Does Brita Filtering Vodka Really Work?
The internet is full of boozy alchemists attempting to transform a $12 bottle of vodka into a $60 bottle of Grey Goose by passing it through the charcoal filter of a Brita. Often the results are the same: “Eh. Just buy a nicer bottle of vodka.” But the experiment seems to resurface every year or two, inspiring college kids and anyone else unwilling to drop more than $15 on a bottle to simply—and cheaply—attempt to make the best vodka from the worst vodka. So we set out to definitively answer a few questions: Does filtering a vodka actually work? If so, how many times should the vodka be filtered? Is this all actually just an elaborate scam put forward by the Brita lobby? Here’s what we found when we compared the Brita’s effects on bottom-, mid- and top-shelf vodkas both in a linear tasting and a blind tasting.
Bottom Shelf Vodka: Georgi
Cost of vodka: $18 for 1.75ml
Cost of Brita filter: $20
Total cost: $38
Georgi—a popular super cheap vodka along the lines of McCormick’s or Popov—claims to have been distilled four times. Considering its fiery, pungent flavor, we can’t imagine what it would taste like fresh off the first round of distillation. In both the blind and linear taste tests, the straight, yet-to-be-Brita-filtered Georgi was described as smelling a bit like acetone-soaked bread, and it left a sensation on the tongue like we’d just eaten sour candy. It also prompted the blind taster to ask, “Can vodka turn?”
After one filtration: It’s possible our sense of smell adjusted to Georgi’s harsh aroma, but it was much more mild. Our taste buds, on the other hand, registered no change.
After two filtrations: After two filtrations, the vodka smelled faintly like wet rocks, and its more offensive qualities had disappeared. The flavor, however, was still rough, though the aftertaste seemed to have mellowed.
After three filtrations: There’s wasn’t much variation after round three. It was slightly more easy-drinking, or maybe our taste buds had burned off.
After four filtrations: The vodka’s aroma dissipated into a mild dirt and forest floor aroma. It tasted round and vaguely sweet—downright palatable. We’ll call this bottom-shelf experiment a middling success.
Mid-Shelf Vodka: Skyy
Cost of vodka: $15 for 750ml
Cost of Brita filter: $20
Total cost: $35
Though it’s not the cleanest tasting vodka out there, Skyy is noticeably better than our bottom-shelf subject. It also boasts quadruple distillation, and adds triple filtration to its dance card, which may account for its crisper flavor and light finish.
After one filtration: While the difference was barely noticeable, the vodka tasted a touch sweeter. It also had more of a viscous texture compared to its fresh-out-the-bottle counterpart.
After two filtrations: The vodka was noticeably less harsh. It also developed a prominent sweet grain flavor.
After three filtrations: Even when tasted next to each other in the blind tasting, we noticed no change between the second filtration and this one.
After four filtrations: Again, there wasn’t much change in flavor after this fourth ride through the Brita, but the vodka did gain even more viscosity (our blind taster called it “thick”). The Brita-filtered Skyy was world’s better than its bottom-shelf brethren—it was brighter and smoother.
Top Shelf Vodka: Grey Goose
Cost of vodka: $35 for 750ml
Cost of Brita filter: $20
Total cost: $55
Grey Goose is made from French wheat and touted as tasting “fresh,” “bright” and “satisfying.” During both the blind and linear taste tests, these claims held up—especially when compared to the other vodkas. It tasted clean, with strong notes of grain.
After one filtration: After one time through the Brita, there wasn’t much of a change, but the vodka did taste slightly sweeter—similar to how the Skyy changed after its initial filtration.
After two filtrations: There wasn’t much change between this and the first filtration, though the mysterious saccharine flavor was slightly more pronounced.
After three filtrations: The vodka continued to get sweeter and more viscous, leading us to suspect that the Brita was not only ridding the vodka of impurities but also somehow affecting flavor and texture. The blind taster said, “It’s very sweet with no burn,” and after tasting this and the second filtration of the Skyy, decided they tasted almost identical.
After four filtrations: Not a lot of change from the third filtration, but when tasted side by side with the unfiltered Grey Goose, the viscosity and sweetness were incredibly pronounced. The straight-from-the-bottle Grey Goose was much cleaner and crisper—not worth filtering even once.
If your goal is to spend the least amount of money possible for the most amount of somewhat drinkable vodka, you should absolutely go for the bottom-shelf vodka and run it through a Brita filter three or four times. It will definitely help neutralize the gritty flavor and make it easier to mix or shoot.
On the other hand, if you goal is to drink really good-tasting vodka, skip the Brita filter altogether. Spring for a slightly better quality vodka—small batch vodkas don’t have to cost a lot—and leave the filtration to the experts.