It’s the iconic water filter brand—and for good reason. Brita has been setting the standards for home filtering since the early 1970s, introducing solutions such as the replaceable cartridge, which have since become universal. Today, their water treatment products span from under-sink systems to portable bottles, though they remain pretty much synonymous with their original consumer design: the pour-through pitcher.

These devices provide purer, more convenient, and cost-efficient drinking water to millions of homes, by housing replaceable activated carbon cartridges inside a double reservoir jug. Brita offers several options for water filter jugs, so let’s review the pros and cons of the best Brita pitchers.


Created in the 1960s, German company Brita was originally conceived around an idea for distilling water for car batteries, increasing function and lifespan through removing minerals and sediment. Soon after, founder Heinz Hankammer saw the potential for a home-filtering product, and developed the Haushaltswasserfilter, or ‘household water filter.’

Despite being around fifty-years-old, Hankammer’s original water jug design remains basically the same as Brita’s offerings today. While the company has continually refined its construction process and filtering efficiency, the principles of a gravity-powered carbon filter are still as simple and effective as they were in the 1970s, staying true to the company’s design philosophy of “clear, useful, and economical.”

What exactly does a water filter jug do?

Most water filter jugs, Brita included, utilize activate carbon and other adsorptive materials to capture organic contaminants as water passes through the system. Alongside a basic sediment screen, this process turns safe but poor tasting water into a purer, more refreshing drink.

Activated carbon

Activated carbon is a pure carbon material created from ingredients with any already high-carbon content, such as wood, nutshells, and coconut husks. These ingredients are burned or chemically treated in a low-oxygen environment to remove impurities and create charcoal, which is then ground into a fine powder and packed into a specific structure inside the cartridge.

In this form, carbon has a large surface area and a powerful adsorptive ability. When organic, carbon-based contaminants pass through the filter cartridge, they are attracted and bonded to the carbon’s surface by a ‘Van der Waals’ force, while the water continues to flow through.

The filtering power of carbon cartridges can be enhanced in several ways:

  • Producing filters of a larger physical size, such as is found in under sink and whole-house systems, lets water spend a longer amount of time inside the cartridge, increasing adsorption.
  • Structuring the filter in a tightly-packed matrix or ‘carbon block’ decreases the size of particulates able to get through the filter.
  • Additives like silver, or the ion exchange resin used in Brita products, expand the number of contaminants capturable by the filter, including as lead and copper.

Chilled water

Filtering pitchers and jugs aren’t just designed to remove contaminants from water. While this is a primary use, pitchers are also intended to store large amounts of drinking water for chilling. Most pitcher casings are designed to be compatible with common refrigerator doors and shelves, giving users a convenient place to keep their pitchers while adding an extra level of refreshment.

Point of use

Water filter jugs and other types of pitchers are designed to be mobile, allowing you to fill the reservoir and then transport the whole device to a convenient location—the breakfast nook, the office desk, the bedside table, etc. For many, this portability is a key benefit, which is why Brita products filter an estimated twenty billion liters of water each year!

Removing contaminants

Water filter pitchers are, in general, only intended for use on water that’s already safe to drink. That means you’ll need to turn to other, more intensive methods of filtration if you’re not able to trust in the quality of your tap water.

With a sentiment filter and activated carbon cartridge, a pitcher filter is able to effectively remove large particulate matter and organic compounds from water. An organic compound is a substance with a carbon base, which allows it to bind to the carbon inside the filter. Examples of large particulates and organic compounds include:

  • Pipe rust
  • Sediment and dirt
  • Chlorine and chloramines
  • Trihalomethanes and chloroform (produced by organic waste such as dead leaves)
  • Paint removers, cleaning products, and other solvents
  • Some pharmaceutical traces

Depending on the exact construction and ingredients used to create a carbon cartridge, a pitcher filter may also remove lead, heavy metals, and nitrates. Brita filters, for example, usually include an ion exchange resin, along with activated carbon, to remove copper and mercury.

While any closely woven filter can help to reduce levels of bacteria and viruses in water, no carbon filter will effectively remove potentially hazardous microorganisms.