The at-home water carbonator is one kitchen device I wasn’t sure I’d warm to. A serial chugger of seltzer cans for many years, I recently introduced ainto my home and found it to be a shockingly seamless transition. The advantages are obvious and immediate: Save money; keep cans out of the recycling; have sparkling water on hand all the time (as long as you keep a backup CO2 canister handy).
- The best-looking carbonator on the market
- Made from sturdy metal and available in six attractive finishes
- Makes sparkling water as promised
- Easy to set up and operate
- Works with SodaStream CO2 canisters for easy exchange
- The most expensive at-home carbonator
- The $219 price does not include a CO2 canister
- Somewhat inconsistent when emitting gas
While they do their most important function well, my sharpest critique of any SodaStream is the general look and feel. They’re not the ugliest kitchen appliance I’ve run into, but they are built of flimsy plastic with a “modern” design that somehow looks anything but. The eyesore effect is compounded by the fact that they stay on your counter and are in view most of the time. There are competitors to consider, but theand don’t look a whole lot better if you ask me.
The Swedish-madeis the only sparkling water maker I could find with any aesthetic appeal. The Aarke sports a simple, industrial, vaguely retro design — it wouldn’t look out of place in a malt shop — and has a frame built almost completely from metal, with five cool finishes to choose from. At a glance, I was willing to plop down the money (more than double the price of SodaStream’s cheapest model) as long as it worked well.
To see about that, I hauled in the $219 Aarke Carbonator to see if this more stylish version of the SodaStream could quench my thirst for both bubbly water and good design. I was itching to crown the Swedish carbonator over SodaStream’s $160 premiummodel. However, things became complicated when Aarke’s overall function proved inferior to SodaStream, if only slightly. But with a soundly superior look and sturdier build, it’s just enough to make up for modest performance issues. (Oh, and as long as you care enough about looks to drop the extra $90 it costs.)
Read on for more about the stately (and expensive) Aarke Carbonator III.
Aarke works like most other carbonators
While it has an elevated appearance, the Aarke functions like most other beverage carbonators. A canister of CO2 is installed into the base and a plastic bottle filled with water (or another liquid) is screwed in on the front. A large needle drops into the water and, when triggered, pumps gas into the water. Simple enough, right? Since the Aarke is manual, the user controls how much gas to release — and thus, how bubbly to make the liquid.
Aarke uses SodaStream canisters, which is a good thing
Aarke doesn’t sell CO2 canisters, but it is engineered to work with SodaStream’s CO2 bottles. That’s a good thing since SodaStream has a robust exchange program. Your first canister will cost $30, but mail back the empty canister or return it at Staples another partnering retailer and you’ll get a replacement for only $15.
My Aarke exploded. It was very likely not the machine’s fault
My first time using the Aarke went well and it did the job without issue. On the second carbonation attempt, things didn’t go as well. Upon pressing the lever to activate CO2, gas began pumping into the water, but it would not stop even after I jostled the lever. I was afraid the plastic bottle would explode, so I quickly unscrewed it and water geysered all over the kitchen. Gas was still pumping out of the canister harmlessly into the air. I had to unscrew the CO2 canister from the machine to get it to stop.
I contacted a press agent from the Aarke team, who ran my issue up to the engineers. They concluded the incident was due to a faulty SodaStream canister with a flat pin that is now out of production but was previously known to leak and get stuck in an “On” position when attached to a carbonator. I found a few online complaints about flat pin canisters leaking but no official news or statements. Aarke referred me to this general FAQ on SodaStream’s website. I contacted SodaStream for confirmation or comment but have yet to hear back.
I combed through all the Aarke reviews I could find and found no similar incidents. Jittery as I was, I decided to take the brand’s word for it and try the machine with a different CO2 canister. I didn’t experience any noticeable leaking with the second canister. I also ordered a second Aarke carbonator to be certain, and it has functioned without issue.
My takeaway: While it’s impossible to be certain that the leaking and subsequent explosion were caused by the canister and not the carbonator, most of the evidence points to a faulty CO2 can and not the Aarke machine itself.
So how does the Aarke work with a functional canister?
The Aarke does its job and carbonates any canister of water I twist on to it, but does so with a bit less consistency than SodaStream counterparts. With a SodaStream, just about every time you push the lever, you’ll get a consistent release of gas into the water. I noticed with the Aarke there were times I’d press and hold the lever and it would release very little gas, while other times it would give the water a good blast of bubbles.
It’s an annoying but fairly innocuous issue, all things considered. Even after a meager output of gas, the next lever push or hold generally released enough gas to get some bubbles going.
SodaStream will give you a bit more precision
Because SodaStream released a more consistent output of CO2 into the water, it’s easier to control the carbonation level. You can still control gas levels with the Aarke but it might just take a bit more of your focus, a few seconds longer and a few more pumps to get to your desired bubbliness.
The final verdict: A sight for sore eyes, but at a cost
With SodaStream’s $160 Aqua Fizz and Aarke’s $219 carbonator both looking up at me, Aarke is a decisive winner in terms of pure aesthetics. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that Aarke’s machine is roughly $90 more when you factor in the CO2 canister (SodaStreams come with a CO2 bottle while the Aarke does not).
Were they more similarly matched in price, the Aarke would get a more full-throated endorsement, even with the performance inequities. That said, I still prefer it over any other machine I’ve used. Admittedly, $250 (total cost with CO2 canister) is a whole lot of money for a machine with simple mechanics and no electronic elements. But if design is important to you, the Aarke works well, feels sturdy and will look better than any other carbonator in the field when it’s sitting atop your counter.
Other premium carbonators to consider
If the goal is a sturdier, better-looking carbonator than the cheap-ish, mostly plastic models then you have some options.
$160 Aqua Fizz which has a metal carafe in which the glass bottles sit, but is still mostly plastic. I tested the Aqua Fizz alongside the Aarke. It’s definitely a step up from SodaStream’s other models but still doesn’t have quite the bold look of an Aarke. The brand also just released the , which has a slightly retro look. But, again, it is mostly made from plastic.makes the aforementioned
I wrote this handyin case you’d like to learn more.
The AWA Carbonator is a newly launched competitor with a sleeker matte plastic finish and chrome accents. We have yet to test this model. It retails online for $99 (CO2 not included).
Theis another model that has an interesting look (think Voss Water bottle). While we have yet to test this one, it does not fare particularly well in the buyer reviews we found.