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The Soda Siphon

Call it a soda siphon, a syphon or a seltzer bottle—it's a pressurized container for dispensing carbonated water. Remember The Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers shaking bottles and spraying each other in the face? Same thing. But why would you want one? Can't you just buy club soda? You certainly can. In fact, I used to buy cases of San Pellegrino, and if you are making a bunch of drinks, screw-top bottled soda water works just fine. But what if all you need is a couple of ounces to top up a Collins? Maybe you made some fantastic ginger syrup and you want to have some ginger beer? You could open a bottle of club soda, but most of that water is going to go flat. Once it's open, you need to use it or lose it.

That's the real benefit having your own siphon in the refrigerator. Each time you use it, you are not actually opening the bottle. You are merely opening a valve to release only the amount you need. Pull it out for your next round or ignore it until next week—it remains cold and pressurized until it's gone. No more half bottles going flat and ending up down the drain.

Using a siphon also allows you to drink whatever water you choose. If your tap water is good, go ahead and use it. Do you filter your drinking water and want to use that? No problem. Fill your siphon and charge it with gas. You do that by attaching a carbon dioxide capsule specifically made for the purpose. Give it a good shake and the gas will start to dissolve into the water. The carbonation works best on very cold water, so leave the capsule attached while you chill the bottle. After a few hours or on the following day, you can remove the capsule and the water is ready to use. A one-way valve prevents gas from escaping and a hand lever allows you to dispense the water whenever you need it. Capsules are small and recyclable so you aren't buying more plastic or glass. The resulting seltzer ends up costing a fraction of the price you would pay for individual bottles. It saves money, storage space and the environment. If you drink sparkling water, I don't know why you wouldn't want to use a siphon.

Can I use the gorgeous siphon I found on eBay?
The antique seltzer bottles are beautiful, but they aren't exactly useable at home. First of all, most of them require filling at a special facility. The fittings allow for commercial companies to charge the bottles, but don't fit the carbon dioxide capsules. Second, most of the antique bottles were made in Czechoslovakia and parts are scarce. Old rubber seals get hard and crumble, and valve springs and gaskets can be difficult to replace. Finally, the opportunity for accidents are far greater with old glass bottles than with modern metal ones. You don't want to drop a heavy glass bottle under that much pressure on the kitchen floor or your granite counter tops unless you feel like dodging the exploding glass fragments.

Most modern siphons are made of aluminum with heavy plastic fittings and solid metal parts. The safe, metal canisters are durable and have a low thermal capacity often making them cool faster in the refrigerator. Some are enamel coated and come in a variety of colors, but my favorite is made out of stainless steel and will last a lifetime. If you buy one second-hand, be sure that the seals are good and that it does not leak water or pressure over time. I used a siphon from the 1950s for years before I finally replaced it with stainless steel, but any modern siphon with good seals will work fine, since they all use the same charging mechanism.

There are a few people out there that love to make their own ginger beer, root beer or other flavor of soft drink right in the siphon itself. They add syrup and water to the siphon, seal it and charge it with CO2. This works, but dedicates your siphon to one specific flavor. Because the carbonation will survive a long time in the bottle, you won't be able to use the siphon for anything else until it's empty. A more versatile approach is to keep your siphon filled with water, not a complete drink. That way, you can use homemade syrups to mix your ginger ale, root beer or tonic water when you need it and still be able to add seltzer to your Collins or Mojito. The syrups will keep better at full strength and you only use what you need. A good ratio is one part syrup to 3 or 4 parts seltzer water, but you can obviously adjust to your taste. This is exactly how soft drinks are mixed into your glass at fast food restaurants. It also saves you the trouble of cleaning your siphon of a sugary mess.

There's a lot you can do once you start using a soda siphon, even if it only comes out of the refrigerator occasionally. Having carbonated water when you need it is so convenient, you will wonder why you didn't get one sooner. Still not sold on the idea? Here are some of the reasons I love having a siphon with links where appropriate:

The Collins
Mojito
Ginger Beer (SO useful for Moscow Mules, Dark and Stormies, Pimm's. . .)
Homemade Tonic
Americano
Ramos Gin Fizz (or any Fizz for that matter)
Fresh soda flavors: You can mix almost anything with simple syrup to make the most amazing soda pop flavors. How about honey soda? Amerena cherry pop? Fresh lemon lime? Vanilla? Cinnamon?

