärkel bottle
- Carbonator packet pairs (30) – note that on Amazon, it states that it only comes with 10
- Safety and warranty guide
- Let’s Get Bubbling instruction guide
- Dimensions: 10″ deep x 5.7″ wide x 15″ high
- Power: 110V
- Power cord length: 36″
- Bottle size: 750ml
- Carbonation levels: 5
- 1: Lightly bubbly
- 2: Bubbly
- 3: Boldly bubbly
- 4: An extra kick for infusions
- 5: Serious bubbles
Design and features
The Spärkel carbonator I received has a shiny black body and white front area and power cord. The buttons and bottle lock handle are brushed silver plastic.
The carbonator compartment is on top of the unit.
To access the compartment, lift the silver lever on top and the lid opens.
This is where you dump the carbonator packets before carbonating a beverage.
Once carbonation is done, wastewater and excess carbonator material are expelled into a front container.
If you take another look at the photo above, that white circle with the black outline is the CO2 injection valve that fits into the bottom of the bottle.
The 750ml bottle has a stylish design and the requisite warnings applied on the outside.
There are valves on both the top and bottom removable lids.
The valve on the top (left) is used to release pressure as sometimes, the bottle is so pressurized that you can’t open it. The valve on the bottom lines up with that CO2 injector I mentioned earlier. That’s where the CO2 gets injected into the bottle.
On the back of the unit, we find a water tank that is used to provide water for the carbonation system. This water and the carbonator powder never are combined with your drink. They are used to produce the CO2 that is injected into the drink.
The only setup was removing a couple of pieces of tape that secured the moving parts and plugging in the unit.
Once I got everything set up, I got to bubbling.
My first experiment was an infusion. Unfortunately, I didn’t read all the instructions. I mean, instructions are just somebody else’s opinion, right? 🙂
I cut up a lemon and lime.
I crammed all that into the bottle and filled it up to 750ml with cool, but not cold water. I did catch that the manual states that cold water takes carbonation better than warm water, but chilled water out of the refrigerator dispenser was the best I had.
I filled the carbonation water tank.
I installed the tank in the back.
I dumped in the carbonator magic powder.
After closing up the carbonation chamber, I chose carbonation level 3 and let it rip. This is where I made my mistake. Level 4 is for infusions as it takes a bit more kick to both infuse and bring the bubbles.
My result was a bit flat.
As you can see, there are a few bubbles on the glass, but nothing moving. The water was nicely flavored but really could have used a little more effervescence. That was my fault, not Spärkel’s. The water wasn’t very cold either, so I expect that also affected the results.
I did enjoy the drink, but here’s where my main issue with Spärkel arises. It’s expensive.
The unit ships with one carbonator bottle. That bottle holds 750ml. If you put stuff in the bottle, as I did, it holds less. For reference, 750ml = 25.36 ounces or just a sip over two cans of pop. Carbonator packets are available on Amazon for $49.99 for 90 packet pairs. Each pair can carbonate one 750ml bottle. That means you are paying $0.56 for each bottle you carbonate. A little math shows us that it is an equivalent of $1.47 for 2 liters of carbonated drink, plus the cost of whatever you are using to flavor that drink. Couple that with the fact that 750ml isn’t that much liquid. This means you’ll need to shell out more cash for more bottles. How much you ask? They come in packs of two for $29.99, also on Amazon. The result is that if you buy name-brand pop when it’s on sale, or buy store-brand pop, pop is still cheaper than making your own carbonated drinks. And while the carbonated lemon-lime water was good, it wasn’t great and I wouldn’t substitute it for pop.
But Spärkel’s big claim to fame is that it can make any liquid bubbly. What about other things than water?
Here’s my first attempt. I concocted a mixture of vanilla vodka, triple sec, limoncello, lime juice, pineapple juice, and simple syrup.
This video shows the beginning of the carbonation cycle. Given my last attempt was not too carbonated, I opted to go all-out at level 5. You can also see the nice lighting that turns on while the process is happening, making it easy to see that those bubbles getting injected into the bottle.
Another performance note – carbonation is not fast. Level 5 takes nearly five minutes. Level 4 takes just over three minutes. Anyway, when it was done, I couldn’t open the bottle. I pushed a finger into the top cap valve and it vented the excess carbonation, releasing the pressure. I poured my elixir into a glass with ice. Wowzers – was it bubbly!
I took a sip and again – wowzers – it was delicious. Beyond the flavors that I like, the bubbles really brought out those flavors and they exploded in my mouth. It was super yummy. That’s one thing that carbonation does – it expands flavor profiles. You get a lot of your sense of taste via your nose. If you don’t believe me, take something really tasty and eat it while pinching your nose closed. That’s why food doesn’t taste good when you have a cold. No smell, no taste. The bubbles in the drink elevate those aromas, making them stronger, and that improves the taste. There is a caution in the manual (yes, I went back and read more…) that you should use filtered water. If there is any mineral taste in your water, the bubbles will enhance that as well. Combine that enhanced flavor profile with the tingling on the tongue provided by the bubbles and I had one super-tasty and enjoyable drink.
The next experiment came in the form of wine. We aren’t big wine drinkers. Our taste is limited to sweet white wines like Moscato or Reisling. That limits our sparkling wine choices as there are only a few sparkling Moscatos. No more! A standard wine bottle holds 750ml. The Spärkel bottle holds 750ml. Coincidence? I think not! I dumped a bottle of Moscato into the Spärkel bottle, set up the machine, set it for level 4 and let it crank in the bubbles.
What came out on the other side was a nicely carbonated sparkling Moscato. It tasted terrific and had a very nice tingle on the tongue.
Another usage note: the manual states that after every seven carbonations, refill the water supply in the back and empty the waste container in the front. I find that I need to do that much more frequently. I now empty the water tank and the waste tank if I’m not going to use the unit for a few days. Not a big deal, but worth noting.
What I like
- Carbonates any drink – your options are limited only by your imagination
- Easy to use
- Five levels of carbonation to suit your taste and the drink’s requirements
- You order carbonator packets online – no CO2 tanks to refill or exchange
What I’d change
- Expensive bottles and carbonator packets
- Only carbonates 750ml at a time
Much to my surprise, I like the Spärkel carbonator more than I thought I would, given my previous experience with SodaStream. I plan to continue experimenting with carbonated craft cocktails, water-based infusions, sparkling wines and so on. Will some concoction help me shake my Diet Coke habit? I don’t know, yet. I will keep experimenting. I know that along the way, I will certainly enjoy some tasty, bubbly cocktails!
Price: $99.99 in black or white, $119.99 in metallic blue, metallic red, pink, seafoam green, or silver. All come with one bottle and ten carbonator packet pairs (one pair per carbonation)
Where to buy: Amazon.
Source: The sample of this product was provided by Spärkel.