Home Carbonation, and Contrary Human Nature


Have you ever wanted to do something that you basically couldn’t care less about, just because someone told you that you couldn’t?

Soda clubIngrid and I just signed up for this Soda Club thing: a “make your own sparkling water” gizmo with replaceable CO2 cartridges. A keen idea, and one we’re very excited about: we drink a ton of fizz water, and we’ve been going through a ton of plastic fizz water bottles every week. (Yes, we recycle them; but with plastic especially, it’s much better if you can just avoid buying the stuff in the first place.) This gizmo will cut our plastic consumption by a considerable amount. Plus, we can have as much fizz water as we want, whenever we want it, without suffering the miserable indignity of going to the store or waiting for our next grocery delivery.

But here’s the thing. One of the instructions on the Soda Club soda maker says that you should not carbonate anything other than plain water.

And the moment I read that, I was immediately filled with a powerful desire to carbonate things that I shouldn’t.

Coffee_cupI now want to carbonate everything. Coffee. Soy milk. Orange juice. Bourbon. Absinthe. I want to go through our entire liquor cabinet and carbonate everything in it. I want to make my own sparkling wine, just by taking regular sparkling wine and carbonating it. I want to go to the supermarket and find a bunch of weird beverages, just so I can carbonate them. I want to buy a second carbonating gizmo, just so I can try to carbonate weird stuff without mucking up the one we use for water.

Now, it’s important to understand: Before we got this gizmo and read this warning, the thought that it might be fun to carbonate coffee or bourbon had never, ever occurred to me. Not once. If you had asked me, “Would you like to carbonate some coffee?”, or, “On your list of things you would like to do before you die, where does ‘carbonate coffee’ fit?”, I would have looked at you like you were nuts.

But now I’m the one who’s nuts. This is driving me mildly batty. I really want to know what carbonated coffee would taste like. I’m sure I’ll forget about this in a week or two (or I would have if I hadn’t blogged about it). But for now, the desire for forbidden carbonation is raging hot in my blood.

What the heck is this about?

Marlon brando wild bunchI have a strong fondness for this part of me that wants to rebel against everything. It’s a big part of what makes me who I am, and especially who I am as a writer: the part that looks at the ideas and rules that most people accept without question, and asks, “Is there really a good reason for that?” That’s an important and valuable human activity. Fun, too.

But at times, it’s a bit silly, and even counter- productive. As I’ve written before: To reflexively rebel against the mainstream means you’re just as controlled by that mainstream as you would be if you reflexively conformed to it.

And some rules are rules for a reason. According to the company’s FAQ (no, I’m not the first person to ask this question), if you carbonate things other than water with ther gizmo, “you risk damaging your drinks maker, not to mention making a big fizzy mess!” (Exclamation point theirs.) I don’t know why this is — I don’t know if there’s some weird chemical process that happens when you try to carbonate soy milk — but I doubt that they’d make up a rule like that for no reason. If they say it makes a big fizzy mess, it probably makes a big fizzy mess.

I’m reminded of an interview I once read with the actor Klaus Kinski. He was raging against the intolerable strictures of our conformist society, and he said (I’m paraphrasing here), “I’ll be driving along, and I’ll see a sign that says ‘Right Lane Must Turn Right,’ and I think to myself, ‘MUST turn right? MUST?!? FUCK YOU!'”

Right lane must turn rightThat line made me laugh for weeks afterwards, and it was a catch- phrase among my circle of friends for a long time. It was such a blatantly absurd example of pointless rebellion. Traffic laws are the perfect example of laws that are there for very good reasons indeed… and in any case, it seemed just a teensy bit out of proportion, a case of choosing one’s battles somewhat poorly. There are far more intolerable strictures of our conformist society than the right turn only lane.

And yet, it’s kind of how I feel now about the home carbonator.

“MUST not carbonate anything other than water? MUST not?!? FUCK YOU!”

Comments

  1. Kagehi says

    The issue is probably similar to the soda fountain trick. Some substances actually create places for the carbonation to collect, which makes them fizz faster. So, the only way you could fizz them would be under more pressure than the gadget can produce, and then you have to worry about what happens when you “open” that pressurized container.
    Basically, without experimenting, you have a good chance of creating a serious disaster by trying it, but without experimenting, you have no clue what “will” and “won’t” cause problems.

  2. says

    In grade school we tried carbonating various beverages using baking soda and some weird method which didn’t work at all. But apparently one kid used chocolate milk, and the result was fantastic.
    How much carbonation can you force into a volume of water? Maybe adding small amounts of ultra-carbonized water to other drinks could work?
    Also, AFAIK you can’t carbonate hot beverages. Where did I hear that?
    That Klinski anecdote is the best thing I’ve heard all week.

