Access to fresh drinking water is essential, but not all homes provide healthy water straight from the tap. Most municipalities do their best to ensure a water supply suitable for human consumption. But a broken water line, old pipes, or agricultural chemicals that leach into the water table can add harmful heavy metals and toxins to tap water. Relying solely on purified bottled water is pricey, so a more economical and convenient solution may be outfitting your kitchen with a water dispenser.
Some water dispensers use purified water from a water-distribution center. This water, purchased separately, comes in tank-style containers that are typically refillable and may also be available in many grocery stores. Others draw water directly from the tap and filter it to remove impurities.
The best dispensers will suit individual consumption needs, purification preferences, and personal style, as well as address the particular issues of the water itself. Ahead, learn what to look for when shopping for a countertop water dispenser, and find out why the following are all solid choices for providing clean, healthy drinking water.
- BEST OVERALL: Brio Top Loading Countertop Water Cooler Dispenser
- RUNNER-UP: Avalon Premium Hot/Cold Countertop Water Dispenser
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Myvision 5 Gallon Water Bottle Pump Dispenser
- UPGRADE PICK: Avalon Countertop Self Cleaning Water Dispenser
- BEST COMPACT: APEX Quality Countertop Drinking Water Filter
- BEST LARGE-CAPACITY: KUPPET Top Loading Hot & Cold Water Dispenser
- BEST TO REMOVE FLUORIDE: AquaTru Countertop Water Purification System
- BEST TO ADD ALKALINITY: APEX EXPRT MR-2050 Countertop Drinking Water Filter
- BEST WATER DISTILLER: DC HOUSE 1 Gallon Water Distiller Machine
- BEST SINK-TOP: Ready Hot Instant Hot Water Dispenser
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Countertop Water Dispenser
A countertop water dispenser can replace the need for buying bottled water or storing a water-filter pitcher in the fridge. A prime consideration when shopping for one is the water source: Will it come from the tap and go through a series of filters, or will it require purchasing tank-type bottles of pure water? Water dispensers range in cost, depending on the technology, type of filtration, and the user’s desired level of purification.
Size and Capacity
Countertop water dispensers run the gamut in size and the amount of water they’ll contain. Small units—fewer than 10 inches tall and just a few inches wide—hold about a liter of water, which is less than a standard water pitcher.
Models that take up much more room on a counter or a table may hold up to 25 gallons or more of drinking water, though most consumers are satisfied with models that can hold 5 gallons. Units installed under the sink don’t take up counter space at all.
Sink-Top vs. Gravity Fed
There are two basic designs of water dispensers. With a gravity-fed model, the water reservoir sits higher than the spout, and when the spout is opened, water flows out. This type typically sits on the countertop, though some users place it on a different surface.
A sink-top dispenser, perhaps more accurately called a “countertop-access dispenser,” has a water reservoir beneath the sink. It dispenses water from a spigot installed along the top of the sink (similar to where a pull-out sprayer goes).
Sink-top models don’t sit on the counter, which may appeal to folks who like clutter-free surfaces. These dispensers typically feature a variety of filtration methods for purifying tap water.
Dispensers that filter water most often use one or a combination of the following purification methods:
- Activated carbon: Common in inexpensive countertop dispensers, an activated-carbon filter traps and removes chlorine, dirt, odors, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). It helps clear up cloudy water and improves taste.
- Ceramic: This type of filter traps sediment and removes bacteria such E. coli and salmonella. Ceramic filters are well suited for purifying microbiologically unsafe water. They also help remove murkiness so that water or iced tea served in drinking glasses is clear.
- Ultrafiltration: Useful for removing bacteria and dissolved solids, ultrafiltration (UF) filters are typically used in under-sink purification systems rather than in countertop units. They may be paired with ultraviolet (UV) lights that destroy viruses and pathogens in the water.
- Distillation: A tried-and-true method of cleaning contaminated water, distillation uses electricity to boil water, creating steam that then condenses and collects in a reservoir. This process can remove a host of water contaminants, but it’s relatively slow and limited to smaller units. While distilled water is pure, the process also removes beneficial minerals such as calcium and potassium. Plus, distilled water may have a bland taste. No filter is necessary for a distiller; the evaporation/condensation process itself removes impurities.
- Alkaline-enhancing: Rather than removing impurities, an alkaline-enhancing filter infuses the water with beneficial minerals, such as calcium and potassium, that increase the pH level. Some consider alkaline water healthier than water with a neutral or acidic pH level. Though an alkaline filter will not remove impurities, it can be used in conjunction with filters that do. In such a case, the other filters remove the contaminants, then the alkaline filter adds beneficial pH minerals to the water.
- Reverse osmosis: This purifying method is typically available for under-sink purification units. Reverse osmosis (RO) employs a series of membranes to filter out most common contaminants, including salts, heavy metals, arsenic, chlorine, and other toxins. Some RO units feature an additional filter that adds trace amounts of beneficial minerals back. This is accomplished via a remineralizing filter (similar to an alkaline-enhancing filter, but not as strong). The water runs through the remineralizing filter after the reverse-osmosis process removes contaminants. While a few RO units are available as countertop water filters, most install under a sink and feature a sink-top spigot.
