The SodaStream Crystal home drinks maker has a very modern look, using stainless-steel-like silver and optional matte reds or blacks over its exterior rear plastic body. It will fit into a modern kitchen effortlessly.
The rear of the SodaStream Crystal has a detachable back plate, removable with just one flick of a switch. Removing the back detachable plate from the unit gives access to screw in a carbonator bottle. This is where the compressed air is kept which is needed to create the carbonation. Applying new bottles is very easy, simply screw the old bottle out and the new one in. The included carbonator will last for around 60 litres which is equivalent to 170-200 aluminium cans. We can vouch to say that it does last this long and left over two years the gas didn't appear to escape. But once it’s out of gas, you can send it back to SodaStream and receive a discount on your next bottle. Saving money and the environment.
The front of the SodaStream Crystal has a latch which slides smoothly to the right. Once the latch is slid completely to the right, the top half of the front will rise and the chamber into which you place the glass bottle will tilt forwards. We really enjoyed the elegant design and it's definitely easier to use over the standard SodaStream screw-on bottle machines. The glass bottle included is also a nice touch, considering other models use plastic.
Once the glass bottle is filled with water up to the designated line, it’s ready to put into the SodaStream. To close the front chamber which is in the air, simply push down on it and the tilted bottom will come into place for you to slide the latch across and lock it up. We assume an air lock is created by doing this. The whole mechanism on the front makes everything so straightforward to use. Now the machine is all setup to carbonate the water. To do this a large button is placed on top of the unit. Press it until a pop sound emerges. We repeat this process for maximum carbonation.
Something to note about all this is the fact that no electricity is needed, meaning you could technically take it anywhere. Once carbonated the bottle is ready to be removed and then the SodaStream flavour can be added. Each SodaStream flavour bottle has a cap on it which is used to measure how much syrup to either add to an entire bottle or alternatively simply a glass. To get the favour well spread throughout the liquid if poured into the bottle, we found it best to put the supplied top on the bottle and roll the liquid around *NOT SHAKING. Cordials and the like will obviously work too. Essentially this is fizzy water, so be creative. But one thing we found you can't do is to pour syrup or cordial into the bottle and add water, and then put into the Crystal and carbonate. A fizzy mess will quickly erupt if you do - be warned!
The SodaStream flavours are growing all the time. With mainstays like Coke and Dandelion & Burdock, all the flagship soda flavours are available in various countries and some are in diet form too. It appears the USA has the most choice, with one particular flavour we'd quite like to try which is called ’Fountain Mist’ a Mountain Dew equivalent. Here in the UK we have fifty plus flavours on the SodaStream website to choose from and each retails for around £3-6 a bottle and dramatic savings can be made when buying multiple flavours at once. Usually one bottle of syrup can make around 12 litres of drink, but this isn't consistently the case. On the grounds that 12 litres is created from a given SodaStream flavour, it will work out at around 50-60% cheaper than major branded carbonated drinks, but the supermarket own brands and obscure cheaper offerings can match and even undercut on a quantity vs quantity basis. However, the convenience and customisability available to adjust strength and degree of fizz that the SodaStream presents is unmatched by pre-bottled carbonated beverages.
Within the UK a range called ‘Clear’ is available, these are quite fruity flavours and contain natural ingredients, missing out artificial sweeteners like aspartame that are pretty much found in every other syrup flavour. This is great, and in the USA a range called ‘Sparkling Naturals’ is available, with lots of different flavours; this is basically the same as the UK Clear range, it being made naturally and avoiding artificial sweeteners. But this natural range includes drinks like Coke and Root Beer, flavours which would be more popular than the fruity ones available in the UK.
So at present a solid line up of flavours are available and hopefully more will quickly be added. So how does it all taste you ask? Well we haven't yet had chance to sample every flavour, but the ones in the photo we have tried. The Energy Drink flavour, which is essentially Red Bull, tastes like Red Bull except for its artificial sweetener after-taste. The Dandelion and Burdock also tastes true to the real thing. The ‘Clear’ range is notably tasty and refreshing, comparable to water drinks with 'hints' of flavour. The Apple flavour mimics Appletiser brilliantly. The Red Berry Mix was a surprising favourite at the studio, it's sweet and the fruity berry flavours offer a unique tasty drink, ideal for a refresh on hot days. All drinks we made were fizzy and kept their fizz for a long duration of time, possibly not as long as a shop bought soda, despite what SodaStream claim. You don’t have to drink a litre's worth of soda in the bottle all at once though. The top supplied will keep the fizz locked in. We kept some in the fridge for a whole day and the fizz was still there, just a tad flatter than before.
Overall the SodaStream Crystal is a very solid product, the design and construction is superb. We love that it’s very quick and easy to use. But at £129, more than double the £50 mark of a standard SodaStream machine, it seems like quite an investment. The cost savings wouldn't be as immediate in comparison to cheaper models, but those who drink a lot of soda and like stylish kitchen appliances may desire this model over the cheaper options.