The Best Water Filter Pitcher

Updated in Kitchen


Top Pick

ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher

We spent more than 60 hours researching and testing seven of the most popular water filter pitchers on the market. We determined the ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher to be the best water filter pitcher on the market. ZeroWater is expensive, but it deionizes the water to remove nearly everything. If you don’t need that level of purification, the new Brita – Longlast Filter improves the taste of tap water and works about six times longer than the ZeroWater filter.

Our Top Choices

Top Pick

ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher

Runner Up

Brita

10-Cup Everyday Pitcher

Better Brita Filters

Brita

Longlast Filter

We spent more than 60 hours researching and testing seven of the most popular water filter pitchers on the market. We determined the ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher to be the best water filter pitcher on the market. ZeroWater is expensive, but it deionizes the water to remove nearly everything. If you don’t need that level of purification, the new Brita – Longlast Filter improves the taste of tap water and works about six times longer than the ZeroWater filter.

Table of contents

How we found the best water filters

We spent more than 30 hours researching water, and the concerns and preferences that consumers having regarding their drinking water. We read studies on the types of contaminants that need to be filtered out to produce safe drinking water, and how the various water filters on the market work.

We also spoke with representatives and executives from the companies whose water filter pitchers we tested in order to learn more about how the different filters work, and what differentiates them from one another.

Our research also included a deep dive into sources widely considered to be authorities on water safety, including: the Water Quality Association and NSF International.

We read reviews, forums, and Reddit threads to determine which water filters were the most popular. More importantly, we looked to see which filters were certified by NSF International, a third-party organization that provides ratings and certifications for water filters, to remove harmful contaminants from water.

Updates

In 2017 our old favorite pitcher and filter, the Mavea – Elemaris, was discontinued. For our 2018 update, we searched far and wide to find an equivalent replacement, but nothing was better than what we’d already tried. Brita and ZeroWater are still the standout systems.

We switched our top pick to the ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher, with some caveats. The extreme level of purification means that ZeroWater filters don’t last as long as we’d like, and for people with heavy mineral content in their water it probably would be cheaper to buy bulk bottled water at the grocery store.

ZeroWater now sells compact filters for an On-The-Go cup and Brita-compatible pitchers, but the expected life is just five gallons, so we didn’t even consider testing them. We looked at alternative filter replacements that might be just as good, but they weren’t actually more cost-effective than buying from ZeroWater. We also looked around for a prefilter setup or bulk refill media and didn’t find anything simple enough to recommend for most households.

We saw reports of improved performance in Brita’s new Longlife Filter (now certified to remove lead) and decided to test it alongside our ZeroWater pitcher in a 2018 fall update.

The five best water filter pitchers

Water Filter PitcherPriceRank in Blind Taste Test:Minerals Remaining (PPM):Filter Life (Gallons)
1. ZeroWater - 6 Cup Pitcher$$$3 (tied)08 to 40
2. Brita – 10-Cup Everyday Water Pitcher$$$3 (tied)35040
2. Brita – Longlast filter $$$2300120
3. BWT – Designer Water Filter Pitcher$$$$3 (tied)42540
4. PUR – 7-Cup Ultimate Pitcher$$$445030
Mavea – Elemaris (discontinued)N/A137540

Who should buy a water filter pitcher

If you don’t already have a reverse-osmosis system, or some other type of water filtration system in your home, a water filter pitcher is an easy and convenient way to get clean, great-tasting water. If you live in a city that has notoriously poor tap water, having some type of water filter system is even more important.

In the US, water providers are required to provide a “consumer confidence report” that lists testing results for the water in your local supply system. You can look up a report or contact information for your local agency at the EPA’s site here.

Problems with your water might not show up on regional test, though: if you have a source of contamination in your own plumbing, or if you’re on a well or other private supply, it’s up to you to get it tested. Many water services or filter installers will test a sample of your water for free, and sometimes you can get mail-in tests for free at hardware stores, but remember that these tests are specifically designed to convince you to buy a treatment system.

All reputable water filter pitchers (including all five that we tested) are certified to remove a specific list of harmful contaminants by NSF International, an independent not-for-profit agency. While each of the water filters we tested have different certifications, all of them significantly reduce harmful contaminants in the water.

