SodaStream have built a surprisingly enduring business out of selling machines that puff carbon dioxide into water. And why not? It's both a good way to save money on – and reduce the environmental impact of – buying bottled sparkling water, and of course it is also great fun to 'get busy with the fizzy.' That's a 1980s SodaStream slogan that they should totally bring back.
One drawback with SodaStream machines of yore is that they took 'affordability' to a logical conclusion by often seeming plasticky, shoddy and downright cheap. Their machines are keenly priced and always do the job they're intended to, but they have tended not to give a very premium feel to the act of adding fizz to your water.
That is changing now though, with the release of SodaStream Art. This is still made of plastic but its glossier, less erm… plasticky plastic. Rather than a crap button that is unsatisfying to press, there is now a nifty lever. And as well as Pepsi and 7 Up syrups to mix with your freshly-carbonated water there are now more sophisticated offerings such as Kombucha.
The only slight problem is that while SodaStream has gone at least somewhat upmarket with the Art, its posh, Scandinavian rival Aarke has come out with a device so swanky and premium in price that it makes the Art look positively poverty-stricken. I'll come on to that shortly, though. This exactly mirrors the last time I wrote about SodaStream, when they sent me a cheap machine and Aarke sent me an expensive one. History repeats, as now SodaStream has sent me a nice, more expensive machine… and Aarke has sent me an even pricier one that is absolutely resplendent in an all-metal body, and even boasts 'one-handed operation', no less!
The Aarke may boast one-handed operation and a very attractive glass bottle that is dishwasher proof – most SodaStream bottles are not. However, SodaStream has a few new tricks up its sleeve for the Art. Foremost among this is a new CO2 canister design that simply slots into place, rather than needing to be screwed in. This is a very welcome step forward although admittedly, screwing in a the old-style COs canisters wasn't all that arduous.
Also, while the Art's reusable bottle is plastic rather than glass, SodaStream has managed to make it dishwasher-proof. While it won't last as long as Aarke's glass alternative with careful use, it is also more resistant to being dropped, of course. A replacement bottle from Aarke will set you back £24, so be careful now.
I've got to say that, while SodaStream has made a big step forward in looks and design quality with the Art, it is absolutely blown away by the Aarke Carbonator Pro. However, both machines do the exact same thing and the Aarke machine is almost double the price of its SodaStream rival.
The SodaStream bottle clicks satisfyingly into place, and then the lever dispenses the CO2 to fizz your water up. With the Aarke machine, you place your bottle on the plinth and push down the entire tube arrangement on top, until it locks very satisfyingly into place. A few short presses of the button on top then carbonates your water. You do have to screw in your carbon dioxide canister with the Carbonator Pro, however. I bet Aarke are kicking themselves for not upgrading to the new push-in ones instead, but screwing in the supplied can was very easy so I can't complain.
Competition and choice are good for any market but how far can your love for fizzy water – and your wallet – stretch? The choice is yours.