I am not a huge fan of the Perlini Cocktail Carbonation System. In large part, my particular frustration seemed to be caused by the lousy regulator and charge system. Perlini sells a set with a regulator and fill hose that may well work better. I will never know, as it costs $600.
For carbonating water, I’ve been happy with a Sodastream for several years now. The Sodastream is a huge improvement in per-unit price versus purchasing seltzer. With that said, the cylinder price is stupendous for what it is. A 60-liter cylinder (will carbonate at most 60 one-liter bottles) runs somewhere between $27 and $50 depending on where you shop and whether you refill.
For a while I was refilling Sodastream containers via a siphon CO2 tank. This worked great until the seals on my replacement valves failed. Further, as much as I believe I was an ace at tank chilldown and gas mass measurement techniques, there really wasn’t any safety built in: If I added too much liquid CO2 to the tank, extremely bad things could happen.
The Sodastream can’t be used to carbonate cocktails, but it’s been a thorn in my side buying overpriced CO2 cylinders.
Luckily, Jeffrey Morgenthaler spelled out exactly how to build a carbonation rig. I’m stolen this entire approach from his article, and can endorse that it works great. Go give it a read. The finished system looks sort of like this:
My shopping cart was slightly different:
- 5/16” Gas Line Assembly - Ball Lock ~ $10
- Premium Double Gauge CO2 Regulator - Polycarbonate Bonnet ~ $55
- The Carbonator ~ $13
- 5 lb Aluminum CO2 Tank - $70
Of note, I got shafted by the Amazon retailer, and got a single-gauge less-than-premium regulator. It works just fine for now, so whatever. As a bonus it has a gas purge and an overpressure relief valve.
The method’s simple:
- Fill a bottle mostly full.
- Chill the liquid
- Squeeze all the air out
- Attach the carbonator
- Set regulator to 40 PSI, open tank and line valve
- Attach line to bottle
- Detach, shake
- Repeat as necessary
- Chill overnight
While I love the vigor of the initial Sodastream bubbles, I find seltzer produced with this system has longer-lasting finer-textured bubbles.
Better still, cocktails carbonated with the system just seem to work better than with the Perlini. The basic problems still exist in terms of balance and structure. Sufficiently sweet cocktails now seem to have the correct balance, however, whereas they tasted like flat soda cocktails before. An Americano made with no water added (i.e. it’s just a 50:50 mix of Campari and Carpano Antica Formula) was quite brilliant.
Ongoing costs are pretty mild; a 5LB CO2 fill cost me just over $20. I have no idea how many charges I’ll get out of the thing, beyond I’m pretty sure the answer is “a lot.” The Sodastream cylinders I mentioned before have less than a pound of gas a piece and there’s a decent amount of leakage during the initial sealing process. I think it’s reasonable to assume I’ll be able to carbonate at least 300 liters on a fill. If I ignore the cost of parts, that’s an order of magnitude cheaper than the Sodastream. Plus, I can easily carbonate cocktails now, too, if for some reason I ever develop that fancy.