Best Water Filter Pitchers in 2020 (Guide and Reviews)

Most doctors recommend adults to drink at least half a gallon, or two liters of water a day in order to preserve their health.

This will help your body absorb minerals, vitamins, and nutrients, keep the cardiovascular system in shape, improve digestion, and overall contribute to a feeling of well-being. 

There are some instances, however, when the water that quite literally keeps us alive may prove detrimental to our health.

When our water source is contaminated by various foul chemicals, heavy metals, and bacteria it becomes necessary to either search for an alternative, or remedy the problem in some way. 

This is where filtration systems come in play, with various alternatives to choose from, ranging between expensive and tricky to install whole house water filters, to convenient pitchers small enough to be held in the fridge.

In this article, we will be focusing on the latter. 

Our Pick

Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher

Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher

It gets the highest marks for the excellent taste it leaves the water, filtering an impressive range of contaminants while letting the trace amounts of beneficial minerals like magnesium or calcium pass through.

This water filter won the hearts and minds of consumers and reviewers alike as an all-around strong product, with very few faults.

Some of the substances that are eliminated by its carbon and metal reduction stages are lead, mercury, chromium 6, chloramines, and chlorine. 

It has been tested by the manufacturer in the especially demanding environment of Flint, Michigan, and by water authorities against NSF 42 and 53 standards.

The three filters it uses have a pretty good lifetime, of around 150 gallons of water, allowing you to save up on replacement cartridges. 

Both reservoirs are made out of BPA-free plastic, in the United States, so you can be sure of its quality. Light and easy to handle despite its size, it has the “standard” capacity of 10-11 cups at a height of just over 11 inches.

However, as a number of costumers remarked, that capacity is somewhat slow to fill, but the quality of the water it delivers more than makes up for this small inconvenience.   

What we like:

The manufacturer advertises this filters out 20 times as many contaminants than most competitors. We are inclined to give credence to this figure since it uses three stages of filtration for both chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals.

Successfully tested against the particularly foul water in Flint, Michigan by the manufacturer, it also enjoys the stamp of approval from the relevant government agencies, meeting the 42 and 53 NSF standards.  

The three filters have an impressively long life, going through 150 gallons of water before needing replacement. What’s more, these are all recyclable, which is done by the manufacturer upon returning the spent cartridges.  

It has good size for most applications and is light enough to not be a nuisance during trips. 

Made in the USA, you can be certain of its quality. 

What we don’t:

Although the manufacturer advertises this will remove 90% of fluorine, independent tests conducted by consumers found that this is not the case.

However, fluorine is generally considered a beneficial substance. 

How we chose the best water filter pitchers 

Although these might not be the best choice for heavily contaminated water due to their comparatively low capacity and small filtration mass, filter pitchers are included in the category of items aimed at improving your health and safety. 

Therefore, when compiling our list, we took special care to select primarily based on the item’s ability to remove water contaminants, giving less importance to qualities like the speed of filtration, capacity or improving taste. 

We’ve started our search for the best water filter pitchers on the market by scouring through retail sites for the most popular and the best scoring items in this category, which was time-consuming but not so difficult, as most pitchers are heavily commented on by customers. 

With the 20 or so most liked filters “in hand”, we’ve proceeded to deepen our research, by consulting reviews written by professionals who tested them. Thus, we’ve managed to narrow our list to only a handful of the ones that made the best impression on the experts, so you won’t have to scroll until your finger goes numb for a unit you might like. 

Quality was not the only factor in compiling our selection, as we’ve looked for products that are as unlike each other as possible, in order to fulfill a wide variety of needs. 

1. Brita Everyday Pitcher

Brita Everyday Pitcher

The spout is smartly designed to prevent any sort of spilling, so you can use it at the office around papers with no worries.

Brita is not just a character in that show Comunity, but also one of the best water filter pitchers manufacturers on the US market, and with their latest everyday pitcher, they continue to deliver.

