My Soda Fountain Adventure - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 105 Old 06-27-2010, 12:26 AM - Thread Starter
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After a long time of thinking about it, and wanting one, I decided that I would buy a soda fountain. I drink a lot of soda..... A LOT OF SODA. I already have a premix system, but I've never even tried using it because it's difficult to get the soda, and it's not very cost effective. With a post-mix system, I can get the syrup locally and it's far cheaper than buying soda/pop from the grocery store. And so, the planning phase began....

I came across this guide which was a big help understanding some of the key concepts needed when doing something like this.

http://www.boneville.net/soda/start.htm

I am on a pretty tight budget, so I'm buying parts of it in stages. I was able to find a restaurant equipment reseller on Craigslist that was selling a 6 head cornelius soda fountain for $850. After a few days, I was able to talk him down to just $400! I went and picked up the unit a few days ago. It was pretty dirty, but it's a fairly new unit (2005/2006). The only thing I don't like about the unit, is it doesn't have a built-in ice maker or ice storage.

I already have two CO2 tanks that are filled, but I need to get a new regulator for them. I'm thinking about getting this one: http://www.kegkits.com/Merchant2/mer...G&Store_Code=W

That one is nice since it's a dual regulator. This means that I can control two different CO2 pressures with just one unit. And I'll need to control the CO2 to the unit for carbonated water, and the CO2 to the syrup pumps.

Here are some pictures of it before any cleaning:









Sorry about the quality of the pictures, I'm just using my iphone.

I also need CO2 syrup pumps. I heard that Flojet makes the best pumps for this sort of thing, and I found two brand new ones on ebay for around $20 each. I'm just going to get two for now until I get everything else set up, and then I'll buy others when I want to add different flavors later. Like I said, I'm on a budget.

Things I still need to do:

- Buy new supply and water lines for the syrup pumps and the fountain head.

- Buy CO2 Regulator.

- Buy water lines and connector, then hook up to house water supply.

- Buy Syrup

- Buy Bag-in-box syrup connector. (this depends on the brand of syrup I get)

- Figure out how to fill the fountain bath with water properly. (this is harder than it sounds)

- Make connection from drain on fountain to house waste system.

- Install the unit and try it out!

As for the lines and any plumbing equipment, I've found most of that at home depot, and I will probably be buying most of that in a week or so. I have a lot of work ahead of me, but it's been fun so far and a great learning experience so far.


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post #2 of 105 Old 06-27-2010, 12:37 AM - Thread Starter
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I decided it was time to start cleaning this bad boy up! Here are some pictures I took a long the way. I'm using simple green, and a scrub brush to remove any dust / syrup / dirt. And then soap and hot water to wash it further.

Cover off, cleaning the fountain mechanisms and the top components.


Side panels off, cleaning the internal walls of the water bath compartment.


Picture of the electronics layout and circuit paths.


Cleaning the carbonator.


The Drip tray grate, and the fountain caps.


More fountain caps.


Upper shell, and flavor selections.


Back cover.


Drip tray.


Splash guard / hose cover.


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post #3 of 105 Old 06-27-2010, 08:59 AM
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Good luck, Smidley! Looks like quite the undertaking.

I bought a post-mix system last year. I used to think I drank a lot of soda, too, but post mix systems make a lot of soda. I also thought it would be a great way to save money, but there are two main reasons that it's just not cost effective:

Shelf-life: Diet soda, for instance, has a pretty quick expiration - as quick as 2-3 months. A 5 gallon bag-in-box of syrup will make 30 gallons of soda. That's about 56 2-liter bottles of soda! To drink that much in 3 months, you'd need to drink a liter of soda a day. And that's only for one flavor!

Price: As for price, I've only found syrups at Sams Club, which tend to hover around $60 for 5 gallons. That works out to a little over $1.00/2-liter which isn't a huge savings over the supermarket (I regularly find .99/2-liter sales in my area.) When you add in the cost of electricity and CO2, the price is even higher.

My system will hold up to 3 carbonated beverages, but I only have one connected at a time (usually diet coke). You can't beat the 'coolness' factor, but unless you are having a lot of parties, or supporting a household of soda drinkers, you aren't going to really save any money.

Where are you planning on getting your syrup from? As I said, I've gotten mine from Sam's Club and not only does it seem a bit pricey, but their selection stinks and there stock is not rotated often at all (I find many boxes there that expire within a month!).

Good luck with your project! I'll be watching this thread to see how you make out.


