Cuisinart Sparkling Beverage Maker: Great Machine, With A Catch

Soda is great- but it can be a pain to haul up five flights of stairs from a store a few subway stops away, and difficult to store in a small apartment. Plus, it goes flat fairly quickly. Plain sparkling water can be expensive too- so it's nice that modern technology has given us a way to carbonate at home, easily. We've looked at several home soda makers in the past, but today's is a bit different.

Cuisinart's Sparkling Beverage Maker has that classic Cuisinart look and feel- a sleek design with metal accents. The brand has established a reputation for quality- one we've commented on several times in the past, most recently with their nifty wine cellar. And it's easy to see why they decided to create their own model and enter this market- it's a natural fit for the line. Their looks good on a counter, and we're happy to report that it is easy to setup- simply install the included cartridge and you're all set. It's small enough to fit most anywhere as well, or store when not in use.

As with most similar machines, it's fairly simple to use, and fast as well- simply fill the one-liter BPA free bottle with plain water and push down the handle. In less than 15 seconds, you've got fizzy sparkling water, and some control over the level of carbonation. Cuisinart has started offering mixes and concentrate flavors, though they are hard to find and somewhat limited. But you can find other options easily, whether you want to use essences or create your own syrups (which is quite simple).

However, there's a serious downside to the system. The included cartridge will let you get only about 12 liters/bottles or so before needing a refill. And here's the rub- the main competitor, SodaStream, has done a pretty good job of giving options for refills, allowing you to bring an empty cartridge into many retail outlets and exchange them easily. Cuisinart's cartridges are harder to find, and more expensive as well, running $60 for a pair of the larger ones. It's always nice to see competition, and Cuisinart is an obvious choice to offer a strong alternative. We look forward to wider availability of the system and lower prices on the crucial CO2, but for the moment, it's a bit of a tough sell.

The Sparkling Beverage Maker itself is great, and is available in either black, red, or silver for a reasonable $80.

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