If you’re in the market for a countertop filtration unit, AquaTru, and Berkey are two strong candidates.
These brands occupy the top two spots on our list of the best countertop water filters thanks to their top-notch quality, reliability, and incredible performance.
However, looking closely, these brands’ countertop items completely differ in key water filtration attributes like filtration technology, number of removed contaminants, and filtration capacity. In other words, these products address different needs.
In this guide, we’ll lay out the differences between the two brands by comparing their most popular products, AquaTru Countertop Reverse Osmosis System and Big Berkey. In the end, you’ll be able to identify what you need from a filtration unit and which is the right product for you.
AquaTru is the water filtration and quality brand of Ideal Living, a health and wellness company also specializing in air quality and botanic branches. The brand operates on the principle that everybody has a right to clean water and air.
Since the company’s establishment in 1999 by co-founders Peter Spiegel and Katie Williams, the brand has been working on affordable and environmentally responsible solutions of “wellness tech.”
The brand’s filtration technology reflects this principle. All the AquaTru units utilize a proprietary four-stage process.
- Mechanical pre-filter: This pre-filter employs activated carbon properties to filter out large impurities such as sediment, clay, mud, dust, rust, and sand. Preventing them from entering the system prolongs the lifespan of succeeding filters and eases their workload.
- Activated carbon filter: The activated carbon media removes chlorine from the water and decreases its turbidity.
- Reverse osmosis (RO): RO is a method that features a semipermeable membrane with microscopic pore sizes. RO devices apply high pressure that allows the water to pass through this membrane while leaving behind a variety of contaminants and total dissolved solids, including heavy metals (lead, hexavalent chromium, copper, barium, and so on), hazardous chemicals (disinfection byproducts, pharmaceuticals, etc.), perfluorinated substances (PFOA and PFAS), and hard water minerals (calcium and magnesium). During this process, 80% of the water is typically filtered out and flushed, which causes waste, but the AquaTru systems circulate the filtered-out water, so they’re eco-friendly.
- Activated coconut shell carbon VOCs filter: Despite the microscopic pore size of the RO membrane, there’s still a chance that organic compounds with very small particle sizes can make their way through it. To prevent that, the brand uses a volatile organic compounds (VOCs) filter.
The AquaTru filters are also tested by an independent lab and certified by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) to remove 82 contaminants. You can check out the full list of contaminants on their filter’s performance data sheet.
AquaTru products have the following NSF certifications:
- NSF/ANSI Standard 42 — for reduction of aesthetic nuisances such as taste, odor, color, turbidity, sediment, and chlorine
- NSF/ANSI Standard 53 — for reduction of hazardous chemicals and dangerous heavy metals
- NSF/ANSI Standard 58 — for employing reverse osmosis technology in a scientifically-accepted way
- NSF/ANSI Standard 401 — for reduction of newly-emerging compounds such as pharmaceuticals
- NSF/ANSI Standard P473 — for reduction of perfluorinated substances
Overall, AquaTru produces effective and reliable water filtration items.
A List of AquaTru Water Filtration Products
AquaTrue has three different water filtration items that use the same four-stage filtration technology.
- Under-Sink Reverse Osmosis Water Purifier: If you have enough under-sink space, this product is ideal for you. It’ll help you access clean and safe water directly from your kitchen faucet, and you won’t need to find a space for it on your counter. It costs $349 and comes with a one-year limited warranty.
- Carafe Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Purifier: AquaTru’s carafe water filtration system is a water pitcher with an outside filter, unlike standard pitchers. Additionally, it uses advanced filtration technology. It’s ideal for people living alone or with little space on their countertops because it’s compact. The device’s carafe has only 64oz (half a gallon) water capacity. The product comes with a $349 price tag and a year of limited warranty.
- Classic Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Purifier: This popular AquaTru countertop purifier is not only one of our favorite countertop units, but it’s also one of our favorite reverse osmosis systems overall. It has a 3-gallon unfiltered and 1-gallon filtered water capacity. Like the other AquaTru items, it comes with a one-year warranty, but a slightly higher price tag: $449.
All these devices require a power connection to produce the high water pressure necessary for the reverse osmosis membrane to work properly.
Berkey isn’t the typical large umbrella company you often find in this industry — it’s a small family business founded in the 1990s in Pueblo, Colorado that was practically catapulted into international acclaim thanks to its innovative filtration technology.
The brand doesn’t produce anything but countertop devices that rely on gravity filtration. Unlike AquaTru, which uses reverse osmosis technology, its products don’t require electricity.
Gravity filtration means the water flows through the filters for a long time. You put unfiltered water into the tank at the top, and gravity takes it through the filters down to the filtered water tank at the bottom.
