If plastic soda bottles are piling up in your recycling bin, perhaps it’s time to make your own seltzer maker! With a little tinkering and the right components, you can build a contraption to dispense the bubbly stuff with the help of painter and seltzer enthusiast Randy Stoltzfus.
Once your carbonated water is at the ready, a whole world of spritzers, sodas, ades, punches, and other effervescent beverages is at your fingertips. Try making an infused simple syrup or plum and ginger carbonated juice, then top it all off with a mustache drink topper, if you feel so inclined.
I’ve always loved fizzy stuff. It’s made its way into my art (take a look at my paintings — those could be bubbles) and definitely into my diet. However, my partner Callie and I started to get a little bummed about all of the bottles we were lugging from the store and subsequently pitching into the recycling bin. After learning about the soda price conspiracy, open-source cola, carbonation history, and physics, by reading Richard Kinch’s pioneering website, I set out to create a home seltzering set-up. Here’s how to make one of your very own.
Supplies you’ll need:
- CO2 tank. You can buy one empty or just go to a welding gas supply company and pay a deposit for the tank. We purchased a refurbished tank from a dry ice supply company. This tank holds 10 lbs of CO2, the biggest that would fit upright under the kitchen sink. It lasts the two of us over a year before it needs a $20-30 refill.
- Regulator. We got ours from the same place we got the tank. You need this to step the gas pressure down to around 50 psi. The dial gauges show you what the pressure is in the tank, the hose and when it’s time to refill. Make sure you have a regulator that will work with CO2.
- Vinyl tubing. You’ll need enough to reach from the tank to wherever you want to fill your bottles.
- A tire chuck. Look for this at an auto parts store.
- A 1/4 turn ball valve. Since the tire chucks are leaky, you’ll want an easy-to-operate cut-off valve. While you don’t absolutely need this valve, it is convenient, and anything that keeps us from wastefully adding CO2 to the atmosphere is good, right?
- Snap-in Schrader tire valve stems. You can find these at any auto parts store.
- 3 hose barbs, sized to fit your hose. Use these to thread into your valve and tire chuck.
- 4 hose clamps
- An empty plastic soda bottle with a lid
- Teflon tape
- Adjustable wrench
- A 15/32″ drill bit and a drill
3. Slide all the hose barbs into the hose ends, move the hose clamps into place and tighten. Be sure to wear some gloves! The clamps can be sharp, and you want to be able to focus on doing a good job lining things up so you don’t have any leaks.
5. Open the tank valve and listen for leaks. Do this someplace quiet. Even the tiniest leak will empty your tank quickly. Adjust the regulator so you are getting about 50 lbs on the low pressure dial.
Here’s a close-up of what you need for your bottle fill-cap. A couple of extra screw tops are nice to have on hand:
6. Drill a 15/64 inch hole in your bottle cap. Use a Brad-point drill bit so that you get a nice centered hole.
9. Make some seltzer! Fill your bottle with water. Leave some empty space (maybe 1/5 the bottle) at the top for CO2. Then just fill the bottle the way you’d fill a tire. You will be able to hear the gas moving, and feel the bottle getting full. Then give the bottle a good shake. You can actually feel the bottle get softer as the CO2 dissolves in the water. I usually repeat the fill-and-shake routine a few times, but it’s your seltzer: make bubbles to your personal taste. To maximize your carbonation, chill your filled water bottle before adding the gas, since cold water adsorbs more CO2.
Here’s how the seltzer machine looks installed under our sink at home. The cut-off valve makes a convenient place to store the hose, which is long enough to reach the sink. Installed this way, it’s impossible to hang up the hose without turning off the ball valve, a nice feature. Have fun!
If you make this project, share your results with us in the How-Tuesday Flickr group!