You can purchase it both with a standard activated carbon stage which reduces most organic impurities as well as chlorine or with an added ion exchange stage, for lead and other heavy metals like mercury and cadmium. 

Besides the taste of the water, what impressed reviewers with this product is its overall ease of use.

To top it off, it is also one of the lighter pitchers out there, at only 2.29 pounds. However, a number of people found it somewhat counter-intuitive to disassemble, but this problem can easily be overcome by just reading the provided instructions. 

A somewhat bigger downside is the relatively short service life of the filter, that can only be used for 40 gallons before requiring replacement, which translates to around two months for a family of four.

This is somewhat counterbalanced by the fact that the product comes with an LED indicator signaling when the filter needs replacing. There’s also the fact that Brita filters are very affordable, which can be said about this product overall. 

What we like:

Easy to work with, the lid stays in its place during use and the spout is designed to prevent spills. Combined with surprisingly low weight, this makes the Brita ideal for use on the go. 

Quite compact for a 10-cup model, it should easily fit most fridges and will not clutter countertops. 

It is reported to do a good job of improving water taste and filtering out impurities like chlorine, copper, mercury, and cadmium. 

It comes with a number of quality of life features, like a filter replacement indicator. 

What we don’t:

Filter life is not the best, holding only about 40 gallons. However, Brita replacement filters come pretty cheaply.

The replacement process itself should be fairly straightforward if the appropriate instructions are followed. 

2. Pur PPT111W

PUR PPT111W Water Filter Pitcher

The Pur has a timer letting you know when to replace the filter mass with a new one; a process as equally inexpensive as with its closest competitor. 

It would have been unfair for us not to include Pur, Brita’s old-time competitor in our list.

This particular model has similar specifications to the above Brita but it boasts a proprietary ion exchange technology that allegedly can remove 99% of the lead in the water, making it a good choice if heavy metals are a problem. 

With an 11 cup capacity, this is also just a little bit bigger, but as easy to lift, at only 2.25 pounds.

However, a number of costumers found that it should be handled carefully when full, as the design of the spout makes it very easy to let water flow out. This tendency is somewhat alleviated by the fact that the spout has a covering.

Pur went through the trouble to acquire WQA certification for this filter, which is reported to remove 22 water contaminants in the ion-exchange stage, and 70 filtered by the carbon. 

The filter’s service life isn’t all that better than what you see with the competition, requiring changing at every 40 gallons, or every one to two months of regular use by a family of four. 

What we like:

An overall good model delivers great tasting water and has been certified to remove around 92 contaminants. 

Employing a proprietary ion-exchange technology, this Pur is considered particularly good at removing heavy metals and should be considered a viable choice for well water. 

It is remarkably light for its size, at only 2.25 pounds. However, a number of downsides prevent it from being the easiest to handle model on our list. 

A relatively convenient device, it has a timer that lets you know when the filter needs changing. Also, the filtering speed is reported to be good, although a somewhat small reservoir means you’ll have to fill it up three times for the pitcher to reach capacity.  

What we don’t:

You might need to pay a little attention to handle it when the container is full, as the water can easily flow through the spout when tilted at an angle. 

3. ZeroWater ZD-20RPk

ZeroWater Water Filter Dispenser

Unlike most pitchers in the 20-cup range, the ZD-20RP doesn’t use a small spigot for water dispensing, but a regular spout, which makes it more convenient when traveling or at the office.

Our high capacity pick is the ZeroWater ZD-20RP, an overall strong product with a few special things going for itself.

Exceptionally for a water filter pitcher, it uses no less than five filtration stages, independently certified to remove 99.6% of the water contaminants it targets.

These are the usual substances absorbed by activated charcoal, like VOCs, chlorine, agricultural pesticides, and other dissolved organic compounds, while an ion-exchange stage should take care of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and chromium. 

Despite its large capacity and impressive size of the filter, this model keeps itself light at only 3.3 pounds empty weight. 

