With water safety a rising concern in recent years, countertop water filters have found their way to a majority of American homes nowadays.
There are many reasons why the appliance becomes so popular.
First, the best countertop water filters can remove a large number of different contaminants in the water, improving both its taste and smell. Second, it’s a lot more affordable than say a complicated whole-house system.
It also helps that these filters are typically extremely easy to set up. This is a great advantage, especially if you’re living in a rented place for a short time, where a complex system would not be feasible.
It’s not that these filters are without drawbacks. As the name suggests, they do take some space on the countertop. Besides, a filter is no sculpture and if you’re very decor-conscious, you may not enjoy their presence there. Unfortunately, when it comes to filtration, size does matter. If you opt for mini filters, their rather humble size and simple filtration mechanism can put them at an disadvantage.
Before going on the hunt for the best countertop filtration systems – the ones with the best efficiency and minimal drawbacks, let’s first take a look at what the market has to offer.
Types Of Countertop Water Filters
1. Filter Dispenser
Effective (very), portable (somewhat), and affordable in the long run, plus requiring no electricity to work, the filter dispenser is the sweetheart of a device for both big and small families alike.
The typical filter dispenser consists of an upper and a lower chamber (aka container), with a bunch of filter elements in the middle. You fill the upper tank, and wait for the water to run through the filters down to the lower chamber purified. The whole process usually takes a couple hours.
The good about the filter dispenser is that it is not connected to anything – no power plug, nor faucet or water line. It would as happily sit on your office table as it would on the kitchen countertop, or in your car during a road trip.
Your only problem is to fill it up every couple days. Tip: A pull out kitchen faucet makes reloading the tank a thousand times easier.
2. Water Distiller
When extremely purity is required, the method of distillation always seems to have the upper hand.
A water distiller boils the water up, runs the steam through it coils and turns it again into the form of pure liquid to drop down into a container. All the contaminants – sediments, heavy metals, and most chemicals – are left behind, condensed in the remaining water to be discarded.
Not all water distillers are created the same, however. You may end up with medical-grade water that tastes sweet and refreshening with real health benefits. Or you may get a funky smelly liquid after hours of waiting. That mostly depends upon the quality of the materials used to make the machine. (Quick tip: when heat is involved, the consensus is to avoid plastic.)
Water distillers are usually quite modest in size, processing only a couple gallons at a time. They are most suitable for individuals or households of 2 – 3 people. They take time to do their job – the wait is typically hours. So, if you’re forgetful like me, you probably will be better off with some other type of water processors.
3. Water Ionizer
The water ionizer belongs to the more advanced (and more expensive) group of water processors. Let’s take it this way: they are the Rolls-Royce, both in terms of quality and price.
An ionizer handles water via a process called electrolysis. During this process, positive ions in the water gather at the negative electrodes to create cathodic water. The negative ions, meanwhile, gather at the other side to make anodic, or oxidized water.
With high alkalinity and anti-oxidating potential, the cathodic water has a “sweeter” taste to it and is believed to increase your blood pH. As such, it’s said to help reduce the risks of a wide variety of diseases and ointments, from cancer to minor skin irritations and allergies.
The effects are still under debate, but one thing can be confirmed: tap water comes out of the machine tasting like heaven. You can’t really see or smell anything, but it feels good. Part of the reason could be the pre-filters that come in the package.
The water ionizer is made for one particular person: the one who wants the best for their health and has the money for it.
4. Reverse Osmosis (RO) Filter
A reverse osmosis filtration system is one of the most effective water filters you can get. It can handle almost every water pollutant you can think of: from sediments, to chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, to heavy metals like lead and mercury, at the price of a slowed flow.
Usually equipped with several cartridges of pre-filtration materials and a tank, RO systems can be quite overwhelming in size. They are more often seen installed in a cabinet under the sink for aesthetic reasons. In recent years, though, countertop RO filters have also gained some popularity thanks to their more appealing design and simplified installation.
RO systems are suitable for spacious kitchen countertops. They are recommended specifically for homes with high risks of exposure to lead and other heavy metals in the water, such as houses with old pipelines, or homes in areas with hard water.
5. Sink-top Filter
Of all filters, the sinktop is probably the best option time-wise, money-wise, and space-wise.
The sink top filter is a simple system integrated into your faucet system to filter water right before it runs out of the tap. It’s small, usually consisting of a filter cartridge inside a plastic or metal housing, and a faucet-type spout from where the processed water comes out.
This kind of filter is the least intrusive of all kinds of water processors. It can sit right next to the faucet, leaving more sink top space for other things/activities. Filtration is quick with even moderate water pressure in the house.
While filter longevity is not one of its strengths, the thing can typically last several months and installation/replacement takes no more than a couple minutes. That’s why it’s a preferable choice for people in a rented home or someone who simply wants a quick, affordable solution to fluoridated tap water or the icky smell of chlorine.
Review of the Best Countertop Water Filters 2021
After several rounds of selection based on product specs and verified customer reviews, we have found the best representative for each type of countertop filters.
