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Refilling hacked Sodastream cartridge near Berkeley

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We just started avidly using Sodastream and realized that you go through a cartridge for 60L pretty rapidly when you're carbonating multiple bottles a day. I looked up replacement cartridges and saw that it's $15 to exchange an empty cartridge for one filled with CO2 which seemed exorbitant.

More OCD research revealed that lots of people buy an adapter (~$20 on Ebay) to the Sodastream cartridges that connect to paintball CO2 cartridges which also have the added benefit of lasting much longer, but it seems difficult to find a place to refill these cartridges. Sports Authority has horrible reviews about their CO2 refill service on Yelp and the paintball cartridges seem too small to take to an industrial welding shop. Any thoughts on how best to get them refilled around Berkeley?

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  1. I would be wary of refilling Sodastream canisters from welding shops and sporting goods stores, as their gas isn't required to be food grade. You may have better luck with a homebrew store or commercial CO2 company that fills large tanks for soda fountains.

    3 Replies
    1. re: carnicero

      I had read that 'food grade' was a marketing scheme, but it looks like you need to avoid benzene and it's best to source stuff from a brewing supply shop...?

      http://thebrewingnetwork.com/BN-Army-...

      1. re: sunny

        Benzene is nasty stuff - don't screw around with it. Nitrogen is safe and most non-benzene hydrocarbons are not as toxic/carcinogenic, but you're unlikely to get an exact listing of all the impurities from whoever supplies it to you.

        It looks like SF Brewcraft will do this, though it's a schlep across the bay.

        1. re: bigwheel042

          In Berkeley, you can try the Oak Barrel on San Pablo. Also, morebeer in Concord lists CO2 tanks on their website.

    2. We've filled up with Sports Authority in the past (first in the East Bay, now in LA), and as long as you call the day of and make sure they have someone in the store who can do it (get their name, talk to them if possible), then it's fine. I mean, fine for having to seriously nag a retail employee, but the price is right.

      Fun fact: you can't reload CO2 canisters within SF city limits --- we tried calling all the home brew places and they couldn't help us.

      1. You can use Bed Bath and Beyond coupons on the refill/exchange. You have to go to customer service to do so.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Candice

          At the OP's price of $15 for a Sodastream refill, a typical BBB 20% off coupon saves them a whopping $3 for 60 L of soda produced. I suspect non-Sodastream methods cost way less than $0.20/L in the long run - one thread suggests that going the non-Sodastream route costs maybe a penny per liter of soda. For a 95% savings, I'd consider looking into whether I can get safe CO2 outside of Sodastream.

          I second abbyp's recommendation above re: dealing with Sports Authority. If the person who can handle your request is in the store when you go in, you'll be OK, but if not, expect to descend into the sixth circle of customer service hell. I needed some tennis racquets regripped last month and ended up in a Kafkaesque dark comedy because their racquet tech wasn't there. (Exactly what happened is boring and very non-Chow-related, but suffice it to say that I ended up being very happy having Sports Basement do it instead.)

          1. re: bigwheel042

            You can use the less common $5 off purchase of $15 coupon to bring it down a little more.

            However, I'll note there's another reason not to buy SodaStream cartridges. A lot of people bought SodaStream before their association with the West Bank settlements became widely known. Some of those people would prefer not to support SodaStream any further with their consumer dollars (I just emailed this thread to one such person).

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              If I exchange an empty cartridge for a full one at BevMo does Soda Stream profit?

              1. re: Glencora

                Unless it's free or BevMo is refilling them in house, then I would think yes. That's the way the economics of products like this work: you sell the machine once, and then you have a customer who is required to keep coming back.

        2. Thanks for the great feedback. I just wanted to update this post for anyone else who might be attempting to do something similar.

          The easiest way to go about this for folks who haven't purchased a SodaStream yet is to buy a Flavorstation (http://www.amazon.com/Primo-Flavorsta...) which takes the 20oz paintball canisters. The paintball canisters are considered safe and used interchangeably in this model.

          Also very important to note, not all SodaStream can take the 20oz canisters. You can look up the specific SS models here that take the 33oz ones that are wider which would also take the paintball ones (http://www.sodastreamusa.com/PopUps/H...).

          Since I was on some crazy mission, I actually traded down from a SS Genesis to a Fountain Jet to allow room to accommodate the 20oz canister (vs. Flavorstation bc SS just had much better Amazon reviews). I sold of the Genesis on CL for as much as I had paid for it, purchased an adapter off of Ebay for $20, 2 canisters from Amazon for $20/each (vs. nearly $40 if you buy direct at Sports Authority), called ahead to Sports Authority to ask about CO2 availability which is key as they seem to frequently run out, and finally, voila! Yeah I know, my bf thinks I'm totally insane.

          Since we go through the 60L Co2 cartridge in less than 2 weeks, I think we'll recuperate our costs in about a month and a half and then have significantly cheaper soda water after that.

          All in all, it's been a huge pain, but hopefully much less of one for the next crazy person to attempt this. Best of luck!

          3 Replies
          1. re: sunny

            I didn't see how the issue of potential contaminants in refilling paint ball canisters was addressed. Are you just rolling the dice or what? What do the soda fountain guys use? Can't you get an adapter for those kind of tanks?

            1. re: sfchris

              We have a pretty small kitchen; otherwise, I would have hooked up a larger tank directly to a carbonator cap on a bottle. I'd recommend you get one of those adapters if you have the space.

              I looked at dozens of posts about CO2 safety, and the consensus seems to be that the paintball canisters are pretty safe. SA said that they have tons of people coming in to refill them for their SodaStream, so I guess they feel pretty comfortable as well.

            2. re: sunny

              That is awesome to know, thanks for the follow up. I didn't realize that some of the Soda Stream models took different canisters. I also bought the adapter and have been using the CO2 tank from my kegerator to refill, but I probably would have taken the paintball tank approach had I heard about this.