Access to safe, clean drinking water is essential to a healthy life. That’s why we spent more than 30 hours researching and testing five of the most popular water filter pitchers on the market. We determined the ZeroWater – 10-Cup Pitcher to be the best water filter on the market. Although ZeroWater is more expensive, and filters more slowly, it is the best option for those who want to have water that is as close to completely pure as possible.
ZeroWater is the only water filter pitcher we tested that deionizes the water, essentially providing water that is comparable to an expensive reverse osmosis system. Read on to find out how we determined which were the water pitchers on the market.
[October 2017 Update: MAVEA has since exited the North American market so their products are no longer for sale in the US. This was one of our original top picks but we have removed this in favor of another strong top pick we really liked, the ZeroWater and have updated this article to reflect this.]
Top Pick: ZeroWater
The best pitcher we tested in terms of water filter purity. It filters more slowly, but the results are worth the wait..
Table of contents
- How we found the best water filters
- Who should buy a water filter pitcher
- How we tested the pitchers
- The best water filter pitcher: ZeroWater
- The other products we tested
- The bottom line
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.
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.
Once we narrowed down our list of water filters to five, we used them in our homes for a few weeks, and put them through a series of tests to determine which was the best overall water filter pitcher.
The five best water filter pitchers
- ZeroWater – 10-Cup Pitcher
- MAVEA – Elemaris 5-Cup Water Filtration Pitcher (discontinued)
- Brita – 10-Cup Everyday Water Pitcher
- BWT – Designer Water Filter Pitcher
- PUR – 7-Cup Ultimate Pitcher
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.
All reputable water filter pitchers (including all five that we tested) are certified to remove a long list of harmful contaminants by NSF International. While each of the water filters we tested have different levels of certifications, all of them significantly reduce harmful contaminants in the water.
The benefits of water filters go beyond health alone. Water that is filtered also tastes significantly better than tap water in most jurisdictions, whether you’re consuming it alone or in a brewed beverage like coffee. This is due to the fact that the filters remove contaminants like chlorine, which have a significantly negative impact on water taste.
Using water filter pitchers is also significantly less expensive than installing a reverse-osmosis system in your kitchen.
However, it is critical to note that none of the water filters we tested remove biological contaminants. This means that you should only use water that has been treated for these contaminants — any municipal tap water should suffice.
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:
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:
- Thirst quenching
They were also asked to rate each cup of water using two negative descriptions:
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.
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 three 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 one 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 multi-stage 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.
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.
The best water filter pitcher
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 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.
If zero distilled solids are your aim, ZeroWater delivers with best-in-class filtration.
One example: naturally carbonated bottles of water, such as Perrier and Pellegrino, contain high levels of dissolved 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
In addition to producing the purest water of all the filters we tested, we liked the overall design of the pitcher itself. Notably, the spout on the bottom of the pitcher gives users the option of either pouring water from the typical spout, or leaving it in the refrigerator and pouring directly from the bottom spout.
The plastic of the pitcher feels durable, and could probably withstand a few drops on a hard kitchen counter (though we don’t recommend testing this theory!). The pitcher itself is comfortable and sturdy when pouring as well.
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. 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 whose 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.
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.
Brita 10-Cup Everyday Water Pitcher
Brita is perhaps the most well-known brand of water filter pitchers, and they are largely responsible for the growth in the product category’s popularity since the late 1980s when they first came to the U.S. market. They are also the dominant market player, with more than two-thirds of the overall water filter pitcher market.
The Brita filter doesn’t remove the number of contaminants a filter like ZeroWater does. The ergonomics of the pitcher weren’t particularly impressive either, especially when compared to our two top picks, the MAVEA and ZeroWater.
While the Brita filter is sufficient for those who want an inexpensive and effective water filter, we think there are better options out there — namely, the MAVEA (discontinued) and ZeroWater pitchers.
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.
This was one of our top picks, but in 2017 MAVEA has 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 and original ranking.
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 and we hope one day they will bring it back to North America.
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 (admittedly more advanced) filters.
Ultimately, any of the five water filters we tested will remove significant amounts of harmful material from your tap water, and you will be better off with any of them over drinking water directly from most municipal tap water systems. However, to get the most value for your money, we strongly recommend going with ZeroWater filters.