Do you already own a soda siphon? What do you make with it? Let me know in the comments below.

58 comments to The Soda Siphon

  • Peter Velloff

    Hi there,
    I was hoping for some assistance.
    I have recntly aquired some vintage soda syphon bottles and I was wanting to clean them as there is water in the bottle.
    How do I get the syphon out. The bottles are Schweppes bottles from Australia. Some are metal tops and some are bacalite.
    Any help will be greatly appreciated.
    Regards Peter.

  • Normally, the tops simply unscrew, but vintage bottles could have old, brittle gaskets. If they are glass you might be able to shine light from the bottom and try to see if there are threads in the glass neck. I have seen video of the only remaining seltzer delivery company in NY and the owner uses a wooden jig to open or close the bottles. It's basically a block with a hole cut out to match the shape of the syphon head that he can use to unscrew the bottle from the nozzle to get good leverage without marring the finish.

    Since old syphons are filled using a counter pressure filler right though the nozzle, they didn't have to be constantly opened and closed. It's possible they were sealed very tightly. I wouldn't expect glue as that would have made maintenance a hassle, but might explain why you are having trouble. The risk of damage may not be worth it.

  • Some have threaded parts made of metal attached to the glass and the nozzle assembly screws down onto that.

  • Peter Velloff

    Hi Randy,
    Thanks so much for you help on my question.
    I have found that the 2 types of syphons in Australia have different ways of removing the nozzle.
    The both the metal and bacalite nozzles uncrew off the 2 piece clamp.
    The metal one can be clamped and turned by hand (if not stuck) but the bacalite nozzle with metal ring is only removed by a tool / machinery from their factory.
    I have been in contact with an old bottle collector and he is going to look around his shed and see if he has a tool to remove the nozzle and ring.
    I was also informed that their is a collection of Australian syphons in the Powerhouse Musuem in Sydney, which also may have one of these illusive tools on display.
    Thanks again for your help.
    I will keep you updated on my search and results.
    Regards Pete.

    • liza

      dear peter
      did you find the man with the tool to open the bottles? i just bought one in sydney and brought it to melbourne, we would like to get it cleaned to re use
      regards
      liza

  • liza

    dear peter, did you find the man with the tool to open the bottle? we are in melbourne but i travel to sydney and would like to get it opened and cleaned to try and re use. regards liza

  • Marcia Chaloux

    Dear Peter, my company is looking to source the old fashioned looking siphons like the ones pictures above. Does anyone still make these in that vintage style that may be used on a modern day product? Any information you can provide with be much appreciated. Thank you for the article. Marcia

  • Peter Velloff

    Hi Liza,
    Sorry for the delay in response.
    The tool that I saw was for the metal cap syphons only. The bakalite models were done by machine in a factory.

  • Peter Velloff

    Hi Marcia,
    I am unaware of any company making glass syphons. You are able to purchase the metal/hard plastic syphons for soda bulb use.
    If there was a company around offering the glass syphons, they would certainly do a good trade.

  • Marcia Chaloux

    Peter,
    Thanks for the quick reply. Do you have a source for the metal/hard plastic syphons that you can share? It would be a great place for us to start. Marcia

  • Peter Velloff

    Marcia,
    Most good hospitality store have them. You may also find some one eBay.Peter

  • Terri Hultman

    I have a Hungarian gold siphon. It may have a crack in the inner glass shell but all of gold is intact. Felt like crack because when I shake it more water comes out. After I soaked it. Is it safe to use with the soda chargers?

    • A cracked and leaking vintage siphon is good for decoration at best, dangerous at worst. I would not risk pressurizing a siphon in questionable condition. There are so many new options, it's not worth the possibly of injury. That's my advice.

  • Moritz

    Hello!

    Very nice article! I'm contributing editor for a vintage-style print-magazine and currently also writing an article about soda syphons. Could you kindly give me permission to use the beautiful syhpon image you used in your article?

    I would be very thankful!

    Kind regards,

    Moritz

  • Diane Stirling

    I too have just purchased the schweppes soda water vintage bottle with a Bakelite siphon. I was wondering how I could open it without breaking it but it does appear that it is not possible. Never mind, I'll just have to have it on display with the old water in it. Thank you everyone for your information.