  3. markmier says

    I know a fair bit about the process of carbonation, being a homebrewer and a chemical engineer. You can’t really carbonate hot things, gases (such as CO2) are far more soluble in cold liquids than hot ones. You could carbonate ICED coffee with no problem. Also, be aware that carbon dioxide, once dissolved, acts as a weak acid. So carbonating milk will result in cottage cheese.
    Greta — if you want to get SERIOUS into carbonating things, check this out:
    http://morebeer.com/view_product/18190/102298/Basic_Homebrew_Draft_System
    These are available at just about any homebrew shop. You can get as many kegs as you want, so you could carbonate multiple 5 gallon kegs of just about anything.
    In the long run, if you’re into fizzy water as much as you say you are, you would honestly save money by buying one of these systems. You could also make root beer very easily with one of these, if you were into such things. Not to mention homebrew. :)
    But like I said, keep in mind that cold things carbonate much better than warm things, and hot things probably won’t carbonate at all (or not enough that you’d notice the carbonation). See page 8 of this for a chart:
    http://morebeer.com/themes/morewinepro//kegging.pdf

  4. Devysciple says

    It’s really comforting to see that I am not the only one with weird thoughts. I bought my first carbonator about five or six years ago, and my first thought was “Fizzy vodka!”
    I never considered many alternatives (coffee, milk, etc.), probably because my list of favourite drinks is rather short. And to be honest, after reading afore mentioned safety warning, I didn’t even have the guts to try it with vodka :(

  5. Rebecca says

    Funny, but my Soda Club device never made me want to carbonate random things. But I too suffer from/enjoy the compulsion to break rules because they are rules. However, I never READ the instructions, having watched my parents use theirs many times before we got one. This is fascinating; it really suggests that your drive here is not curiosity, but some mild form of oppositional defiant “disorder” that many humans maintain long after adolescence (the age in which it can be diagnosed).
    My observations of the two populations I have counseled, adults taking HIV tests and middle school students, suggest that there is a certain percentage of any population that feels this drive. It may be a greater percentage of adolelescents, but I’ve seen no evidence of that. I’ve simply seen that certain people are more likely to choose a particular action — say, wear a red undershirt — when told not to.
    As a student of the history of political street activism, I have observed that any successful movement will recruit a reasonable percentage of its most active members from this oppositional population, up until the time that the movement becomes mainstream, at which point they will either splinter off or reject the movement entirely.
    I could say more, but this is a ridiculously long comment for a post about fizzy things.

  6. Joani says

    We used to trick my daughter into thinking we were buying expensive Martinelli’s by diluting concentrated apple juice with club soda instead of regular water (and putting it into a real Martinelli’s bottle). You could use your homemade fizzy water to dilute, after it’s fizzed, any concentrated liquids (or powders)–juices of course, cold espresso, crystal light (ugh), instant coffee, concentrated canned soups (double ugh).

  7. Buck Fuddy says

    I own a seltzer bottle, but I’ve never carbonated anything. I just used it for doing whippet hits. I probably still have the CO2 cartridges somewhere.

  8. says

    Hilarious synchronicity: Just last week I was taking a stroll through the local botanical gardens with a friend when I noted how I hadn’t had the slightest urge to leave the path and go stomping through the gardens until I saw the “Do Not Leave the Path” sign…

  9. says

    I’ve never tried to carbonate coffee, but I do know that some of the more esoteric stores will carry coffee soda, which is surprisingly tasty.
    Markmier, If dairy milk will cheese-i-fy when carbonated, would soy milk do the same?

  10. says

    The thought strikes me that the Campus Crusade defines sin as disobedience; you have nailed the experience of Original Sin, the rebellious spirit in humankind.
    So let’s raise a toast to Original Sin!

  11. don simpson says

    St. Louis used to have a sign as part of the alternate side of the street parking that said “No Parking Anywhere Anytime”. When I read it I often had a momentary, irrational terror that I was doomed to drive around endlessly and forever, never being able to park.

  12. markmier says

    Squeee! I’ve been addressed by the one and only Nina Hartley! :D
    Ahem. Um, I have not conducted the experiment so I can’t say for sure, but isn’t that basically how tofu is made? By adding acid to soymilk? I would guess that carbonating soymilk would result in a soy-cheese type substance. But I’m not sure about the pH of soymilk. Carbonic acid (CO2 dissolved in water) is a fairly weak acid, it might be too weak to do much to soymilk. I would suggest performing an experiment.
    Greta, one other nice thing about the homebrew kegs — they are rated to over 100psi, and they have safety relief valves, so it’s unlikely that you’ll hurt yourself with one. Unlike seltzer bottles which I believe are rated to a much lower pressure and don’t have relief valves.