Not too long ago, water dispensers could only offer room-temperature H2O. While those units still exist, modern models can both chill and heat water. Just the touch of a button supplies refreshingly cool or piping-hot water, eliminating the need to refrigerate drinking water or heat it on the stove or in a microwave.
A dispenser that provides hot water will contain an internal heater that brings the water temperature to between about 185 to 203 degrees Fahrenheit. This is suitable for making tea and instant soups. To prevent unintentional scalding accidents, dispensers that heat water almost always come with a child safety lock.
A dispenser that chills the water will contain an interior compressor, much like the type in a refrigerator, to lower the water’s temperature to a cool temperature of approximately 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
A gravity-fed dispenser is simply placed on a countertop or other surface. The top reservoir is filled with water or fitted with a prefilled tank-type water jug. Some countertop models feature attachments that connect to a sink faucet for water.
For example, a water hose feed from the dispenser may screw on at the end of the faucet or attach at the base of the faucet. To fill the dispenser’s reservoir, a simple twist of a lever will divert tap water into the unit. These models are relatively DIY-friendly for those with a bit of plumbing knowledge.
Most under-sink units require attaching an intake line to the existing water supply line, typically requiring professional installation. For units that require electricity for operation, an under-sink electrical outlet may need to be installed—always a job for a professional electrician.
For most water dispensers, including countertop and sink-top, maintenance is minimal. The unit’s exterior can be wiped down with a clean cloth, and the reservoir can be removed and washed in hot soapy water.
The primary aspect of maintenance involves changing purification filters. Depending on the number of contaminants removed and how much water is used on a regular basis, this could mean changing a filter every 2 months or so.
Our Top Picks
To qualify as a top pick, a water dispenser should hold and easily supply enough drinking water for the user’s needs. If it’s a purifying model, it should clean water as advertised and come with easy-to-understand instructions. Models that dispense hot water should also feature a child safety lock. The following water dispensers suit various lifestyles and drinking needs, and all provide healthy water.
The Brio Countertop Water Dispenser serves up hot, cold, and room-temperature water on demand. It features stainless steel cold and hot reservoirs, and it includes a child safety lock to prevent accidental discharge of steaming water. It also comes with a removable drip tray.
This Brio does not feature purification filters; it’s designed to accommodate a 5-gallon tank-style water bottle. It measures 20.5 inches tall, 17.5 inches from front to back, and 15 inches wide. The addition of a standard 5-gallon water bottle on top will add approximately 19 additional inches in height. This size makes the dispenser well suited for placing on a countertop or sturdy table. The unit has earned the Energy Star label, meaning it’s energy-efficient compared to some other hot/cold dispensers.
Choose from hot or cold water with the Avalon Premium Countertop Water Dispenser that provides both temperatures on demand. This Avalon doesn’t employ purification or treatment filters and is intended for use with purified or distilled water. It measures 19 inches tall, 13 inches deep, and 12 inches wide. With the addition of a 5-gallon, 19-inch-tall water bottle on top, it requires approximately 38 inches of height clearance.
The sturdy, easy-to-use dispenser can be placed on a countertop, an island, or a sturdy table near an electrical outlet to conveniently serve up drinking water. A child safety lock can help prevent hot-water accidents.
Tasty, healthy water needn’t wallop anyone’s wallet. The affordable Myvision Water Bottle Pump Dispenser fits on the top of a water bottle of 1 to 5 gallons to dispense fresh water from its handy pump. A built-in battery operates the pump, and once charged (USB charger included), it will have power for up to 40 days before requiring a recharge.
The tube is made from flexible silicone that’s BPA-free, and the spout is stainless steel. While there is no heating, cooling, or filtration on this Myvision model, the pump makes it simple and convenient to access water from a large jug without an additional gravity-fed dispenser. The unit is also small and portable, so it can easily be taken to picnics, barbecues, and other venues where fresh water on demand will be appreciated.
There’s no need to buy big water jugs with the Avalon Self Cleaning Water Dispenser. It draws water from the supply line beneath the sink and processes it through two separate filters: a multilayer sediment filter and an activated-carbon filter to remove dirt, chlorine, lead, rust, and bacteria. This combination of filters provides clear, good-tasting water on demand. Plus, the unit boasts a convenient self-cleaning function that injects a stream of ozone into the water tank to flush it clean.
The dispenser is 19 inches tall, 15 inches wide, and 12 inches deep, making it well suited for placement on top of a counter, even with an upper cabinet overhead. It requires access to an electrical outlet, dispenses both steaming-hot and chilled water, and comes with a child safety lock on the hot spout to help prevent accidents.
The compact, cylindrical APEX dispenser is a solid choice for countertops with limited space, as it stands just 10 inches tall and measures 4.5 inches in diameter. The APEX dispenser draws tap water as necessary, so healthy drinking water is always available.