It also sports the nice ease-of-life features we came to expect from a top of the line model, like a covered spout and a filter change indicator with an LED.

Regarding the frequency at which the filter should be replaced, this will vary by a wide margin depending on water hardness, but it is a generally accepted rule with water filters that the larger the filtration mass, the longer the life expectancy. 

What we like:

A high capacity model that can hold up to 20 cups, which means you won’t have to fill it out quite as often. 

Despite its size, it is relatively light and easy to handle. You won’t have to worry about the kids dropping this pitcher and making a wet mess. 

With a 5-stage filter, it does a very good job of removing most contaminants from the water, certified as such by the relevant government bodies. 

The spout has its own cover, preventing dust and debris to get in, and the pitcher also comes with a timer letting you know when the filter needs to be changed. 

What we don’t:

Although this model overwhelmingly received stellar reviews (some of the highest marks for products in our list, actually) some people found that filter life is too short, and some chemicals used in ion filtration can get in the water. 

4. Dafi Alkaline UP Crystal Glass

Dafi Alkaline Glass Water Pitcher

It is somewhat more compact than other items on our list, holding just eight cups of water in its slender and tall glass body.

As the name suggests, this Dafi pitcher is made mostly of glass, which combined with an elegant design, gives it a decidedly stylish look. But the Dafi does a lot more than just look pretty, it also employs an alkaline filter medium which increases the pH of the water. 

It’s not really our place to say if this provides any health benefits or not, but a lot of people believe that it does, in which case, they should find this handsome little pitcher a good choice. 

Perfect for use on the go or around a cluttered office, the Dafi weighs just 2,5 pounds and the upper reservoir is only two times smaller than the container section, meaning you won’t have to spend a lot of time waiting for the latter to fill up.  

Probably its most interesting feature is a filtration layer that adds anti-oxidants to the water, which are important in slowing down aging in humans. 

What we like:

This model has a very attractive design and comes in a variety of colors, making it a good fit for everything from a stylish kitchen to a minimalist office. 

It provides alkaline water at a fraction of the cost alternatives such as buying bottled water would entail. If you are convinced of the health benefits of alkaline water, this should be the choice for you. 

Light, compact, and sturdy, this Dafi offers a good deal of convenience around crowded office spaces or when out on a picnic. 

What we don’t:

As some might have already guessed, this product fits in the “premium” category, meaning it’s not particularly cheap, especially for the size. Furthermore, filters require changing every month or so, significantly adding to running costs. 

What is a water filter pitcher? 

A water filter pitcher is a comparatively small device used to remove various contaminants from the tap or well water and store it in its own basin.

It consists of an upper reservoir accessible via a lid, a filter that might have between one or five stages, and a lower reservoir where the purified water is kept. 

Its function cannot be simpler — just pour water as it comes from the faucet into the upper section (either directly or using a glass), and wait for gravity to do its work.

The water will be decontaminated as it passes through the filter, usually in a time interval between three to ten minutes for 3,5 cups, so you will have to repeat this process several times before the pitcher is full. 

Why should you buy a water filter part 1: water contaminants.

This style of filter is most often employed in removing the unpleasant chlorine smell and taste from municipal tap water, but it can also be effective in eliminating or at least reducing the concentration of potentially hazardous substances from drinking water.

If you suspect the source you are using might be contaminated, a pitcher filter should be the minimum precaution to take for protecting your health or your family’s. 

The EPA defines contaminants in drinking water as anything other than H2O molecules.

This definition is rather wide, as it includes substances deemed by the agency as “health hazards”, “potential health hazards”, “emerging concerns”, as well as “benign” chemicals, certified to be safe for human consumption in concentrations found in municipal water sources. 

An example of the latter would be fluorine, which isn’t known to cause any detrimental effects in humans in the quantities regularly added to tap water.

Quite the opposite, fluoride has been shown to improve dental health in people of all ages and could be seen as a beneficial additive. 