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post #4 of 105 Old 06-27-2010, 01:26 PM - Thread Starter
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There is one play near my house that sells the syrup locally. I'll probably get most of it from there until I find anything that might be cheaper. And yes, myself and my room mate both drink A LOT of soda. We've calculated that this should be pretty cost effective for us.


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post #5 of 105 Old 06-30-2010, 01:04 AM
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I am doing the same thing. I'm just trying to get the carbonator working right now. I don't have the right kind of regulator though and it is not that easy to find CO2 regulators that deliver 100psi (beer ones often only go up to 60 psi) so I might end up getting the one you found. The one I am using now is a welding regulator and doesn't even list PSI, just cubic feet per hour. It doesn't seem to put out enough pressure either (you don't need much gas for welding). It does seem to work though... the pump cycles on and I get out very lightly carbonated water.

On fittings you will probably not be able to find much (other than the tubing) at home depot. The soda machines use some pretty unique fittings that are not used in plumbing work but you can get them mail order. Keep in mind you can't use any brass or copper on the soda side. Copper on the soda side can make you sick and brass is an alloy of copper. That really limits what kind of fittings you can use. Stainless steel or plastic only.

I am not that concerned about the expiration dates. There's no reason syrup shouldn't last as long or longer than the the pre-mixed product. Certainly it will last more than a month or two. It wasn't all that long ago that there wasn't any expiration dates on soda at all. The dates seem pretty bogus to me.
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post #6 of 105 Old 06-30-2010, 01:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Zuiko, I'm glad I have found a fellow soda "enthusiast" on here! lol. What kind of fountain head did you get? I know what you mean about the regulators being hard to find. I already have a single regulator that will go up to 100psi, but it's an older one, and I just decided that I would get that nice new dual one that I found instead of trying to fit a new single one onto this one.

I found a lot of the fittings I will need online and at home depot, but you're right about the brass/copper issue. I'll have to double check what they're made out of before I buy anything.

I'm not really worried about expiration dates either. I drink soda so fast it would make your head spin. lol.

Care to share any pictures of your unit? I'm still in the learning / setting up stages, and it helps to have a couple people share some knowledge!


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post #7 of 105 Old 06-30-2010, 01:52 AM
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The dispenser is also a Cornelius except with stainless steel trim, Coke signage, and 8 heads. The front is lighted. I don't plan on using the ice bin at all at this point so unfortunately I will be dispensing at room temp. (Until I can find a reasonably priced used icemaker to sit on top anyway). It just doesn't seem that practical for home use but I figure can always get plenty of ice out of the fridge. I'll have to take pictures once I have it set up but its in storage right now till I get the carbonator working 100% and a custom countertop set up for it to sit on (and then a friend to come over and help me move it... that thing must weigh 300 lbs).

I'll let you know how the regulator works out when I get it.
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post #8 of 105 Old 06-30-2010, 04:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zuiko View Post

The dispenser is also a Cornelius except with stainless steel trim, Coke signage, and 8 heads. The front is lighted. I don't plan on using the ice bin at all at this point so unfortunately I will be dispensing at room temp. (Until I can find a reasonably priced used icemaker to sit on top anyway). It just doesn't seem that practical for home use but I figure can always get plenty of ice out of the fridge. I'll have to take pictures once I have it set up but its in storage right now till I get the carbonator working 100% and a custom countertop set up for it to sit on (and then a friend to come over and help me move it... that thing must weigh 300 lbs).

I'll let you know how the regulator works out when I get it.

If you dispense at room temp, the soda wll be flat. The machines need the cold plate to be at icy temperatures, since cold water adsorbs more CO2. The cold plate is in the ice on the ones with bins. I have seen people do surgery to a mini refrigerator (cutting holes for plumbing and keeping cold plate inside), if they didn't have the ice bin full.

Not sure, but the one in the above pics looks to be a self contained unit that cools its own water internally, and therefore needs no external cold plate.

WWJD
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post #9 of 105 Old 06-30-2010, 08:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zuiko View Post

I don't plan on using the ice bin at all at this point so unfortunately I will be dispensing at room temp.

What Projectorguy1 said. Your soda will have almost zero carbonation if you attempt to dispense at room temperature.


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post #10 of 105 Old 06-30-2010, 02:12 PM - Thread Starter
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Yea, mine holds it's own chilled water/ice.... I just haven't figured out how to get the water into it yet lol. I think I just need to pour it into the water bath area. There are two tubes coming out from there though, and I don't know if they're both drains or not.


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post #11 of 105 Old 07-11-2010, 02:41 AM - Thread Starter
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Just got two of these pumps in the mail!





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post #12 of 105 Old 07-11-2010, 09:36 AM
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Sweet - I'm in this same boat right now. :P Same project, different house. Brave man.



