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Does filtering cheap vodka through a Brita filter really work?

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I have friends who swear by the technique of passing the cheapest handle of vodka one can buy through a Brita filter four times. They say that, after filtration, they can no longer distinguish between it and top-shelf stuff.

I'm about to try it (it's not actually cheaper for me, because I didn't own a Brita filter to begin with), but am curious if I'll poison my New Year's party guests by serving them the stuff that comes out of it. Has anyone else done this? The Internet at large seems to have mixed reviews.

Thanks!

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  1. Well , it will probably remove some things but most filters are designed to remove particulates, heavy metals, and chlorine.
    Yes, carbon removes/absorbs a lot of noxious stuff , however I don't think it can completely replace not having to remove/filter heads and tails from poorly distilled vodka. Next time if you buy decent cheap vodka (like Sobieksi at $10 a 750 ml or $20 for a 1.75 L) you won't end up using your guests as lab rats.

    9 Replies
    1. re: Spiritsreview

      thats not cheap!!
      a 1.75 L of Georgi Vodka ranges from $11.99-$14.99
      haha its good stuff

      1. re: Spiritsreview

        There is a Chow blind taste test on this. The filtered cheap vodka tastes better than unfiltered, but not as good as the good stuff.

        Assuming this works at all, Brita is a very expensive filter, unless you are picking them up for next to nothing at a garage sale, which is not uncommon in SoCal. As stated in other posts below, assuming you want to filer more than a couple handles, the cheap solution to making cheap vodka taste more expensive is to google "activated charcoal [your zip code]" and buy a pound or so to mix with several gallons of the lowest priced swill that is on special at the local chain grocery store.

        My personal experience is that if you put unfiltered crap in a top shelf bottle, no one notices the difference. In fact, people will drink the Popov swill from the Ketel One bottle, and go out of their way to tell you how much they appreciate the host serving such tasty expensive vodka instead of that typical swill they see at all the frat parties. I just smile and say that I like to live life to the fullest, and she should come upstairs to see this new game I got for my ps3.

        1. re: drunkeconomist

          Very funny. I would definitely know you were feeding me something that wasn't Ketel One, but I am sure most of my friends would think it was the real deal...

          1. re: jeanmarieok

            If you are drinking the vodka neat, I would say you possibly could tell. If you are mixing the vodka with a fruit juice, I defy anybody to discern between Ketel or Goose and Popov or Wolfschmidt. In fact, I've won many a bar bet on this one.

        2. re: Spiritsreview

          Hi,
          I am a Marketing Intern in New York City and a self-proclaimed "coffee fiend". Would this work with filtering coffee? Thanks!
          -Larry

          1. re: larrypollenski

            Why do you want to filter your coffee? Unlike vodka, which might contain impurities that the Brita might remove (key word being "might"), cheap coffee isn't going to improve if you filter it. It's going to still taste like ass, just ass that you've filtered some of the sharp edges off of. You're not going to turn Folgers into Blue Mountain. Cheap coffee is characterized both by what's not there and by what's there; filtering won't add back the complex flavors you would have gotten from a great bean.

            Adding to that, you need to consider the effect of heat on the filter medium. There is already a question of whether or not alcohol will cause it to leach anything; heat could do the same, if you pour in hot coffee... Not a good idea at all, in my humble opinion.

            1. re: davis_sq_pro

              I think they meant filtering the vodka through coffee filters.

              The answer is most likely "No."

              DT

            2. re: larrypollenski

              If you mean, does coffee taste better using Brita filtered water, I can say resoundingly YES. Tea as well. It won't make bad coffee taste good, but It'll make good coffee taste better. Even your decent pre-ground coffee in a can is miles ahead this way.

            3. re: Spiritsreview

              Sobieski is the reason I found this post. I bought some the other night and it is quite literally the GROSSEST vodka on earth. Georgi is probably better. Its at least cheaper.

              I'm going to try to filter this using aquarium charcoal (the same thing as what inside of a Brita filter) will post results.

            4. I'm sure it helps for a while, but what happens when the carbon becomes saturated with the nasty stuff it's pulling out? I asked a home distiller about it and he said it will eventually saturate and then you run the risk of dumping more nasties into the batch you're filtering. Carbon doesn't last forever- something tells me what you save buying cheap vodka may cost you in filters. I just buy decent vodka and don't worry about it.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kchasky

                Then you get rid of it and use some new. By the way, pelletized cocnut shell carbon is good stuff. I've only used it in my aquariumsa, though, and m,y fish don't drink alcohol. :)

              2. unscientific study with some of my wife's Russian friends is that they could not tell the diffference between top shelf and brita filtered popov. Might just have been an excuse to keep drinking and tasting though..... I will say that when I have overdone it, I have much less of a hangover with the bnta filtered stuff.

