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Best water filter pitcher for 2021

We tested a few popular water filter pitchers -- and one model blew the competition away.

The right water filter pitcher will improve the taste and quality of your drinking water. For bottled water drinkers, a good home filter system or pitcher can also save you hundreds of dollars per year and keep untold amounts of plastic out of recycling and waste management systems. Water filter pitchers couldn't be simpler to use either -- all that's needed is to fill the pitcher with tap water and give it a little bit of time to filter into the main reservoir, which can take 30 seconds or a couple of minutes, depending on the model.

Brita is the best-known water filter pitcher brand, but that doesn't mean it's the best water filter, of course. We tested several top-rated water filter pitchers, with prices ranging from around $18 to over $100, in order to find the top-performing filters in a category that's rich in options. The best water filter pitcher is the one that will quickly and efficiently eliminate the most impurities in regular tap water.

In our last round of water filter pitcher testing, one model left the rest of the pack in its dust. In this most recent round, that same pitcher made by ZeroWater kept form, removing nearly all of the total dissolved solids, or TDS, and leaving an incredibly clean-tasting glass of H2O.

While this one pitcher may have had the best technical results in our testing and is our top recommendation for most people, there are others in the group worthy of consideration for other reasons. 

These are the best water filter pitchers of 2021.

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David Watsky/CNET

The ZeroWater was by far the best water filter pitcher of the bunch in both this and the previous rounds of testing. This water purifier pitcher is fairly affordable, sturdy and it comes in a few sizes all of which use the same filter. Those include a smaller 10-cup round pitcher, 23-cup dispenser with spigot and even a massive 5 gallon water jug that can be fitted onto a water cooler.

In our testing, the ZeroWater filter removed nearly all of the TDS from the water we ran through it, finishing with a 0 average reading, making it our top performer by far. ZeroWater is so confident in its filter products that each model comes with a TDS water quality tester to see for yourself how well it works. We used our own tester in addition to the one included and the filter delivered a perfect TDS score on both.  

ZeroWater pitchers are a bit more expensive than Brita and Pur, but by no means a luxury purchase with some of the smaller dispensers starting at just $30. Each one uses the same 5-stage filter so you can bet that you'll get similarly clean water no matter which unit you decide on. A pitcher filter replacement two-pack costs $30 and each one is supposed to last for up to 40 gallons. For comparison, Brita and Pur, on the other hand, sell each of their filters for just $7 -- and claim to have the same 40-gallon filter life. 

David Watsky/CNET

Brita is probably the best known of the water filter pitcher brands and it performed well in our testing, second only to the ZeroWater in the overall removal of dissolved materials. The Brita removed about 40% of the TDS. Not a bad showing but still significantly less than the winner.

This model happens to be about $13 cheaper than the cheapest ZeroWater model and is one of the most budget-friendly water filter pitcher options out there. To make things even more cost-efficient, the replacement filters can be had for about $3 if you buy them in a multipack. Each one is said to filter 40 gallons of water, enough for roughly two months of steady use (the same liffespan as ZeroWater).

While I wasn't in love with the build of the Brita -- the plastic feels a bit cheap -- it is just 1.32 pounds which is less than half the weight of the ZeroWater. If you have small kids or folks in the home who can't lift a heavy pitcher, this may be a good pick.  

Brita also makes a "Longlast" filter that's designed to last three times as long as the standard filter. We tested a Longlast and found it performed significantly worse than the Legacy (standard) filter. Plus, it's more expensive so I'd suggest sticking with the Legacy if buying a Brita. 

Megan Wollerton/CNET

If the goal is to add alkaline to your water, then you'll want a completely different model. In a previous round of filter testing, we ran pH readings (measurements of how acidic or basic your water is) range from 0 to 14; 7 is a neutral reading. 

Despite conflicting research on the topic, some people attribute health benefits to more basic (or alkaline) water. As a result, select companies make water pitchers with filters that actually add nutrients as your tap water passes through. 

The $70 Seychelle pH20 pitcher took tap water from an already basic reading of 8.39 to 10.1, the largest increase out of the three alkaline pitchers in my test group. This pitcher's water filtration system uses two filters at a time, but they are supposed to last for up to 200 gallons. A replacement filter two-pack costs $50. 

