Introduction: Sensible Water Filter

Picture of Sensible Water Filter

InIn this Instructable I'm not going to show you as much some thing new as make you aware of the possibilities. Buying things to throw away drives me nuts. The phrase "When you're done, just throw it away!" never made sense and is nearly unforgivable today. Also, you aren't contributing to transportation waste by using materials about your home (I hope)
There is a plastic pitcher and filter company out there making a good buck selling the benefits of user water filtration. It uses a throw away filter. It's a great thought. I have a better one.
If you are in a rush I'll let you in on the secret right now. Instead of making coffee in a coffee maker, use the coffee maker and filter along with Activated Filter Carbon (instead of coffee) to filter your water. Who doesn't have a spare old coffee maker lying around? Don't have one? Go to a charity store and pick one up. I like to use half gallon used PET juice bottles (cleaned, c'mon) to hold the filtered water.

Material list-
Activated filter Carbon - I got mine from a pet store. I called the manufacturer and they very nicely told me that it is NOT for human consumption. YOU might like to go to a health food store and buy some meant for human consumption. I recommend that method.
Drip Coffee Maker with accessories. - Carafe, filters etc.
Sieve - for rinsing the dust off the carbon particles.
Carafe - to put finished water in.
Absorbent material to mop up any possible spills.

Step 1: Wash the Carbon

Picture of Wash the Carbon

If you don't wash the carbon first you'll clog your little paper filter and potentially end up with some pretty gray lookin' water. Probably won't hurt but doesn't look so appetizing. No need to dry it. Use as much carbon as you would use ground coffee.

Step 2: Filters

Picture of Filters

I always try to use the brown filters but couldn't find any PLUS, it's easier to see in the instructable and it looks tidier.
Don't forget to clean the coffee maker extremely well so that any coffee oils are removed from the machine. You would not believe how little of anything can throw the taste of your "polished" water off.

Step 3: Place Carbon in Filter

Picture of Place Carbon in Filter

As I mentioned before, use the same amount of carbon that you would use ground coffee. Don't go overboard here. Too much and it'll slow the drip and might overflow the unit. As has been mentioned before but bears mentioning again, water and electricity are not compatible. Remember that at one point you will have nearly boiling water to contend with so err on the side of safety. Too little is far better than too much.

Step 4: Plain Tap Water

Picture of Plain Tap Water

Again the idea here is to keep it inexpensive (aka Cheap). It's convenient to use a container that holds the proper amount of tap water so you don't have to be on the look out for overfilling the coffee maker

Step 5: Too Little Water Is Okay

Picture of Too Little Water Is Okay

Again- don't over-fill the unit

Step 6: Start the (former) Coffee Maker and Wait

Picture of Start the (former) Coffee Maker and Wait

Sit back and wait for the inexpensive hot water to drain through the carbon and filter paper. As if by some inexplicable magic your plain everyday water is turned into filtered and "polished" water. After it cools and you taste it, I think you will notice a distinct LACK of flavors. Flavors such as chlorine, the vague smell of ammonia and that weird taste you get when it rains for three days straight . . . uh oh

Step 7: Last Steps

I check for "Floaties" little carbon pieces that may have fallen in with out me noticing it. I also look to see (when using a filter for the first time) if there's a distinct gray cast to the water that signals I didn't rinse the carbon well enough. IF you do get the grayish looking water don't despair. Just toss it down the drain and try again using the SAME carbon and filter. Remember? You've really rinsed it now so don't go through the same steps again. Got it?
I use the carbon and filter for about a month which is about as long as the plastic one's last in my house. Your mileage may vary.
#1) I have had success with this, a lot of success which is why I'm sharing it.
#2) I am not there guiding your hand or intellect and so can't be held accountable for any disasters you might bring on yourself.
#3) If you struggle making coffee then I would suggest you get someone to help or better yet do it for you. REALLY I'm not suggesting you are a dope. I wouldn't want to experiment working from a pair of crutches for example.