                1. It works really well, but you burn through those filters really really fast... to the point that you might as well just get the good stuff to begin with.

                  If you're looking for a good value on vodka, get the stuff from Costco. As far as I can tell it's made by Grey Goose, and is 30 dollars for the 1.75L.

                  21 Replies
                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                    n0r1- filtering through a Britta can clean up some off tastes but it isn't cheap.

                    As a distiller I am positive that there are better ways to do it and much cheaper as well. Buy some FOOD GRADE activated charcoal (NOT aquarium charcoal). Put an inch or two in a bottle of any type of vodka leaving some head space of air, and leave it there for a week. Shake every day. Put it in the freezer at night and take it out during the day. This will smooth it out so much that you will think it is better than the best vodka on the market.

                    JK- That vodka is very probably made by grey goose and may be the exact same stuff, or else with just a little bit of a change in the composition to give it a slight flavor change. Grey Goose has great marketing but really isn't that tasty or good a vodka.

                    NOTE: It really depends what you mean when you say "good" in reference to vodka. Do you mean completely flavorless? Or do you meran a vodka that is light and clean but you can still get a glimpse in the taste of what it is made from.

                    Personally I feel that tasteless vodka is totally meaningless to me. Why drink it? I want a vodka that is smooth and light but has character and flavor to it. Of course I think vodka in general is not worth wasting my time on except in rare cases like Jean-Marc, Saaga, Vermont Gold, and a few others. All of which have some flavor to them. I have reviewed dozens over the past few months and while some are very good, I still want to drink something with big flavors to it.

                    1. re: JMF

                      Good to know! Might try this some time if I'm really bored, but in general, I'm not a vodka person (just decided to try this as a good party trick), and probably couldn't be bothered to spend a week making vodka better. (Give me a bottle of Hendrick's any time.)

                      Party report: The infused Popov vodka, filtered 4x through a new Brita filter, infused with a pound of halved cranberries, and mixed with 2 or so C of simple syrup, made for a great base, on top of which I intended for people to put tonic. But as the night wore on, even despite my warning sign ("NOT punch! Infused vodka! Drink straight at your own peril!" -- or something) people began, judging by their behavior, to do exactly that. Then they started digging the vokda-soaked, sugar-infused cranberries out of the bottom of the pitcher and putting those in other drinks.

                      Note to self: Perhaps spend next New Year's Eve at someone *else's* house.

                      1. re: n0r1

                        Sounds like it got a little drunk out.

                        Popov is made by the same folks who make Smirnoff. It isn't rotgut and is a very good vodka. It definitely didn't benefit much from the filtering since it already was very pure and clean.

                        I'll take gin anytime as well, although i don't think that much of Hendrick's. When it first came out it was great because there weren't that many premium gins, but that's not the case anymore.

                        1. re: n0r1

                          It really isn't safe to filter vodka/spirits through a Brita filter for several reasons. One they are made of plastic and spirits going through will leach out toxic chemicals from the plastic that are inert when it filters water. Also there is more in the filters than activated charcoal and these resins and other substances also leach into the spirits. So while the vodka may taste smoother, it actually will now have more toxins in it.

                          Buy an activated charcoal filter from a brew supply place like www.Brewhaus.com. Cheaper, safer, and more effective than a Brita.

                          1. re: JMF

                            My husband would be extremely pleased that you posted this note of caution, JMF. Whenever I mentioned trying the Brita filter method, he said the same things you did. I accused him of being a worry-wart, but now I know he was just trying to protect my health.

                            But he never told me about activated charcoal filters! This sounds like it's worth a try someday.

                            Thanks,
                            Anne

                            1. re: JMF

                              This makes no sense at all. Ethanol (the alcohol you drink) is a polar protic solvent just as water is with similar polarities. This means they dissolve similar substances. If water doesn't dissolve it EtOH will not either.

                              1. re: Chemist47

                                Personally I disagree, but that's what is great about forums like this. Everyone gets their say as long as they are polite and stick to the general area of the subject.

                                There are many substances that are polar protic solvents such as methanol, which is toxin in and of itself, and can bind with other toxins as well. Also acetic acid which is the acid in vinegar, but also as an acid can dissolve many toxic substances that water will not. Then there is formic acid, the stuff that makes bee and ant stings painful, another acid that has different propertis than water. Then you have hydrogen fluoride and ammonia to name a few more polar protic solvents. None of which are really healthy substances (can you say toxic) and all of which have different interactions as solvents.

                                So just because water and ethyl alcohol are polar protic solvents doesn't mean much of anything in this instance because one must remember that polar protic solvents are just that, solvents, they extract soluble compounds from substances.