Pitcher talk

To get started, here's a list of the six pitchers we tested:

One key thing to consider from this chart is the estimated life of each pitcher filter versus its cost. The Brita Metro Standard and Everyday models, the Pur Plus and the ZeroWater pitcher all have a lower estimated filter life of up to 40 gallons. While the Brita filter and Pur filter models cost $7 each, the ZeroWater filters cost $15 each (but are sold in a $30 two-pack). 

pitcherfilters

Can you spot the ZeroWater filter? It's the one on the far right. 

Megan Wollerton/CNET

As you can see in the picture above, the ZeroWater filter on the far right is massive compared to others. Of course, that doesn't necessarily equal better performance but in this case, the ZeroWater did soundly outperform the others in removing contaminants. ZeroWater claims to have a five-stage filter that's better at removing particles while preventing mold from growing with use. Based on our testing results, it seems the brand may be onto something. 

(Keep in mind that filter life will vary based on the quality of your tap water and how much your filter has to "work" to remove impurities.)

How we test

To test these water filter pitchers, we washed each one with mild soap and water, then followed the individual manufacturer instructions for soaking, rinsing or otherwise prepping filters for use. Then we filled a marked mason jar glass with 16 ounces of tap water and used an Orapxi water quality tester to measure and note the TDS present. 

While the results of my tap water varied slightly each time I filled a fresh glass with 16 ounces the TDS of the water used always read between 47 and 50 ppm, or parts per million. (Read more about TDS here and here.) 

Then we poured all 16 ounces into a water filter pitcher, waited for it to filter all the water, poured it into a new glass and took the readings again. For a nonalkaline pitchers, you should expect to see a drop in the TDS readings, as impurities and other minerals are removed from the water. We repeated these steps a total of three times on each of the pitchers. 

TDS meters are not sophisticated enough to decipher which impurities, nutrients and other minerals each filter manages to remove (or add, in the case of the alkaline pitchers). For that reason, measuring TDS alone as an indicator of water quality has some limitations. But, in general, for a standard filtered water pitcher, we want to see a decrease in the TDS reading. Examples of the most common TDS include "calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, sulfate, chloride, nitrate, and silica," according to the US Geological Survey.

In a previous round of testing, we ran three alkaline water filter pitchers through a pH test -- Clearly Filtered, Invigorated Water pH Vitality and Seychelle pH20. All saw an increase in both the pH and the TDS, since they're designed to add minerals to your water, but the Seychelle saw the biggest pH increase which is why we've listed it as the best pitcher to buy if you want to add alkaline to your tap water. 

Here's a table of our most recent TDS removal test results. The data represents an average of three test runs for each filter pitcher. 

Test results


TDS (% change)
Brita Metro Standard -45.6
Brita Everyday -45.6
Brita Longlast -3.1
Larq self-cleaning -2.2
Pur Plus -6
ZeroWater -100

The ZeroWater pitcher managed to reduce all of the total dissolved solids in my tap water, from an average initial TDS reading of 57 ppm down to zero -- which may help explain the name. Both Brita pitchers with the standard filter tied for second place, a reduction of TDS from 57 down to 31 (a 45.6% decrease). 

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Water taste was a bit trickier to measure, but every pitcher did help reduce the slightly metallic taste of my tap water. Unsurprisingly, the ZeroWater pitcher model tasted the best, with no discernible metallic taste or scent. 

Overall, the ZeroWater (ZP-010) made our job pretty easy in both rounds of testing. It completely dominated in terms of removing TDS and also happened to have one of the sturdiest designs -- second only to the expensive Larq self-cleaning pitcher. But there are other good options here too: The Brita Metro Standard is a great budget filter pitcher that weighs less than ZeroWater's pitchers and has cheaper replacement filters. The Seychelle pH20 is a great pitcher pick if you want to add alkaline to water.

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One thing to note is that we're really testing the filters here and not the pitcher itself. Because most home filter pitchers made by a single brand will use the same filter, you can bet that no matter which size or shape dispenser you choose, the filter should do the same job, for better or worse. ZeroWater, for instance, has a line of about six pitchers, jugs and dispensers in various sizes -- all of which use the same very effective 5-stage filter. The one caveat within the brands we've tested here is Brita which offers a LongLast filter that did not perform as well as the Legacy Brita filters.

Another big takeaway is just how widely filtered water pitchers can vary, both in terms of performance -- and even in terms of their key function, as in the case of the alkaline pitchers. As long as you identify your needs before you buy, you're bound to find the right filtered water pitcher for you.