The Seltzer Experiment

I like to think I buck the norms and pave my own path. At the end of the day my wife and I are millennials and with that I suppose some stereotypes are true. We are addicted to seltzer. Like most of you that share this affliction you likely tried a Sodastream at some point. After all the machine seems much cheaper than just buying seltzer in cans from the supermarket. After the Sodastream started to seem a little too expensive and annoying to change out the tiny canisters I figured that if this company is packaging such an easy concept that there must be a more  direct way.

From my research the cheapest way to get seltzer is to make it yourself,  but you have to get your gas supply at  your local gas supplier, a company like Airgas. 

There are quite a few levels you can take from here depending on how much work you want to put in up front. Our setup is pretty basic. It’s a 20lb CO2 tank attached to a regulator with removable caps that attach to 2L Pepsi or Coke bottles. Take a 2L of cold water, attach to tank, turn on, put in fridge. 

I’m interested to try the same concept with 5 gallon kegs that you then dispense from refrigerators modified with a beer tap. While a lot more up front work and cost this seems like a fun project that will still save money in the long run. Plus, how many people can say they have seltzer water on tap. 

If we are going strictly for cost savings then the 2L option we are currently using is going to be hard to beat. The upfront costs of the regulator and caps was right at $140. A tank exchange is $44 in my area and makes about 90 gallons of seltzer at our favorite carbonation rate. That’s the equivalent of 960 cans. 

Some quick math:
First tank –  $188 for 960 ‘cans’ or 20 cents a can
960 cans bought in bulk in actual cans (Walmart store brand)- $3.22/12 or 26 cents a can 

The insane thing is that there is no payback period on your investment. It starts paying off on the first tank! This math gets even better as our above example just amortized the entire cost of the operation in the first tank. This means that your second tank and onward will cost 4.5 cents a can equivalent.  Each additional cap for a 2L bottle is about $8.90 on Amazon (get the stainless steel ones, they’ll last years) so you can even add a 2L to your stockpile every 10 bottles and you’ll still come out way ahead. 

We have found that keeping two 2L’s loaded with CO2 and capped with one full 2L that hasn’t been gassed yet is the right amount in the fridge for two regular users. It’s so simple to gas one, but you need the water cold first so that’s why we refill one after use and just get it cold. We also recycle the bottles every 3-6 months and replace them with a fresh Coke (which should be included in the cost, you could ask friends or co-workers for their empty 2L’s and you’ll get more than you could ever want). Remember the expiration date on the bottle is as much for the Coke as it is for the bottle. I am currently researching some more permanent bottles but have yet to find anything I’m willing to try. 

From here I’ll be doing the experiment in my free time of locating a suitable size and cheap fridge along with the necessary parts to do the beer tap build. We are redoing our kitchen so this project is on hold until that’s done. Until then I strongly recommend getting yourself a tank, regulator and some caps. If you happen to find a good bottle that can be reused under 45lb of pressure then link it below.

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