Notice the kiwi smoothie shown on the box. Yeah, that's a challenge that I'll accept! Unfortunately, I didn't have any kiwis on hand at the moment.
Granted the fundamental operation is the same between the DrinkMate and the SodaStream. You could theoretically carbonate anything in the SodaStream, too, but then you've shot your warranty and you risk blasting carbonated *whatever* all over your kitchen.
What makes the DrinkMate different is that it has a removable injector with a slow release valve integrated into the top so that the pressure change is gradual instead of immediate, thus maintaining the carbonation level in your drink. I was pretty impressed with that.
One of the downsides, though is that it comes with this teeny CO2 tank. Now I've been told that you can use the SodaStream carbonators with this, but I haven't tried that yet. Still a burden, but makes it easier to get your hands on more CO2.
In the US, carbonation is typically measured in volumes. Something carbonated to 1 volume means that a certain quantity of liquid has an equal volume of CO2 (at standard temperature and pressure) dissolved into it. Most commercial sodas are carbonated to around 3 or 4 volumes. Across the pond, they have a more straight forward way of measuring carbonation and that's g/L. 1 volume is a pretty close equivalent to 2g/L. So if this were to carbonate as well as a commercial seltzer, it should add about 3 or 4 g to my bottle 1/2 L bottle. Let's see how that goes:
I took the tare weight of the bottle. Then I carbonated it as much as possible as per the instructions. After carbonating, I weighed the full bottle. Then I shook and released pressure repeatedly until nothing more would bubble out and took the final weight. The difference would be how much CO2 was dissolved.
Tare Weight 12.3g
Full Weight 514.7g
Shaken Weight 511.2g
Difference = 3.5 g CO2 in 498.9g water = 7.02g/L or about 3.5 vol CO2. Not bad!
But we have to be sure these results are repeatable. This time I let it sit and dissolve overnight in the fridge after carbonating and added more if possible.
Tare Weight 11.9g
Full Weight 505.1g
Shaken Weight 500.8g
Difference = 4.3 g CO2 in 488.9g water = 8.79g CO2/L or about 4.4 vol CO2. Even Better!
Overall, I'm pretty impressed with the DrinkMate and it's resultant beverages. I wasn't as happy with the carbonated chocolate milk, though. I thought it would taste better than that. So while you have the freedom to carbonate anything that will fit in the bottle, it's not advisable
To recap, here are the pros and cons of the DrinkMate.
-Carbonate anything you want
-Slow release pressure valve to maintain the best carbonation
-Possible 4 vol of CO2 carbonation level in plain tap water, other beverages will vary.
-Still requires proprietary CO2 refills.
-Limited to about 1/2 L at a time.
I'd say this is a buy for anyone that's looking for a good countertop carbonator. For someone making larger volumes of homemade soda, this would be great for test batches, but wouldn't work well for serving a crowd.