Editor’s note: Please also see “Charcoal Sticks Are Basically Worthless” by Shannon Palus.
I was on the search for a new water filter recently when I discovered the Brita Infinity. You know what I don’t need? A wifi-enabled water filtration pitcher. The latest iteration of Brita can now track your usage and automatically order its own replacement filters through Amazon Dash, which seems to me an overcomplicated way to satisfy the most basic of human needs. Couple the expense ($7 every other month) with the guilt-inducing use of plastic, and the Brita — much like the Soma I once considered — was out for me.
That’s when I fell down a research rabbit hole and discovered the power of Kishu’s Binchotan charcoal. Made from oak, it’s a piece of charcoal that you stick in a pitcher of water to filter it (campers may be familiar with the ultraportable stuff already). Carbonized slowly at over 1000 degrees, the resulting active charcoal is an affordable and and plastic-free way to filter the water that comes straight out of your tap. The science of it is a bit of a mystery to me, but basically the charcoal absorbs metals and removes chlorine from water while releasing alkali ions, raising the pH levels as well (the higher the pH, the less acidic).
I know what you’re wondering: How does it taste? Much like any filtered tap water, with a clean aftertaste (and no hint of burnt wood). Even better, unlike a Brita or Soma’s plastic filters, it doesn’t leave any residue or little black dots. Each stick lasts about four months, and if you’re worried about the buildup of particles on the charcoal, you can boil it every three weeks to give it a refresh. I ordered a 64 oz glass pitcher (with a lid that keeps the charcoal in place), for a DIY filter system that’s totally guilt-free.
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