Apple Music Karaoke Mode Musk Briefly Not Richest COVID Variants Call of Duty and Nintendo 'Avatar 2' Director 19 Gizmo and Gadget Gifts Gifts $30 and Under Anker MagGo for iPhones
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you
Accept
Why You Can Trust CNET
Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

The Aarke III Water Carbonator Is Easy on the Eyes

But how does the design-friendly sparkling water-maker perform compared to SodaStream models?

8.0

Aarke Carbonator III

You're receiving price alerts for Aarke Carbonator III

Like

  • The best-looking carbonator on the market
  • Made almost completely from steel and available in six attractive finishes
  • Makes sparkling water as promised
  • Easy to set up and operate
  • Works with SodaStream CO2 canisters for easy exchange

Don't Like

  • The most expensive at-home carbonator
  • The $219 price does not include a CO2 canister
  • Somewhat inconsistent when emitting gas

For a serial seltzer swiller, an at-home carbonator can save you money. It also means you'll always have soda water at the ready and saves you from having to lug heavy cases of cans home from the store or empties out to the street for recycling. SodaStream is the most popular manufacturer, with three or four mostly plastic models to choose from. SodaStreams work well, but aren't particularly nice to look at. Recently, a more design-friendly carbonator called the Aarke entered the market.

aarke

The Aarke Carbonator is an attractive device for making soda water at home. 

Aarke

The Aarke III (now in its third generation) is the only carbonator I could find with any real aesthetic appeal, but it comes at a cost. It sports a simple and vaguely retro design that wouldn't look out of place in a malt shop. The frame is built almost completely from steel and there are five attractive finishes to choose from. After a glance, I was willing to plop down the $219 (more than double the price of SodaStream's cheapest model) as long as it worked well.

Read more: SodaStream Buying Guide: Terra, One Touch Electric and Aqua Fizz Explained

I hauled in the $219 Aarke Carbonator to test whether or not the more stylish version of the SodaStream could quench my thirst for both bubbly water and good design. I was itching to crown the Swedish carbonator over SodaStream's $160 premium Aqua Fizz model. However, things became complicated when Aarke's overall function proved inferior to SodaStream, if only slightly. But with a soundly superior look and sturdier build, it's just enough to make up for some modest performance issues.

Read on for more about the stately (and expensive) Aarke Carbonator III.

screen-shot-2022-02-04-at-11-46-12-am.png

A look at the $90 Drinkmate, $86 Soda Sensei and $100 SodaStream Terra.

SodaStream

Aarke works like most other carbonators

While it has an elevated appearance, the Aarke functions like most other beverage carbonators. A canister of CO2 is installed into the base and a plastic bottle filled with water (or another liquid) is screwed in on the front. A large needle drops into the water and, when triggered, pumps gas into the water. Simple enough, right? Since the Aarke is manual, the user controls how much gas to release -- and thus, how bubbly to make the liquid. 

aarke4

The Aarke III works just like most other carbonators but looks a whole lot nicer on the counter. And it takes up less space. 

David Watsky/CNET

Aarke uses SodaStream canisters, which is a good thing

Aarke doesn't sell CO2 canisters, but it is engineered to work with SodaStream's CO2 bottles. That's a good thing since SodaStream has a robust exchange program. Your first canister will cost $30, but mail back the empty canister or return it at Staples or another partnering retailer and you'll get a replacement for only $15. 

My Aarke exploded. It was very likely not the machine's fault

My first time using the Aarke went well and it did the job without issue. On the second carbonation attempt, things didn't go as well. Upon pressing the lever to activate CO2, gas began pumping into the water, but it would not stop even after I jostled the lever. I was afraid the plastic bottle would explode, so I quickly unscrewed it and water geysered all over the kitchen. Gas was still pumping out of the canister harmlessly into the air. I had to unscrew the CO2 canister from the machine to get it to stop.

I contacted a press agent from the Aarke team, who ran my issue up to the engineers. They concluded the incident was due to a faulty SodaStream canister with a flat pin that is now out of production but was previously known to leak and get stuck in an "On" position when attached to a carbonator. I found a few online complaints about flat pin canisters leaking but no official news or statements. Aarke referred me to this general FAQ on SodaStream's website. I contacted SodaStream for confirmation or comment but have yet to hear back. 

faulty-canister.png

The canister in question. Aarke engineers concluded that this SodaStream CO2 cylinder with a flat pin and a serial number ending in xxx250 is the reason why gas continued to flow.

David Watsky/CNET

I combed through all the Aarke reviews I could find and found no similar incidents. Jittery as I was, I decided to take the brand's word for it and try the machine with a different CO2 canister. I didn't experience any noticeable leaking with the second canister. I also ordered a second Aarke carbonator to be certain, and it has functioned without issue. 

My takeaway: While it's impossible to be certain that the leaking and subsequent explosion were caused by the canister and not the carbonator, most of the evidence points to a faulty CO2 can and not the Aarke machine itself.

So how does the Aarke work with a functional canister?

The Aarke does its job and carbonates any canister of water I twist on to it, but does so with a bit less consistency than SodaStream counterparts. With a SodaStream, just about every time you push the lever, you'll get a consistent release of gas into the water. I noticed with the Aarke there were times I'd press and hold the lever and it would release very little gas, while other times it would give the water a good blast of bubbles. 

It's an annoying but fairly innocuous issue, all things considered. Even after a meager output of gas, the next lever push or hold generally released enough gas to get some bubbles going.

aarke

The Aarke Carbonator is available in five attractive finishes, including copper and matte black.

Aarke

SodaStream will give you a bit more precision

Because SodaStream models release a more consistent output of CO2 into the water, it's easier to control the carbonation level. You can still control gas levels with the Aarke but it might just take a bit more of your focus, a few seconds longer and a few more pumps to get to your desired bubbliness. 

The final verdict: A sight for sore eyes, but at a cost

With SodaStream's $160 Aqua Fizz and Aarke's $219 carbonator both looking up at me, Aarke is a decisive winner in terms of pure aesthetics. But it's hard to ignore the fact that Aarke's machine is roughly $90 more when you factor in the CO2 canister (SodaStreams come with a CO2 bottle while the Aarke does not).

Were they more similarly matched in price, the Aarke would get a more full-throated endorsement, even with the performance inequities. That said, I still prefer it over any other machine I've used. Admittedly, $250 (total cost with CO2 canister) is a whole lot of money for a machine with simple mechanics and no electronic elements. But if design is important to you, the Aarke works well, feels sturdy and will look better than any other carbonator in the field sitting on your counter.

aarke-3

Here's the $219 Aarke Carbonator next to SodaStream's $160 Aqua Fizz.

David Watsky/CNET

Other premium carbonators to consider

If the goal is a sturdier, better-looking carbonator than the cheapish, mostly plastic models, then you have some options.

SodaStream makes the $160 Aqua Fizz, which has a metal carafe in which the glass bottles sit, but is still mostly plastic. I tested the Aqua Fizz alongside the Aarke. It's definitely a step up from SodaStream's other models but still doesn't have quite the bold look of an Aarke. The brand also just released the $129 SodaStream Art, which has a slightly retro look. But, again, it is mostly made from plastic.

I wrote this handy guide to SodaStream models in case you'd like to learn more.

The AWA Carbonator is a newly launched competitor with a sleeker matte plastic finish and chrome accents. We have yet to test this model. It retails online for $99 (CO2 not included).

The $85 Drinkpod is another model that has an interesting look (think Voss Water bottle). While we have yet to test this one, it does not fare particularly well in the buyer reviews we found.

More recommendations for your kitchen counter