- Big Berkey Water Filter 2.5 Gallon System – Best to Buy in 2021
- APEC Portable Countertop Water Filter System – Best RO Countertop Filter
- Megahome Countertop Water Distiller – Best Countertop Water Distiller
- Bawell Platinum Alkaline Water Ionizer Machine – Best Alkaline Water Machine
- Home Master TMJRF2 Jr F2 Water Filter – Best Sink Top Water Filter
Here’s our picks for the Best Countertop Water Filters.
1. Big Berkey Water Filter 2.5 Gallon System – Best to Buy in 2021
Looking for a portable dispenser that actually works to remove harmful contaminants? Check out this Big Berkey. Constructed of high quality material with filters tested by to exceed NSF/ANSI Standard 53, and offered at a reasonable price, this US made 2-gallon dispenser is easily the best to have on your countertop this year.
It has, in fact, also made it to our list of the best household water filters to purchase for drinking and cooking water.
- Strong, long lasting filters
- Portable (smaller models)
- Includes stainless steel water bottle
- Comes in various sizes
- Assembling instructions are not clear
- Manually filled
Filters Fluoride, Arsenic, MTBE
Most countertop filters stop at reducing sediments, chlorine and common VOCs in tap water.
The Big Berkey takes a step further by removing water fluoride and re-oxidized arsenic III and arsenic V. The latter two are elements known to cause a bunch of health problems at a very low dose. It also removes the water soluble organic compound of MTBE, long term exposure to which (via drinking) can cause poisoning.
The secrets of this countertop dispenser are at its superb filters – the black BB9 and the PF2. They are all part of the package, and are also available for purchase independently.
Durable Construction And Long Filter Life
The dispenser comes plastic-free: its upper and lower chambers are both made of 304 stainless steel, promising to last decades. It is designed to stay intact on the road on long travel. The smaller versions actually are pretty common among roadtrippers thanks to their durability.
The filters themselves are turtles of their kind.
The PF2s can process 1,000 gallons, or 3800 liters of water before replacement is necessary, whereas the black BB9s can process 3,000 gallons, or 11,400 liters of water. (Side note: you will have to pour all that water into the tank by yourself. A pull out or pull down kitchen faucet with a long spout will be extremely useful in this case!)
To give you an idea, an average person only needs to drink half a gallon a day to meet the recommended amount.
So for a family of four, the PF2 is going to last about 4 months, and the Blacks more than a year. If you have sanitary concerns, the Blacks are cleanable using the Scotch-Brite pad.
Allows You To Ditch Plastic Bottles For Good
The filter dispenser bundle doesn’t just bring you clean water from the countertop. It comes with a big stainless steel bottle so you can enjoy purified water on the go. That’s one great way to save yourself from hormone-irritating plastic bottles, and to save the environment.
The bottle does seem a bit too big to carry around on a daily basis (it can hold 24 ounces of water – enough for 3 days). If you’re on a camping trip or are going hiking for a couple days, however, you’re gonna really love it.
2. APEC Portable Countertop Water Filter System – Best RO Countertop Water Filter
With price, efficiency, and convenience taken into consideration, the APEC RO-CTOP wins hands down as the best RO water filter for countertop in 2021.
- Easy installation
- Effective RO filter
- Has covering case
- NSF certified components
- No independant faucet
- Takes countertop space
Four Stages Of Water Processing
With a more compact size, the countertop version is simplified to 4 stages of water processing.
Water will first run through a sediment filter with pores of 5 microns in size. To give you an idea of how small that is, the human red blood palette has a diameter of about 6 – 8 microns.
After the sediment filter, water will be processed at the second stage with activated coconut carbon, where a majority of VOCs, pesticides and herbicides, and disinfection by-products, including chlorine, are removed. It is then that the water is purified and got free of heavy metals and minerals via the third stage: the reverse osmosis.
The fourth filter cartridge offers a final aesthetic polish with activated coconut carbon to take away any remaining foreign smell/taste in the water.
One Minute Installation
Unlike the under-sink version, the countertop filter is extremely easy to install. Put it on the countertop, connect it with a standard faucet. Turn the faucet on, and voilà, out runs the purified water, tasting as crisp as from a bottle!
Without a tank to store water, the flow is not too strong. Nevertheless, it can make about 3 gallons every hour given that the original pressure is somewhere between 40 and 80 psi. That’s more than sufficient for daily drinking and cooking purposes for a medium-sized family.
The system is bulkier than a typical simple filter like the Home Master, and it does take some space. But hey, at least you will never have to spend a single minute cramping yourself under the sink for drilling and screwing every time installation or replacement is needed.
Plus, you have the option to have a pretty nice case, which covers all the cartridges and make things a lot easier on the eyes. Unless you have too small a countertop to accommodate it, this system is really the way to go.
3. Megahome Countertop Water Distiller – Best Countertop Water Distiller
When it’s COMPLETE purity you’re looking for in your drinking water, a countertop distiller is the exact answer.
- High purity level
- No plastic in contact with water
- Automatic shut off
- Easy cleanup
- No installation needed
- Takes time to process water
- Needs electricity to operate
The MegaHome stands out as our first choice for a number of reasons.
