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Ninja Thirsti drink system review

Aug 15, 2023

Everyone loves soda makers, which let you produce seltzer water or flavored sodas on demand. But soda machines often come with compromises — proprietary bottles, hard-to-find carbonation canisters or just a single level of carbonation. And you have to make a whole bottle even if you want just a glass.

Enter, the Ninja Thirsti, which lets you make a single glass of soda water at a time, whether you’re mixing up a cola, sports drink, whiskey soda or lemonade spritz. The company bills it as a total “drink system” — a replacement for a whole pantry’s worth of carbonated (and non-carbonated) drinks and canned seltzer.

We spent the past several weeks testing the soda maker and trying drinks of different strengths and flavors to see if it could indeed meet your thirst.

The Ninja Thirsti system is a unique take on the soda fountain, which lets you dispense a glass at a time instead of a whole bottle. A wide range of flavor drops makes it even more versatile, though you’ll want to make sure you like the flavors before you buy.

The latest from SharkNinja, the appliance company that best known for its blenders, air fryers, juicers and pressure cookers, the Ninja Thirsti is a soda maker that also dispenses still water, and it does so from an internal reservoir, one glass at a time, rather than carbonating a full bottle at once.

Nearly every soda maker on the market requires you to use plastic or glass bottles for your drinks. But the Ninja Thirsti is an on-demand soda fountain, so you only pour exactly what you want to drink. In theory, this should lead to less wasted carbon dioxide. Plus, it’s nice to be able to customize your drinks. It can also serve well on a bar, where you can add soda water to just a few cocktails or make a coffee spritz.

The Thirsti offers a lot of possibilities to meet different palates. First off, you get three carbonation settings. The lowest setting is very light carbonation, a suggestion of bubbles fleeting on the tongue. The second setting is akin to canned seltzer, with a fuller body and lingering effervescence. The third setting is assertive bubbles rolling across your tongue — think Pop Rocks.

Ninja also offers a range of flavor drops you can add to customize your drinks. Our soda maker also shipped with a starter eight-pack of flavored water drops (there are more than 20 options total). You load the canisters into the Thirsti so you add the drops as you dispense, rather than adding them afterward to your glass of seltzer as you might with other devices.

Since you can select from “classic” or “bold” flavor levels, you get control over the strength of your flavors right at the source without guesswork. You can also combine flavors within the machine as you dispense.

The Classic setting, indicated with a single dot, is more about aroma than deep flavor, while the Bold strength setting, marked with two dots, is a big punch of flavor. The energy drops have caffeine: a 12-ounce drink would have 50 milligrams of caffeine (akin to a cup of coffee). The vitamin drops include B3, B6 and B12, and the hydration drops have electrolytes and a bit of fruit and vegetable juice for color. Everything is sugar-free; the drops are sweetened with sucralose so they have the tang of artificial sweetener.

The translucent water tank sits on the side of the machine with clear measurement lines every six ounces. It’s nice to know exactly how much water you have left so you don’t run out mid-pour. The indicator button, which turns blue when it’s at the recommended coldness, is a good visual reminder to add ice. The column-shaped tank has a wide mouth and is easy to fill at the sink or fridge dispenser.

If you’re a frequent flavored-seltzer drinker, the cost of owning the Ninja Thirsti could add up quickly. While there are a number of flavor drop options, you have to order them from Ninja at $7 per bottle (or $20 for three bottles). Each bottle of drops makes up to 20 12-ounce drinks, according to SharkNinja, so it’s cheaper than, say, buying case after case of LaCroix, but not exactly cheap.

The soda maker uses a CO2 tank (specific to the Thirsti, though supplied by Soda Sense, the makers of the Soda Sensei). You can buy these individually or subscribe to a refill club membership that gets you a 30% discount off retail. It’s $60 for your first two replacement canisters and $42 thereafter (shipping is included).

The Ninja Thirsti has a pull-down shelf for 6-ounce glasses that is handy and keeps things contained when you’re using smaller servings, but you’ll want to be careful with larger drinks. We encountered a bit of splashing when making larger drinks — a pint glass, Collins glass or tall tumbler — without the shelf. You can hold your glass up to the dispenser and eliminate the splash, and the drip tray at the base of the soda maker is effective at catching errant drops.

The Thirsti’s unique approach means using it is a bit different from other soda makers you might have tried.

You open a side cover to insert the included 60-liter carbonation tank that twists into place. You then add chilled water or water and ice to the 48-ounce detachable water reservoir. There’s an indicator at the bottom of the tank that turns blue when the water is cold.

After removing a side cover, you tilt out a collar that holds the tank and twist the carbonation tank into place. Once you’ve installed the tank and filled the reservoir, you pick whether you want still water or carbonated water.

There are three levels of carbonation. You can also add one or two flavors in two different strengths. Finally, you pick the number of ounces to be dispensed (6, 12, 18 or 24) before pressing Start.

The water is sucked in from the reservoir (the process is satisfying to watch) with a vacuum noise before there’s the hiss of the carbonation. The machine fills a glass with a slight hum that will be quieter than your drip coffee maker. One big note here is that the soda maker dispenses water 6 ounces at a time, so the machine may briefly pause in the midst of filling a bigger drink. We made the messy mistake of grabbing a drink too soon, even though the instructions are clear about what’s going to happen. Wait until you hear a beep to remove your glass. Be better than we were.

The Ninja Thirsti is for drinkers who want options, don’t feel the need to make more than a glass at a time and don’t feel like buying bottles of syrup or other mix-in flavors. While soda makers have been on the market for more than a decade, soda water by the glass is still a bit of a novelty. Its price sits between entry-level models and chrome-bedecked showpieces, but the ability to create lots of drinks is attractive if you have multiple people in your household. The chance to tweak the strength of bubbles, with carbonation levels that are noticeably different, is enough of a differentiator to make the Ninja Thirsti stand out in a crowded soda maker market.

If you are looking for energy and electrolyte drinks, it’s worth considering if you’re a fan of sucralose before you buy the machine. If you don’t like it, this may not be for you. But if you want soda water on demand, the Ninja Thirsti is a strong contender for a spot on your countertop.