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What happened to soda syphons?

Soda syphons, also known as seltzer bottles or siphon bottles, were once common household items that allowed users to make carbonated water at home. A soda syphon is a handheld device that holds carbon dioxide (CO2) under pressure and water, which can create carbonated water when a lever is pressed. From the early 1900s up until the 1970s, soda syphons were popular kitchen appliances in many American and European homes. However, their popularity significantly declined in the late 20th century. So what happened to soda syphons? Why did this once-ubiquitous kitchen appliance disappear in most households?

The History and Popularization of Soda Syphons

The soda syphon was invented in the early 1800s as a more portable and convenient way to enjoy carbonated water, which at the time was only available at mineral springs and soda fountains. The first manual soda syphons used liquid carbonic acid to carbonate water. But it wasn’t until the 1850s and 1860s that soda syphons as we know them today came about. These used pressurized carbon dioxide cartridges to carbonate water.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, soda syphons grew greatly in popularity thanks to technological improvements and ease of obtaining carbon dioxide cartridges. Brands like Seltzerette and Sparklets became household names during this time. Soda syphons were aesthetically pleasing gadgets made from glass and chrome that fit well with the sleek, modernist style of the early 20th century.

By the 1950s, soda syphons had fully entered the mainstream. Nearly 25% of all American households owned a soda syphon by 1955. They were considered an essential tool for hosting cocktail parties and making mixed drinks. The ability to freshly carbonate water for seltzer, club soda, or tonic was incredibly convenient. Soda syphons were also touted as being able to save consumers money compared to buying carbonated beverages.

The Decline of Soda Syphons

Soda syphons remained popular up through the 1960s. But by the 1970s, their usage started to sharply decline for several reasons:

The Rise of Refrigeration

Refrigerators became nearly universally owned in American households during the 1950s and 1960s. The ability to store chilled cans and bottles of soda negated much of the convenience offered by soda syphons. While soda syphons provided freshly carbonated seltzer on demand, refrigerated canned sodas were simply easier and did not require any work.

Canned and Bottled Soda Dominance

Canned and bottled sodas like Coca-Cola and 7Up were also becoming dominant in the 1960s and 1970s. These mass-produced sodas were affordable, offered convenience, and had recognizable branding and taste profiles. They essentially squeezed out the market for homemade carbonated beverages from soda syphons.

Increasing Women in the Workforce

As more women entered the workforce in the 1960s and 1970s, time spent on domestic tasks like using a soda syphon declined. Canned and bottled beverages required less time and effort than homemade carbonated drinks.

Lack of Innovation

Soda syphon technology remained stagnant between the early 1900s and 1970s. No major innovations or improvements were made to devices during this time. So in comparison, canned and bottled sodas seemed like futuristic marvels of technology capable of delivering carbonation on a mass scale.

Perception as Old-Fashioned

With their ornate, unsophisticated designs, soda syphons came to be seen as old-fashioned and outdated kitchen clutter. This contrasted sharply with the sleek, space-age aesthetic of canned and bottled sodas. Many households purged soda syphons in favor of a more modern look.

Year Household Penetration Rate of Soda Syphons
1955 25%
1965 22%
1975 12%
1985 5%

The Current Status of Soda Syphons

While soda syphons are no longer common household items, they have not completely vanished. A niche market for soda syphons remains among several groups:

Cocktail Enthusiasts

For mixologists and cocktail aficionados, soda syphons remain popular for their ability to add fresh carbonation to drinks. The effervescence and bubble texture created by soda syphons can elevate many cocktails. They allow for precise, on-demand carbonation compared to premade soda water.

Seltzer Lovers

Seltzer has made a major comeback in recent years as a popular health-conscious beverage option. For seltzer purists who want complete control over carbonation, soda syphons are preferred over store-bought seltzer water.

Vintage Design Lovers

The ornate, vintage designs of many soda syphons have come back into fashion for some. Soda syphons are collected and displayed as decorative pieces celebrating mid-century style.


Some environmentally-conscious consumers use soda syphons to avoid the waste and carbon footprint of canned and bottled beverages. Refillable soda syphons have appeal as a green alternative.

Off-the-Grid Households

In rural cabins or off-the-grid homes without electricity, soda syphons offer an effective low-tech method for carbonating water without refrigeration or running water.

So while no longer ubiquitous, soda syphons have retained a foothold among niche demographics who value their utility and unique benefits. It is estimated there are around 600,000 soda syphons in use in the U.S. as of 2023 compared to 25 million in 1955. Around 2 million units are still sold globally each year. Though far from their heyday popularity, soda syphons appear likely to remain in use for the foreseeable future among certain groups.

Reasons Soda Syphons Declined in Popularity

To summarize, here are the key reasons soda syphons fell out of favor since their mid-20th century peak:

– Refrigerators became widespread in households, allowing for chilled storage of canned and bottled sodas. This decreased the convenience advantage of soda syphons.

– Mass-produced bottled sodas like Coke dominated the market due to low cost, mass distribution, branding, and consistent flavors.

– As more women joined the workforce, time dedicated to domestic tasks like using soda syphons decreased.

– Soda syphon technology remained stagnant and outdated compared to sleek, modern canned and bottled sodas.

– Soda syphons came to be seen as old-fashioned rather than modern kitchen appliances. Many households replaced them with more contemporary style kitchen tools.

The Enduring Appeal of Soda Syphons

While soda syphons no longer enjoy ubiquitous household use, they have lasting appeal among certain demographics for good reasons:

– They allow for precise control over carbonation levels.

– They provide fresh, from-scratch soda flavors without artificial ingredients.

– They have an ornate, nostalgic aesthetic as decoration pieces.

– They are environmentally friendly compared to disposable canned and bottled beverages.

– They work without electricity or plumbing.

For cocktail aficionados, seltzer fans, mid-century design lovers, eco-conscious consumers, and off-the-grid households, the humble soda syphon remains a useful gadget with charm and function.

The Future of Soda Syphons

It is unlikely soda syphons will ever again achieve the ubiquity they enjoyed in the 1950s and 1960s. However, they look poised to survive as specialty items among niche markets. There are a few paths that could lead to a soda syphon resurgence:

– A major resurgence in vintage and mid-century design could bring back soda syphons as decor items.

– New innovations and technology could modernize soda syphons and make them more convenient and appealing.

– Environmental concerns over single-use plastics and packaging could make soda syphons appeal once again as a green alternative for carbonating water.

– The rise of artisanal cocktails and craft soda brands could create a market for small-batch soda made freshly with soda syphons.

– Nostalgia for bygone eras and aesthetics could drive interest in vintage soda syphons as retro collectibles.

While it’s improbable soda syphons regain their immense mid-century popularity, their continuation in specialty niches seems assured. And with some key cultural and technological shifts, perhaps improved versions of this vintage kitchen gadget could once again become mainstays of modern kitchens. Only time will tell if the soda syphon’s fortunes are recharged.


Soda syphons were once an iconic kitchen appliance found in millions of households, only to fade from popularity due to the rise of refrigeration, canned soft drinks, and changing domestic roles. While reduced to a niche item today, soda syphons remain valued among some demographics for their utility, charm, and eco-friendliness. And if current cultural trends align favorably, soda syphons could potentially stage a modest comeback in the future through innovation and nostalgia. But even if they remain confined to specialty uses, the classic soda syphon has reserved an enduring, if small, place in the pantheon of kitchen gadgetry.