#1) The water is hot . . .dang hot. When you go to decant the water from the carafe, DO NOT hold the container you are pouring the hot water into. It's fine until the water gets to the level of your fingers then it's time for the bad language. Oh yes I did, because I wasn't thinking that's why. PLEASE BE CAREFUL.
Currently, I put the container into the sink and fill it that way. If some boiling water doesn't make it into the container it's not a crisis.

MORE RECYCLING - in our house we try to get Two Uses out of everything. It's called the "2 Use Rule" oddly enough. In this instance I use the PET bottles juice came in as a container for the water. I have used 2L soda bottles but find that the former juice bottles are sturdier when full of hot water and they seem to last longer. I have no experience with other types of containers and thus cannot comment on their usability.

That's it for now. This is my first "Instructable", I hope you enjoy this enough to stop using those plastic "Throw Away" filters.


CherylTX (author)2009-05-13

I think you're right on with this one. I'm not worried about my tap water having too many contiminants, it's already been treated at the water plant. But the taste is bad. The activated charcoal plus the heat should make it much more palatable. Good job. One other thing... Once the charcoal is spent, it and the filter can be tossed in the compost.

marcintosh (author)CherylTX2009-05-13

Lately I'm not as sure about being free from contaminants as I once was. I don't think that this system would address that issue though. I think of this as more of a way to remove objectionable tastes and leave it at that. I like the compost idea but I'm not sure about what is left in the carbon. What is it that makes the water taste so poorly? Can that be good for compost? I don't know. The vinegar idea is great.

CherylTX (author)marcintosh2009-05-14

I think the carbon is neutralizing (somewhat) the chemicals that were used to make the water "drinkable". So maybe it's not so much that we're filtering out impurities but just killing the chemical taste.

GabrielaH4 (author)CherylTX2015-10-31

carbonated charcoal doesn't neutralize anything, instead it captures impurities in tiny pores, like a microscopic sponge. So don't compost it, its full of toxins.

jukees (author)2013-05-15

in finland, our water comes from a spring, it's very pure. it has no tastes, just plain pure water.

Biggsy (author)2012-09-21

brilliant quick fix! Welldone

marcintosh (author)Biggsy2012-09-23

Thank you very much 8-D

Biggsy (author)2012-09-21

Brilliant quick fix well done

ranex (author)2009-05-28

i know this is trying to be reducing waste, by not wasting the plastic in a water bottle, or even save to plastic in a brita filter. but if u compared this method to the brita( or 'pure') system, i think u would have less enviromental impact with those bc they dont require electricity. having the water being pumped and heated, wastes alot of energy than just putting it in a pitcher, plus i would then have to recool down the water to drink it- thus wasting time and energy- there is also a large possibilty that a system like this would be kept plugged in and contribute more to the 'vampire' energy being wasted- cool idea but maybe not the greenest

lacorralez (author)ranex2012-07-20

Brita and PUR would not reduce waste, but create a great deal more waste compared to the idea proposed. Why? The author is suggesting using items mainly found around the house (e.g. coffee maker, coffee filters, sieve). The one thing that folks will most likely need to buy is the carbon filter, which is made of organic material. Brita and Pur on the other hand are factory made items that are made up of plastic based parts, which must be replaced every so often and can be costly. Plastics factories--at least non-eco plastic factories--are very detrimental to the environment making this idea, therefore, a greener one.

tincanz (author)ranex2009-06-24

what about people usin Blue Sky energy from Pacific Power? It all comes from renewable sources, so energy wouldn't be an issue

abhave (author)2012-07-20

break coconut shells, make red hot on gas or flame, place them in tight tin or metal container . cool,
take them out and they are best charcoal pieces one can use as filter.

bullet71792 (author)2009-05-13

you could always just drink the tap water. because tap water has flouride in it. and it has minerals that are good for you. so its cheaper than bottled water and its better for you.

jonf805 (author)bullet717922012-06-28

Fluoride is a poison. Many countries and states have banned fluoridation. It has been found in a lot of research to cause dementia and other brain disorders.