However, in order to address some concerns, certain manufacturers advertise products that can drastically reduce the concentration of fluoride from drinking water, while in a testament to the divisiveness of the subject, others take care to mention their products won’t filter out fluoride to a significant degree. 

Chlorine is added to tap water because of its remarkable disinfectant properties. It might do a stellar job at removing typhoid, malaria, and certain viruses, but most people find its taste and smell too much to bear.

In addition, there is a weak link between long-term chlorine exposure and bladder cancer, so removing it from the water might be justified by more than just aesthetic reasons. 

The detrimental health effects of lead, mercury, and other heavy metals are well documented. These can cause liver and kidney damage, neurological dysfunctions, as well as certain types of cancers.

Since 1986, the Federal Government forbade the use of lead water piping, but these can still be found in older houses if none of the owners to the time to replace it with safer alternatives. 

Rust is also a problem caused by old piping. It’s not as detrimental to your health as heavy metals but will give the water an unpleasant smell and taste, while also staining utilities, towels, and even clothing. Washing machines, showerheads, and faucets are primarily affected by scale, in areas with particularly hard water. 

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) refers to a category which includes gasoline, benzene, and all other petroleum derivatives that can potentially foul the water, nearly all of them toxic to the human body over time, even in small concentrations. 

Chemicals used in agriculture vary widely in their potential toxicity, but most experts agree that even relatively safe compounds like glyphosate can be hazardous pollutants in the concentrations found today (up to ten times larger than 40 years ago!)

Finally, there are the contaminants that made the scene in the last two decades. PFAS chemicals have recently been in the spotlight as potential carcinogens, while it has been shown that birth control pills in water actually do “turn the frogs gay” and affect the development of human children. 

Why should you buy a water filter part 2: determining water quality

Hoping the above section scares the reader into realizing the necessity of water filtration, we’ll now detail the options available for determining the quality of the stuff flowing out of the faucet. 

Every July, community water suppliers should provide a Consumer Confidence Report listing the level of contaminants in the water they provide, as per Environmental Protection Agency requirements.

For municipalities with fewer than 100,000 inhabitants, a copy of the report can be procured from building managers or directly from the water company, while for larger places the data should be published online. 

The EPA doesn’t regulate private wells but in certain instances, but you can get testing from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as a number of private labs.

Most of the time, you will only need to send them a sample and pay a fee. The EPA keeps a list of certified institutions here

There is also the option of acquiring a home testing kit, sometimes available at your local health department, but this is not always as thorough or reliable as an investigation conducted in a lab.

Certifications

The best water filter pitchers are independently tested by The National Sanitation Foundation/American National Standards Institute (NSF/AFSI) and given a seal of approval that they really work as advertised. 

Uncertified filters aren’t necessarily “bad”, as this process is sometimes skipped by manufacturers for reasons of cost. If a filter hasn’t undergone official testing, it might be a good idea to do the process yourself by sending a water sample to a lab or check consumer reports for the results received by people who did just that. 

The most common standards water filter pitchers are tested against are:

  • 42, reduction of chlorine taste and smell
  • 53, reduction of any contaminant with adverse health effects
  • 401, reduction of emerging contaminants, such as birth control pharmaceuticals

Water taste

Improving taste might not be as vital as protecting your health, but it is still an important factor by which people decide to purchase a water filter. 

Water taste is determined by three factors, out of which two are of interest for our present investigation. These are “total dissolved solids” or minerality and the presence or absence of contaminants (the third one is temperature). 

The term “total dissolved solids” refers to the water’s mineral content, which also influences the pH. Minerals are mostly inorganic salts, like magnesium, potassium, calcium, and sodium, which are by and large considered to be beneficial for your health in the concentrations found in municipal water sources. 

Most water filters are advertised *not* to remove any of these salts, which also contribute to giving flavor to the water. Most people find that distilled water, which lacks any of the beneficial minerals we are accustomed to, has an eerie, unusual taste.