  • pat parker

    Hi
    Great article...I was wondering, can I put wine in the bottle and then add fizzy to make a "sparkling wine?'

    • Pat, you could put anything in the siphon, but you run the risk of gumming up the valve. This is why most folks use only water in their siphon. One way to get around this is the inverted release method. Basically, you put the ice cold wine in, carbonate as you normally would with the cartridge, then, turn the siphon upside down and release the pressure. The idea is that the internal tube is now in the open gas space, not under the level of the wine. You should be able to release the pressure without squirting wine, but this is a very tricky maneuver. The wine will fizz and foam inside and this is likely to get into the tube unless you release the gas slowly. Once the pressure is released, carefully flip the siphon back over and open it. Now you can pour out the carbonated wine.

      I haven't tried this operation myself. It seems risky, and with the siphon inverted, the nozzle is pointing up into the room! If your siphon is new it might void a warranty. I think that's the case with Soda Stream, although the Soda Stream devices merely deliver gas--they dont dispense--so I don't see much risk there if you keep the parts clean afterwards.

  • Roderic

    Great website!I have just purchased an old Czech soda syphon. Had to hunt down the charger holder ... so rare! Can I do 2 bulbs to make extra fizzy or am i risking bursting the bottle?

    • Roderic, thanks for the kind words. Regarding the Czech siphon, you probably could get away with a double charge if the release valve doesn't let the pressure out. Normally, you press the lever to release the seltzer, but this is merely a spring release. It has limits and basically functions as a pressure release valve like you might see on a water heater. You pull the lever to release the pressurized water, but if the pressure is above a certain point, it overcomes the spring and the water comes out anyway. This safety keeps the glass from breaking due to over charging. So, it's not so much a question of whether the glass can take it but rather the limits of your release valve. Just be sure you have it pointed into a sink or something when you add the second charge.

  • Anne Dougherty

    So, just to clarify..... I can fill a siphon with club soda, keep it in the fridge,and use as needed to make chocolate sodas????????

    Anyone used them this way?????!

    • Anne, yes, but to be clear, you don't fill the siphon with club soda. You fill it with regular tap water, then you charge it with a CO2 cartridge to carbonate the water (turning it into club soda). Then, you dispense the soda as needed, even for chocolate sodas, or ginger beer or whatever you like. Keep it cold when charging and as you use it and it holds the bubbles better. Since you are not opening the siphon, it remains pressurized until all of the club soda is dispensed.

  • Hi we moved and lost the upper part of my soda syphon that screws the charger. Is there any place I could find a replacement part or must I buy the whole thing?

    • Robert, you should contact the manufacturer with that question. I did once find a website selling parts for older Liss models if I recall, but I can't remeber what they were called. Something "moon"? I think Google is your friend here.

  • Hi Randy,

    Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately the company went under some time ago. The syphon bottle is threaded, has a steel net covering and it is very nice looking, having been used just a few times (then we moved). I could not find the proper piece in Google so far. Again, thanks a lot.
    Robert

  • I once tried to restore a Sparklets siphon--glass with the steel net, but never found anyone selling parts. I ended up selling it as a decor item.

  • larry

    I have been looking at soda siphon reviews. We don't use enough soda to warrant a SodaStream, primarily using it for cocktails. My old iSi Classic (plastic bottle) is no longer made. I liked the notion that I could look into the charged soda bottle and see how much was left, but have read a couple reviews of the glass "exploding". Does anyone know if these are "outliers" or is the fact that you don't see many glass siphons imply that they are more prone to safety problems? with my old iSi, I was always able to get a fully carbonated fizz by using two charges, but if glass is prone to explode, then this is not a great alternative.

    • Larry,
      After years of use, I have gotten to know the weight of my siphon when full or empty. It's not hard to tell when the level is getting low. You can also set a metal siphon out for a few minutes and watch for a line of condensation to see how full it is. Fortunately, I haven't had first hand experience with glass bottle accidents. If you want reassurances, you might consider the fact that champagne is sold in glass under pressure. So is vintage-marketed bottled soda or Mexican Coke--or even beer for that matter. The point is that plenty of stuff comes pressurized in glass. Just be careful.

