DIY Home Carbonation
I was super frustrated at the grocery store! As I was unhappily lugging heavy bottles of carbonated water at the grocery store I was thinking how much energy it takes to ship and move such a simple product and what was I really paying for?! I knew there had to be a better system! A little research, some assembly and voilà; a DIY home carbonation system (sparkling water maker). I have happily had this running for almost 4 years now and it’s a staple in our home. It has saved me at the least $10/week, so that could be a couple flights to Europe! (I better go pack!)
Anyways… Here’s the setup: (since I did not want to buy Sodastream or Drinkmate cylinders)
Being in Canada I bought all my supplies from here
Home Carbonation Setup:
- CO2 (carbon dioxide) 5lb Tank (here or here) or 10 lb (here) *
- A Regulator (here) or here *
- 4′ of hose (mine) and Ball Lock Disconnect (here) or here *
- Carbonation Cap (here) * or here
*or buy as a kit without a tank here
This is the regulator, which controls the amount of (pressure of) CO2 gas exiting the outlet hose (red hose) and shows the pressure in the tank. The tank has a main shut off valve on top and this regulator has a shutoff valve to the exiting hose (red lever).
The silver valve with the ring is the exhaust valve. It is an easy way to empty any pressure in the regulator by pulling the ring. I am not sure if it is really necessary, as I’ve never used it.
The gauge on the left is the tank pressure, (which is either up or empty, apparently CO2 does not diminish) The top gauge is the gauge that allows adjusting for the amount of CO2 forced into your bottle via the hose. This one goes as high as 60PSI, of which I have dialled the knob in the front to 25PSI. I find that gives me quite adequate bubbly-ness but there may be higher levels of carbonation.
This is the Ball Lock Disconnect. It is attached to the end of the red hose with a screw clamp and allows connection to the carbonation cap (below) which is similar to the quick-connectors you have on your garden hose.
Yes, I am a woman, but I can understand how these things work, without perhaps all the technical terms. If it needs assembly make sure to tightly attach the hose with some ring clamps found at most hardware stores.
To be able to use standard soda bottles, you will need a carbonation cap. It snaps into the Ball Lock Disconnect to allow the gas into the bottle and screw onto bottle. This is a well made and sturdy piece of hardware. I have a couple of these so that I can have more than one bottle of water chilling at a time. Mine is now almost 4 years old.
At first I was quite nervous about the pressure, but once I had filled a couple of bottles, I became more comfortable. You may want to start with a lower pressure. Do still be cautious and careful to use undamaged bottles and keep the system away from children. I have seen people drop bottles from the shelves in the grocery store with no bursting so I knew these bottles can handle a fair amount of pressure. I don’t use as high a pressure as the manufacturers do.
Step by Step Carbonation
Fill your bottle 3/4 full (I use tap water) and squeeze out the excess air and seal with the carbonation cap. Chill well in the fridge as water (or other juice) accepts carbonation better when very cold. I have read that you can partially freeze the bottle as well, but the fridge cold is enough for me, & I carbonate a few liters of water every day.
Attach the stainless steel Carbonation Cap to the Ball Lock Disconnect, by pushing on. (I pull back the end ring to make it a bit easier and do this upside down. This allows the gas to bubble up through the liquid (water) once valves are opened.
Open Main Valve on top of tank
Open small red shut-off valve on regulator. (gas will immediately inflate bottle if pressure gauge is set)
Adjust pressure regulator gauge (I use 25 PSI) if first time, or leave as prior set.
Shake bottle, shake, shake ,shake, shake, shake, shake, and shake some more. Side to side or up and down. You will see more bubbles coming into bottle which means the liquid is absorbing more gas. I think I shake for about 15-30 seconds.
Shut off valve, and close main tank valve. Disconnect the carbonation cap by pulling the end ring back similar to garden hose connector.
Enjoy, or chill some more to allow it to absorb more of the gas. Add flavor to make fizzy drinks.