Although this type of filtration takes longer to produce clean and safe water than RO units, it’s more thorough, especially when employed by an innovative brand such as Berkey.
This is evident in the brands’ contaminant removal capacities. While an excellent RO system like AquaTru removes 82 contaminants, Berkey products remove more than 200 contaminants.
Black Berkey Elements is what makes this high contaminant removal ratio possible — it’s tech that consists of two filter cartridges and the following water treatment techniques.
- Absorption: Absorption is a sort of ion exchange where the molecular contaminants (mostly heavy metals) are drawn by their electrical charges and bond with the absorbent media so that they don’t end up in the water supply. Most water softeners use this technology to eliminate hard water minerals such as calcium and magnesium. However, these are also essential minerals that we need to consume. On the other hand, Black Berkey Elements’ absorption technology removes only heavy metal molecules while retaining healthy minerals, which gives it a competitive advantage.
- Adsorption: The interior walls of the Black Berkey Elements are adsorptive. They create tension between their adsorptive charge and the electrostatic charge of the impurities that pass by them, which eliminates the impurities.
- Unique filtration media placement: The Black Berkey Elements employs six different filtration media within its cartridges. The brand doesn’t disclose what these media exactly are, but we do know how they’re placed — they’re placed so that they form a microscopic labyrinth inside the cartridge, also called a “tortuous path.” This design allows the media to catch more contaminants with better success rates.
Unlike AquaTru’s filtration tech, the Black Berkey Elements technology doesn’t have any NSF certifications. Still, various independent labs have tested the technology against the standards set by the NSF and EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and provided seven performance data sheets supporting the brand’s claims.
A List of Berkey Filtration Products
Berkey has six countertop filtration units in its catalog. These devices differ only in water capacity, cartridge capacity, and material.
|Berkey products/features||Water capacity||Cartridge capacity||Material|
|Travel Berkey||1.5 gallons (1-2 people)||2 Black Berkey filter cartridges||Stainless steel w/ BPA-free plastic spigot|
|Big Berkey||2.25 gallons (3-4 people)||4 Black Berkey filter cartridges||Stainless steel w/ BPA- free plastic spigot|
|Berkey Light||2.75 gallons (3-5 people)||4 Black Berkey filter cartridges||BPA-free plastic|
|Royal Berkey||3.25 gallons (4-6 people)||6 Black Berkey filter cartridges||Stainless steel w/ BPA- free plastic spigot|
|Imperial Berkey||4.5 gallons (4-8 people)||6 Black Berkey filter cartridges||Stainless steel w/ BPA- free plastic spigot|
|Crown Berkey||6 gallons (up to 10 people)||8 Black Berkey filter cartridges||Stainless steel w/ BPA- free plastic spigot|
All these units have cylindrical bodies. While Berkey Light has a transparent look, all the other Berkeys have a shiny gray stainless steel color.
Big Berkey is the most popular Berkey product because it’s compact but still boasts decent water and cartridge capacity.
AquaTru Classic Countertop Reverse Osmosis Water Purifier vs. Big Berkey
Both AquaTru Countertop RO and Big Berkey are among the most well-liked and in-demand water filtration units in the United States. In addition, they’re among the most efficient water treatment products in their categories (RO and gravity).
However, other than the fact both are good filters that provide safe and clean water, these two products have nothing in common. Although they’re both countertop units, they look nothing alike, they employ completely different filtration technologies, and they have widely different filtration capacity and maintenance requirements.
Water Capacity, Size, and Appearance
The AquaTru product has a one-gallon filtered water capacity, but its unfiltered water tank has a 3-gallon capacity. This means that you’ll get 4 gallons of water before refilling the tanks.
Big Berkey, on the other hand, comes with two tanks, one for unfiltered water and one for filtered water. Both these tanks have a 2.25-gallon capacity.
The difference in their water capacity is reflected in these units’ sizes. The AquaTru unit is 14 inches in length, 14 inches in width, and 12 inches in height while weighing 23 lbs. Big Berkey, on the other hand, has a 21-inch height, 8.5-inch diameter, and weighs 7 lbs.
The AquaTru has a more modern look thanks to its water-dispensing button, colored digital display, and space-age design. However, Big Berkey is relatively straightforward, with a cylindrical shape and a spigot.
Filtration Technology and Contaminants Removed
AquaTru employs state-of-the-art reverse osmosis technology in its product. This technology is further supported by a mechanical sediment pre-filter, activated carbon media, and an activated coconut shell carbon post-filter designed to remove volatile organic compounds.
