On occasion, I like to share useful information about a product I have tried and so today I will do a product review of the Soda Stream system. I bought one, the Jet model, from HSN after hemming and hawing over the purchase for a month or so. The Home Shopping Network had a decent deal, $79.95 with free shipping, for the Jet model which came with both a regular and diet cola syrup bottles, plus a total of 18, 1-liter samplers and two half-liter bottles in addition to the standard one-liter bottle. Imagine my surprise when the lovely Angela Tantaros, one of the regular hosts on the Fox News Channel hit show, ′The Five′, raved about getting a Soda Stream for Christmas.

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I know, today is the Presidential Inauguration Day 2013 and I should be writing something about Barack Obama taking the oath again. Funny that this also happens to be a ′Blue Monday′, considered the most depressing day of the year! So I prefer to stay positive and write about the Soda Stream.

First, you might wonder why bothering to get one? Well, think about this. It has been a long day of post-Apocalypse activity. You′ve just spent the last 12 hours or so defending your doomsday bunker from angry mobs, rioters and general barbarians with your ′assault weapon′ and those terrific 30-round ammunition magazines. Just like those Asian-Americans had to do defending their businesses during the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles a few years ago. Just think how those business owners would feel had they been limited to just 10-round clips!

So you are tired and thirsty and want something cool and fun to drink. What could be better than a nice, cold soda pop? But space is always a premium in a doomsday bunker, so stockpiling cases of cola may not be an option. On the other hand, storing a bunch of bottles of flavor syrups and extra CO2 cans does not take up very much room. Hence, the Soda Stream is an ideal item for any well equipped doomsday bunker. Whether you are concerned about chaos following a collapse of the U.S. dollar, or some extraordinary event like a solar flare knocking out the electrical grid, a Soda Stream soda maker is perfect for your needs.

To begin with, it does not require an electricity to operate! You can store the maker, as well as the syrups just about anywhere. The actual maker is a fairly simple device. Just remove the back cover, screw in a can of CO2, carbon-dioxide, and replace the cover. All of the models use the standard sized 60-liter CO2 canister. Some models, like my Jet, may also use a larger, 130-liter can. You are now ready for some soda making fun!

The syrups come in a wide range of flavors, about 80 are available. Each bottle will produce about 12 liters of soda and cost between $5 to $10. Your basic flavors, like cola, orange, grape, lemon-lime and root beer come in both regular and diet and run about $5 each. Soda Stream also makes a variety of all-natural syrups which cost about $10 for each 12-liter bottle. They also have deals with several ′name-brand′ companies, like Kool-Aid, Country Time and Crystal Light and offer various flavors of their products. Soda Stream also produces a number of ′energy-drink′ flavors, plus their own substitutes for products like Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper, calling them Fountain Mist and Dr. Pete. If you avoid caffeine as I do, you′ll be happy to know that they do make a diet cola with no caffeine that is quite tasty.

Making the soda itself is lots of fun. Reminds me of my mad scientist days! Just fill one of the reusable bottles with water up to the designated mark, tilt the machine′s carbonator and screw the bottle securing into place and return to an upright position. You next push the big button on the top of the maker, sending a stream of CO2 into the bottle. For a one-liter bottle, you′ll need to give it at least two, if not three or four shots, depending on how fizzy you like your soda pop. You can more or less judge the amount by when the machine starts to ′talk-back′ with excess gas. Like any enterprise involving compressed gases, when you hear that you need to stop.

After unscrewing the bottle of carbonated water, it is time to add your syrup. This is when a steady hand comes into play. First, each syrup bottle cap is a measuring cup and is marked inside for level amounts depending on whether you are making one-liter or a half-liter of soda. Once the measuring is done, you must slowly and carefully pour the syrup into the bottle. This is the tricky part! Especially if you gave you bottle of water a maximum of carbonation. Pour the syrup in too fast and it will fizz quickly, sending a foamy mountain of stickiness out of the top and all over the bottle. I recommend doing this task over a sink.

Displacement is a key factor here. Especially with the all-natural flavor syrups, which tend to require more volume of syrup per bottle. I tried the Soda Stream All-Natural Root Beer, and it is very delicious! But it also requires you to have a bit less water than normal. Even then, it becomes extremely foamy and fizzy if you pour the syrup in too quickly. The ′normal′ flavors are a bit more user-friendly in this regard, but you still have to exercise some caution as you pour. Once done adding your syrup, you replace the bottle cap and screw it tightly down. You then give the bottle a bit of a shake, mixing the syrup with the water. Let it sit for about a minute and carefully unscrew the cap and you are ready to pour into a glass.

The bottles themselves require very little clean up, but they are not machine washable. Do not use hot water for cleaning, just lukewarm. About two or three good fillings are enough to wash out any residues. I usually refill the bottles after cleaning and store them in the refrigerator before making another batch of soda. Extra bottles are available and run about $5 each for one-liter sizes. Some models allow for using a fancy, glass bottle that Soda Stream offers. They also sell extra caps and other items, including spare CO2 canisters. These canisters can be refilled and many retail outlets offer exchanges. For example, a 60-liter can already charged costs about $30 and you can get it recharged at WalMart for $14.95.

The advantages of the Soda Stream system are space and flexibility. Storing the syrup bottles takes very little room and they have a long shelf life. With a wide range of flavors, you are bound to find one that you will quickly enjoy and want more of. One of my personal favorites is the Soda Stream brand Cranberry and Raspberry syrup. It is just simply out of this world! Another great one is the Crystal Light Fruit Punch. Being something of a connoisseur of root beer, both their regular diet flavors are okay, but their All-Natural Root Beer is dynamite! It has a fantastic, hearty ′bite′ to it as well as a good ′head′ of foam. Toss in a scoop or two of some good vanilla ice cream and you′ve got yourself one of the best root beer floats you′ll ever have! Needless to say, the Soda Stream system allows you to ′play′ with the amounts of carbonation, as well as the flavor profile. You can lighten the flavor by adding less syrup or add extra for something tastier. You can even mix and match syrups and invent your own creations.

If there are any drawbacks it is cost and possibly convenience. I say possibly because on the one hand, you have to actually make a bottle of pop instead of just grabbing one from the fridge. But, one the other hand, you do not have to run out to a store provided that you have syrup and a gas canister handy. Plus, there is no lugging about those pop bottles from a grocery store and dealing with returning the empties. The cost factor is a bit trickier. Once you have made your initial investments in syrups and at least one spare CO2 can, then it will probably take close to a year before you actually start coming out ahead as opposed to buying soda pop at the store. If you have a big enough family and go through a lot of pop, then naturally you′ll start saving money sooner. If you are using regular flavor syrups, which cost about $5 for making 12-liters or 33 cans worth of pop, and a recharged CO2 canister for $14.95, then your cost per liter will be about $0.65. So the economics are a bit shaky on this depending where you live and how much you normally pay for soda.

Still, I really like my Soda Stream Jet soda maker. I consider it a good investment as it eliminates the need for buying soda pop on a regular basis and dealing with a pile of empty bottles and cans. I have not tried all of the available flavors, which is being expanded all the time, but those which I have tried were all very good. Their Fountain Mist flavor I found to be a bit mellower and have a less ′mineral′ after-taste than Pepsi′s Mountain Dew. If you are a fan of root beer like me, then I cannot say enough to praise the All-Natural Root Beer option from Soda Stream. I hope you found this product review of the Soda Stream system useful.