PH is a measure of acidity and it varies from 0 — which is highly acidic — to 14 — highly basic or alkaline. However, you won’t often encounter such extreme values in nature, with most water having a close to neutral pH between 6 and 8.  

Some people believe that alkaline water presents a number of health benefits, and “alkaline pitchers”, which slightly raise pH are available for purchase. 

Tap water will often have an elevated pH due to the presence of scale (calcium), which is most often considered detrimental, as it can form deposits on the fixtures of various devices like washing machines, negatively affecting their performance. 

Most contaminants covered above can alter water taste in sufficient quantities. For example, rust has its particular taste, while lead gives a slightly sweet flavor.   

Types of filters

The filtration medium can be said to be the “business end” of the water filter pitchers and might include multiple stages, usually consisting of a mesh, activated carbon, and an ion exchange unit for removing certain metals.

The mesh is basically a very fine strain that filters out undissolved solids, such as rust particles, some minerals, dust, or dirt.

It also keeps these from entering the activated carbon filter, somewhat increasing its service life. The mesh is generally the first stage of household filtration systems.

Activated carbon is the closest thing there is to a universal filtration medium, as it removes or reduces a long list of water contaminants.

This includes, but is not limited to herbicides, pesticides, and other agricultural debris, chlorine, volatile organic compounds like gasoline and benzene, pharmaceuticals like birth control substances, as well as longer chain PFAS chemicals. 

However, it only has limited efficiency against viruses and bacteria, as well as inorganic material, such as heavy metals, but certain filters are treated to be effective against these as well.

Substances like fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate (used as fertilizer in agriculture), and perchlorate will not be removed by this medium. 

All activated carbon filters work through the same principle of absorption, thanks to this medium’s incredibly high surface area, to which contaminants adhere through electronic forces. Filters of this type can usually be found in two forms. 

  • In granular filters, the material consists of fine grains through which the water will flow. Their effectiveness is dependent on the speed at which the water passes through and due to a smaller surface area, are less effective than carbon block filters, but significantly less expensive. 
  • Carbon block filters are made through shaping the material into a solid block under high pressure. This gives contaminants in the water more surface area to adhere to but is somewhat easier to clog than the other alternative, requiring more frequent changing of the filtering mass.
  • Fibredyne is a proprietary type of carbon block filter said to work particularly well against sediment. It might be worth looking into if the mesh just doesn’t cut it against solid particles contaminating your water. 

Ion exchange stages, sometimes referred to as water softeners, are used to reduce certain metals from the water, usually those that affect its hardness, which includes, calcium, magnesium, and barium.

These are replaced (exchanged) for sodium ions, giving the water a slightly salty taste and smell. People who suffer from certain medical conditions, most notably kidney disease, are advised to avoid drinking water treated with an ion exchange filter.

Other things to look for

Needless to say, the best water filter pitcher will always be the one that fits your needs the closest, and there is a wide variety of these devices available to meet most demands.

In no particular order, some important points of distinction between models are covered below. 

Speed of filtration

The speed at which water will flow through the filter is probably the most important aspect governing the item’s “convenience” rating.

This is generally expressed in how many minutes it takes for a model to filter 3.5 cups of water (beats us why they chose this particular value) and can vary quite significantly, from around three minutes, all the way up to ten. 

Another thing to note is that this doesn’t stay constant throughout a filter’s lifetime. Some models will start out fairly fast and degrade over time, while in others you might see the opposite effect.

Really, the only way you can tell how a filter will conduct itself over time is to read consumer reports from people who used it for a lengthy period or check the results of multiple-day tests conducted by professionals. 

Size and capacity

How much water will the pitcher be able to store is deceptively important. You should weigh in the household’s drinking water needs against how much space you want the device to take on a countertop and the room available in your fridge.

Always check that the height of a model allows it to fit on the shelves in your fridge since that is the place it will most often occupy during summer months. 

Capacity is most often expressed in cups and can vary from around seven or nine for the most compact pitchers to three times that in the case of large, family-sized models.