  13. says

    Hmmm, when I read that it sounds like their issue is mostly a “don’t do this because you will likely break the unit and then want repairs” rather than an affirmation of the nature of rebelliousness

  14. says

    I don’t know if it’s a kneejerk reaction to authority so much as it’s a reaction to overly-authoritative language.
    What if someone in the right lane doesn’t turn right? Does Earth fall into the sun?
    That “must” is unnecessarily imperative. Signs such as “Right lane right-turn only” don’t issue ludicrous commands that can’t be enforced by anything except the constabulary anyway (it’s not as though the very Hand of Dog is going to reach down and force your car into a turn), and reduce the babble of pseudo-authoritarian language we seem, too often, to be surrounded by.
    MUST turn right? Fuck you indeed, sign.
    Maybe the manufacturers are warning against carbonating anything but water for the prosaic reason that some/many/most of the carbonator’s users might try (for instance) carbonating coffee while it’s still hot. (And if you think that’s unlikely, consider the warning labels on hair dryers telling you not to use them in the shower.)
    Imagine their lawyers thinking about this. Hot coffee, in plastic bottles, being pressurized by some daft fizz-happy end user.
    Hence, “You must not try to carbonate anything other than water”…

  15. says

    We recently struggled with a horrible school year for our first grader. He was attending a really strict, soul-crushing school, and they wanted to label him with oppositional defiant disorder. However, his father, therapist, and I thought it was anxiety, and treated that. We also moved him to a new school.
    Anyway, at one of our last meetings with the school, where they again tried to label him with this disorder, my husband told me “I don’t think Hollis has it, but YOU sure as hell do!”
    And he is probably right. It goes well with skepticism though.

  16. Robyn Slinger says

    A fizzy mess? Surely they don’t mean it could get that messy? (Described by xkcd as ‘up there with corn starch + water (vibrating platter optional) in scientific coolness out of common kitchen supplies’). Or as messy as light lemon puffs, apparently.
    I think this strange desire to break the rule, as pointed out above, could be due to the fact that it is stated in such a definitive tone, without explanation, and you don’t really see a reason for it. (I once saw a recipe guy on TV explaining that you should always brush your mushrooms clean and never wash them. When asked why you shouldn’t wash them, he simply answered ‘Never!’.)
    This is actually a bit annoying. They probably do have a reason for telling you not to carbonate everything. However, this blanket interdiction also covers things which are pretty harmless to carbonate. Since they don’t give the relevant information, you cannot guess which would be ok and which wouldn’t be, and then it just looks like a silly arbitrary rule only waiting to get broken.
    Plus, telling you the explanation, even just a short one, would make the reader a little bit more knowledgeable, which is always a good thing, maybe.

  17. steven says

    can you carbonate rum, wiskey, vodka anyone know for sure if its possible. or have tried it.

  18. MikeSpike says

    One option not mentioned above that may provide an opportunity for some of you to experiment with home carbonation recipes & such is the Fizz Giz (www.FizzGiz.com). For a smaller cash commitment, you can buy the handheld portable gadget that will let you carbonate any beverage you like. Under thirty bucks at last check, the Fizz Giz lets you carbonate fun fizzy drinks right in the bottle. You can even make the old “Brownie” – many of you will remember it. This generation’s Brownie is the YooHoo. Personally, I don’t think it holds a candle.
    And, yes, you can carbonate anything with the FizzGiz w/o voiding your warranty. Kitchen countertop units bar you from carbonating anything but clean water – it’s a sanitation issue. Their dip tubes and other parts are just not practical to clean.
    You can do single serving sized 12oz drinks or 2 & 3 liter bulk sized bottles. Sometimes I’ve bought commercial syrups, but I’d rather make my own from scratch. I enjoy carbonating apple juice & white grape juice and sometimes I fizz up an inexpensive wine for a bubblicious experience.
    BTW, check this out, carbonating your milk (lightly) can give you up to a 90d shelf life in the fridge. You don’t have to carbonate it much – not enough to taste it in a glass of milk, for instance. Check out Purdue University studies on the subject… http://www.news.cornell.edu/Chronicle/96/1.18.96/milk.html

  19. MikeSpike says

    Oh, and don’t forget white grapes, strawberry slices and pineapple slices. Drop into bottle, cap with Fizz Giz cap & pressurize. If it will fit into the mouth of the bottle, you can carbonate it. You can’t do that with a kitchen countertop unit.

  20. says

    Gotta admit, you are right on with your points regarding someone telling you what you may and may not carbonate. An open source solution that’s perfect for your is demonstrated in this youtube vid:

    And as for the level of carbonation you can expect, here’s another vid:

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