  • Bobby McPherson

    I think that remaking glass syphons for todays market would be a no no on the grounds of public stupidity and dangerous fools , However judging by the replies there is a market opportunity perhaps an enterprising company would take a look at polycarbonates certainly it is tough enough and almost as transparent as glass , it can be coloured and printed on and use standard cartridges and you could charge a premium as people will pay for *The look*

  • Adrien

    Hi there,

    Just came across your website as I am looking for website on how to open a syphon water. I just bought one from a garage sale and I would like to clean it as there is still water in it. I tried to open it but the top wouldn't come off. I don't want to damage it and I'm wondering if I can even open it as I read that some of those bottle were sealed.

    The syphon bottle I bought is a Nu Jersey-Creme Co Toronto bottle. Link is below so I have a better idea of what I am referring to.

    https://grannieskitchen.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/vintage-nu-jersey-creme-company-soda-syphon-seltzer-bottle-manufactured-by-british-syphon-co-ltd/

    Can you let me know if this bottle can actually be opened? And if so, how to do it without damaging the bottle?

    Thank you so much!

    Adrien

    • Adrien,
      That's a nice bottle. I love the etch. You would get the best advice from someone who knows that brand. I have never seen one. However, I would say it has to open somehow. The gasket that seals the tube is usually one piece that sets atop the mouth of the bottle. The release valve assembly usually screws down onto that by gripping a threaded part. The threaded part may be sealed (glued) around the mouth of the bottle. If it is made that way, the trick is unscrewing the valve assembly (in your case the whitish enameled piece) from what might be glued to the neck of the bottle without breaking the glued area or the bottle.

  • Virginia Ford

    I am in dire need of a cartridge holder for a vintage Chrome Wire Mesh Over Clear Glass Soda Siphon Seltzer Bottle.
    It is Made In Czechoslovakia. It is a large bottle that stands about 13-3/4" tall and about 4-3/4" at it's widest. It weighs a little over 5 lbs. and is very well constructed. It is marked with an M in a triangle on the thick glass base with #79. I believe this is MERKURIA Glass Co. it is marked MADE IN CZECHOSLOVAKIA around the top.
    Would you happen to have a holder that would fit?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Frankie

      I'm in the exact same situation, I bought the siphon on e bay abs the charger holder is missing. The company who did make them no longer does
      Did you find one?
      Thanks

  • Dusty

    The seltzer bottles above look great! Do you sell them couldn't find a price????
    If not where can you find modern seltzer bottles??
    Thanks for any help..

  • Roberto

    I have a very old siphon bottle (I'm sorry I can't send to you a photo). The mechanism has become unusable, mainly because of the "tube", the mobile parts and the O-rings of the top valve are not fitted any more. I don't want to change the cap (it has engraved the name of the product on it). Is it possible to repair it ?
    The bottle has belonged to my family for quite a [very] long time.
    I beg you to excuse my non-technical descriptions.

    Thanks, in advance, for the attention you may give to my message,

    • Roberto,

      There are two answers for you. First, NOTHING is unrepairable. However, it's a question of time and $$ resources.

      Regarding antique siphons, there are no parts available for old models as far as I can tell. That doesn't mean you cannot get them working, it just means it will be a lot harder. Usually, rubber parts fail because they turn brittle and lose their ability to make a good seal. For glass siphons, that can mean several things. The most common issue is the gasket seal between the valve top and the bottle. If the seal fails, it won't hold pressure. This gasket is often the same part that holds an internal tube. The tube can break if it is glass, or it can be missing. You can always have someone make you a tube from chemistry lab borosilicate glass tubing, or you can cut a piece of plastic. The gasket itself is a much harder problem.

      Some solutions for the rubber gasket--if you know exactly what it is supposed to look like--are:
      1. Use (or modify) a part from a modern siphon. It might work if the design is similar. Spare parts for modern models may be available from current manufacturers.
      2. Machine a piece of rubber. It's possible to freeze a block of rubber, then turn it on a lathe. This is not an easy operation, and you may not have the means to do it, but it is possible.
      3. Make a template, then a mold, and make your own parts. If you have a 3d printer, or you are good with your hands, you could sculpt a replacement rubber part, cast a mold, then use the mold to pour your own silicone rubber replacement part. This is obviously a long process, but it is possible.