                                It has been discussed many times on distiller forums that brita filters are not safe for filtering alcohol. High proof alcohol denatures many types of plastics. I have seen some plastics crack and shatter from 40% abv alcohol being poured into them. Also there are other substances in a brita filter besides charcoal that the alcohol can dissolve.

                                One of the first things I learned in distilling is that you have to use special plastics, rubbers, and silicone that are alcohol and chemical resistant to keep toxic substances out of the spirits.

                                So all I can say is that anyone who wants to should go ahead and use a brita to filter alcohol. I won't.

                                1. re: JMF

                                  Yes, there are some thylates I know that can interact when EtOH and certain plastics are in contact. This can cause hazing...don't know effects on health/toxins, but it probably isn't good, but then again, you're drinking alcohol, a mild intoxicant...Ha! :)

                                  1. re: Papa Kip Chee

                                    Alcohol in moderation has actually been found to be very healthy. I guess it just depends on what you think moderation is.

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      According to a Time article moderate drinking is as beneficial to health as escercise. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/art...

                                2. re: Chemist47

                                  Sorry to disagree, but Ethanol is a polar solvent as well as an organic solvent. It has the chemical structure CH3CH2OH. You are correct that the -OH side is polar, but the CH3CH2- side of the molecule is nonpolar, making it able to solvate organic materials.

                                3. re: JMF

                                  Yeah because we all know vodka is never stored/sold in plastic bottles,,,good call lol.

                              2. re: JMF

                                Drinking vodka straight is not for everyone - certainly not for me - but exactly because of its lack of flavor it is such a good ingredient to give a kick to mixed drinks, fruity drinks and the sorts.

                                1. re: JMF

                                  JMF

                                  That is really interesting.

                                  Would that work on other spirits such as Gin, etc ?

                                  1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                    To what exactly are you referring?

                                    1. re: JMF

                                      Specifically to the benefits, if any, of additional charcoal filtration of gin, once purchased.

                                      My apologies for my question, as I now realize this is an old thread topic for you, but I just stumbled onto to it yesterday.

                                      I appreciate your experience in the field, and your answers.

                                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                        Distilled gin is made from neutral spirits. They are as clean and pure as a spirit gets, with no taste other than ethyl alcohol. To this are added the botanicals. This steeps for awhile and is then distilled. The heads and tails are discarded, and only the cleanest and best part is kept. The gin is then filtered before bottling to make sure it is clean, and to take off any sharp notes from the botanicals. So gin is already as good as it gets, and further filtering will remove the flavor of the botanicals, ruining the gin.

                                        1. re: JMF

                                          Thank you for the information.

                                          Always pays to ask an expert first.

                                2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                  Kirkland Signature Vodka is the best vodka I take straight, and I prefer it to GG - especially at $30 per 1.75L. That is cheaper than a 750 mL bottle of GG! Unfortunately, only us West Coast people are lucky to have liquor sold at Costco - plus some other lucky states.

                                  1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                    Costco also has Georgi for $12 for the 1.75L
                                    but it depends which Costco, the one near me on long island, New york has a big liquor store built right in
                                    haha but thats new york for you

                                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                      Can't you use coffee filters with some charcoal in them? Sloppier but lots cheaper.

                                      I love the taste of the Kirkland vodka, it's so smooth. but oddly enough it gives me a wicked headache almost every time.

                                      Hmmm- kirkland through charcoal???

                                    2. This was tested on the show Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel (Episode 50). They tried several filtering methods and used a vodka judge to determine the results. The filters did not turn cheap vodka into Grey Goose. Quote from the judge, "Passing a low-end vodka through a filter will make it better, but it won't make it a top shelf vodka."

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Sacto_Damkier

                                        Yep.

                                        The taster they had was able to blindly pick the vodkas in order of quality perfectly. Including the filtered swill. Which he had dead last.

                                        DT

                                      2. You might also consider hitting Home Depot (or similar) for a "whole house" water filter cartridge. Since they're rated for drinking water (potable) it's safe for food use. For the same 8 bucks for a Brita you can get a single Activated Charcoal filter that's 10 times the amount of charcoal. I guess the form factor and pitcher of the Brita does make it more convenient though...

                                        1. There are a lot of activated carbons used in industry (food/beverage/water treatment) to minimize off-odors/flavors on a large-scale. There are many specific charcoal types used for different applications, for instance, charcoal mellowing of whiskey. The idea is good, but using a Brita 'water' filter might not get you the best results.

                                          1. Whether it works or not, doesn't it seem that by the time you buy cheap vodka and filters you might as well have gotten the premium stuff? Unless you are going to go through a lot of vodka, it doesn't seem that worthwhile to me. But I could just be on the lazy side.