No Plastic Involved
To be exact, there IS plastic, but water will not touch it.
Everything that comes in direct contact with water: the inside of the distiller, the coils, and the storage tank are made of either 304 stainless steel or glass. This ensures the ultimate purity of the liquid.
UL Approved For Safety
When a product comes with a UL listed mark, you can be assured peace of mind in terms of safety.
The distiller is pretty simple in construction, but it is designed in a way that ensures seamless, accident-free operation. It has an automatic shut off function, making it safe for you to run it overnight or to leave the house halfway. If you’re like me and have the memory of a goldfish, this is a feature you’re gonna really appreciate.
The distillation is finished after about 5 hours, and then the machine turns itself off when there’s about half an inch of unprocessed water. This way, the remaining residue won’t end up burning or sticking to the bottom. If you discard the waste water and clean the machine thoroughly after every use, the machine will last for long years without a spot in its chamber!
Still, some hardcore users go the extra mile by installing a timer to turn the distiller off when there’s still a whole inch of water inside. They claim this increases the purity of the water. While I can find no evidence that this is effective, common sense tells me this makes cleanup even more of a bliss. In any case, it doesn’t hurt to try that.
4. bawell Platinum Alkaline Water Ionizer Machine – Best Alkaline Water Machine
If you’re into alkaline food and water, this well-known Bawell Platinum Ionizer is likely going to make you happy.
- Makes both alkaline (pH up to 12) and acidic water (pH 2)
- Easy to install (comes with faucet adaptor)
- Pre-filters included
- Requires low water pressure to operate (20 psi)
- Needs electricity to operate
- High price tag
It Makes Both Alkaline And Acidic Water
As an ionizer, the Bawell works to divide water into 2 streams, one with extremely low and the other with high pH level.
The alkaline water it makes can have ORP of +600 to -800 [what this means], and pH as high as 12. That’s higher than even the alkaline water sold in bottles at ridiculous prices in convenient stores. We don’t usually aim to drink pH 12 water – we shouldn’t, but it depends on the source water, I guess.
Despite my agnosticism towards the amazing effects of alkaline water, I have to admit that the water improves remarkably in terms of aestheticity. It has a smooth, silky texture, and tastes and smells super pleasant.
There are claims this water has anti-oxidating effects, but more solid studies will probably be necessary before we could confirm.
The acidic water, meanwhile, has pH degree of as low as 2. This is ideal for washing fruits and veggies, but not direct consumption, due to its potential ability to “nurture” unhealthy activities inside your body. Plus, it’s not the best drink on earth, unless you’re a fan of slightly sour water.
The ionizer comes with 2 filters: one pre-activated carbon filter and a granular activated carbon filter. This duo removes remove certain sediments, VOCs, and chemicals such as chlorine from the water before it runs through the ionizing stage.
The filters not only help reduce pollutants in the water, but also increase the lifespan of the ionizer itself. It’s also very convenient that these 2 cartridges can last for a whole year each if you’re using communal water. There’s a mileage indicator to let you know when they need changing.
While the two are more than sufficient, it can’t possibly hurt if you want to install more cartridges out of caution. In fact, if you’re using well water, I highly recommend making use of the 3 Stage External Filtration System that comes in the package.
Good news is, while the machine itself should only stay on the countertop, the extra filters are good to go undersink.
5. Home Master TMJRF2 Jr F2 Counter Top Water Filter – Best Sink Top Water Filter
Using tap water and seeking a quick, easy, and effective solution to the funky smell? The Home Master sink-top filter will cut the mustard for you.
- Filters fluoride, chlorine, among others
- Effective in improving water taste and smell
- Compact, portable
- Easy set up and installation
- Affordable price
- Short filter life
93 Percent Of Fluoride/Chlorine Reduced
Sink top filters are not usually known for their efficiency. They are rather small and most have a design that sometimes allows water to run through without even being processed.
To solve the problem, Home Master makes their filter with full layers of filtering materials. They also install compression disks at the inlet, outlet, and between the layers. This makes sure the water will run through coconut carbon to filter out chlorine and a plethora of VOCs, then a layer of activated aluminum for fluoride removal.
You will definitely notice a difference in the taste and smell of your tap water!
Installation Takes 5 Minutes
With a compact and simple exterior design, the Home Master is super easy to install and uninstall. All you have to do is connect its faucet adaptor onto your faucet, and you’ll get pure water within a couple minutes. No tools needed. No fuss drilling or wrenching. And zero time spent inside the cage of a cabinet.
That is the reason why it’s the perfect choice for a rented apartment or any kind of temporary accommodation, where water quality is still a concern but an undersink system is too much to handle. The thing does take a little space, but it fits in the place on the sink top that is hardly ever used for anything else. After a while, you won’t even notice it’s there!
The only minus for this filter, as I see it, is the rather short filter life. The filter cartridge lasts only 500 gallons or about 1900 liters of water. If you use it ONLY for drinking (half a gallon a day), it lasts just over 2 months for a family of four. Replacement is as quick and easy as installation, but you will have to remember when to do it.
Then again, at least you don’t have to manually fill a tank up every day, like you do with a pitcher or a dispenser.