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ZeroWater vs Brita: Who Wins?

Updated


Both Brita and ZeroWater filters make tap water safe to drink. However, we wanted to know which was the best option for consumers. After more than 50 hours of research and testing, including four months comparing Brita and ZeroWater pitchers side-by-side, we’ve determined that the ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher is the better choice of the two and stands out as the best water filter pitcher on the market.

Both Brita and ZeroWater filters make tap water safe to drink. However, we wanted to know which was the best option for consumers. After more than 50 hours of research and testing, including four months comparing Brita and ZeroWater pitchers side-by-side, we’ve determined that the ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher is the better choice of the two and stands out as the best water filter pitcher on the market.

In order to determine the best water filter pitcher on the market, we tested five of the leading water filter pitchers, and compared them against one another.

This review will focus on the differences between the Brita water filter and the ZeroWater filter. But check out our full best water filter review if you’re curious about the competiton.

Our Top Pick: The ZeroWater - 6-Cup Pitcher

The ZeroWater - 6-Cup Pitcher produces the cleanest, safest, and purest water of all the water filter pitchers we tested.

In order to compare the Brita and ZeroWater filter pitchers, we noted differences in water filter quality, ergonomics, water filter speed, and a taste test. We also used our general impressions of the products during everyday use over the course of two years of in-home testing.

Table of contents

Water filter quality

When buying a water filter pitcher, the first and most important metric is how effective the filter actually is at removing harmful substances. Both Brita and ZeroWater have received certifications from NSF International, which ensures that both are able to remove lead and other specific harmful materials from municipal tap water.

However, both NSF International and other reports have determined that the ZeroWater filter is significantly better than other filters on the market — Brita included — when it comes to removing virtually all harmful contaminants from tap water.

This is because ZeroWater utilizes a 5-stage filter which includes a large amount of ion-exchange resin, a technology commonly used in reverse-osmosis systems. The ZeroWater filter attracts metal ions in the water, which effectively eliminates all inorganic dissolved solids like metals. This is why ZeroWater (accurately) reports that their water has zero “dissolved” solids — a point they prove by including a TDS tester with their pitchers.

ZeroWater TDS Reading 000

The Brita filter, on the other hand, utilizes an industry standard two-stage activated carbon filtration system. It’s worth noting that this filter has been an industry ever since Brita popularized the water filter when the brand first started selling in North America in 1988. There are actually some ion-exchange beads in a Brita filter, too, but not nearly on the same scale.

Nevertheless, when it comes to a straight comparison of which water filter works best, it is largely undisputed that ZeroWater filters are the best in the industry.

Ergonomics of each water filter pitcher

The ergonomic of a water filter pitcher are important as well. A water pitcher should be easy to hold and easy to pour. In addition, the pre-filtered water reservoir should be large enough to fill at least half of the pitcher.

Both the Brita and ZeroWater pitcher reservoirs were able to fill at least half of the pitcher itself, so we looked at the remaining ergonomic factors to differentiate between the two.

We found the Brita pitcher to be somewhat awkward to hold and pour. The weight doesn’t feel particularly balanced, particularly in conjunction with the handle itself. Overall, the Brita pitcher feels like a simple, utilitarian product without much emphasis placed on aesthetic or ergonomic elements.

While we don’t expect the ZeroWater pitcher to be winning any awards for artistic inspiration, we did find the ZeroWater pitcher to be a more ergonomic experience overall. In addition to being easier to hold and to pour, the handle felt more comfortable in our hands.

The first ZeroWater pitcher we tried was the ZeroWater – 10-Cup Pitcher. This design has a spout on the bottom of the pitcher, which is a great idea for those who don’t want to lift a heavy pitcher all the time, but the flow rate is so slow that one test family said they totally ignored it after a week.

If you’re after a pitcher that’s more convenient, we like that the ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher fits more easily in a refrigerator and isn’t so heavy when full. You’ll definitely have to refill it every time you use it, though.

Water filter speed

The next metric we measured was the amount of time each water filter took, on average, to filter one cup of water. While water quality and ergonomics are certainly more important considerations, we still found that the ability to filter water reasonably quickly was valuable, particularly for anyone having guests over.

how long to filter water

This is one area in which the Brita water filter really stood out. We found the Brita water filter did its job significantly faster than the rest of our finalists, averaging just 40 seconds per cup of water filtered.

