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How Is Soda Water Made?

Many restaurants use small, mechanical carbonators to save money on soda water.
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  • Last Modified Date: 31 August 2014
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Soda water, also known as seltzer or carbonated water, was for many years prized for its supposed health benefits. Until the discovery of the technology enabling its manufacture, soda water was available only from natural soda springs, and it was often bottled and used to produce a variety of health tonics. These tonics were the origin of many modern soft drinks. Although it is no longer believed to provide health benefits, it still is a popular and refreshing beverage that can be manufactured on either a small scale or large scale.

The manufacturing process used for producing the soda water that is used in commercial soft drinks is conducted on an industrial scale. This process, known as carbonation, is accomplished by first lowering the temperature of tap water to 46 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius). A strongly basic and water-soluble source of bicarbonate such as such as sodium or potassium bicarbonate is then added to the chilled water to raise its potenz hydrogen (pH) level and to compensate for the sour flavor of carbonic acid. The solution is subjected to pressurization with carbon dioxide gas, which dissolves in the water to form carbonic acid, again lowering the solution's pH. The carbonated water is then added to a tightly sealed container pressurized to 120 pounds per square inch (830 kPa) with further carbon dioxide gas to keep the water carbonated.

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In commercial establishments that use a great deal of soda water when making mixed drinks, the cost of purchasing it pre-made can be prohibitive. Soda water can instead be produced on-site using small, mechanical carbonators. These machines pre-pressurize tap water with carbon dioxide. This pressurized water is kept in corrosion-resistant stainless steel barrels, preventing the acidity of the carbonic acid from damaging the containers. To produce fresh soda water, carbon dioxide merely needs to be injected into the pressurized water.

Although the use of home carbonators declined in the late 20th century, there was a resurgence in the early 21st century in interest in do-it-yourself carbonation for making mixed drinks by home bartending aficionados. Although this is in part because of the elevation of owning retro home appliances in modern fashion, some people prefer the natural tartness of carbonated water that is produced without the addition of chemicals to reduce its acidity. Home soda water can be produced using soda siphons and single-use pressurized carbon dioxide gas cartridges, which can be found easily online through specialty suppliers.

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anon278190
Post 9

I've been drinking whole foods sparkling water for a while, but lately, I have been loosing my hair, have headaches and a few weeks ago, I had a seizure! The more research that I do, the more I am finding out that its probably the sparkling water that is causing these issues. The ingredients used to say - natural mineral water, quinine. Now the ingredients say: natural mineral water, carbon dioxide. I guess Ted Turner's dream of eliminating the population is being executed through his water! (as he is one of the majority shareholders). Anyone else have weird symptoms?

SZapper
Post 8

@JaneAir - Yes, I agree with you. Drinking soda all the time isn't a good idea! I was a waitress in high school and I was always amazed at how much soda the average person drank. Sometimes I would refill a persons drink two or three times during the meal! That is just excessive.

When I was working at the restaurant, I did get some exposure to on-site carbonation. In fact, I remember vividly that our machine broke once and we couldn't serve any soda for about two days. The way people reacted, you would have thought the world was ending!

JaneAir
Post 7

I think it's pretty funny people actually used to think that there was some kind of health benefit to drinking soda water! It kind of makes me wonder what things we think are healthy today that actually don't do a darn thing for our health!

It's also especially ironic that a lot of our modern soda's are descended from health drinks. Meanwhile, soda is one of the worst things you can drink! I think this whole soda water fallacy might have seriously been the downfall of the health of our nation.

andee
Post 6

I bought a soda water machine that my kids just love. This is great to use any time of the year, but is perfect to take on the boat.

This machine doesn't require any electricity or batteries and makes sparkling water in just a few seconds.

If you want to be creative you can also buy other syrups and ingredients to make different flavors.

It comes with a carbonating bottle that lasts a long time. Once that is empty, you can get it cleaned and refilled or just buy a new one.

This is so easy and fun and the kids like to make their own drinks with it.

SarahSon
Post 5

I had really never given much thought to how soda water was made. I just know that I love that carbonation.

There is nothing like taking a drink of something, expecting it to have some carbonation, and it just tastes flat. What a disappointment!

I like a lot of the fruit flavored soda waters you can get too. Since there aren't many calories in soda water you can get some sweet fruit flavor with some carbonation for a low calorie drink.

Even though it might not be all that good for you, it has to be better than drinking a lot of soda pop that has high fructose corn syrup in it.

ysmina
Post 4

Wow, making soda water for soft drinks is a lot more complicated than I thought. I thought that the soda was prepared and then added carbon dioxide gas and that's it!

I had no idea that multiple steps are necessary to balance out the pH level. I can't imagine doing this at home to make my own soda. I see advertisements on TV for home soda machines all the time and they make it look so easy! Unless they've come up with a new technology that balances the pH level of the soda on it's own, I don't think homemade sodas would come out too well. I think I'd rather buy it ready made.

burcidi
Post 3

I don't like manufactured carbonated waters. I think the best carbonated water is the natural one from springs. Not only does it taste better, but it has a lot of natural minerals that it picks up from the earth. I know that some carbonated water manufacturers put minerals in their sodas, but I don't think those synthetic ones are as healthy as the natural ones that regular soda springs have.

I don't why but I also think that manufactured carbonated water is much stronger and more acidic than the natural ones. I accidentally bought a bottle of fruit flavored carbonated water thinking it's natural and it literally hurt my stomach. I guess the acids that this brand was using in their soda was extremely strong.

MrsWinslow
Post 2

@robbie21 - Oh, you're so healthy! I also like to buy flavored sparkling waters and make beverages with them. And yes, there is juice in these beverages.

But there is also a generous portion of flavored rum! My favorite combination is cranberry, orange, and pineapple juices, plus mango flavored rum (which doesn't get the attention it deserves, but in my opinion is the most delicious of all the rums), topped off with lime seltzer.

I admit, there is probably more juice and rum than seltzer, but adding the seltzer adds some nice fizz and volume without adding any more calories. Lightens it up a bit. Especially good with Mexican food!

robbie21
Post 1

Seltzer may not cure what ails you, but it can still have health benefits because it is calorie-free.

I like to have a big, fizzy drink sometimes, but I don't want the calories of soda or the aftertaste (and questionable long-term effects) of the artificial sweeteners in diet soda.

My solution is to take just a little bit of one hundred percent juice (I like cranberry, myself) and add flavored seltzer to it. (I like to use lime.)

Yeah, juice is mostly empty calories, but at least it has vitamin C, and you're only using a little bit. And none of the weird ingredients in commercial soda. Then the seltzer fizzes it up. It makes a much lighter taste than most people are used to, but it's quite delicious, especially once you get used to it.

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