The benefit of filtered water is primarily taste. Even the most harmless particles can change the taste of your water, whether you’re consuming it by itself or in a brewed beverage like your favorite coffee. Filters also remove treatment additives like chlorine, which often have the most significant impact on water taste.

Using water filter pitchers can also be significantly less expensive and less wasteful than installing a reverse-osmosis system in your kitchen. “R-O” systems dump a lot of water down the drain, and usually take up valuable storage space under your sink.

Please note: None of the water filters we tested is certified to remove biological contamination. If you get a “boil water advisory” for your area, you should boil your water for one minute (and let it cool) even if you run it through a top-rated filter system to improve the taste.

How we tested the pitchers

In order to determine the best water filter, we used a combination of quantitative and qualitative tests to compare each of the water filters. The following are the tests we used in our ranking of our water filter finalists:

Taste test

One of the first tests we conducted was a blind taste test. To conduct this test, each of our testers were given a cup of water from each of the water pitchers, without knowledge of which pitcher each cup of water came from.

For each cup of water, testers were asked to tell us whether they agree or disagree with six positive descriptive words, including:

  • Pure
  • Crisp
  • Refreshing
  • Tasty
  • Thirst quenching

They were also asked to rate each cup of water using two negative descriptions:

  • Dirty
  • Artificial/chemical

The MAVEA water filter (discontinued) stood out by leading in both categories — with the best average score on positive descriptions and the best (i.e. least negative) on the negative scores.

taste test rankings

How quickly each water pitcher filters water

We also tested each filter to determine how long it would take, on average, to filter one cup of water. While one could argue that more time might be necessary for a more thorough filtration, we still thought it was important to consider this metric — even if it wasn’t the most critical factor.

For this test, the Brita filter performed best, taking just 40 seconds on average to filter one cup of water. On the other side, the PUR filter took a shockingly long 3 minutes and 40 seconds to filter one cup of water.

After doing some research, we thought the PUR filter we had might be defective. However, after trying filters from two different packages, our results were essentially the same.

Other than the PUR outlier, the slowest water filter was the ZeroWater filter, which took an average of 1 minute and 50 seconds to filter one cup of water. We spoke with the CEO of ZeroWater, Doug Kallam, and brought this question up. He told us that it’s true that ZeroWater filters take longer than other filters, largely because of the ion-exchange process that ZeroWater filters use to deionize the water.

The MAVEA water filter (discontinued), was right in the middle of the pack, averaging about 1 minute and 5 seconds per cup of water filtered.

How long to filter

Ergonomics

While our ergonomic testing was largely qualitative, we made a point of looking for specific ergonomic elements on each water pitcher. Most importantly, we looked to see whether the pitcher was comfortable to hold, even when it was completely full of water.

We also checked to see how stable the pitcher was when placed on various surfaces, including tile, a table, and inside a refrigerator.

Finally, we made note of any additional features each pitcher had. Examples included the pour-through lid on the MAVEA and BWT pitchers and the spout on the ZeroWater pitcher.

2018 update testing

For our 2018 update, we pitted the Brita – Longlast Filter against our new testers, a household of three in Orange, California, using the same methodology of double-blind taste-testing.

For controls, we also included unfiltered tap water, bottled distilled water and water that had been run through used-up filters from Brita and ZeroWater that were well past their useful life. The “old” ZeroWater filter allowed between 005 and 007 PPM of TDS through, right on the line for replacement; the “old” Brita filter had filtered approximately 50 gallons of water, also just past its expected life of 40 gallons.

When we tallied all the positive and negative taste reports, we found that the results were surprisingly close to results from our earlier test at the office. From this new group of testers, positive scores came in a bit higher overall, with negative scores reserved for tap water and the used-up ZeroWater filter.

It’s important to note, however, that these testers have been using a Brita system in their home for more than a decade, but mostly out of habit. When we asked them how effective they thought their Brita pitcher was before the test, they said “it doesn’t seem to be doing anything.” They were surprised at how easily they could tell the difference between the taste of tap water and a standard Brita filter.

