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Everything you need to know about carbonation

It seems like everything we want or need has been affected by either a supply shortage or inflation. Even things we never thought could be impacted, such as CO2, are becoming harder to get. Whenever supply goes down and demand remains consistent, it creates a problem.

Fortunately, the shortage isn’t hitting the home market as much. If you can’t find your favorite carbonated beverage ready-made, there are ways to make them at home.

In this article: SodaStream Terra Sparkling Water Maker Bundle, SodaStream Fizzi One Touch and Bubly Drops

What is carbonation?

Carbonation is simply carbon dioxide dissolved in water. The process is fairly straightforward. For mass production, sodium bicarbonate is added to cold water in a pressurized container, such as a keg. CO2 gas is pumped to the bottom of the water through a tube where it enters as tiny bubbles. Since the water is pressurized, the CO2 cannot escape. Instead, it dissolves in the water, much in the same way that sugar dissolves in water. A side effect is this makes the water slightly acidic. Sodium bicarbonate is added because it helps reduce some of that acidity.

Why do carbonated beverages go flat?

In order for the CO2 bubbles to remain in the beverage, the container has to stay sealed and pressurized. Once the lid has been removed, those tiny bubbles of CO2 start traveling up through the water and release into the air. The process is like slowly letting the air out of a balloon until there is no pressure left. Once all the CO2 has escaped from the beverage, it becomes normal water once again.

Where does CO2 come from?

If you take a brief look at the word, you see that carbonation has the word “carbon” in it. It’s kind of a giveaway that you need carbon dioxide to make the process work. We all know that carbon dioxide is a gas made up of one part carbon and two parts oxygen, but where does it come from?

In nature, carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere whenever an organism breathes or decomposes. It also enters the atmosphere whenever there is a forest fire, a volcano erupts or when carbonate rocks dissolve. 

In commercial industries, CO2 is created in synthesis gas plants. It can also be reclaimed during the fermentation process at breweries. And CO2 is formed whenever a company burns fossil fuels. 

There are different grades of CO2

CO2 isn’t always pure. It can be contaminated by substances, such as ammonia, benzene, oxygen and carbon monoxide. Since it is not healthy to ingest these substances in any appreciable amount, the CO2 that is used in food and beverages must be 99.9% pure. Any contaminant that drops the purity level below this amount makes the CO2 unsuitable for food and beverage purposes.

What is CO2 used for?

Besides making carbonated water, CO2 has many other uses. For example, it extends the shelf life of grains, fruits and vegetables. It can also preserve meat, poultry and ready-to-eat meals. In solid form (dry ice), CO2 can keep foods cold during transit. In the food industry, CO2 is also used to stun animals before slaughter. A shortage can impact nearly everything we eat and drink. 

Why is there a CO2 shortage?

Although people like to pinpoint a single reason for a problem, it’s not always possible to place the blame on one thing. The most important bit of information to realize is there has been a CO2 shortage for over two years, so this situation is not something new. Yes, the problem has been compounded by several recent events, but it has been an issue for a while.

Much of the blame is being dumped on the contamination of the Jackson Dome in Mississippi — one of the largest naturally occurring CO2 sources in the country. However, this particular issue is only impacting the southeastern states. Additionally, the majority of CO2 in the food and beverage industry is a byproduct of industrial processes. It doesn’t come from naturally occurring sources.

There are several other issues in play. Workforce shortages, supply chain challenges and even the shipment of the Pfizer vaccine is a contributing factor because it must be packed in dry ice, which is the solid form of CO2. All of these issues have combined to create problems that have diminished the availability of CO2.

The good news

The good news is that companies that supply the small CO2 canisters for home carbonation are currently not reporting any supply issues. If you visit the SodaStream website, you will find the following message regarding CO2: “We are not currently experiencing any supply issues. We shall continue to regularly monitor the situation and act accordingly, making sure to prioritize informing our consumers of any issues.” This means that now is the perfect time to start making carbonated beverages at home. All you need is a portable sparkling beverage maker and a way to flavor your drink.

What you need to make carbonated drinks at home

Kitchen-Best SodaStream Terra Sparkling Water Maker Bundle

SodaStream Terra Sparkling Water Maker Bundle

This comprehensive bundle gives you everything you need to make carbonated beverages at home. You get the soda maker, two CO2 cylinders, three reusable bottles and two bottles of flavoring. Sold by Amazon

Kitchen-Best SodaStream Fizzi One Touch

SodaStream Fizzi One Touch

This offering from SodaStream is powered by electricity to give you carbonated water at the touch of a button. It comes with a soda maker, one CO2 cartridge and one reusable carbonating bottle. Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Kitchen-Best SodaStream 60-Liter CO2 Refill Cartridge

SodaStream 60-liter CO2 Refill Cartridge

The one thing you need to buy to keep your soda maker working is the CO2. This offering from SodaStream will make up to 63 quarts of carbonated water. Sold by Home Depot and Staples

Kitchen-Best DrinkMate Soda Maker Machine

DrinkMate Soda Maker Machine

Unlike SodaStream, DrinkMate says you can carbonate other beverages besides water. This model is suitable for adding carbonation to juices, iced tea, coffee, wine, cocktails or even flat beer. Sold by Home Depot

Best iSi Classic MeshSodamaker

Isi Classic MeshSodamaker

The Isi Classic MeshSodamaker has an elegant design that makes it perfect for display on your bar. It uses one Isi Soda Charger per filling (sold separately). Sold by Amazon

Food-Drink-Best Bubly Drops

Bubly Drops

Making sparkling water is fun, but to get the most out of any soda maker, you need flavoring. This variety pack includes blackberry, cherry, strawberry, mango, lime and grapefruit flavoring. Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Kitchen-Best Torani Syrup Variety Pack

Torani Syrup Variety Pack

Torani is a top-shelf name in flavoring. This set of four syrups includes blue raspberry, lime, strawberry and orange. Sold by Amazon

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Allen Foster writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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