Cornelius Venture Post-Mix that someone slapped pre-mix faucets on. Has enough tubing inside of it for me to actually be able to do 6 post-mix flavors, all flash chilled. No ice dumping required.

Now if I can ditch the 6 faucet post-mix monstrosity that I've got. :P Dang those things are HUGE! I guess I figured a unit with a compressor would be larger than one without, but how wrong I was. I mean, this picture is take when the thing in a wheel barrow for reference:



I couldn't fit that in my house anywhere if I tried. I'd have to pull the stunt this one guy did of building it into his pantry with only the very front visible in the room...no thanks. I'll stick with the countertop unit.

I've got the whole set of pictures of mine going on here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/numbski...7624306073047/

and the wet bar it was *supposed* to go in:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/numbski...7622784662296/



The clearance from counter to cabinets is about 25 inches. That huge one is something obsurd like 40 inches tall, and let's not even discuss the other dimensions. :P I still have a height clearance problem on the Venture, but I at least have the option of removing the compressor and evaporator from the top and putting them under the counter or something - just extend the lines to the ice bank coils. Sheesh what a monster. At least your syrup pumps are new and clean. Mine are all nasty and dirty from being out in a shed for who knows how long. Gonna have to sanitize them big time. Thing that's weird - I'm pretty sure this "backend" system was for a whole fast food restaurant, but I only got the drive-thru fountain. 3 carbonators, a pressure booster pump that I mistook for a 4th carbonator, 9 syrup pumps, and some "Y" pumps. I guess they did a situation where 2 coke BiB ran to that "Y" so you didn't have to change them so often. So yeah - I've got waaaay more than I need. The thing that really sucks? I had to pay $400 for the monstrosity, whereas the Venture? $40. 1 week of patience would have been golden, I tell ya...
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post #13 of 105 Old 07-11-2010, 01:14 PM - Thread Starter
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Ha ha, sounds like you're having just as much fun as me! lol. $400 is still a pretty good deal though. That's about what I paid for my fountain head. It's probably worth it for you to just replace your pumps rather than try to clean them. You can find them for about 20$ each on ebay.


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post #14 of 105 Old 08-02-2010, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Finally got my CO2 regulator in the mail and hooked it up to the tank. Now I just need to buy a few more things to be complete!



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post #15 of 105 Old 08-06-2010, 10:40 AM
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looks great, i just bought a wunderbar soda gun... that i am going to install in my outdoor kitchen... should be fun.

good info posted here.

my wife and I drink a lot of coke and I have found a local place that sells coke bag in box that is 3 gallons and not the 5 that make more than you can drink.

should be fun...


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post #16 of 105 Old 08-06-2010, 01:23 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adidas4275 View Post

my wife and I drink a lot of coke and I have found a local place that sells coke bag in box that is 3 gallons and not the 5 that make more than you can drink.

should be fun...

Where are you getting the 3 gallon box? And how much is it? Just curious. I keep paying $60 for the 5 gallon box at Sam's Club.


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post #17 of 105 Old 08-13-2010, 10:32 PM - Thread Starter
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I just got a couple Bag-In-Box connectors in the mail. These ones work with Coca-Cola products. I got the ones with stainless steel barbs rather than plastic.



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post #18 of 105 Old 10-22-2010, 01:13 AM
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I am also doing the same thing right now... I scored a 6 head Pepsi branded Cornelius with ice tray/cold plate, 10 flotjet pumps, a 6 foot soda box rack, and a McCann carbonator off of craigs list for $150.00. I just picked up my 15# co2 tank for $35.00, a 10 button wunder bar gun with cold plate for $38.00, and a fridge (craigslist) for $100.00. All I need now is to run a water line to the garage, buy the food grade tubing, some clamps and the soda and im good to go.
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post #19 of 105 Old 10-24-2010, 02:46 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Satansfx View Post

I am also doing the same thing right now... I scored a 6 head Pepsi branded Cornelius with ice tray/cold plate, 10 flotjet pumps, a 6 foot soda box rack, and a McCann carbonator off of craigs list for $150.00. I just picked up my 15# co2 tank for $35.00, a 10 button wunder bar gun with cold plate for $38.00, and a fridge (craigslist) for $100.00. All I need now is to run a water line to the garage, buy the food grade tubing, some clamps and the soda and im good to go.

That's a great deal on all of your purchases! Care to share any pictures?