We discovered that the distilled water (which had been sitting on a shelf in its plastic jug for a few months) actually had a worse taste than the tap water, “almost like an artificial flower taste.” This is an unusual result, but goes to show that storing distilled water has its own set of problems.

We asked our testers to rank the the taste of the top-scoring filtered water before we told them anything about tallied scores or brands, and they all picked the Brita – Longlast over the ZeroWater filter’s taste, with the Brita standard cartridge coming in a more distant third.

Chlorine removal

We wanted to see how much difference filter type really makes with taste’s biggest enemy, chlorine. We called in a Hatch chlorine test kit that can detect a .01 part-per-million difference in total chlorine.

The tap water we tested had between 0.7 and 1 PPM of chlorine. We found that any water filter we tried, no matter how much it had been used, would remove all detectable traces of chlorine. This lined up pretty well with what we found in taste-tests: the worst offenders for taste are the easiest to remove.

Brita filters: Standard vs. Longlast

We wanted to see if the new Brita – Longlast Filter was more effective at removing the dissolved solids in our water than the older Standard – Filters. The tap water in our testers’ home reads between 250 and 300 parts per million on an electrical conductivity tester (the ubiquitous TDS tester): standard Brita filters don’t do anything to reduce the TDS count, but the new Longlast filter brings it down to 200.

That 20% change between the Brita filters is enough of an improvement that, with this household’s water, it won the taste test. After a few weeks of use, though, it seems like whatever mechanism Brita is using to get that boost is depleted and it reads the same as a standard Brita filter.

Top Pick: ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher

ZeroWater_TDS03
Of all the water filters we tested, none were able to create pure water as effectively as the aptly-named ZeroWater filter.

ZeroWater filters are different from all the other filters we tested. Instead of only using an activated carbon filter, ZeroWater filters actually deionize the water. In other words, the ZeroWater filter removes essentially everything reactive from the water itself — which is why they advertise the fact that their filters produce a reading of “000” on a “total dissolved solids” (TDS) meter.

In independent laboratory testing, ZeroWater consistently beats every other water filter on the market when comparing the number of dissolved solids left in the water after filtering. This includes everything from dangerous contaminants like lead, to contaminants that impact taste more than anything else — chlorine, for example.

The upsides of this are apparent, particularly in areas where water quality is questionable or even dangerous. For example, the Flint water crisis left residents with drinking water that contained unsafe levels of lead and other contaminants. Water filters such as ZeroWater are able to filter those contaminants out of the water and to produce water that is safe to drink.

ZW gets rid of all dissolved solids. This leaves water tasting complete pure. Interestingly, this isn’t universally regarded as a good thing. That’s because not all dissolved solids are harmful. In fact, some of them, such as magnesium, are beneficial for your health and improve the taste of the water.

Purest Water

ZeroWater - 6-Cup Pitcher

If eliminating distilled solids is your aim, ZeroWater delivers best-in-class filtration. The ion-exchange technology won't stay effective for long if you've got a lot of minerals in your water, but it's very consistent and effective while it lasts.

For a popular example: Naturally carbonated bottles of water, such as Perrier and Pellegrino, contain high levels of dissolved mineral solids, which contribute significantly to their flavor profile.

We spoke with the CEO of ZeroWater, Doug Kallam, and he told us that ZeroWater does in fact remove the “taste profile” of water as a result of the deionization process. The plus side of this is the fact that essentially all heavy metals are removed, at rates notably higher than other filters on the market.

Interesting, during our testing we found that some people did not like the taste of ZeroWater, and some even thought it had a “chemical” taste. This is fascinating, because as we mentioned ZeroWater is scientifically proven to contain the fewest chemicals (if you exclude the chemical H2O). Our theory is that we are all so used to there being dissolved solids in our water (both tap and filtered) that it tastes strange to us when we drink water that is genuinely pure.