Fluoride, the active ingredient in many pesticides and rodenticides, is a powerful poison - more acutely poisonous than lead. Because of this, accidental over-ingestion of fluoride can cause serious toxic symptoms.

parisbabe (author)bullet717922009-09-05

you obviously havent tasted MY water

marcintosh (author)parisbabe2009-09-05

EGG-Zactly my point. I think that some folks tend to extrapolate their personal experience to the greater populace. Not all solutions work for everyone . . . and really that's a good thing. We just have to remember that. Vive le difference!
Or, words to that effect 8-D

parisbabe (author)marcintosh2009-09-06

lol.....the water in this part of so. cali. tastes like fish water with chlorine mixed in for

mwagner63 (author)parisbabe2011-06-19

Id rather have water taste like fish. You can light mine on fire

parisbabe (author)mwagner632011-06-19


dawgz031 (author)parisbabe2010-01-12

.........why dont you try looks like lemon juice with too much water.......
..........and freakn taste like prehistoric algae........
............this might work for out tap water...or maybe if i do it 3 time........

any one have solutions for my tap water ???

parisbabe (author)dawgz0312010-01-16

i just gave up and got a Britta water pitcher that has a removable filter

marcintosh (author)parisbabe2010-01-16

 Sometimes you have to go with the flow.  Get it?  Water? Flow? *sheesh*  Any way, it's not to feel bad about.  Perhaps it's just not a great time for this coffee - charcoal-filter-water thing.  Keep it in the back of your mind and perhaps your circumstances will change.  Like you have to move to a more rural area where the water is better or you can't find the filters for 40 miles or one day you just want to try it again.  Good enough eh?  I use mine for a while then it becomes a PITA and I just give up and use straight tap water then after a while I get tired of the chlorine flavored water and start filtering it again.
Thanks for commenting though. It makes me feel good that people think enough of my ideas to spend time to comment on them.

vhayes1 (author)marcintosh2011-06-01

Exactly. Thanks for posting this! Currently Im living in the US (Michigan) and I use a Brita faucet mounted filter, but they are EXPENSIVE. Luckily, I've been able to stock up a few times when my local grocery store had some brita faucet replacement filters in the clearance bins. Last year, whilst living in Israel, where I was not comfortable drinking the tap water either, I noticed that although it was possible to find brita replacement filters at some stores, the prices were obscene, and they didnt always have a complete selection of the different types. This year when I return to Israel Im going to give this coffee machine idea some serious consideration, and tell my friends and family in Israel about it and see what they think. I mean, I havent checked yet on how much the carbon stuff costs, but I'm guessing that it's going to be much cheaper to buy that than it is to buy a replacement brita filter in israel.
Also, im so glad i read into the comments about the "cold water slime" phenomenon. This solves an annoyance I've had with my brita system for some time now! I started noticing awhile back that there was a reddish/pinkish area right where the water comes out and I actually thought it was from... chef boy ardee cast-off. no joke. i thought it had gotten there as a result of me using the sink sprayer to rinse out the cans of the chef boy ardee that my kid loves and eats on a regular basis...I've been taking toothbrushes with baking soda, trying to scrub it clean, thinking it was yucky pasta sauce

marcintosh (author)vhayes12011-06-02

Nope, not pasta sauce. The problem is that you can wipe it off or kill the surface layer of the slime but you can't be sure it's all gone from in the charcoal. I really don't think it'll kill you but the esthetics of it are a bit off putting.
Good luck with the travel 8-)

Tap water is great & I drink it all the time, but I also have a whole house filter. I wouldn't be too excited about the fluoride. The dangers of Fluoride are well-documented, if mostly unknown by the public:

marcintosh (author)bullet717922009-05-13

I agree that tap water is usually not bad in most ways but in some instances the flavor is a bit off. If your water utility is doing a great job then there is no need to do this. OTOH, I've had so much chlorine in my water that it made my hands slippery. Like when someone over chlorinates the pool. Currently, a fresh from the tap glass of water in my home looks great but you can smell the chemistry from across the kitchen. If you leave a pitcher of it in the Fridge it (the water) will give a chlorine flavor to some things near it. I think you would agree it's not very palatable. Plus there are times in some utilities where the chlorination isn't working at all (Central NY in 1998 made the news) and this gives you a fighting chance to clean the water a bit. So, if your water tastes fine and you trust your utility then you are in the clear and you have no need of this, conversely, if your water tastes a bit off this might help cure that.

