The U-Fizz carbonated water maker isn't one of those metal devices that requires expensive CO2 cartridges. Those are pretty amazing, but a bit pricey for me right now. What I most I like the U-Fizz, though, is that it let's me do SCIENCE! Basic science to be sure, but it's a lot fun. It also lets me play with my food … er … beverages.
Basically, the U-Fizz carbonated water maker is a plastic tube connecting two plastic caps, with a rubber seal involved. That comes packaged with a cylinder that acts as a baking soda delivery device. That's really just a couple of plastic cylinders, one with holes in the side that fits nicely inside the other one without holes. That way you can fill the holey (not holy) cylinder with baking soda without making too much of a mess on your kitchen counter.
In one empty 2-liter bottle, you put vinegar and baking soda. In the other, the water or other beverage you want to carbonate. The two bottles are connected with the tube. The reaction of the baking soda an vinegar creates carbon dioxide which is then force,d under pressure, into the water (or other beverage), carbonating it. You have to shake the daylights out of the chilled beverage bottle to help the larger pockets of CO2 to break into small bubbles and spread throughout the drink for a full two minutes. You can also swirl the vinegar bottle to help move the baking soda vinegar reaction along. I find it easier if I get help. I have my ten year old swirl while I shake. You just don't want to get vinegar down the tube and into your drink. There's no vinegar taste at all. It's just carbonated water.
The manufacturer says it's just like soda, but I don't think so. Carbonation is used to add a “bite” to drinks in the form of carbonic acid. It's actually not the bubbles. I don't think this device creates nearly as many bubbles as most commercial soda has, but it's still pretty good. Interestingly, some sodas, like cola, owe their distinctive “bite” more to the added phosphoric acid (phosphate) than to the carbonation.
Even though it doesn't make as many bubbles as I'd like, I still enjoy the taste it delivers. I'm actually using it to help me kick my excessive sugary soda habit. The price is right, too. You can find it on Amazon for around $7.00. Is it a replacement for the high end carbonating devices? Not really. Is it a lot of fun for a very modest price? Absolutely.
Which is why I'm giving it 3 1/2 Zucchinis
For you food science geeks out there, here's the chemical formulas for the creation of carbon dioxide gas from baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid), as well as the process of creating carbonic acid, by combining water and carbon dioxide under pressure. In other words, carbonated water. Pressure is important, here. Without it, carbon dioxide does not stabilize well in water. That's why carbonated drinks go flat once they're opened. (Just so you know, most carbon dioxide in water is suspended in the water and not in the form of carbonic acid.)
Creating carbon dioxide from vinegar (acetic acid) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
NaHCO3 + CH3COOH → CH3COONa + H2O + CO2(g)
Carbonating water (creating carbonic acid from water and carbon dioxide)
H2O + CO2 → H2CO3
For more info on carbonation and carbonic acid formation, click here.