                                            1. I can buy activated charcoal for a couple dollars a pound, much cheaper than a brita. It's sold next to the wine kits and alcohol testers at the DIY shop. Can't I just put that activated charcoal in the bottle then filter it out after shaking for some time, I don't know maybe with a coffee filter or cheese cloth?

                                              13 Replies
                                              1. re: jackolantern

                                                ***Disclaimer*** I am a food / beverage journalist, who was just flown to Iceland by Reyka Vodka.

                                                At the Reyka distillery, they pot distil the vodka, 'throwing out' the heads and tails (used in some other lower quality bev I'm sure), and then they filter it through some local volcanic rock. The master distiller claimed that there was a taste difference, but not something that was quantify-able.

                                                G.

                                                1. re: legourmettv

                                                  I'm pretty sure they don't throw out the heads and tails. Typically in all pot distilling they go back into the still with the next batch, there's lots of good ethyl alcohol there that can be separated out during the next run.

                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                    Yes according to the master distiller, and others at the distillery, the heads and tails are not re-distilled in the next batch. They are taken out and used in a different spirit, not in Reyka. Only the 'true heart' makes it into the bottle.

                                                    The interview is on tape, it'll be up in November.

                                                    G.

                                                    1. re: legourmettv

                                                      That 'true heart' bit is a misnomer. The heads and tails contain a huge quantity of the heart of the run. They just have a higher proportion of the other stuff in there. Adding them back increases yield and flavor. In vodka the flavor gets stripped out anyway.

                                                      The people at Reyka could be telling the truth, or not. Since they say they use the heads and tails in other to produce other spirits I tend to believe it. Reyka seems to be a very well made brand from my few experiences tasting it, and I am not a vodka fan.

                                                      As a writer who focuses on artisanal distilling, premium sprits, mixology; and as a small artisanal distiller I have seen and uncovered quite a few white lies and tall tales passed along by the bigger guys.

                                                      I look forward to seeing the interview.

                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                        Look for my talk with Reyka starting on Nov 21...

                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                          Ketel One throws out the "heads and tails", no??? They told me they did on a tour of their distillery....

                                                          1. re: MJM1

                                                            No distillery throws out the heads and tails which are only cut out as such in a pot still. They are re-run is some form or another to recover the valuable ethyl alcohol. If a distillery discarded the heads and tails they wouldn't be able to run their business. Every pot distillery adds them back in one way or another to the still. The nasty stuff gets thrown away eventually.

                                                            In most vodka distilleries they use continuous fractionating distilling columns, not batch pot stills, which separate the nasty stuff and all the flavor out in a different way, so you really don't have to cut out the heads and tails in each batch, because there is no batch. It's a little hard to explain.

                                                    2. re: legourmettv

                                                      FYI- Reyka is made from grain spirit produced in Scotland. It is shipped to Iceland where it is re-distilled through a still with a volcanic rock at the top.

                                                      1. re: kchasky

                                                        I don't doubt that the GNS is made in Scotland since William Grant & Sons is behind this product. But you are saying the rock is in the still? Sorry, but I think that is incorrect, the vodka is filtered through the rock after distillation.

                                                        1. re: JMF

                                                          Sorry if I wasn't clear (english is my second language) it's not in the pot of the still, I've seen a photo of it and it appears above the still as if the vapor is passing through it. I may be wrong it could be that it is after condensing, but it is incorporated in the still design- not a separate operation afterword.

                                                          1. re: kchasky

                                                            They use a Carter Head still and the Vodka passes through the volcanic rock after it condenses... During my day at the distillery, where I conducted video interviews (which can be found on the 'net) I can say that they mash in the distillery in Iceland. Raw grain comes in the door at one end, and vodka goes out the door at the other end.
                                                            This isn't speculation on my part from stuff I have read, but what I saw with my own two eyes and camera.

                                                            G.

                                                    3. re: jackolantern

                                                      Yep, that will sort of work. If done right, much better, be safer, and cheaper. But you need a lot of charcoal so putting it in a large container is really necessary. Make a activated charcoal filter by filling a gallon jar with the charcoal, and then pouring the vodka in and let it soak overnight, then filter it out. the activated charcoal can be used quite a few times until it loses it's charge and has to be re-activated or thrown away.

                                                      1. Going through the comments, I see a whole lot of speculation and hearsay, and no actual evidence. So here are some comments from someone who has not only tried it, but gone fairly excessive with it.

                                                        1) Will you taste a difference? Absolutely, emphatically yes. After just a single run through a fairly new brita filter, you will notice a big improvement. After 3-5 filterings, you will notice a substantial difference.

                                                        2) Will it taste like a top notch vodka? No. It will not *taste* like a top notch vodka. But it *will* be as smooth as a top notch vodka.