Make yourself a drink:
You can flavour prior to carbonation or after. I usually add flavourings afterward or you can buy flavour syrups as well. My tank is a 10lb and lasts me about 1 year. For filling I go to a fire extinguisher refill depot. You can check your local area for gas suppliers. It costs me about $15 for a fill. Once set up, it really has ease of use.
There are no added salts or chemicals but still has the refreshing bubbles. It’s a great way to break the diet pop habit and make cocktails! Plain and simple. ‘No truck is expending gas to haul huge tonnage of bottles of bubbly around, using less plastic bottles, and some excess $$ for other projects.
I keep mine in a pantry room as it would take much counter space; it is the best soda maker. Compare costs to sodastream fizzi one touch or other systems; calculate the small canisters needed to buy; my home carbonation system is waaaay cheaper than store-bought seltzer, beverages.
UPDATE (2022) I still use this system, all’s good The tank was re-certified recently. If you would like more information: here, here, here, or here. Share your setup if you have been BIY’ing (bubbling you own)!
The “exhaust” valve is actually a pressure relief valve, it is a very important safety feature, prevents over pressure on the regulator or tank. The reason why the pressure is either full or nothing, is because the CO2 is in liquid state, as long as there is liquid CO2 the pressure will remain constant. Once the liquid boils off completely, the pressure will drop rapidly.
Also, please double check you have no leaks, as CO2 is odorless and an asphyxiant, a small leak can easily displace a small room worth of air quite fast.
Everything McMuffin said is true. Just wanted to add a bit more info on carbon dioxide gas. It is a liquifiable compressed gas just like propane, butane, LPG, etc. So that means your tank of CO2 has both liquid CO2 and gaseous CO2 inside of it at any given moment. There are specific uses which require dispensing only the liquified CO2. This is accomplished by having a dip tube installed on the tanks main valve.
For making your own carbonated beverages at home, you dont want a dip tube installed on the tank you purchase. Always a good idea to clarify with the staff at your local gas refill facility or wherever your purchasing your tank from.
Finally, YES CO2 is an asphyxiant! It will displace the normal air we breath in a room if a leak was to occur. Carbon dioxide gas is heavier than air, so it will hug the ground and the lowest places first inside of any confined space. I’m lucky to be alive today because I had an incident many years ago where I had just picked up a full tank of CO2 from the local gas yard. I had the tank in my bedroom where I also built personal projects and what not. This time I had built a homemade CO2 LASER, and needed a slow steady supply of CO2 to pump through the lasing cavity. I had hooked up the tank to my setup and cracked the main valve then adjusted the regulator only to test and make sure the gas delivery system would function properly. Well a call or something distracted me and I left the room for a brief moment. When I went back to my room I decided to start reading and do some studying for my college classes. And yes, I had completely forgotten about the gentle flow of CO2 gas still passing through my laser tube and venting off into my bedroom. It didnt take long before I began to feel sleepy and I eventually took a break from studying and layed down on my bed to rest briefly. Everything after that is really just a blur. Because the only thing I remember was waking up like 14 hours later with an absolutely horrendous headache! I felt very weak and lethargic as it took me a good while to fully wake and sit up. Even then my mind still felt clouded and my headache was pounding like crazy. I managed to finally stand up and look around, that is when my eyes focused on the CO2 tank and I suddenly remembered that I had left the valve open with gas flowing. I walked over and took a look at the gauges on the regulator, both tank pressure and supply pressure read ZERO! Nothing, the tank was empty and I realized then what must’ve happened. That experience renewed my level of cautionary awareness! My advice to everyone thinking about building their own carbonation setup or for those who already have and been using their system IS TO NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POTENTIAL LETHALITY THAT CO2 IS CAPABLE OF DELIVERING! Sure its relatively benign when we consume our favorite bubbly drinks. But if allowed to begin venting off into a confined area, it can create a potenially deadly situation for someone! Just be careful and DO check your setup for leaks periodically…