Almost all of us ought to drink more water. The adult body needs around 1.2 litres of water a day to work properly and avoid dehydration, and in hot weather that rises to 1.8l or more. As we all know, however, UK tap water differs from area to area. In some areas it’s heavily treated, with some regions suffering from particularly hard water or water with a strong metallic taste.
A filtered water jug is the most economic, effective solution. The water in the jug runs through a filter cartridge, which blocks impurities and regulates the chemical and mineral content, giving you fresher-tasting water. As a bonus, using filtered water in a kettle or coffee machine can result in a dramatically reduced limescale build-up, nicer tea and a better crema on your espresso.
How To Buy The Right Water Filter Jug For You
The key decision to make is which cartridge system you go for. Different manufacturers promote different systems, each with its own claims about how effectively the water is filtered, and how good it tastes.
There are some practical considerations too. Some cartridges need more preparation than others before they’re ready to deliver safe, tasty drinking water. If the cartridge only needs changing once a month, that might not sound like a problem – but if the job involves a half hour or more of soaking plus three complete refills flushing through, you might find you end up not bothering to use the jug at all.
Speed is also an issue. Some systems take their time with the filtration, keeping you waiting while you’ve got a thirst on, while others pass the water through in a jiffy.
The market-leader is Brita, one of the pioneers in this market, with its Maxtra and Maxtra+ cartridges. However, some jugs from other manufacturers will work with Brita’s cartridges, while a range of third-party cartridge manufacturers produce their own cheaper or longer-lasting cartridges that fit Brita’s jugs. This is worth bearing in mind if you’re worried about getting tied into the one system.
What about the jug?
Some jugs are designed for style, some for convenience. Obviously, the former is a question of personal taste, although some systems allow for a wide range of shapes and colours while other designs are more conservative.
On the convenience front, go for a capacity that suits the size of your household. Bear in mind that the headline capacity might not match the capacity of drinking water it actually holds. A 2.6l jug might sound generous, but not if you only get 1.4l of filtered water at the bottom. 2.7l to 3.5l jugs are a better fit for growing families – though check the dimensions to ensure you won’t struggle when cramming the thing into your fridge.
Also, look for features like flip-top lids or covered spouts that make it easier to fill the jug or prevent dining table grime from getting in. Cleaning is important too: not all jugs are dishwasher-safe, and some designs may have divots or folds in the plastic that are difficult to keep clean.
Nearly every jug will include some mechanism to remind you to change the filter. Don’t expect anything too sophisticated: most likely this will be a simple timer that goes down every few days until the thirty-day average lifespan is up. A simple LCD gauge on the lid works as well here as an app, so don’t let that sway your decision.
How much is all this going to cost?
Water filter jugs work on the classic razor blade model: the jugs themselves tend to be cheap, but the manufacturer makes its money off the ongoing cost of the cartridges.
Some of the more exotic systems can cost upwards of £50 for the jug and around £10 per filter, but on average you’re looking at £9 to £25 for the jug and around £5 to £8 per filter. You can save money by buying multi-packs of three filters or more, and if your system uses Brita filters you can also save by purchasing cheaper or longer-lasting third-party cartridges – even supermarkets are in on the act. Just be aware that these may not always be as effective as the real deal.
The Best Water Filter Jugs To Buy In 2017
1. AmazonBasics Water Filter Jug: The Best Budget Option
Many supermarkets sell own-brand jugs for £5 to £10, but Amazon’s budget option scores on a couple of counts. Amazon’s own-brand cartridges are cheap at just £10 for three, but you can also use Brita’s Maxtra cartridges, giving you the choice if you prefer the Brita taste.
It’s a practical design, too, with a flip-top lid for easy filling and a simple electronic indicator to tell you when your 30 days of filter use are up. Bar the lid, it’s dishwasher safe for easy cleaning, and as with the Brita Maxtra cartridges, the Amazon cartridges don’t need to be soaked before use; just dunk and flush them three times and you’re ready for drinkable water. It’s cheap, it’s easy to refill and the water tastes clean. Provided you don’t mind the smoky black tint, what’s not to like? £11.99, buy on amazon.co.uk
2. Aqua Optima Oria: Best Value For Money
The Oria is a well-designed jug at a great price. £14 nets you the jug plus three 60-day cartridges, giving you six months of fresh-tasting water out of the box. After that, you’re looking at a reasonable £8 for three 30-day cartridges or £15 for four of the longer-lasting filters.
Despite the low cost, the Oria doesn’t feel cheap, although the way the cartridge attaches at the bottom of the filter compartment takes a little getting used to. We’re particularly keen on the lid, which has a slatted basin that slides open for easy filling, so you never have to take it fully off.
There’s no meter on the jug itself to track usage, but there’s a smartphone app to remind you to change. If you’re looking for a cheap route to purer-tasting water, the Oria takes some beating. RPP £32.99, check price on amazon.co.uk
3. BWT Vida: Best Tasting Water
BWT stands for Best Water Technology, and the company’s water filter jugs bring a little extra something to the mix. The proprietary Mg2+ cartridge system not only filters out impurities, chlorine, limescale and heavy metals, it also adds a little magnesium to the water. Can you taste the difference? Surprisingly, yes. The water has a subtly more mineral-water-like flavour.
While the cartridge needs to be soaked for five minutes before use, it then needs only one flush through before you’re ready to drink. The Vida, meanwhile, is a fine jug, available in a range of four colours with a comfy, ergonomic handle and an ingenious flap in the lid to let the tap water in. It’s a little slow to fill, but otherwise a brilliant choice. And with four cartridges coming in at £15, it doesn’t cost the earth to run. RRP £19.99, check price on amazon.co.uk
4. Bobble Water Jug: Most Stylish Jug
Like its filtered water bottles, Bobble’s jug doesn’t play by the conventional rules. The simple, clear plastic carafe won’t look out of place in the most elegant home, and the lid and filter basket come in a range of colours.
It’s a clever design too: the jug is compact enough to fit in most fridge doors, but with no filter compartment as such, the 2l total capacity is exactly what you get, beating some physically bigger jugs.
The Bobble does have some downsides. It’s best refilled slowly from gently running tap, and the carbon filter needs 12 minutes of soaking before use. The jug itself isn’t dishwasher safe, and the calendar ring in the filter basket isn’t the clearest or most obvious reminder to change the filter. The cartridges aren’t cheap either, at roughly £18 for three.
Overall, if practicality is your biggest concern this isn’t a winner – but if you want a great-looking jug that dishes out clean, tasty water that’s ideal for drinking or coffee-making, this is it. RRP £17.99, check price on amazon.co.uk
5. Brita Marella XL: Best Big Jug
The standard-sized Brita Marella is a best-seller, and for good reason. It’s a well-designed 2.4l jug with a flip-up flap in the lid for easy filling, using Brita’s tried-and-tested Maxtra cartridges.
The Marella XL takes the basic design and ups the size, with a 3.5l total capacity that delivers 2l of filtered water. It comes in a range of colours with matching tinted lids and filter compartments, not to mention some nice limited-edition designs. It’s also dishwasher-safe, barring the lid, which has a simple electronic timer to remind you when it’s time to change the cartridges.
Brita’s Maxtra cartridges are widely available, and not too pricey at around £10 to £12 for three – or you can move up to the more expensive Maxtra+ cartridges, designed to reduce even more impurities. As the everyday Maxtra cartridges already deliver great, clean-tasting water, however, there’s no urgent need to shift. Trying to keep a thirsty family drinking water? This is the filter jug to buy. £17.95, buy on amazon.co.uk
This article first appeared on Coach’s sister site Expert Reviews