balisticsquirel (author)2012-01-24

My municipality uses asbestos pipes somewhere along the line to us. I wonder if anybody knows whether either the coffee filter or the charcoal would catch asbestos fibres that might come in. I get the impression that the charcoal (carbon) traps chemical contaminants (not fibres), and that the coffee filter might not stop everything, such as tiny fibres. ??

BluTiger (author)balisticsquirel2012-04-06

I use a PUR water filter on our facet and it will remove asbestos from the water, but as always will filter 99.99 percent is a lot better than 0 percent. I don't think anything will filter 100 percent of all contaminants. wont remove microscopic fibers

trinaren (author)2009-05-22

Is the carbon compostable? We have municipal compost. You keep saying that you're throwing less trash away, so I was wondering if that was part of it.

marcintosh (author)trinaren2009-05-24

Is the carbon compostable?
I'm not certain. If it's activated charcoal then it should burn and the ashes would compost. I think it depends on the type of carbon. I remember that charcoal is used to "sweeten" things, Not like sugars but to remove the acids type of "sweeten". I remember seeing advertisements for bourbon that touted the fact that they made their own charcoal from specific wood and that it made the bourbon better because of it. In a nutshell, I would think that it would break down in the compost pile or if nothing else it would add bulk and absorb and hold water in the final product.
The cone filter being made of paper will eventually break down into fibers and from thence into a composted item.
"You keep saying that you're throwing less trash away . . . " Yes I mentioned it. I have an issue with single use anything that gets disposed of after use and in this instance it's the plastic shell of the filter for the plastic pitcher assembly. The biggest idea behind this entire process is to avoid using the plastic shell of the filter. After that the benefit is that it shouldn't cost a ton of cash or a lot of extra "stuff" in the land fill that won't break down.

You can also avoid bottled water bottles. There are any number of companies that sell reusable containers for potable water. I believe I mentioned that when I make my weeks worth of water, I use a number of former PET juice bottles. The neck is bigger so there's less spillage when I decant the water and the bottle is stronger than a soda 2L bottle and the bottles I use are squarish so they fit in the fridge better. I wouldn't want to travel with a half gallon of water so I use smaller refillable bottles made of stainless steel.

So, yes, that's all part of it. The further you delve into it, this process, the more positive change you have made. Make sense?

sleepydog (author)marcintosh2009-09-06

Water filter activated charcoal is usually made from burned organic material such as coconut shells, so would make good compost by itself. There is a concern however that the activated carbon is contaminated with the very materials you wish it to filter from your drinking water (heavy metals being the most serious). Putting this back into your compost and your food chain would not be a good idea. Some countries require drinking water filtration activated carbon to be mixed with concrete before being disposed to sequester mercury.

fireguard (author)sleepydog2012-03-13

It's not that I doubt you; I was just wondering which countries require nuke-type disposal of water filter carbon? That would be interesting info to have. Thanks in advance. Have a GR8 day.

trinaren (author)marcintosh2009-05-25

That's good to know. I'm trying to compost as much as I can. I hate disposable items too, that's one of the reasons that I switched to Brita. Our tap water tastes awful, but the thought of buying bottled water seems so wrong. This idea is great, and I can't wait to try it!

Mike73 (author)2010-09-26

I like the idea. But isn't it a waste of energy if you just want to have filtered water? I mean that commercial filters filter cold water. So is the result the same if you were to just use a little pump instead of a coffe maker? I can see a point if you plan on making a coffee or tea where hot water ist needed.