Low-Priced and Fast: Brita

The Brita water filter leads the industry, with around 70% of the pour-through water filter market. It is inexpensive and filters water quicker than all of the water filter pitchers we tested.

Our ZeroWater filter, on the other hand, was on the other end of the spectrum with an average of one minute and 50 seconds per cup of water filtered — second only to the incredibly slow PUR water filter, which averaged an astonishing three minutes and 50 seconds per cup of water filtered.

Water filter taste test

Comparing the taste of two different water filters is difficult, largely because it is simply so subjective. Nevertheless, we did set up a taste test, and found that Brita beat ZeroWater overall.

water filter pitcher taste test

The first score was based on positive taste attributes (clean, pure, refreshing, etc.), with a maximum of 30 points possible. Brita earned a positive score of 21.125, while ZeroWater received a score of 20.8125.

The second score was based on negative taste attributes (dirty, artificial), with a maximum score of 10 (lower is better). Brita earned a negative score of 3.75, while ZeroWater received a score of 3.875.

Ultimately, while Brita did beat ZeroWater in both categories, the differences in each score were fairly minor.

2019 update testing

For our 2019 update, we pitted the new Brita – Longlast Filter against the ZeroWater in a household of three, 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 or perfume 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 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 long it had been in use, 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.

Filter life

This is the trickiest factor to rate. These filters all rely on capturing particles or attracting ions to an activated medium, and that means they have a limited life. Unlike a ceramic or mesh filter that simply clogs up and doesn’t pass water anymore when it’s dirty, these activated filters will just become less and less effective over time as the contaminants build up and the water just flows past. If you let them go long enough, things can even start growing inside these filters.

Brita rates their standard filter for 40 gallons, and the new Longlast Filter at 120. That’s compared to an average of 15 gallons for a ZeroWater filter before it becomes ineffective.

Those “average” numbers are assuming a lot, though. If you’ve got more than 400 PPM of dissolved solids in your water, ZeroWater cartridges might need replacement after just ten gallons. A reverse-osmosis system is a better buy for filtering more than a gallon per day of something like mineral-rich well water.

In contrast, the Brita filter is doing comparatively little to filter minerals, so it lasts longer. We watched the readings from a new Longlast filter for a few weeks, and after about ten gallons the 20% improvement it showed over a standard Brita filter disappeared. You might get better-tasting water for 120 gallons, but after a month we doubt the filter is actually doing much more than removing chlorine.

If you’re going to be diligent about replacing filters, the ZeroWater system is better at letting you know what’s going on. You can check periodically with the included tester and see when the total dissolved solids climbs up from zero to 0.006, and replace the filter before it stops working altogether. When the filter media is saturated with metal ions, it actually starts to release some back into the water, and you’ll immediately notice a sour or fishy taste. In comparison, you never really know how effective a Brita filter is.

Which water filter is best?

ZeroWater filter pitcher pour

Both the ZeroWater and Brita water filter pitchers each have compelling arguments in their favor. Both are certified by NSF International to remove harmful materials, such as lead and other metals, from the water.

Both Brita and ZeroWater also offer a recycling program, which helps prevent unnecessary materials from ending up in a landfill. However, it’s worth noting that ZeroWater offers a credit of $5 per filter shipped back to them toward new filters, whereas Brita only offers free shipping.

With everything considered, we found the ZeroWater – 6-Cup Pitcher to be the better choice overall. The ZeroWater pitcher simply utilizes better filtration technology, and is overall easier to use.

The Brita – 10-Cup Pitcher uses less expensive — and less effective — water filters. It is also able to filter water more quickly. If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive water purifying solution, the Brita filter is a worthwhile product to consider.

If you want to make your economical-but-effective pitcher even better, the new Brita – Longlast Filter is more effective at removing dissolved minerals like lead, and lasts for three times longer than a standard Brita filter.

So, if you want the best water you can get, without spending thousands of dollars on a reverse-osmosis system, ZeroWater is the way to go.

Our Top Pick: The ZeroWater - 6-Cup Pitcher

The ZeroWater - 6-Cup Pitcher produces the cleanest, safest, and purest water of all the water filter pitchers we tested. The premium you'll pay for replacement filters pales in comparison to the higher-quality water you'll receive in return.

Daniel Jackson, Writer

Daniel is a Canadian farm boy who grew up to be a nerd with a literature degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from Canada to California in 2013, and now writes for Your Best Digs full-time. Daniel remains unapologetic about Canadian spelling, serial commas, and the destruction of expensive travel mugs.

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