Average Customer Review:
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.
If the purest water is your top priority, experts recommend the ZeroWater 10 Cup Pitcher (Est. $30). It's a gravity-fed system, which means you pour water into a reservoir and it drains into a carafe. Because of the Zero Water's five-stage filtration system, that makes it slower to fill than some other water pitches. In testing at Your Best Digs, the ZeroWater filter took one minute and 50 seconds to filter one cup of water, but it also produced the purest water overall, removing all total dissolved solids (TDS), 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 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 Consumer Reports with a Very Good rating for lead removal, flow rate and resistance to clogging. However, as Your Best Digs, Wirecutter and Reviews.com all point out, this level of TDS removal can remove beneficial minerals and can also make the water taste bland. Reviews.com has an excellent explanation for that phenomena, saying "TDS are the spices of the water world: Too many and they're overpowering, but a little bit can actually enhance your water's flavor."
Unless you live in a place where the water is known to be really bad, you may not need this level of purification. We discuss that 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; in other words, the Zero Water pitcher might be overkill.
Your Best Digs likes the comfortable, ergonomic design of the Zero Water pitcher. In particular, they call out its dual spouts, one of the top and one on the bottom, so you can fill a glass without removing the pitcher from the fridge. Wirecutter, on the other hand dings it for an unfriendly design that they say makes it hard to fill because of the tight-fitting lid, and we saw a few owner comments about the lid being hard to remove as well.
Owner reviews for the ZeroWater pitcher are mixed -- as they are for all water filters. 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 10 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 (covered below) doesn't work with your faucet, we recommend the Brita 10-cup Everyday Water Filter Pitcher (Est. $30). 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 Your Best Digs, which makes it their runner up pick. 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 Wirecutter, the Brita is their top pick, but only if you use it with the optional Brita Longlast Filter (Est. $30 for 2). And they also note that there issues with the Longlast filter that causes frustrating clogs in a small percentage of them -- something Brita says it's working on.
The Brita Everyday Water Filter Pitcher comes with the Brita Standard Replacement Water Filter (Est. $15 for 3). They'll reduce odors and improve water clarity and last for about 40 gallons. The Brita Longlast filters filter out more contaminants, including lead, and will last for 120 gallons.
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. Our former Best Reviewed water pitcher, the Clear2O CWS100A Water Filtration Pitcher (Est. $25), has a unique solution to this problem. 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 Consumer Reports, 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 the pitcher has 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 reason the Clear2O CWS100A dropped from our top spot this year is that we saw more complaints from owners about the fill hose not fitting any of their faucets. Many 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. $11).