spicy water

“Spicy” is how my children used to describe carbonated beverages.

In my house, seltzer is one of my pantry staples. Nothing fancy, just liter bottles of plain, storebrand fizzy water. I sometimes make cocktails with it, but more often than not, I simply pour a couple tablespoons of homecanned fruit juice into the bottom of a pint jar, fill it with ice, and then top it off with seltzer. It’s a good way to get fancy drink vibes without an excess of sugar, and it’s wonderfully refreshing. 


But I’ve always felt kinda bad because: all those plastic bottles. Even though we reuse some of them as water bottles, most of them are a one-time use product. And I wasn’t too keen on the cost of the seltzer, either. It was usually only about $1.29 a liter, but that adds up. Plus, it’s water, something I can drink for (almost) free straight from the tap. 

I did look into getting my own carbonator, but the cartridges are expensive and seemed like such a hassle, having to return them and get fresh ones so frequently. They’d save on bottles, yes, but cost? Not so much. 

But the other week when I was visiting a new-to-me friend I’d met at Ultimate, she mentioned that they had a carbonator that her husband had “hacked” to hook up to a whole freaking tank of CO2 and I was like, YOU ARE MY PEOPLE. 

I wasted no time. I ordered a carbonator ($110) and an adaptor thingy ($32), and then I drove to Airgas and purchased a five-pound tank of CO2: the tank itself cost about $90 and then the CO2 was $30 on top of that. 

It felt like a big investment — $263.98 is a big investment! — but now that it’s all set up, it feels perfectly reasonable. It costs $30 to refill the tank and each tank should last for about 100 liters* of carbonation, somewhere between six months to a year, depending on our guzzling speed. That’s a freakin’ lot of spicy water.

cold beverages carbonate better; thus the ice

Plus, just think of all those plastic bottles I won’t be buying. 

We put the carbonator on the coffee stand (which is rapidly getting overrun with all my beverage paraphernalia — electric kettle, coffee pot, coffee grinder, and now the carbonator), and we tucked the tank of CO2, like a taller, skinnier fire extinguisher, down in the corner between the wall and the shelf. 

Having carbonated water at my fingertips is a never-ending source of joy for me. It’s a simple way to treat myself, and I think our homemade carbonated water tastes different — better — than the store-bought. Sweeter, perhaps. 

But maybe that’s just my happiness talking.

*Someone on reddit said that they carbonated 157 2-liter bottles from a 5-pound tank which comes down to about 10 cents per liter for CO2. 


P.S. WARNING: If experimenting with carbonating iced coffee concentrate, make sure to FULLY release the pressure before unscrewing the cap.

Because if you don’t, you might spend a good hour of your afternoon scrubbing your carpets, floors, fridge, stove, computer, cheese press, cheese, ceiling, clothes, notebooks, phone, chairs, etc, etc, etc.

What are my thoughts on carbonated coffee, you ask?

I do not like it. Not at all.

But maybe that’s just the rage talking.

This same time, years previous: civil rights learning tour: montgomery and selma, eat more spinach!, milk, the coronavirus diaries: week nine, our sweet Francie, settling in, the quotidian (5.8.17), Moroccan carrot and chickpea salad.


  • Susie Rayburn

    So, our carbonator thing specifically says not to carbonate anything but WATER. Maybe that’s why?

  • Thrift at Home

    Oy vey, I would be rageful about that coffee explosion also!!!!

    We adore our seltzer maker! I signed up to exchange CO2 cylinders through the mail – from our front door! – and while I didn’t do the cost breakdown, the convenience and avoidance of plastic bottles suits me great.

    Something delicious and super-refreshing on a hot day: half seltzer, half kefir.

    Another favorite is shrub. When the berries start coming in, I mix up berries, vinegar, and sugar. It keeps at room temp and I just splash a little in a glass with seltzer. My family does not like, AT ALL, the commercial flavoring drops which surprised me.

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