                                                        3) Who can tell the difference? A top notch vodka connoisseur will be able to tell the difference, a la the Mythbusters episode. Will your friends tell a difference? No way.

                                                        4) Will it ruin the filter? No. It will not. Period. Granted, every filter has some sort of shelf life and will stop being effective eventually. Maybe the vodka speeds this process up some. But, once a weekend I would triple-filter my vodka through my regular water brita filter, then run water through it 3 times after, and my filter didn't taste like vodka, and still remained completely effective at smoothing the vodka out after several months of doing this once per weekend. (Yeah, my liver hates me.)

                                                        Another way to put it - after filtering vodka about 50 times through the same filter, I could tell no difference in quality between the first filter and the last. Just remember to flush with water from time to time.

                                                        5) Can I get extreme with this? Hell yeah! My friend and I spent a Saturday building a filter-kit specifically for vodka. We built the device (pictured below, hopefully) using simple off the shelf components from Home Depot and a 10 pack of brita filters from CostCo.

                                                        Basically, "the device" consists of 5 brita filters, each trapped in a PVC coupler, each coupler separated by a 5" piece of PVC. The long tube on top is to contain the bottle of vodka. The vodka goes in the top, enters filter one, drips to filter 2, and so on. The whole setup cost about $80, though we still have 5 brita filters unused, so really the cost is $65ish? And we've already gone through about 6 bottles of cheap cheap vodka. With an average savings between $10-30 per bottle of vodka (if we went with the good stuff), the device has already paid for itself. "The device" is easier to use than putting charcoal in a bottle and shaking once a day for a week and easier than using just one brita filter over and over and over.

                                                        And yes, the end product is extremely smooth. To the point where you can drink the vodka straight like it was a glass of water.

                                                        We plan on putting up DIY plans for building the vodka filter system soon.

                                                         
                                                        8 Replies
                                                        1. re: dnynumberone

                                                          Oh, one other thing -

                                                          My friend and I both experience almost NO hangover effect at all from the filtered vodka. We'll get pretty damn drunk on the stuff, but the next day there is no hangover at all. That in itself makes it all worth it, for me.

                                                          1. re: dnynumberone

                                                            Thanks for sharing; this very neatly helps us identify the target audience for such an experiment.

                                                          2. re: dnynumberone

                                                            Everything you say is interesting and seems well thought out based on your experience. One last item, however. I don't think you've addressed the concern that the plastic is not approved for potable use with alchohol. Have you done some research or contacted the company? Also, I'd be concerned about that PVC. It sounds like you used DWV (Drain, Waste, Vent) fittings, which I don't believe are approved for even potable water (with is CPVC). I"m no expert, but given the whoop-tee-doo over the Nalgene bottles, I'd be concerned, especially since you seem to drink a lot of it and you may not detect the effect until much later in life.

                                                            I bet the information for the given plastics is known. It would be a matter of finding where that information is.

                                                            1. re: EvergreenDan

                                                              I've emailed Brita personally asking them about this. And again as a consultant to the American Distilling Institute, and they never responded or answered my questions. Chemists have told me that using water filters for spirits is definitely unsafe. As you say, you may not taste anything, but the toxins are still there and will affect you later in life.

                                                              1. re: JMF

                                                                1) PVC (not just CPVC) is rated as safe to use with alcohol.
                                                                2) I don't know how many chemists you know, and i don't know how many of them have run actual tests or are simply speculating, but all of the research I find says using water filters for spirits is in no way dangerous. After all;
                                                                a) Water filters are the exact same as filters used by corporations for filtering spirits.
                                                                b) If it were dangerous, why would corporations use filters instead of relying on just distilling?

                                                                The only difference between a Brita filter and a regular filter is a Brita filter is typically impregnated with silver. But, many alcohol corporations use silver-impregnated charcoal for their filtering as well.

                                                                We're just doing the same thing the companies do on a smaller scale.

                                                                1. re: dnynumberone

                                                                  Further notes -
                                                                  The plastic used to construct the filter of a Brita is polypropylene. Polypropylene has a 1 rating against ethyl alcohol. 1 is the highest possible rating. There are no BPAs involved in a Brita filter. So the alcohol will not leech from the plastic.

                                                                  Also, aside from the silver-impregnated carbon, the Brita filter uses ion-exchange resins (the little white beads mixed in with the black charcoal beads). Their particular ion-exchange resins are crosslinked polystyrene, and again, this material receives the highest rating of chemical resistance to alcohol. So no problems there, again.

                                                                  Sure, there may potentially be some very very very slight risks involved...but isn't that what drinking is all about anyway? And everything I can find on the subject points to this method being as safe as not filtering at all.

