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Does filtering cheap vodka through a Brita filter really work?

  • n

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