It comes with a five-stage filter (five filters in one). The initial filter removes bacteria and heavy metals, a second removes debris, and a third eliminates a host of organic chemicals along with odors. A fourth filter removes even smaller debris particulates.
The final filter adds beneficial alkaline minerals to the now-purified water. Alkaline minerals, including potassium, magnesium, and calcium, reduce acidity, raise the pH level, and improve taste. All needed attachments to connect the intake line to the faucet spigot are included, and in most cases, no plumbing will be necessary, making the APEX dispenser a DIY-friendly option.
With the KUPPET Water Dispenser, users can add a 3- or 5-gallon water bottle to the top, which should provide ample water for a large family or a busy office. This countertop dispenser features an anti-dust-mite water-barrel seat design for extra assurance that the water will remain hygienic, and the hot water spout has an anti-scald childproof lock.
The unit includes a drip tray at the bottom to catch overspills, and its small size (14.1 inches tall, 10.6 inches wide, 10.2 inches deep) makes it well suited for a countertop or sturdy table. The addition of a 5-gallon water bottle will increase height by approximately 19 inches.
There’s an ongoing controversy over adding fluoride to municipal water systems, with some communities favoring the chemical to reduce dental cavities, while others believe it to be detrimental to overall health. Those who wish to remove fluoride from their water may want to check out this model from AquaTru.
Not only does it completely remove fluoride from tap water along with other contaminants, but reverse-osmosis water is also considered among the purest, best-tasting filtered water available. Unlike many RO units meant for under-sink installation, the AquaTru sits on the counter.
Water passes through four filtration stages to remove such contaminants as sediment, chlorine, lead, arsenic, pesticides, and more. The unit will fit beneath an upper cabinet and measures 14 inches tall, 14 inches wide, and 12 inches deep.
It requires an electrical outlet to operate the reverse-osmosis process, but it only dispenses room-temperature water. The simplest way to fill this AquaTru unit is to position it so that the sink’s pull-out sprayer will reach the tank’s top.
For healthy drinking water with an increased pH level, consider this APEX device. It filters impurities out of tap water and then adds beneficial alkaline minerals to raise its pH level. While there’s no medical consensus, some believe drinking water that’s slightly on the alkaline side of the pH scale is healthier and reduces stomach acidity.
The APEX dispenser connects directly to the faucet or spigot and features two countertop filtration cylinders that remove chlorine, radon, heavy metals, and other contaminants. The unit is 15.1 inches tall, 12.3 inches wide, and 6.6 inches deep, making it suitable for placement beside most sinks.
To produce pure distilled water right on the countertop, check out the DC House 1 Gallon Water Distiller. The distillation process removes dangerous heavy metals, such as mercury and lead, by boiling the water and then collecting the condensed steam. The DC distiller processes up to 1 liter of water per hour and can process approximately 6 gallons of water per day, often more than enough for drinking, cooking, and even use in humidifiers.
The inner water tank is made from 100 percent stainless steel, and the machine’s components all feature food-grade materials. The unit comes with an auto-off feature, which will shut it down when the water reservoir is depleted. When the distillation process is complete, the water in the dispenser comes out warm, but not hot. It can be chilled in a pitcher in the fridge, used in a coffeemaker, or heated in a microwave if desired.
No more heating water on the stove or in the microwave. With the Ready Hot Instant Hot Water Dispenser, users can dispense steaming-hot water (200 degrees F) from a sink-top faucet. This unit connects to the water supply line beneath the sink, and although it does not include filters, it can connect to an under-sink water-purification system, if desired.
The tank that fits under the sink measures 12 inches tall by 11 inches deep and 8 inches wide. The connected sink-top faucet dispenses both hot and cold (but not chilled) water; the cold side connects directly to the water supply line. The tap itself features an attractive brushed nickel finish and an arched spigot that accommodates tall glasses and tumblers.
FAQs About Countertop Water Dispensers
Staying hydrated is essential for good health. If tap water contains impurities, adding a countertop water dispenser that filters water or accommodates large bottles of purified water is an investment in a family’s health. For more info on water dispensers, consider the answers to these common questions.
Q. What is the difference between a water cooler and water dispenser?
A water cooler is specifically designed to cool drinking water, and it features an internal compressor, much like the ones in refrigerators that keep food cold. A water dispenser may provide only room-temperature water or cooled and/or heated water.
Q. Does a water dispenser filter the water?
Some do, depending on the type. A water dispenser that connects to a sink faucet often contains filters that help purify tap water. Standalone dispensers designed to hold 5-gallon water bottles usually do not include filters because the water often comes already purified.
Q. What contaminants does a countertop water filter remove?
It depends on the type of filter, but in general, a countertop water filter will remove heavy metals, odors, and sediment. Advanced filters, such as reverse-osmosis systems, will remove additional impurities, including pesticides, nitrates, arsenic, and lead, among others.
Q. Can I connect my countertop water filter to multiple faucets?
Probably not. A water filter’s intake hose typically connects to a single faucet or water supply line. However, it is possible to install separate water filters to sinks throughout the house to provide healthy drinking water in bathrooms as well as kitchens.