If you don’t want to be constantly watching the clock and tapping your foot while waiting for the pitcher to feel up you should take note of the model’s flow speed when deciding on the capacity. 

A higher flow speed does not always correlate with larger capacity and again, consumer reports and professional reviews will be your friends in deciding on the right model for you. 

Upper reservoir volume is not always specified, but you can get a clear idea of how many times you will have to fill it until the lower basin reaches capacity by a simple visual inspection of the product.

As a rule of thumb, smaller units have a larger upper reservoir in relation to their storage tank, making these a bit more convenient than more sizeable units. 

Material and weight 

Of course, the stuff the pitcher is made of is always secondary to the functionality and quality of the filtration medium, but it still deserves some attention.

The overwhelming majority of water filter pitchers are fashioned out of plastic, which offers a good trade-off between durability and weight.  

Since this will hold the water you and your family will be drinking, it is a good idea to ensure it won’t release any harmful chemicals.

Water pitchers found on the US market should be universally certified as BPA-free, but you cannot be certain that this demand is met unless the item is manufactured in a country with good quality control. 

Certain countries, notably China, are famous for being very lax in imposing product safety regulations, and generally having poor quality control.

The last couple of decades saw a number of scandals regarding toxic chemicals found in Chinese products, so it is appropriate to treat these with some circumspection.  

Glass is also sometimes used for the body of the pitcher as a stylish alternative to plastic. While these models do look nice, and glass doesn’t run the risk of contaminating the water, they are somewhat heavier than their counterparts and there’s always the risk of them breaking.

Design

Although this might seem a bit superfluous, manufacturers go out of their way to make their pitchers look attractive.

There are some very good looking models out there, with fluid lines and ergonomic handles.

We even encountered pitchers where wood was employed for the handle for some extra style points.

Additional features

Many pitchers today come with a filter exchange notification function. This is either an electronic device or a simple dial set by the user for whatever period of time the filter should last.

The usefulness of such a device ultimately depends on the habits of the user. 

Forgetful people might find it a godsend, while the more organized could effectively replace its functionality with a mark on the kitchen wall calendar. 

The water spout is often overlooked as inconsequential when making a purchase.

However, a poorly designed one will make water seep over the pitcher due to surface tension, which means that the container will always leave a water ring on the countertop and refrigerator shelf. 

In some models the spout is covered, so dust and other debris don’t get in. This comes in handy especially if you use the pitcher on the go, for trips, holidays, or picnics in the park.  

Filter life

Like with most other filtration systems, the filter cartridge on a pitcher requires changing ever so often. Depending on the model and make a single cartridge can last for 20 to 200 gallons, or between one and four months. 

Measured against the initial purchasing cost of the whole pitcher, filter cartridges are not a negligible expense, and you should definitely calculate how much you will be spending for these replacements before deciding on a model.

It might just be that an inexpensive item that requires monthly replacements will end up costing more in a year than even the best water filter pitchers out there.   

Portability

We’ve mentioned previously that water filter pitchers can be used when traveling, or at work. Reasonable size and weight are probably the most important qualities to look for if you plan to employ the water filter in such a manner.

Things like the lid gripping tightly to the body of the pitcher, or a covered sprout shouldn’t be overlooked, for preventing potential accidents associated with transportation. 

The bottom line

We liked the Dafi Alkaline UP Crystal Glass for its functionality and elegance. A model definitely worthy of your attention if increasing the pH of your drinking water is what you’re after. 

At the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to size, the ZeroWater ZD-20RP can provide good service for a large family and its filtering properties are nothing to scoff at either. 

A mid-range filter, the Pur PPT111W boasts impressive lead-removing properties, while its close competitor, the Brita Everyday Pitcher is an all-around strong product, designed to prevent the water from accidentally spilling. 

Our top pick, however, is the Aquagear Water Filter Pitcher. Its specifications are simply above those of the competition, and while it does come at a premium cost, the long filter life will gradually dampen the initial expenses. 

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