Things we liked about the ZeroWater pitcher

After using the 10-cup ZeroWater pitcher for a few years, we have to admit that it’s a bit bigger than we like. We tried out the 7-cup pitcher, and it’s easier to pour from than most 10-cup pitchers. Not only is the filled pitcher lighter, but the spout design is less likely to dribble or splash when you’re filling a narrow-neck water bottle like our favorite Klean Kanteen. The spigot at the base of the 10-cup pitcher was a neat idea, but in practice it was so slow to drain, we stopped using it. So, we’ve switched our recommendation to the 7-cup model.

The filters are large, but don’t require any presoak, which makes replacing the filters much easier than filters which require a presoak process being being used for drinking water.

We also like the fact that the ZeroWater pitcher comes with a TDS meter. Before you ask: yes, we checked the results against another TDS conductivity meter, and no, ZeroWater isn’t tricking you with some kind of rigged tester that only works with their own filters.

ZeroWater instructions recommend that the filter be replaced when the meter reads “006”. This is helpful because you don’t have to remember how long it’s been — or estimate how many gallons you’ve poured — when replacing a filter. Instead, you can simply check on the TDS meter and replace when the reading hits 006.

Finally, ZeroWater has the best recycling program of all the water filters we tested. ZeroWater will actually pay $5 for each filter that is returned. This means that customers will be much more incentivized to hold onto the filters and send them back, reducing contributions to landfills.

Things we didn’t like about the ZeroWater pitcher

ZeroWater filters are the most expensive of the pitchers we tested. While this is offset by occasional email promotions and the recycling rebate, customers will still need to spend more money to filter water with ZeroWater than any other filter — particularly if they live in a city where tap water has high levels of dissolved solids.

Ultimately, ZeroWater is an excellent option for those who want the purest water possible. If you want to add back some flavor, a slice of lemon does the trick.

Updated testing

ZeroWater pitchers
The performance of the ZeroWater filters is very consistent, but expensive. We looked around for alternatives that might allow cheaper replacement of the ion exchange resin beads, but on the whole, the filter fits in at an uncomfortable middle ground: It’s just barely cheap enough to buy these filters that a DIY refill or regeneration of the media just isn’t going to be worthwhile for most people.

If you’ve got more than 300 PPM of dissolved solids in your water, though, ZeroWater cartridges might need replacement very frequently. A reverse-osmosis system that includes an ion-exchange stage is a better buy for filtering more than a gallon per day of mineral-rich water.

On the whole, the suitability of ZeroWater depends entirely on what’s in your water and how badly you want to filter it. If your water has a low enough mineral content (around 200 PPM) that the filter lasts for a month, you’ll be very happy with the consistency of the water you get.
Key takeaways:

  • ZeroWater filters use ion exchange technology to remove almost all dissolved solids.
  • ZeroWater’s minimal taste came in a close second in our blind preference test.
  • The compact 6-cup pitcher is easy to pour from, even while it’s still filtering.
  • If you’ve got a lot of minerals to filter out, the ZeroWater filters might be more expensive than bottled water.

Budget pick: Brita – 10-Cup Pitcher + Longlast Filter

BRITA_Pour

Brita is perhaps the most well-known brand of water filter pitchers, and they are largely responsible for the growth in popularity of filter pitchers since the late 1980s when they first came to the U.S. market. They are the undisputed market leader, with more than two-thirds of the overall water filter pitcher sales.

The standard Brita filter doesn’t remove the number of contaminants that a filter like ZeroWater does. With the new Longlast filter, model OB06, Brita is trying to up their game: In the aftermath of the Flint water crisis, it’s no mistake that “99% lead reduction” is front and center in Brita’s promotional material.

Which filter you choose is definitely going to be a matter of choice for most people. Brita’s system is sufficient to improve taste, and both the NSF and other independent tests show it will remove heavy metals. For the vast majority of us, chlorine reduction is going to be the major concern, and safeguarding against accidental exposure to lead, cadmium and mercury is a bonus.

When we checked our water with a chlorine reagent test, though, we were surprised to find out that chlorine reduction was identical between a used-up Brita filter and a new one. Even a fresh Brita filter (of either the old Standard or new Longlast type) didn’t change the taste of mineral-heavy well water when tested it.

Brita - Longlast Filter

Brita's new filter lasts for 120 gallons and filters out heavy metals like lead, so it's a definite improvement over the old system. If you want the cleanest water, though, it's still not as effective as ZeroWater.