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post #20 of 105 Old 10-25-2010, 08:35 PM
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Yea I can do that... Nothing is hooked up but I can snap some pics and throw them up here for you to take a look at.
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post #21 of 105 Old 10-27-2010, 04:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Satansfx View Post

Yea I can do that... Nothing is hooked up but I can snap some pics and throw them up here for you to take a look at.

Awesome. I need some more inspiration to get my system completed! I've been way too busy with work, and then just plain lazy about this thing.


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post #22 of 105 Old 11-12-2010, 07:18 AM
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as promised.....





















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post #23 of 105 Old 11-12-2010, 08:03 PM
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You guys really do love your soda.

Domino's donÂt fall all at once, they fall one at a time...
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post #24 of 105 Old 11-15-2010, 11:18 AM
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If you guys have any questions on set-up or operation, let me know. Let's just say that I have an insider view on what you're doing

DBLCZ
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post #25 of 105 Old 11-15-2010, 10:01 PM - Thread Starter
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If you guys have any questions on set-up or operation, let me know. Let's just say that I have an insider view on what you're doing

DBLCZ

Man, I wish you were local to me! lol. Half of the reason I don't have this thing setup yet is because I have no idea what I'm doing and I'm just learning as I go. I'm away on a work trip right now, but when I get back home next week I plan on having another go at getting this up and running. I'm sure I'll have some questions for you then.


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post #26 of 105 Old 01-08-2011, 08:28 AM
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smidley - any updates on your soda fountain? Did you get it up and running yet?
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post #27 of 105 Old 01-10-2011, 09:05 AM
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Hey all....been tracking this thread as I have been working through my setup. I'm one of the idiots who did the YouTube guy's trick and built it into the wall. I have one of the behemoths with the ice bin, so it's a good 3 feet tall, 2 feet wide. Way too big to just sit on a counter anywhere. Thankfully I had space (barely) behind a wall in my furnace room to put the machine. pumps, BIBs etc. It just made more sense to do it this way.

I will say the finished product looks great since all the tubing and mechanics are hidden away. You can see what the final setup looks like....

http://s1204.photobucket.com/albums/bb414/Donk711/ (Sorry web site won't let me provide the direct link yet...)

To get the height to match where the soda fountain would match the counter, I built a stand and put the carbonator on a shelf below the machine.

If you have questions on the setup, I can try to answer. Man did I learn a lot during the course of this project!
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post #28 of 105 Old 01-11-2011, 07:36 PM
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I got mine all put together from a company called AtHomeSoda.com which sells a complete system. The main box in the basement is the carbonator, chiller, and cooling coils. It has the syrup pumps, and regulators.

Here are pictures:

http://pblq.com/Soda.html

Of course the flavors have changed, and I have added a seventh flavor, but it works great. I get the syrups from different sources. A local restaurant sells them to me at their cost. I also purchase from Sam's Club, and purchase the Stewart's Diet Root Beer from foodservicedirect.com With shipping it costs around $50 which while is more expensive than finding it on sale, it is much more convenient.

I like the fact that I always have cold soda readty to drink.

Check out my theater!
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post #29 of 105 Old 01-13-2011, 04:41 AM
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I do have a few questions...

1) did you all use the worm clamps or the Oetiker clamps?
2) reedl - did they send you a manual on how to setup your wunderbar gun? I cannot find a manual online to save my life!!! I still need to figure out how to hook all of that up! lol
3) did either of you have to calibrate your systems for your liking?
4) how many co2 tanks have you gone through?
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post #30 of 105 Old 01-13-2011, 12:02 PM
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1) did you all use the worm clamps or the Oetiker clamps?
2) reedl - did they send you a manual on how to setup your wunderbar gun? I cannot find a manual online to save my life!!! I still need to figure out how to hook all of that up! lol
3) did either of you have to calibrate your systems for your liking?
4) how many co2 tanks have you gone through?


1) I used the Oetiker clamps and really like them. Thankfully I have a local equip supplier who was kind enough to answer a lot of my newb questions, like how to remove an old Oetiker clamp. Without those hints I would have struggled.

3) Calibration was pretty much done. I did buy a Brix kit and made sure the fountain heads were set to 5:1. I have one head that just won't spit out enough syrup regardless of the adjustments I have made, and I don't have the energy to try and repair it. I'll probably just punt and buy an entire new head.

4) I have a 20# tank that I filled once while cleaning out my used syrup pumps and getting the system set up. I know I wasted a bunch of the CO2 doing all this, so after everything was hooked up it only lasted about a month. I got another refill around Thanksgiving and it is still going strong - gauge hasn't moved very much off the starting point. The guy at the CO2 refill place thought a 20# tank should last around 6-12 months for this type of usage, so we'll see how accurate that is.
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