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Best Water Filter Pitchers

By: Kelly Burgess on March 29, 2017

Water filter pitchers are affordable and easy to use

Pitcher-style water filters are popular because they're easy to use, don't require installation and can be stored in the fridge. Most use an activated carbon filter that improves water taste and odor, and some are certified to do more. If you just want drinking water that tastes fresher and don't have any serious water issues, this may be the way to go. However, you'll be limited by the volume of the pitcher -- and you have to refill it. Pitchers won't be the best choice if you have a large family, drink a lot of water, or need filtered water for uses other than just drinking. In that case, we would recommend a faucet water filter or an under-sink water filter, which we discuss elsewhere in this report.

One of the biggest complaints we see about pitcher water filters is that they're so slow. After filling the upper reservoir with tap water, it can take 10 to 30 minutes for gravity to pull the water through the filter to a storage tank below. That's why our top recommendation in this category is the Clear2O CWS100A Water Filtration Pitcher (Est. $30). It's one of the fastest filtering carafes because it attaches directly to the kitchen faucet with a hose and uses the resulting pressure to push water through the filter.

In professional testing at ConsumerReports.org, the Clear2O CWS100A earns Excellent scores for removing lead and organic compounds. It also reduces contaminants, including disinfectant byproducts and organic particulates, and owners say they've noticed clearer, better tasting water from this carafe-style filter. Each cartridge filters 50 gallons of water, and a filter replacement indicator that alerts you when it's time to change the filter -- it turns yellow at 40 gallons, red at 50 gallons. The pitcher is relatively affordable too, with a low initial cost and filters that are priced at about $10 each. How long each filter lasts will depend upon how quickly your family goes through 50 gallons of water. Although the CWS100A is a fairly slim pitcher, it holds nine 8 ounce glasses of water.

The only real complaints we saw about the Clear2O CWS100A is that it can be a hassle to attach it to the faucet to fill it, and the included adaptors don't fit all faucets. Most were able to solve the problem with a trip to their hardware store, but some gave up in frustration and returned the pitcher. It seems as if those with older faucets had the best luck, while those with more modern spray- or swivel-type faucets had the most trouble. The pitcher also has to be set close to the faucet to fill because its hose is rather short, so some people will need to buy the optional Quick Connect Hose Extender (Est. $10).

One other caveat: at the time this report was prepared, there were many rumors that the Clear2O CWS100A is being discontinued. We contacted the manufacturer and were assured that they have no plans to discontinue this popular water filter carafe, writing, "Applica Water Products has no plans to discontinue its Clear2O water pitcher & filter line and is currently developing other filtration products to complement its product offering."

If the purest water is your top priority, you may want to take a look at the ZeroWater 10 Cup Pitcher (Est. $35). It's a gravity-fed system, which means you pour water into a reservoir and it drains into a carafe. That makes it slower than the forced-fill system on the Clear 2O; in testing at YourBestDigs.com the ZeroWater filter took one minute and 50 seconds to filter one cup of water, but its five-stage filtration system also produced the purest water overall, removing virtually all total dissolved solids, much as a reverse osmosis (RO) system will do (we discuss RO systems in our separate section on under-sink water filters). It includes a meter that measures the total dissolved solids (TDS) in your water, when it reaches a certain level it's time to replace the filter.

The ZeroWater 10-cup pitcher, along with the smaller but otherwise identical ZeroWater 8-cup Pitcher (Est. $30), also receives a Recommended nod at ConsumerReports.org, with a Very Good rating for lead removal, flow rate and resistance to clogging. However, as both YourBestDigs.com and TheSweethome.com point out, this level of TDS removal can also remove beneficial minerals, so you may not need this level of purification, something we discuss further in the introduction to this report. Having your water tested before purchasing a water filter can help you determine the best filtering carafe for your specific situation. TheSweethome.com also dings the ZeroWater pitcher for its unfriendly design that makes it hard to fill and sometime results in the heavy filter falling out on your hand.

Owner reviews for the ZeroWater pitcher are mixed. Many love it, saying it's greatly improved the appearance and taste of their water. Others are less pleased, and we saw a number of complaints about filter life. These pitchers use the ZeroWater ZR-001 Filter (Est. $15) and, depending upon the quality of your water, may need to be replaced as soon as it filters about 8 gallons of water -- which isn't a lot of you have a large family or use a lot of water. However, some people who live in areas with high TDS levels have come up with clever ways to get ZeroWater's absolute purity while drawing out filter life, namely, by filtering the water first with another water pitcher, then filtering it again through a ZeroWater pitcher.

If you want to try that, or if you simply don't need the level of filtering that the ZeroWater pitcher offers, and the Clear2O, doesn't work with your faucet, we recommend the Brita 10-cup Everyday Water Filter Pitcher (Est. $25). Brita also has a gravity-fed design, but it filters faster than the ZeroWater carafe, taking 40 seconds to filter one cup of water in testing at YourBestDigs.com. The Brita pitcher is more popular with owners, as well, with most saying they notice an improvement in the appearance and taste of their water. At TheSweethome.com, the Brita is their new "provisional pick," pending further testing, after issues surfaced with their former top pick and runner up.

The Brita Everyday Water Filter Pitcher has two filter options. The Brita Standard Replacement Water Filter (Est. $15 for 3) will reduce odors and improve water clarity and lasts for about 40 gallons, or the Brita Longlast Replacement Water Filter (Est. $30 for 2) which filters out more contaminants, including lead, and will last for 120 gallons.

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