Please don't take this as offensive. Those were just my initial thoughts and I was curious for the answer but didn't have the time to skim through all 63 messages.

marcintosh (author)Mike732010-09-27

the idea is to replace that filter system that is plastic based that also uses a plastic pitcher. This uses paper filters and readily available activated charcoal which can be recycled.
Still another issue is that this defeats "Cold Water Slime" that can develop in the plastic filter if you tend to keep it in the fridge.
The heat just might kill off some microbes and helps move the chlorine out of the water. chlorine evaporates as a gas from water at around 72-75 degrees so this would speed that process.

Others have cited the need to cool the water, I let the coffee carafe sit and cool to room temp and then decant it into another BPA free container.

So to re-cap;
• Germ free (Potentially)
• Filtered
• Recyclable filter if not recyclable then compostable
• You already have the equipment
• Lower cost
• No Cold Water Slime
• No Chlorine flavor/taste

I wanted this to be low impact on the environment and the personal finance. OTOH, a friend of mine has a 5k water system to clean the water from his well. I couldn't conceive of this being a replacement for that. Each coffee maker is different even between one and he next on the assembly line so Your Mileage May Vary. Use with caution.

Mike73 (author)marcintosh2010-09-27

Thanks for the quick reply. I get your point allthough I really just asked because you got me interested. I've been to the US for 3 years and we always just bought bottled water exactly for the reasons you mention concerning tab water. Water here in Germany is quite fine. In my area, there's no additional stuff in the water. So mostly people just use the filters to decal the water so that appliances don't get affected. Thanks again.

tylermusiclady (author)2010-06-17

You can use a Bunn brand coffee maker. You can run water through it without heating it.

SuluSulu (author)2010-03-08

Heating the water is mostly responsible for removing the clorine.  The carbon in this process is constantly "being washed" because the water is over 145F and is not really capturing anything.  The filter basket allows a lot of the water to channel off the sides.

If you could find a way to pump cold water through the carbon it would be much more effective.  What you have here is a Brita type water pitcher with a plug!

marcintosh (author)SuluSulu2010-03-08

 I wrote last April that water heated to over 70 degrees makes Chlorine go off as a gas.  I furnished a link prior that explains that water needs to be at a "Rolling Boil" for at least a minute to kill various germies.  I wouldn't count on either the length of boiling or the rolling part.  I would count on the heat removing the chlorine that has already killed the germies.  
OTOH I have read about some items not being killed by chlorine but I'm not sure about the Urban Legendry of that.
So, In essence I'm more into the heat of it with the charcoal batting clean-up.  Again, it's the flavor of the water that I'm looking to improve with potential side benefit of less pathogens.  
When you throw out a cold water pitchers filter after a month take a close look at the filter case.  In this area of the country they just start developing what's known as "Cold Water Slime".  It's a common thing and can usually be found on the bottom of most cold plates used in beverage dispensing. Mostly pinkish in color.   Usually in restaurants (Nobody want's to clean them).  They are also found in the drains of ice bins and the like.  Heating the water helps to hold that off as well as off gassing the chlorine.  Howm' I doin'?

Ladytiger (author)2009-07-28

Instead of the coffee maker, and getting the water hot, why not use a second bottle the same size, put a small hole in the bottom and place it above the carbon and paper filter set in a large funnel in the mouth of the holding bottle. you could use either a small shelf or hang it with some string round the neck. The small hole will drip the water down into the funnel just like the coffee maker would.

lilyumestar (author)2009-05-16

My family doesn't drink coffee but we bought it for the purpose of boiling water. when we started using it, my god the electric bill went sky rocket. We found out that the coffeemaker was 900 watts so it not so green in the sense that it consumes a lot of electricity. :/

