Can a hot water urn that is used throughout the year be used for Passover? If not, what is the reasoning why, if it is only used for water (i.e., not coffee). Would the same reasoning hold for a SodaStream dispenser?
I checked with my LOR tonight about the tea urn and he said that while it would be good if no chametz has touched it during the year (and it was kept away from where there is chametz), it would be better to have a different urn for Pesach. The main reason is that it is quite easy for chametz to have gotten on the urn sometime during the year.
I asked my LOR about the Soda Stream and he said that the seltzer (unflavored) is usable on Pesach. However, If any of the flavors were added, then the bottles would not be acceptable. As a result, I got new bottles for Pesach and store them with the Pesach dishes. This was the psak of my rav and I did not ask for his reasoning. I think that it is probably because the CO2 is not derived from chametz, but you must CYLOR.
There is a discussion at Carbon Dioxide for Pesach which explains how CO2 generation was originally chametz, but nowadays is no longer a problem.
With this understanding, we can now address the question of whether carbon dioxide recovered from a chametz fermentation should be forbidden on Pesach. It turns out that the technology of recovering carbon dioxide has steadily progressed over the past 100 years. At first scientists figured out how to liquefy the carbon dioxide escaping from these reactions but had no effective method of purifying these vapors. As such, in those days, the liquid carbon dioxide likely did have a carryover of taste from the beer or whisky it was made from, and for that reason, the Poskim of that era concluded that the carbon dioxide was forbidden on Pesach.
However, in the past 50 years, the industry has developed 5 different methods of purifying the carbon dioxide6 – four while it is in the gaseous state, and a fifth after it is liquefied – to the point that nowadays carbon dioxide recovered from beer or whisky bears absolutely no taste of the original liquid it was created from. We can surmise that that this change of facts is why when the question was presented to Rav Auerbach, he ruled that it is surely permitted! Rav Auerbach appears to have held that a vapor/condensate only retains the status of the original liquid if it also retains the taste of that liquid, and since nowadays the carbon dioxide has absolutely no taste of the original beverage, it is not forbidden as chametz. [See the footnote for an alternate explanation of these halachos.]7
Of the kashrus agencies we conferred with, we found that many chose to take a strict approach and not allow carbon dioxide from chametz or even kitnios (but they took varying approaches to verifying the source of the carbon dioxide)8 but others came to the conclusion outlined above that one may be lenient nowadays.9 Due to the (commendable) strictness with which people traditionally treat questions of chametz, the cRc only certifies seltzer or soda after verifying that the carbon dioxide is not recovered from chametz (but does accept it from kitnios sources). While this may not be required on strict halachic grounds, it is within the spirit of חומרא דפסח to be machmir on this matter.
The following are some relevant facts about the current carbon dioxide market:
Nowadays, beer companies typically do collect the carbon dioxide vapors escaping from their fermenters for reuse in their products, and it is very rare for them to sell the carbon dioxide to others.
Most whisky and ethanol produced in the United States is kitnios, not chametz. Due to an overabundance of carbon dioxide byproduct, it is uncommon for a producer (e.g. a whisky or ethanol plant) to recover the carbon dioxide unless they have a specific buyer in mind. In fact, typically the carbon dioxide resellers are the ones who install the collection equipment in the producer of their choice, and then remain with that producer for many years. As such, although many new ethanol plants have opened up in the USA in recent years, it may take many years before the carbon dioxide produced in those plants is ever used in seltzer.