Sleek, stylish design
Many finish options
Tedious cartridge loading
CO2 not included
Only plastic bottles available
We purchased the Aarke Carbonator II so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
Whether your goal is to reduce plastic use, have an endless supply of sparkling water, or just achieve more control over how effervescent your seltzer is, an at-home soda maker like the Aarke Carbonator II might be a worthwhile purchase.
The Aarke soda maker comes in a range of sophisticated finish options to match every kitchen, and its simple lever system turns tap water into soda in seconds. Though the price is on the high end, the stylish design and sleek footprint are hard to resist—but how well does it perform? Here’s how our Aarke unit fared after a few days of testing.
Design: Sleek and upscale
With any kitchen appliance that will likely find a permanent home on your countertop, it’s important that the design is aesthetically pleasing. The Aarke Carbonator II doesn’t disappoint in this area.
We chose the stainless-steel option to match our other appliances, but the Aarke also comes in brass, white, matte black, chrome black, and copper—a trendy color for modern kitchens. This variety of finishes is unique compared to other soda makers.
Virtually the entire exterior of the Aarke Carbonator is made of metal. This is not only for style, but also makes the machine more durable. Since the process of carbonating water involves a lot of pressure, the metal material will likely withstand more wear and tear than if it were made out of plastic.
The bottle that comes with the Carbonator has a stainless steel bottom and cap. This bottle matches most of the available machine finishes nicely, and Aarke also makes a matching bottle to go with the black chrome. Since the bottles are proprietary and the only ones compatible with the machine, it's nice to see a matching bottle available.
However, one negative of the bottle is that it's made out of plastic. Since Aarke is clearly going for a high-end take on the at-home soda experience, it would have been nice to have a glass bottle option. However, in their website’s FAQ section, they explain that glass bottles aren’t compatible with the slim design of the Carbonator II.
The lever system bases the amount of carbonation on how far and long you pull the lever down.
Speaking of its svelte design, the device is very minimalistic, with just enough space for necessary components. The base includes a small tray to catch any water that may run off, and the tower is just wide enough for the CO2 cartridge to slip snugly inside. The top includes a nozzle and socket for the water bottle to screw on, along with the machine's operation lever.
The lever system bases the amount of carbonation on how far and long you pull the handle down. It also automatically releases any extra pressure within the bottle when you let go of the lever. In other soda maker systems, there’s a second step of tipping the water bottle to release the pressure, so it’s nice that this is a single action here.
Setup Process: Bring your own CO2
Setting up the Aarke Carbonator II is relatively easy, as everything comes pre-assembled besides the CO2 cartridge, which is sold separately. All that we had to do was rinse the bottle with warm water before filling it up.
Since the lever system is based on strength and movement, we dove into the directions to read about best practices to help us get the most out of the machine. The directions aren’t extremely clear, but what it boils down to is this: The more pumps you give the machine, the more bubbly the water will be. Additionally, it’s important not to overfill the water bottle or you’ll end up with water spilling out.
Unlike some other brands of soda makers, Aarke doesn’t sell its own CO2 cartridges, so you don’t get one with the machine. Due to the size of the vessel, only 60-liter cartridges fit, but fortunately, this is a standard size that can be found at many shops. (While buying new CO2 cartridges can be a little pricey, many stores have exchange programs that give you a discount on refills.)
To load the cartridge, you slide it into the slot at the bottom of the machine and twist until you feel the threads catch—be careful not to overtighten, or you could damage the threads. This step is a little tedious, because we couldn’t see what we were doing to line up the threads. You just have to spin and load it by feel. This is definitely annoying, but depending on how much soda you drink, you probably won't have to do it terribly often.
Unlike some other brands of soda makers, Aarke doesn’t sell its own CO2 cartridge, so you don’t get one with the machine.
The other element to remember when loading CO2 is that since you’re tipping the machine on its side, the water tray can fall out. We were concerned that we scratched the tray, since we forgot to remove it prior to tipping the machine over the first time. While not a deal-breaker, it would have been nice if the tray latched in to preserve the polished, pristine look.
