In the past few years, we’ve been struggling with drinking water quality issues. From the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, to contamination from aging lead water pipes to reports of traces of pharmaceuticals in the water supply, it’s not surprising that more and more people are becoming proactive about the quality of their drinking water. To address these concerns, some people buy bottled water, while others choose to install under-sink water filtration systems. For those who want to cut back on grocery store runs, and who don’t want to drop a lot of cash on major kitchen alterations, though, the happy medium is water filter pitchers.
With water filter pitchers, all you have to do is fill up the pitcher with tap water, let it filter, and voila, filtered drinking water. If you’re just walking down the aisle of your grocery store or Target, chances are that you’ll only see pitchers made by the two biggest names in water pitcher filtration: Brita and Pur.
So what, exactly, is the difference between these two types of water filter pitchers? After weeks of testing—during which the Brita and Pur pitchers took our top four spots—we compared the pros and cons of these two brands with respect to the following:
For most Brita pitchers, there are two types of filters you can buy: Standard and Longlast. The Standard filter primarily removes chlorine and heavy metals like cadmium, mercury, and copper. The Longlast filter is rated to reduce chlorine, lead and other heavy metals, and some other emerging contaminants like industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
For most Pur pitchers, there are two types of filters you can buy: Standard and Lead Removal. The Standard filter is rated to remove or reduce chlorine, heavy metals, particulates, some industrial pollutants, microbial cysts, some pesticides and herbicides, some pharmaceuticals, and some industrial chemicals. The Lead Reduction can reduce or remove chlorine, lead and other heavy metals, particulates, some industrial pollutants, microbial cysts, some pesticides and herbicides, some pharmaceuticals, and some industrial chemicals.
While both brands have a basic filter that removes or reduces chlorine and heavy metals and a more expensive filter that removes lead, the Pur filters combats a wider variety of contaminants than the Brita filters.
During extensive testing, we found that, overall, people preferred the taste of tap water filtered with the Brita Standard filter more than that of water filtered with the Pur Standard filter. Taste test participants described Brita water as “most clean," “tasted pure," and “most neutral." However, the Brita water didn’t win in a landslide; the Pur water was a close second, and testers commented that it tasted “clean and refreshing” and had “no aftertaste.”
One other thing to note: While our taste testers preferred the taste of the water filtered with the Brita Standard filter, the water filtered with the Brita Longlast filter did not rank as highly. On the other hand, while the Pur filtered water didn’t win the overall taste test, both the Pur Standard filter and Lead Reduction filter made water that finished near the top of our taste test rankings.
Advantage: Brita (slightly)
For both Brita and Pur, we tested the most basic pitcher and the pitcher one step up from the most basic pitcher. For Brita, these pitchers were the Everyday 10-cup pitcher and the Grand 10-cup pitcher, respectively; for Pur, these pitchers were the Classic 11-cup pitcher and the Ultimate 11-cup pitcher, respectively.
The two basic pitchers, the Brita Everyday and the Pur Classic, generally cost between $25 and $30, and they both include a Standard filter with purchase, so there’s no cost difference there. However, there is a cost difference between the more advanced pitchers, the Brita Grand and the Pur Ultimate. The Brita Grand pitcher has a retail price of anywhere from $25 to $40, and includes a Brita Standard filter. The Pur Ultimate pitcher retails for $25 to $30, and includes a Lead Reduction filter, which is the more expensive of the two Pur filters we tested.
While these pitchers all generally cost the same, if you buy the Pur Ultimate pitcher, you get more for your buck because the Lead Reduction filter that comes standard with that pitcher doesn’t increase the overall price of the pitcher.
Advantage: Pur (slightly)
As mentioned previously, we tested two filter types for both Brita and Pur: the Brita Standard and Longlast filters, and the Pur Standard and Lead Reduction filters. The two Standard filters both have a lifetime of 40 gallons of water filtered and/or 2 months, whichever comes first depending on the usage.
Here’s where Brita really shines: The Longlast filter, as its name implies, has a lifespan of 120 gallons of water filtered and/or 6 months. The Pur Lead Reduction filter actually has a shorter lifespan than its Standard filter, and only lasts for 30 gallons of water filtered and/or 2 months. That’s to be expected, to some extent, since the more intense filtration required to get rid of the aforementioned contaminants will require more frequent substitutions to maintain the same high level of water purity. That’s what makes the Brita Longlast filter such a nice surprise; you get high quality filtration, and don’t have to swap the filter every couple of months.
Filter replacement costs
In our water pitcher roundup, we determined the cost per filter by dividing the price of a multi-pack of replacement filters by the number of filters included in that multi-pack. By our calculations, the cost per filter are:
• Brita Standard filter: $4.17/filter
• Brita Longlast filter: $16.50/filter
• Pur Standard filter: $6.00/filter
• Pur Lead Reduction filter: $8.33/filter
So at first glance, the Brita Standard filter is less expensive than the Pur Standard filter, but the Brita Longlast filter is more expensive than the Pur Lead Reduction filter. However, once we consider the number of times you’d need to replace each filter in a year based on the stated filter lifespan…
• Brita Standard filter: $4.17/filter x every 2 months for a year = $25.02
• Brita Longlast filter: $16.50/filter x every 6 months for a year = $33.00
• Pur Standard filter: $6.00/filter x every 2 months for a year = $36.00
• Pur Lead Reduction filter: $8.33/filter x every 2 months for a year = $49.98
On a yearly basis, you’ll pay less for the Brita filters than you will for a Pur filter.
Between the Brita Everyday and Grand pitchers and the Pur Classic and Ultimate pitchers, we found that, barring a few minor things, there was very little difference in the experience of actually using these pitchers on a day-to-day basis. While the Pur pitchers had a slightly larger capacity than the Brita pitchers (11 cups vs. 10 cups) and were easier to disassemble, the Brita pitchers had more secure lids and felt less top-heavy when the reservoirs were filled with water. To see which type of pitcher is better for you and your kitchen situation, we recommend (if possible) trying a pitcher out before buying it so that you can get a feel for its weight, required fridge space, and likelihood to spill.
Not including whole-sink filtration options, Pur has six different pitcher/dispenser options: three with the Standard filter, and three with the Lead Reduction filter. They are all stylistically similar, and generally vary only in capacity.
Brita, on the other hand, has a dizzying array of pitcher styles, colors, and sizes. In addition to the aforementioned Standard and Longlast Filters, Brita also has Stream filters, which are designed to fit in Brita Stream pitchers, which have smaller dimensions can still fit 10 cups of water, making them perfect for refrigerators where you don’t have a lot of shelf space.
Which brand is the winner?
Looking at all of these criteria, Brita comes out on top. Brita surpasses Pur in overall water taste, filter lifespan, filter replacement cost, and pitcher options. However, the whole point of a water filter pitcher is to actually remove contaminants, and the Pur filters reduce and remove more chemicals from the water than the Brita pitchers do. If you don’t have any strong feelings as to exactly what needs to get filtered out of your tap water, then we recommend one of the many Brita pitchers. If, however, you have specific water contamination concerns like lead, pharmaceuticals, or biological entities, then Pur water filter pitchers will give you peace of mind.
Overall winner: Brita
Contaminant removal winner: Pur
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Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.