Brita’s new Longlast filter is a clear winner for the cost of filtering chlorine and other easily filtered contaminants. The Longlast is also cheap enough that it’s worth trying a blind taste test yourself if you’ve already got an older Standard filter on hand.

Sadly, Brita doesn’t sell any pitchers packaged with a Longlast filter, but the 10-Cup Everyday Pitcher or any other standard Brita pitcher can use the new blue filter.

Key takeaways:

  • The Brita Everyday Pitcher removes the worst-tasting substances (like chlorine) from most tap water.
  • Brita’s new Longlast filter adds better performance filtering metals like lead (But you have to buy it separately).
  • Brita’s carbon filters don’t remove mineral solids to the extent ZeroWater does.
  • This system filters much more water than ZeroWater before the filters stop working, so costs are much lower.

The other products we tested

The other three water filter pitchers we tested all performed well. All three were able to filter out significant levels of contaminants according to NSF International, and had solid design and build quality.

BWT Designer Water Filter Pitcher

The BWT pitcher has an interesting and innovative design, and the filter itself actually adds magnesium to the water, presumably to improve taste and increase the health benefits of the water. However, some of our taste testers did not like the flavor of the water filtered by the BWT pitcher.

PUR 7-Cup Ultimate Pitcher

The water produced by the PUR water filter was polarizing among our taste testers. Some loved it, while for others it was their least favorite. After doing some digging, we found that those who had a preference for PUR water either used PUR filters in their home already, or had used them in the past — which goes to show the importance of familiarity with regards to taste.

From a safety perspective, PUR is on par with the other filters we tested (excluding ZeroWater), however our biggest issue with the filter was how slow it filtered, averaging nearly 4 minutes to filter 1 cup of water after several tests and three different filters.

The feedback we found online was mixed, with some reporting similar stories and others saying the filters needed to be “shaken and mixed”. Ultimately, we think there are simply better options to choose from, with or without slow filtration times.

MAVEA

This was one of our top picks, but in 2017 MAVEA stopped distributing its products in North America so we’ve moved it to our “other picks” section, but don’t want to dismiss its quality or original ranking.

In 2018 have seen the filters come back in stock, which is great news for those who bought one of these systems a few years ago. Despite indications they’re thinking about selling in North America again, there’s still no sign of the pitchers at retail.

The design of the MAVEA stood out as particularly outstanding. The use of rubberized materials — both on the four feet and the handle — significantly improve stability when holding the pitcher or placing it on a surface. Overall, holding the MAVEA pitcher is comfortable, balanced, and stable — whether the pitcher is completely empty or completely full.

Unlike many of the other water filters on the market (including several we tested), the MAVEA filter does not need to be presoaked before use.

MAVEA also claims that the water filter works more consistently than other filters, thanks to its design. While we did not test this ourselves, the general consensus among reviewers and the others we spoke to indicates that MAVEA filters do seem to be more consistent in their filtration lifecycle.

Finally, one sometimes-overlooked feature is MAVEA’s recycle program. Any time you have 6 or more used MAVEA filters, you can use the company’s contact form to print out postage to ship the filters back to MAVEA for free. MAVEA then recycles 100% of the materials in the filter — which means you can drink clean water without worrying about contributing to environmental damage.

There was lots to like about the MAVEA pitcher. We hope they can bring a system to market in North America again.

Water Filters Group

The bottom line

If you’re looking for water that is as pure as possible, and completely free of all dissolved solids (both beneficial and harmful), the ZeroWater filter is a great option, however you will be paying a little more than average for their more thorough filters.

Ultimately, any of the five water filters we tested will remove some contaminants from your tap water, and they easily improve the taste by removing chlorine. Brita’s Longlast filter is by far the most cost effective, filtering three times more water than most of the others and more heavy metals than the basic Brita. You’ll have to buy a Brita Pitcher to go with it, and we liked the 10-Cup Everyday Pitcher.

Our Top Pick: ZeroWater - 6-Cup Pitcher

An excellent choice, providing the purest water. There's no presoaking and even a filter recycling program to reduce your cost and waste.

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