Performance: Solid and reliable
The Aarke Carbonator II is highly effective at carbonating water—the more times we pulled the lever, the more bubbly the water got until we reached our preferred level of effervescence. However, we have to admit we didn’t see a huge difference between Aarke seltzer and carbonated water from less expensive competitors.
One unique element of this machine is the lever and pressure release system. Unlike many other machines that sport a simple button to operate, we thought the Aarke machine was more satisfying to use thanks to its lever. Additionally, many machines require a second step of tilting the bottle to release excess pressure before unscrewing it, but the Aarke eliminates that step by including the pressure release in the lever’s “home” position, which is parallel to the counter.
Overall, the Aarke is just as effective as other standard machines on the market and arguably more fun to use.
Features: No cords necessary
Though the look and compact design of the Aarke are some of its best features, its simplicity, which also translates through to its functionality and performance, really makes it great. No electricity is needed for the Aarke to work—just the CO2 cartridge—meaning it can be placed anywhere throughout your home. It’s not limited by proximity to an outlet, and there are no cords creating extra clutter. Whether you have a big kitchen or small one, this is definitely a bonus.
Because it doesn't use electricity, the Aarke Carbonator isn't limited by proximity to an outlet, and there are no cords creating extra clutter.
Another benefit of making sparkling water at home is that there are so many flavors and cocktails that you can use your machine to make. While you should never carbonate anything other than plain water (the sugar from other beverages could clog the machine), once water is carbonated, there are tons of ways to flavor it.
You can purchase syrups to make classic sodas or stick to fruit flavoring. One of our favorite add-ins is to squeeze in a couple of teaspoons of fresh lime juice, making a refreshing spritzer, or for something sweeter, we also really enjoyed sparkling lemonade. We did a 50/50 mix of lemonade and sparkling water, which made the drink less sweet and added just enough bubbles.
Price: The highest of high-end
At two to three times the price of other soda makers, the Aarke Carbonator II is in a league of its own. You can expect to pay between $200 and $260 for this high-end machine, depending on which finish tickles your fancy, and don't forget that you have to purchase CO2 cartridges separately.
Other soda makers at this price point usually include one or more CO2 tanks, multiple bottles, or even soda flavoring packs. The Aarke Carbonator only includes the machine and one bottle, so it’s clear that you’re paying for the sleek, high-end design. Is it worth it? It really depends on your preference.
Competition: A few cheaper options
SodaStream Fizzi One Touch Sparkling Water Maker: The SodaStream Fizzi One Touch Sparkling Water Maker is another unique option, as it boasts the rare feature of being automatic. Instead of needing to physically pump the air into your water, like with the Aarke, you just push one button on top and the machine takes care of everything else electronically. It also features a snap-lock for the bottle, which eliminates the tedious twisting for every refill. The SodaStream comes in white or black plastic finishes, and the Aarke easily outshines it on aesthetic appeal, as well as its smaller footprint. However, the SodaStream is significantly less expensive, retailing for around $130.
iSi Stainless Steel Soda Siphon: For a lower price and similar aesthetic value, take a look at the iSi Stainless Steel Soda Siphon. This 1-quart soda maker uses a small CO2 cartridge that attaches to the bottle itself, and while it’s much cheaper—retailing for less than $100—you'll only have one bottle of seltzer at a time. Additionally, the iSi creates more waste than the Aarke, as it uses single-use CO2 cartridges that can be recycled but not refilled.
Stylish, but overpriced.
While the Aarke Carbonator II is definitely an effective and easy-to-use soda maker, it’s highly priced for the market and you’re paying mostly for the style and sleek design, which are admittedly top-notch.
- Product Name Carbonator II
- Product Brand Aarke
- Price $199
- Weight 4 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 15.3 x 41.4 x 25.8 cm.
- Product Model Number AA01-C2-STEEL
- Material Stainless Steel
- Color Options Stainless Steel; Copper; Matte Black; White; Brass; Black Chrome