                                                                  Considering the choice is to drink unfiltered vodka that knowingly contains many nasty contaminants, versus drinking filtered vodka that may potentially possibly maybe have a slight amount of conaminants...well I'll go with the latter.

                                                                  1. re: dnynumberone

                                                                    Wow, Mr ScienceGuy, you sure know a lot about filtering.

                                                                    So much in fact, that you built a rig to pass the cheapest-ass vodka you could find through 5 consecutive filters in order to make it more palatable.

                                                                    No thanks.
                                                                    I'll just continue to buy to my decent vodka at $14 a handle and save myself the trouble.

                                                                    BTW, Brita does not recommend the use of the Brita filter with any thing else than household tap water - that pretty much sums it up. Enough said.

                                                                    This thread needs a stake through it's heart.

                                                            2. re: dnynumberone

                                                              I believe you. Do you have plans?

                                                              Thanks!
                                                              Buckley
                                                              Kansas City

                                                            3. I can only speak for myself. However, I was a Kettle One drinker for years. I never mix the vodka, just drink it over ice, perhaps with an olive. Several years ago, I started filtering Gordon's Vodka (blue label, about $12.00 per 1.75 liter bottle where I live). It works remarkably well. I only filter it one time through my BRITA filter, not multiple times like some people suggest. I use one BRITA filter for 6 1.75 liter bottles and then change the filter. I have tried this technique with cheaper vodkas such as Popov and it doesn't really make the vodka drinkable to my satisfaction. However, I was only fitering the Popov one time also. Perhaps mltiple filtrations would make even the lowly Popov palatable. Who knows? I will sick to filtering the Gordon'e. It is just fine and significantly cheaper than my old standby, Kettle One. By the way, Each BRITA filter costs about 6 bucks. So, I add about $1 to the price of each bottle of Gordon's by filtering it.

                                                              1. I just don't understand why the vodka companies would not filter the product themselves if the filtering was that easy to do and made it that much better.

                                                                If filtering is a process that is economical for a homeowner to do with individual bottles and filters, I have to think that it would be easy for the producer to do. Furthermore, because the producer could filter in mass quantities, the extra cost to them per bottle would be less than the extra cost of the consumer per bottle to achieve the same filtered product. The producer could then tack on additional cost to each bottle to compensate for the increased production cost and make some extra profit. As long as the increase in cost for the end product is greater than the extra production cost, but less than the extra cost the consumer would pay to achieve the same filtering, the consumer will pay less overall for filtered vodka and the producer will get more profit per bottle.

                                                                Maybe I'm making the economy of this more logical than it actually is.

                                                                3 Replies
                                                                1. re: D to the Max

                                                                  Many do, and many also do careful distillations and cuts. And they charge extra for it.

                                                                  There is a niche for cheap booze and the ones who crave it generally don't care as much what it tastes like.

                                                                  And there's a niche for overpriced spirits (specifically vodka) where the marketing is more important (although it has to taste good, but not better than something half the price).

                                                                  1. re: D to the Max

                                                                    The cheaper liquors do filter it. Probably because the methods (making it fast and cheap) have undesirable compounds. Some bottles (have seen it on Lairds) will have "Charcoal Filtered" on the label.

                                                                    1. re: JohnNNJ

                                                                      The vast majority of liquors -- whether cheap or super-premium -- are filtered in some form or another (usually chill filtration at the least). This very much applies to all vodkas, where the goal is for a virtually transparent, colorless, and aroma-free beverage.

                                                                  2. "Take the stink out of your drink"

                                                                    Hmmmm. Most of my mixing is putting stink back into my drinks. :)

                                                                    1. If anyone is interested, I wrote a short pros/cons on my website. Here it is and please stop by http://food-worthy.com/

                                                                      1. Cost:

                                                                      If a Brita is going to cost $6 a filter, doesn’t it make more sense to just sport the extra couple of bucks for better vodka? Logically, yes, but we’re talking about fun here and if I really wanted to be logical I’d also be cheap. Expect the cost of filters to add up. People suggest running three “cleaning” cycles of water through the filter after vodka use.

                                                                      If you really want to take this seriously, consider purchasing active charcoal as an alternative to the pricy filters. I’m not talking about the stuff that goes in an aquarium, but alcohol filtration grade charcoal. Any store that sells kits to make wine or beer should also sell charcoal, or you can order a fairly inexpensive charcoal filtration system online at Brewhaus. I need to move on because I think I’m going to be sick; the thought of aquariums and goldfish make me gag. There is nothing more disgusting than fish. I take that back, actually. Birds are more disgusting than fish, but just barely.

