For most of us, carbonation is what gives soda and seltzer their fizz to give drinks a little extra oomph. To those of us who want to make our own carbonated drinks, however, there’s a lot more to it than that.
CO2 tanks are the most common way of carbonating water – but what if you can’t or don’t want to use one? Thankfully, there are plenty of other options to put some fizz in your drink.
Carbonated Water 101
Before we get into the different methods for making carbonated water with or without CO2, let’s take a closer look at what it actually is.
Carbonated water is normal water with the addition of carbon dioxide gas. It is highly pressurized, which is where all those bubbles come from. Carbonated water usually isn’t drunk on its own, which is why drinks that include it typically employ additives.
Water and carbon dioxide produce a chemical reaction, which is where that tingling sensation and taste comes from. Carbonated water is about 3 to 4 pH, which makes it relatively acidic.
Carbonated water and seltzer typically has salt and perhaps a few minerals added. For example, Perrier and San Pellegrino both make use of spring water, minerals, and sulfur compounds.
Sodas, meanwhile, use sugar or sugar replacements.
Tonic water (G&Ts, anyone?) are made with a compound known as quinine.
One of the big questions with carbonated water is its effect on your body, and it’s a question that is still being researched. We don’t have full answers to that question yet, but we do have a few indications of how carbonated water can affect our body.
One fear is that carbonated water can damage the enamel of your teeth. A common line here is that soda can cause your teeth to rot. However, rather than the carbonated water there is some evidence to suggest that it’s actually the sugar in soda that’s the real problem.
That said, there are still some concerns that carbonated water can cause bone density issues. Here again, however, the main culprits are phosphoric acids and sugars, not carbonated water.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t benefits to drinking carbonated water, either. There is some evidence to suggest carbonated water can help constipation and dyspepsia, though the exact reasons why are still being researched. It can also potentially be beneficial for combatting cholesterol and inflammation, and can lower the overall risk of heart disease.
Finally, it’s worth noting that cold fluids hold their carbonation better than warm ones.
Methods for Making Carbonated Water Without CO2
CO2 is normally integral in making carbonated water for all of the reasons mentioned above. To compensate for its absence, you’re going to need to get creative.
Thankfully, there are several ways you can do that. Each of the methods listed below have their own pros and cons, but which is best for you will depend on what you have on hand.
The other important factor to consider here is that making carbonated water “without CO2” really means “without professional CO2 tanks.” As mentioned above, water and carbon dioxide (aka H2O and CO2) combine to create a chemical reaction and that’s what makes carbonated water in the first place.
As such, it’d be pretty hard to “make carbonated water” without half of its basic chemical components.
However, there’s no denying that professional CO2 tanks are more expensive, which is why you might want to consider some of these other methods instead.
1 – Soda Siphons
This method replaces the professional CO2 tanks with containers to hold the water once you get it carbonated. A head is then screwed onto the container, which is added to the water to carbonate it.
There are several benefits to soda siphons, starting with the fact that they are one of the most portable options on this list. That admittedly comes from them being the closest thing to a CO2 tank, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t more portable than that.
That said, they are on the sleek side, making them a good choice for use at parties.
In addition, they are easy to set up, which isn’t always the case with CO2 tanks.
They are also on the more affordable side as far as CO2 tank substitutes go. Still, the price can start to stack up over time.
The biggest downside to siphons is that they just can’t provide the same strong carbonation as you’ll get with a CO2 tank, even if you shake the siphon for extra bubbles.
Soda siphons are best for those who want an occasional drink of sparkling water without paying a huge amount of money for a professional CO2 tank. They’re also a good choice for people who want a more portable option.
If you want sparkling water for picnics and other outdoor eating opportunities, soda siphons are a great CO2 tank substitute.
2 – Baking Soda and Vinegar
Oh, what can’t baking soda and vinegar do? They’re two of the most commonly-used ingredients in all manner of DIY solutions, and their chemical reaction naturally produces bubbles, which is a big plus.
To make this DIY carbonated water option work, you’ll need to gather a few ingredients first:
- Baking soda
- Two plastic bottles with caps
- Tubing that can fit in the bottle
- Drill and drill bit that’s smaller than your tubing
- Toilet paper
To start, you’ll want to fit the drill bit onto the drill and drill holes into the caps of both bottles. Once you’ve done that, take the scissors and cut both ends of the tubes in such a way as to make it easy to insert them into the caps.
Now it’s time to start filling those bottles with baking soda and vinegar to get the reaction going. Fill one bottle with water and the other with vinegar.
Now comes the strangest part. You’ll want to actually wrap however much baking soda you choose to use in the toilet paper and place it into the bottle with vinegar that way.
Once the caps are screwed back onto the bottles, tubes and all, you’ll want to shake up the mixture, set it down, and wait for the bubbles to form.
This is definitely a more science project-esque way of making carbonated water minus the traditional CO2 canisters.
3 – Dry Ice
This is another MacGyver-worthy way of producing carbonated water without the tanks. Unlike the more roundabout method involving baking soda and vinegar, however, dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide and thus involves a much more direct method of creating it.
All you need to do is add one pound of dry ice to one gallon of water, stir, and voila. The subsequent reaction results in vaporization, fog, and yes, the kind of carbonation you need to get carbonated water.
If that sounds easy, that’s because it is – but it comes with a major catch, namely that you should never touch dry ice with your bare hands at the risk of giving yourself a nasty case of freezer burn.
Make sure you use a spoon or tongs when handling it instead. It’s also worth noting that the pressure created by this concoction can be immense, so don’t cover the top.
Finally, dry ice can give off some pretty voluminous fumes, so you’ll want to make sure that you only use this method in a well-ventilated area.
4 – Sparkel Sachets
This is a great option for those looking to make their own carbonated water with something that’s as simple to use as a kitchen appliance – because, well, it is.
This coffee maker-sized carbonated water generator can be operated with a few buttons, making this the easiest method on this list as well.
The methodology behind this model is likewise simple.
Water fills a sleek sealed chamber, building up pressure in such a way as to generate CO2 via a mixture of citric acid and sodium bicarbonate. Even better, you don’t have to worry about the carbonator itself influencing the taste of your drink – you only get the benefit of the CO2 itself.
The machinery within the Sparkel chamber cycles the water further, building up the pressure inside to 80 PSI. That’s a lot of pressure, and more than many containers available for domestic use can handle.
However, the Sparkel chamber is specially designed to be able to withstand that much pressure, which acts as a natural pressurizing juicer, creating a ton of bubbles and releasing a lot of flavor.
Each of these options has its upside. The dry ice and baking soda and vinegar options both involve ingredients that are relatively inexpensive to procure.
The siphon soda and Sparkel options allow you greater control over the process. The former pair are more DIY and affordable while the latter pair are more professional and replicable in their effects.
Whichever method you choose, however, you’ll be able to introduce carbonation into your drinks without having to resort to a CO2 tank, allowing you the crisp refreshing taste of carbonated water without the hassle or expense that too often comes with it.
Sarah is the founder of Baking Kneads, LLC, a blog sharing guides, tips, and recipes for those learning how to bake. Growing up as the daughter of a baker, she spent much of her childhood learning the basics in a local bakery.