Combined, all these technologies reduce the levels of 82 contaminants, including the most hazardous ones, such as lead, hexavalent chromium, total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), and PFAS/PFOA, with great success rates.
Berkey’s innovative Black Berkey Elements, on the other hand, remove eliminate more than 200 contaminants. For instance, while AquaTru only eliminates six heavy metals, that number is fifteen for products that employ Black Berkey Elements.
The number of removed contaminants is not the only difference between the two filtration technologies. Berkey is also superior to AquaTru in terms of contaminant reduction rates.
For example, according to the report provided by the Envirotek Labs, Berkey reduces lead and hexavalent chromium by at least 99.9%. AquaTru’s lead reduction rate, in comparison, is 99.1% on average, and its hexavalent chromium reduction rate is even lower at 97.2%.
Additionally, while Berkey reduces TTHMs by 99.8% and PFAS/PFOA by 99.9%, these numbers are 95% and 97.5%, respectively, with AquaTru.
In short, Big Berkey employs a better filtration technology than the AquaTru Countertop RO System.
Filtration Capacity and Maintenance Requirements
The AquaTru countertop system has three different filter cartridges. The first cartridge houses the mechanical sediment filter and activated carbon media, the second cartridge features the RO membrane, and the third cartridge consists of the VOCs filter.
The first and third cartridges have a filtration capacity of 600 gallons, meaning you’ll need to replace them once every six months or so. The RO cartridge is of higher capacity with 1,200 gallons. It needs to be replaced once every six months.
The default two-cartridge setup of Black Berkey Elements, on the other hand, is one of the most long-lasting filters on the market. It has a filtration capacity of 3,000 gallons, equalling more than two years of clean and safe water.
You can upgrade to a four-cartridge setup and double that number, too.
In that sense, Big Berkey is far more low-maintenance than the AquaTru countertop option.
Warranty and Price
AquaTru offers only one year of warranty for all of its products, and its countertop RO unit is no exception to that rule. That’s a humble warranty option for a device with electronic bits and a four-stage filtration process, as a lot can go wrong while you use it. However, you can upgrade the brand’s warranty by registering for their warranty program and paying a bit more.
Berkey is one of the most generous brands on the market when it comes to warranties. All Berkey countertop units come with a lifetime warranty, and so does the Big Berkey.
AquaTru’s technological superiority reflects on the product’s price as it’s valued at $449 by the brand. Additionally, the total of three cartridge replacements adds up to $60.
Big Berkey costs $367, while its two-filter replacement setup is worth $166. Although the Berkey replacement setup costs more than the AquaTru one, it’s still the more viable long-term option since it lasts four times longer than its alternative.
AquaTru looks better on a countertop and is a more modern device, but Big Berkey is superior to it in crucial water filtration aspects such as filtration technology, removed contaminants, reduction rates, filtration capacity, warranty, and long-term affordability.
|Key Attributes/Products||AquaTru Countertop RO System||Big Berkey|
|Material||BPA-free plastic||Stainless steel|
|Water capacity||1 gallon of filtered water, 3 gallons of unfiltered water||2.25 gallons|
|Filtration technology||Four-stage process with mechanical pre-filter, activated carbon, reverse osmosis membrane, and VOCs filter||Black Berkey Elements with microfiltration, absorption, adsorption, and prolonged contact time|
|Contaminants removed||82 contaminants||200+ contaminants|
|NSF certifications||NSF/ANSI Standards 42, 53, 58, 401, and P473||Not certified|
|Filtration capacity (avg.)||600 gallons for mechanical pre-filter and VOCs filter (6 months), 1,200 gallons for the RO membrane (a year)||3,000 gallons / 2 years|
|Size||Length: 14.5 inches, Width: 14.5 inches, Height: 12 inches||Diameter: 8.5 inches, Height: 21 inches|
|Weight||23 lbs||7 lbs|
|Replacement Filter Price||$60||$166|
Both Berkey and AquaTru produce reliable and effective water treatment products. But, the specifics of those products are very different.
The AquaTru RO System, for instance, has a quite modern look, while Big Berkey is just a gray cylinder. However, Big Berkey is made of stainless steel, and the AquaTru System is just plastic.
Additionally, despite AquaTru’s utilization of reverse osmosis, Berkey’s Black Berkey Elements technology is far superior to AquaTru’s filtration process. The former’s remarkable numbers in the number of removed contaminants and their reduction rates are a testament to that.
Berkey is also superior to AquaTru in terms of filtration capacity. While the latter will require you to change its filters once every six to twelve months, the former provides clean and safe water for over two years.
Lastly, AquaTru’s one-year warranty can’t compare to Berkey’s lifetime warranty, and Big Berkey is the less costly option in the short and the long term.