                                                                      2. Safety:

                                                                      Some have suggested that it simply isn’t safe for vodka to come into contact with the plastic Brita. The thought is that since the ethyl alcohol in vodka is a polar protic solvent, it will cause harmful substances to leech from the plastic. The plastic used in a Brita is polypropylene, which at a 1 rating is the highest rating possible against alcohol. And those little white beads you see mixed in with the charcoal are crosslinked polystyrene and are also resistant to ethyl alcohol*. The bad news is in the list of chemicals and various -cides that the Brita is useless in protecting against. Considering any pour-through filter system is no match for cysts, THMs (chlorine byproducts), VOCs (volatile organic compounds), pesticides, herbicides, harmful solvents and gasoline, I think about the only thing I’d bother to use a Brita for is, in fact, vodka.

                                                                      3. Taste:

                                                                      There does seem to be a concensus that it takes more than one filtering to taste any difference. Five seems to be the magic number based on very unscientific online perusing. When Mythbusters set out to decide the legitimacy of home filtering, they found no difference in chemical composition between the filtered and unfiltered vodkas. That said, there are many, many people that swear they can taste a difference. Apocryphal as this information may be, perhaps you won’t pull one over on Chelsey Handler, but she’ll probably still drink it.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: foodworthy

                                                                        See my summary below -- a filter will change the flavor of vodka, after several passes. Unfortunately, it is likely to make it taste worse.

                                                                      2. OMG people...is filtering cheap vodka worth your time? Just buy a decent bottle. If you're that concerned about drinking impurities, what are you doing drinking at all? Buy purified water.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: pusycat31

                                                                          Hey, I'm the guy who created the crazy elaborate setup for filtering the vodka. So to answer the "why" as opposed to the "how" -
                                                                          1) There are cost savings. If you live with other college-aged people, and go through a 1.75 bottle a week (or a few days, sometimes), yes, we've estimated savings of $150-200 per month.
                                                                          2) It was fun to try. I like MacGuyvering things, so when faced with the task of making the filtering process more efficient, well, some people like rubik's cubes, some people like building vodka filters.
                                                                          3) For a cost of $60 and an hour of work 6 months ago, savings of $1200 for the household and reducing the "5 times magic" filtering time to essentially the amount of time it would take for a single filtering...I don't regret the project.

                                                                          And finally, if I'm going out to a party, of course I'm buying a nice bottle of vodka. Home with the guys? Filter all the way.

                                                                          1. re: dnynumberone

                                                                            Night in with the guys and a bottle of filtered cheap vodka? Sounds like a blast. Pass the Cheetos and mix me up another glass of Kool-Aid.

                                                                          2. re: pusycat31

                                                                            Nearly all vodka sold in America is made from 100% ethanol purchased from giant agricultural conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland, mixed with filtered water. The rest is marketing and packaging and intentional adulteration like the oak flavor added to Absolut.

                                                                            The experts agree Sobieski is very, very good and costs about the same as the cheapest vodkas.

                                                                            What you are basically looking for in good vodka is something that tastes like nothing. Unfortunately, human palates don't perceive 100% pure ethanol mixed with 100% pure distilled water as neutrally flavored. It tastes "stale" or "medicinal."

                                                                            It's a very similar discussion to water. People spend tons of money on Fiji water, Aquafina and other fancy brands... but in blind taste tests, New York City UNFILTERED TAP WATER nearly always wins!

                                                                            If you are concerned about saving money on vodka while impressing people, buy Sobieski and pour it into an empty bottle of Stolichnaya. The flavor is nearly identical. All of the filtering you guys talk about is more likely to add additional charcoal type flavors, making it resemble Popov or McCormick, or (shudder) Fris.

                                                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/727078

                                                                          3. As vodka is one of the spirits that "Really" does not have a specifically distinguishable taste as compared to rum or bourbon or gin, etc. I know that some vodka bigots out there are already screaming that their vodka of choice has a clearly distinguishable taste, probably with tones of chocolate, blackberries and an aftertaste of burnt cherries. Anyway, c'mon everybody, vodka doesn't really have a flavor unless it is flavored vodka.

                                                                            I have found that using a Brita filter does, indeed improve the smoothness of lower priced vodka. I buy 1.75 litre bottles of Gordon's vodka for about $11 per bottle and filter it twice. The resulting vodka makes great martini's and just plain vodka on the rocks. I used to buy Kettle One vodka for at least three times that price and my filtered Gordon's tastes every bit as good to me. Oh, and by the way, if you are mixing your vodka with tonic or grapefruit juice or cranberry juice, or Snappy Tom mix or anything else with a flavor, buy the cheapest stuff you can find. It just won't make a difference in a mixed drink.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: rjfunk

                                                                              Considering this is supposed to be a gourmet page, I find it how interesting how many people recommend "Kettle One," which I have never heard of. Is everyone just misspelling "KETEL one?" Is this some kind of inside joke, or is everyone actually misspelling the brand name?

