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Brita vs. ZeroWater: Two water filter pitcher systems compared

Let's see just how the biggest name in water filter pitchers, Brita, stacks up against scrappy upstart ZeroWater.

Depending on your local water supply, completely pure drinking water can be elusive. A filtered pitcher is a simple, relatively affordable way to scrub your tap water so that it's a little cleaner, even if not necessarily free from all impurities. One company, Brita, has dominated this space for decades. Over time, though, many competitors have entered the ring. 

The boldest newcomer is ZeroWater. ZeroWater makes the lofty claim that its pour-through filters remove the most impurities of any filtered water pitcher on the market. The company even includes a TDS (total dissolved solids) meter with its products. That way consumers can personally test the results of their filtering.

To find out if ZeroWater makes good on its promise and how it compares with Brita, I put pitchers from each company to the test myself. Here's how it all went down.

The combatants

The way I chose each water filter pitcher wasn't complicated. I went to my local Target and selected the least expensive pitcher I could find from both brands. I also made sure that each pitcher came with one filter in the box. I settled on the $25 ZeroWater 8 Cup Pitcher and the $35 Brita Grand 10 Cup pitcher.

Brian Bennett/CNET

This 8-cup model from ZeroWater uses what the company calls five-stage water filtration. You also get a TDS meter that's bundled with the product. And the pitcher lid even has a handy receptacle for the sampling instrument. I also appreciate the extra flap on the back of the lid that makes faucet refills easier.

Brian Bennett/CNET

You pay a little more for the Brita Grand but it has slightly larger capacity (10 cups). While the pitcher doesn't come with a TDS meter, there is an electronic filter indicator on the lid. You can set it to alert you when it's time to swap in a new Brita water filter.

Filtering time

Waiting around for water to run through a filter is a drag, especially when you're parched. That's why one important factor to consider is filtering time. To measure this I poured 16 ounces of tap water into each pitcher. I then timed how long this volume of liquid took to drain from the filter chamber into the filtered water area.

Here the Brita was swifter, but not by much. It took 1 minute and 56 seconds to complete the task. The ZeroWater took a little longer. It needed 2 minutes and 14 seconds to filter the same amount of water. 

Winner: Brita Grand 10 Cup

My home tap water had a TDS meter reading of 187 ppm.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Filter performance

The main purpose of any water filter pitcher is to remove as much junk from your tap water as possible. While it did take slightly longer to process water, the filtering powers of the ZeroWater 8 Cup Pitcher were impressive. I measured the TDS level of my tap water, unfiltered, to get a baseline number. That day it came in at 187 parts per million.

After filtering through the Brita, my tap water had a TDS meter reading of 147 ppm.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Moments later, I ran tap water from the same faucet through each filter pitcher, then tested their ppm. Water from the Brita showed a TDS of 147 ppm. That's a modest reduction of 21.4 percent. By contrast, I was floored by the filtered water I tested from the ZeroWater 8 Cup. I logged a TDS of 0, essentially 100 percent reduction of TDS. Keep in mind I used my own Orapxi water quality tester, not the supplied ZeroWater TDS meter.

ZeroWater filtered water

TDS meter readings of ZeroWater filtered water were an astonishing 0 ppm. 

Brian Bennett/CNET

Winner: ZeroWater 8 Cup Pitcher

Price and lifespan

In terms of the lifespan of each filter versus its cost, things get a little muddy. At $30 per two-pack, ZeroWater filters cost $15 each. Brita's Longlast filters are a little more expensive at $17 a pop. That said, ZeroWater filters have an estimated lifespan of 20 gallons. Brita rates its Longlast filters to have a 120-gallon filter life. So although the ZeroWater pitcher is cheaper and its filters are cheaper, because you'd need to buy ZeroWater filters much more often, you'd end up spending more with ZeroWater's system.

Winner: Brita Grand 10 Cup 

The winner overall

The Brita pitcher might seem to be the clear winner in terms of speed, and total cost of ownership. But it did remove far less material from my tap water. That fact outweighs all others and makes the ZeroWater top dog in my book. 

I do know that my local water quality here in Louisville, Kentucky, is actually quite good. My only complaint is the scale deposits that can occur over time. The ZeroWater 8 Cup cut those impurities down to nothing. That means I'll never have to descale my coffee maker again, which for me is priceless.