      As for metal valve parts, or parts that go into the valve, you are going to have to improvise something or hire a machinist to help you. Again, with unlimited resources, any repair is possible, but most of these options are simply not practical. This is why antique siphons are better suited as decor items than as functional bar equipment.

    • Dear Roberto,

      you can look at http://www.siphonmanufaktur.de. We are restoring and selling antique Sparklets Soda Siphons. The siphons become fully functionable and are often used also in professional environments like bars etc.

      Best

      Mathias

  • Jill Zimmer

    Hi Peter,

    This is a comment not a question :-)

    I recently purchased a matching pair of green, mesh covered Czech seltzer bottles and landed on your site in my quest for more information on them.

    Your answers are not only helpful but your tone is kind and gracious! I have found this to be very refreshing!

    Keep up the nice work.

    Kind regards,
    Jill

  • Nona Meeks

    Have read all the post, but still no help. I have a heavy glass with mesh outside made by Merkuria Siphon from what I can ascertain it was made in Chekhovikia (spelled wrong) was wondering if there is any place or anyone that may have parts?

    Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Nona

  • Warren

    Hi, any idea approximately how much water to put into an old school glass type before applying the gas? thanks

  • Roderic Morgan

    There should be a red line about 3/4 way up? Mine has faded lately so here is a pic of one showing where it is ... http://www.ebay.com/itm/Antique-Mesh-Wrapped-Glass-Seltzer-Bottle-/162106412865

  • Warren

    Thanks for your assistance, most appreciated

  • Elaine

    Hello everyone
    I have an old BOC made in England syphon. The water release lever is moving fine but no water comes out. It is charging fine though. Anyone have ideas about what may be the problem?
    Thanks very much

  • Sarah

    Hi

    Great site by the way!

    I have just bought an old soda syphon and I'm not sure how much water I should put in it. It is a coloured, metal soda syphon so there is no line like I believe there is on the glass ones. Any ideas anyone?

    Thanks in advance

  • They usually have a plastic insert that limits amount you can fill. It's like a tube that goes into the neck that sits flush with the top but and hangs down a couple inches.

  • Elaine

    And if it's missing the plastic insert which is an overflow prevention device, the best thing is to measure one litre of water and pour it in, never more as the gas needs some air space. All of them seem to be pretty much the same size I think, just different shapes

  • Sarah

    Thanks for such a quick reply!

    Yes it does have a plastic insert. I wondered what that was for...! Thanks you, that's reassuring that I can't overfill it! It does seem to make cleaning it quite difficult though, as it's hard to empty. Any tips for emptying it? I got it from a garage sale and it was dirty but I'm regretting washing it in soapy water as I can't seem to get the last bit of water out!

    Thanks

  • They are sold with a two-pronged plastic device used for removing that insert. You can lookup images and see what I mean. Fashion something you can push in there to hook the edge and pull it out. Just put the plastic sleeve back in before you fill it.

  • Sarah

    Thank you, I will do that!

    And thanks to Elaine for your tip too (sorry, I missed it before).

    This site has been a great help, thank you

  • Claire

    Hello, I'm trying to get an old 1970s Sparklets Soda Syphon to work. I wondered if anyone could help please. When I charge it, it does what it used to do, takes the gas fine but when you go to use it it's like a fire extinguisher! Full power and then once that first bit has gone the remaining water tastes like it's gone flat. Any ideas please? Also, as it hasn't been used for ages I cleaned it out and left water in it to soak. I noticed the level goes down. Could it mean there's a leak in the plastic lining of the chrome bottle? Thank you

    • It sounds like both gas and water are coming out when you release the valve. Then, with pressure released from the headspace, the remaining water would be flat. I'd check that the gasket holding the glass tube inside has a perfect seal--that the only way anything comes out when you press the lever is water going up the tube from the bottom and no gas getting into the tube.

      This would also happen if you dispensed it while tipped sideways. Are you keeping it cold? Warm water won't hold the bubbles and will come out flat.

  • Rosie

    Hello. I have three old Hungarian glass soda syphons which I need to clean. Can you tell me how best to clean them please? Thank you

  • Best to use soap and water. Maybe try vinegar if there is mineral build up.

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