                                                                              If you blind taste test vodka, you can definitely distinguish substantial differences, but this is because the manufacturers intentionally adulterate their ingredients with tiny amounts of outside ingredients by doing things like pouring it into a wooden cask for a while...

                                                                              1. re: foxpoet

                                                                                Well, I for one, misspelled the name of Ketel one. And, I lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years. Oh well at least I am apparently not the only ignoramus when it comes to spelling brand names. foxpoet talks about there being substantial "differences" between brands of vodka. I agree there are substantial differences, but not in the "flavor" of the vodka. The differences I perceive are in the harshness or smoothness of the vodka on the tongue and going down the throat. I don't think of this as a flavor but more of an impact on the tissues of the mouth and throat. Perhaps this differentiation is causing some of the disagreement among the reviewers of the filtration process?

                                                                                1. re: foxpoet

                                                                                  what's the source for your information regarding oak aging or flavor in Absolut?

                                                                                  1. re: JMF

                                                                                    Not sure -- I thought it was New York Times Magazine, but I found the article I was thinking of, and couldn't find the reference. Sorry, it may be apocryphal.

                                                                                    http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/26/din...

                                                                              2. After reading the entire thread, making comparisons to taste and smoothness, has anyone bothered to check Proof? All the filtering may change the taste or harshness, but is the alcohol percentage still the same? Meaning, if eighty proof went in, did eighty proof come out?

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. I would say yes. The cheap vodka you are purchasing has probably already been through this process you are just filtering it further. The brita does contain more than just active carbon, it also contains an "ion exchange resin". I am not sure how that variable may change the reaction but I would check into the effects of alcohol on this material. It is possible the resin may be degraded by alcohol and release undesirable compounds into your drink. You can buy distiller's filter pads online or in some home brew stores and it should be less expensive than a brita. I am reading up on bamboo charcoal and thinking about using it to replace my brita. You can even buy an electric table top distiller online if you are in a place that will allow it to be shipped. The particular machine is made and sold for distilling alcohol but can be used for distilled water as well. The idea is you purchase cheap vodka and run it though this machine with a "flavor packet" to produce something like a good quaility whiskey, bourbon... When looking into that is seems it will also distill a mash.

                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: JohnNNJ

                                                                                    You are recommending on a public forum for someone to do something illegal. Distillation of alcohol in any form is illegal in the US unless you are a legally licensed distillery on both the federal level, and on the state level.

                                                                                    1. re: JMF

                                                                                      The Gubmint hates when you mess with their tax collection.

                                                                                  2. I went to a new years eve party and got toe up on some mixed drinks the host was making, long story short, she showed me the cheapest vodka in the world and laughed then showed me her process... filters it 5 times in a brita filter. It was delicious! Of course, I want to make my own, then i thought let me check chowhounds, then I see this thread. It definitely was good. So I know it works, but I'm worried about the health issues. I have a brita filter I don't use. So I wouldn't even have to buy one. Is it unhealthy or not?

                                                                                    1. This is a dumb thread.

                                                                                      Get yourself Monopolowa vodka at Trader Joe's for $10/750ml, and if you must, beg, borrow, or steal empty crystal skulls, pimpmobiles, or whatever crazy containers bearing vodkas exceeding $50-100/bottle cost the chumps and fill it into them.

                                                                                      I suspect it will taste better than the product in the original bottles.

                                                                                      Vodka is highly-fractionated triple-column distilled grain spirit, that by chemical definition is tasteless. Vodka is futility itself, in bottled form: a tasteless alcoholic spirit by design.

                                                                                      Save your money, your Brita filters, and your sanity by eschewing this nonsense at the source.

                                                                                      By all means, collect whatever fashionable bottles you like to dispense your Monopolowa into. You can even amuse yourself by hosting differential tasting parties and watch clueless hipsters tie themselves into knots trying to mine their limited vocabularies to describe how the crystal-skull bottle tastes "edgier", while the proletarian Smirnoff comes off as "harsh gasoline".

                                                                                      Never has unbridled hilarity come so cheaply.

                                                                                      1. Never has so much time been wasted by so many to save so little . . .

                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                        1. re: zin1953

                                                                                          If one is drinking enough straight vodka per day to worry about toxins in the mix,

                                                                                          perhaps the attendant problems will not be rectified by a Brita filter.

                                                                                          (i know, i know its done for "taste", but as a former professional drinker I thought it might well be pointed out that the stuff is poison to begin with)

                                                                                        2. I know someone who buys the rock gut vodka and puts it thru the Brita and then goes the next step of putting it in the saved Grey Goose/ Belverde bottles.

                                                                                          I love this friends gravitas..ha ha ha

                                                                                          Solid