marcintosh (author)lilyumestar2009-05-16

For a bit of perspective, 900 watts is about what a smaller microwave uses. So in the grand scheme of things, 900 watts shouldn't make all that much difference in your electric bill. The trick is to find our why it was such a shock to the utilities.
First I would do a reality check on your usage of the coffee maker. My suggestion was for using the water for personal consumption on a semi-regular basis, intended to replace pitcher filter systems and bottled water. Approximately one half gallon per day. In my little 2 cup coffee maker that's two "pots" of water. I don't cook with it, don't bathe in it, don't perform morning ablutions with it. If you are using it to do more that what I outlined above you need to skip to number four. 8-D
Second, my home electric bill generally runs about $100/ mo in the summer and about $30 more(these amounts include service/office charges) in the winter so we're rather frugal. As such, we do not notice the additional energy cost.
Third, if you find that you are in line with my circumstances I would call an electrician or the electric utility that services your account to investigate what exactly is going on with your usage/billing.
Fourth, If by any chance (though you said your bill which usually means a utility is involved) you are off grid then you should be heating water with wood, coal or other means and not using solar or wind.

I wouldn't accept this as outrageous enough to give me pause without having this situation looked at by a professional. What I'm trying to say is that there might be a safety issue that isn't obvious.
Failing that, there are perfectly acceptable Whole House filters that filter all incoming water so no matter where you use it , shower cooking flushing, the water is filtered. This option might work better for you.

lilyumestar (author)marcintosh2009-05-17

Thank you for the quick response. I was more or less wondering like one of the commenter why not pour boiled water into a filter with the activated filter carbon but I guess it doesn't really work like that hahhaha Hm... We did use it for personal consumption. We used it at least twice a day. During that time, my home electric bill is around $100-$150 for a family of four but after the first several month of using it, my mother said the bill went up to around $190 - $200 something and she forbade us from using the coffee maker. After we stopped, the bill was normal. I don't know....maybe its my funky coffee maker.

CherylTX (author)2009-05-13

Running some distilled white vinegar through, will clean the coffee maker thoroughly.

charley brown (author)2009-05-05

I am so happy I found you, we ahve used Brita filters for years and you are correct - 1 a month. I will certainly give this a try and get back to you.

marcintosh (author)charley brown2009-05-06

Glad you like it. I think that you will find that the water tastes the same, you put less plastic in the land fill and you will most likely reclaim a good deal of shelf space in the fridge. I think that plastic case filters had their place at one time but now it's time to move on and to think about being more responsible. I just changed my filter and media tonight. Took me less than a minute to dispose of the carbon and filter and resupply the "Water maker". I didn't have to drive anywhere, contribute to the trash stream , pay to pollute, wait in line at the store, or feel guilty about tossing it. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm, please, spread the idea about. It can only help.

illdoyourdrugs (author)2009-04-29

Some one used the carbon and an old brita filter instead of buying another new refill.

Yes, I saw that and after running around finding the right size cork to go with the right size drill bit and then getting out all the carbon and zeolite filling I had to fill the filter (no small trick getting carbon through that hole) and still had bits and pieces floating around in the final product. The idea was good but there was still the stupid pitcher with awkward insert (and no cover! What's up with that?). I just felt that, though the idea was good, the commercial product had too many drawbacks and modifying the pieces didn't seem to solve them. I kept discarding things that couldn't be improved and found that the carbon was all that was left I like the coffee maker idea because it's pretty fool proof, almost everyone has the materials and a short trip to the pet or health food store supplies the carbon

nachobobs (author)2009-04-23

Why waste energy boiling water through the machine and then cooling it in a crap effenciency fridge and just simply pour it through the filter without actually boiling it?

marcintosh (author)nachobobs2009-04-23

I mentioned above (moments ago really) that it assists in off gassing the chlorine and might (just might) help kill off some nasties but I don't count on it. Thinking about it you could line a funnel with a filter and carbon and aim it into a container. Potential issues- funnel requires you to keep filling it. funnel falls over creating mess carbon floats about not really filtering much. Where to store the funnel and carbon assembly between uses- remember it's wet after use. While funnel looks good to start with, there could be some thing else better. I'm the first to look for improvement. I don't put the heated water in the fridge. It's not very energy efficient. I allow it to return to room temp over time in a sealed container. How'm I doin so far? 8-D

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