The Tribulations of the Soda-Club Penguin

This huge honkin’ piece of gadgetry to the left here has been trying to get me to fall in love with it since it arrived in the mail the other day. Called “The Penguin“, it’s billed as “The Coolest Thing in Refreshment”. To me it’s an interesting idea that has too many nuances to it for it to take up the limited counter space that I have.

I want to like the Penguin. Ever since the Soda-Club people sent me an e-mail asking me to review the piece, I’ve been having visions of making homemade sodas and sticking it to the Coke and Pepsi. Not that I buy their products now, because I don’t. In my household it’s a few artisanal soda makers who use cane sugar in their mixes. But hey, I’m a trooper, a gamer, willing to try anything twice. Why not make soda at home?

There are several things I liked about the machine. It’s design is rather ingenuous. Once you know how the basic operation works, it takes no more than 4 steps from water to soda. That the machine is also easy on the eye is a plus in its corner. If that machine wasn’t so tempermental, I’d give it a higher recomendation.

And lo, it is tempermental. I ended up with three seperate results using the same instructions and techniques on three seperate tests. Much like Goldilocks, one result was juuuust right, one result was undercarbonated, and one resulted in soda spilling out of the Penguin (which did give some entertainment value. After all, it’s not every day that I get to see a mechanical penguin lose bladder control on my kitchen counter).

The Penguin is not the difficult to operate, only requiring slightly more skill than an espresso maker, but not as much as is required to follow an episode of “The Wire” after missing several episodes. Add the syrup to the water, place it in the carafe, stick it in the bowels of the Penguin, press down the beak several times, and release the gas. That’s it.

The Soda-Club does provide their own syrups, all but one having High Fructose Corn Syrup in the ingredient list. I did try several of them in order to test out the Penguin and I found them very sweet. I then tried creating sodas from syrups designed for coffee usage with a fair amount of success. I created my own version of a Lemon-Lime combined with simple syrup which was interesting. There’s some definite possibilities in the creation of one’s own soda syrups.

The machine also runs for around a hundred dollars. I can only imagine people paying this kind of money if:

  1. They really like soda.
  2. They really hate the varieties available to them at nearly every food location in the world.
  3. They’re really into home-brew kind of gadgets that offer possibilities of unique flavor creation.

If you fall into one of the three categories above, I’d recommend the Penguin. If not, pass this one by.

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