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Old 07-02-2005, 12:37 AM
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Mark Thorson wrote:
I've been thinking about buying a carbonator, for experiments in
making carbonated stuff. The main candidates a

a) Seltzer-bottle type carbonators which use 8 gram CO2 cartidges --
disadvantages are low carbonation, and the cost of cartridges. About
$45 for the bottle from iSi. A big disadvantage is that the bottle
would be difficult to clean if I put something in it that left a
residue, like something viscous.

b) Tap-A-Draft -- this system uses two 8 gram CO2 cartridges, costs
about $55 for a basic system. It's not clear to me how good the
carbonation is. One guy said he had two of these units explode.
They look rather cheaply made. Cleaning is also a concern here, but
the carbonation is done in interchangable plastic bottles, with new
bottles costing about $6, so I could always just replace them if my
experiments in carbonated turkey gravy or mint jelly turned out
badly.

c) Soda Club Fountain Jet or Edition 1 -- I can't tell what the
differences are between these models, and the manufacturer's website
(http://www.sodaclubusa.com/) seems to require that to get any
information you must run Internet Explorer, accept cookies, execute
Java, and have your network security setting at "**** Me". From
another site, I gather that the basic unit costs about $100, not
including the rental of the CO2 cylinder, which is a large refillable
industrial-size bottle. This carbonator is said to provide high
carbonation, like commercially bottled soda. The much lower cost of
the CO2 would make this the unit of choice for someone who's got lots
of kids drinking lots of soda. (You could make soda for just pennies
a bottle.) For me, just for experimenting purposes, the hassle factor
of exchanging CO2 cylinders would be a disadvantage, but the higher
level of carbonation might be an important feature. Plastic bottles
are interchangable for this unit, too.

d) Industrial carbonators available on eBay -- lots of used units are
offered there, but I haven't a clue how to hook them up or use them,
or even if they would be suitable for my purposes. Some appear to be
taken out of systems for vending machine dispensers or restaurant/bar
taps. I can't even be sure if a unit comes with all the parts I need
to put it in operation. If a book was available describing these
systems, I might be more interested, but they seem to have all of the
disadvantages of (c), with no particular advantage other than some
appear capable of producing large capacity.

Anyone have any comments on choosing a carbonator?


As I described in another thread yesterday, I use a bulk CO2 tank for
carbonating drinks. I have a 10# tank, but a 20# is more economical.
You can buy your own tank, and for 5, 10, or 20 pounders you just
exchange them for a full tank at the welding supply store or fire
extinguisher store. A big part of the price of a refill is the labor or
hook-up fee or something -- so there's only a few dollars difference
between filling a 5, 10, or 20. The gas is food grade. I think I paid
$12 for ten pounds about a year ago. Twenty pounds would have been $15,
IIRC and 5 pounds was about $10.

You also need an adjustable pressure regulator (not a regulated flow
meter.) I had a spare oxygen regulator already, so I converted it to
CO2 by changing its inlet connector. For high volume use, you would
need a real CO2 regulator (so it doesn't freeze up), but for very low
flow rates or intermittant use, any high pressure gas regulator will
work. CO2 is pressurized to about 900 psi in the tank, and O2 or N2
regulators will handle over 2000 psi. Just make sure the tank is
upright so you don't draw liquid, which can ruin the regulator.

I carbonate fruit juice or Kool-aid or water in plastic 1-litre or
2-litre soda bottles. I have a surplus 5 gallon corneleus keg, but I
haven't tried it yet. Someday I may use it to carbonate 5 gallons of
root beer for a church picnic or something and have it on tap.

Buy a tire stem for a high-pressure truck tire; they are metal
and you can attach one to a plastic soda bottle lid. Make a gas line
with a tire chuck on the end. Set the regulator to about 50 pounds,
screw the cap on a bottle of cold juice or water, and pressurize it like
you were filling a tire. Shake the bottle to encourage the gas to go
into solution, and give it another shot of CO2. Give it another shake,
let it rest a minute or two, and you have just carbonated a bottle of
whatever. Take the tire-valve lid off and screw on a regular lid, and
your carbonator is ready to do the next bottle.

Don't try to carbonate lowfat milk. Just don't. Trust me. ;-)

Best regards,
Bob