Aquatru vs Berkey: Objective, Data-Driven Comparison

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AquaTru and Berkey are both countertop water filtration systems, but they use different treatment processes and achieve slightly different results. 

In the matchup of AquaTru vs Berkey, we’re comparing two different approaches to countertop water treatment, based on our own hands-on testing of these systems in our homes. 

The Big Berkey and AquaTru systems have similar upfront and ongoing maintenance costs, and in our testing, both reduced or removed most of the contaminants in our water. 

The AquaTru went one step further by also greatly reducing healthy minerals, which was a setback (we tested the system without the remineralization filter). We noticed a couple of anomalies with the Berkey: the fluoride filters appeared to leach aluminum oxide into our water in our first test, and several contaminants actually increased post-filtration. 

Note: There are four models within the AquaTru range. We went for the AquaTru Classic, which is the lowest-cost option and doesn’t include any add-on features.

📊 Our Testing Data

We test all the water filters we review using 6 main testing criteria, and we used the data for these criteria when comparing the AquaTru and Berkey systems. Check out the scores for both units in this table. 

Contaminant Reduction9.918.85
Filtration Rate7.5010.00

There’s a bit more detail in the next table when it comes to how we obtained our scores for the testing criteria. 

Overall Score9.598.60Aquatru
Health Related Contaminants9.909.30Aquatru
Aesthetic Related Contaminants9.906.70Aquatru
Performance CertificationNSF 42, 53, 58, 401, and P473noneAquatru
Filtration Rate0.08 GPM2.6 GPHAquatru
Component QualityOutstandingExcellentAquatru
Component CertificationNSF/ANSI 372NoneAquatru
Servicing RequirementsOutstandingWeakAquatru
Costs$0.11/ gal$0.13 galAquatru

🚰 Contaminant Reduction

We combined our own testing data with evidence of certifications on the NSF, IAMPO, or WQA databases to compare the AquaTru and Berkey systems for the contaminants they remove.

Our Lab Test Results

We tested our water using Tap Score tests provided by SimpleLab, then analyzed our test data to compare the filters’ contaminant removal abilities. 

water testing with tap score

The Big Berkey can be used with both treated tap water and unfiltered surface water, so we conducted two separate tests: one using our own home’s water supply, and one using river water from our Colorado testing location. 

The AquaTru should only be used with treated water, so we conducted just one test using our municipal tap water. 

This table highlights all the contaminants that were detected in our source water, and how effectively the AquaTru and Big Berkey reduced them based on our post-filtration results.  

ContaminantMeasurementBerkey Test 1 Pre-FiltrationBerkey Test 1 Post-Filtration% ChangeBerkey Test 2 Pre-FiltrationBerkey Test 2 Post-Filtration% ChangeAquatru Pre-FiltrationAquatru Post-Filtration% Change
Nitrate (as N)PPMNDNDNDNDNDND2.10-100.00%
Total ColiformsCFU/100mL150-100.00%NDNDNDNDNDND
Total Dissolved SolidsPPMNDNDNDNDNDND11212-89.29%
Total THMsPPB0.0270390-100.00%0.03520-100.00%NDNDND

Both systems did a great job overall at removing contaminants from our water, but we had an issue with the Berkey system that affected the quality of our filtered water. This pulled down Berkey’s overall score, making the AquaTru the winner in this category. 

Health-Related Contaminants

Our score for the AquaTru’s ability to remove health-related contaminants was based on our before-and-after city water test. 

There were two factors influencing Berkey’s health score: how effectively it removed contaminants from our city water, and the percentage of bacteria it removed from our river water sample. 

Our City Water Testing

AquaTru got the best score in our city water testing. It did an excellent job of eliminating all 11 contaminants with health effects detected in our water: fluoride, lead, uranium (which were all detected above Tap Score’s HGL), nitrate, sodium, strontium, zinc, sulfate, molybdenum, barium, copper.

Aquatru contaminants with possible health effects detection part 1
Aquatru contaminants with possible health effects detection part 2

We ended up conducting two separate tests for the Big Berkey (we’ll explain why below), so we combined and averaged our scores from both tests to obtain the overall score for our city water.  

In test 1, the Big Berkey did a great job of removing 100% of copper, lead, disinfection byproducts, barium, and manganese. It also reduced cobalt by 3.23%.

Berkey test 1 contaminants exceeding the hgl detection
Berkey test 1 contaminants detected with health effects copper and barium
Berkey contaminants detected with health effects test 1 manganese

But we were surprised by one of the contaminants detected in our filtered water. Aluminum levels had increased to 1.4 PPM (well above Tap Score’s HGL of 0.6 PPM) – something we hadn’t expected. We knew that Berkey’s PF2 fluoride filters use alumina filtration media, and our theory was that aluminum oxide was leaching from the media. Additionally, only 50% of fluoride was reduced from our water, yet Berkey claimed that its PF2 filters could remove up to 99.99%. 

Berkey test 1 fluoride & aluminum detection

We decided to retest our water after buying and carefully priming a new set of fluoride filters.  The results were less alarming – our filtered water only contained 0.069 PPM of aluminum (now below the HGL), and 100% fluoride was removed. 

Berkey aluminum detection test 1 vs test2
Berkey test 1 and test 2 fluoride detection

Another unusual outcome from our Berkey testing was an increase in potassium and sodium in our filtered water. We spoke to the lab and determined that this was likely because we used 100 gallons of a different water source to prime the filters, which contained higher concentrations of these contaminants. We tested the Berkey alongside a series of countertop filters, and we noticed the same anomaly across the board, so we don’t think this is an issue with Berkey filters specifically.

Our River Water Test

The Big Berkey performed exceptionally in our river water test, removing 100% of total coliform (a group of bacteria that indicate the potential presence of disease-causing bacteria). That’s exactly the outcome we were looking for, so Berkey got top marks from us here. 

berkey total coliform detection

Aesthetic Contaminants

Chlorination is the most widely used method of water disinfection in the U.S. Chlorine is considered an aesthetic contaminant because it gives water a poor taste and smell (some people describe this as “swimming pool”-like).

The AquaTru and the Big Berkey were both equally capable of removing 100% of the 0.5 PPM of chlorine detected in our water. That’s likely because both systems use activated carbon media, which is well known for its ability to reduce chlorine, tastes, and odors. 

But aluminum is also considered an aesthetic contaminant because it affects water pH, so Berkey’s aesthetic score was lower due to our test 1 results, where elevated aluminum levels increased our water’s pH to 8.7.

Minerals & Salts

The AquaTru is a reverse osmosis system, which means it doesn’t only reduce contaminants; it also rejects healthier minerals and salts. While this isn’t an issue as such – most of us get plenty of minerals from our diets – we generally prefer the taste of water with retained minerals compared to the “flat” taste of demineralized water. 

Our tap water contained 23.9 PPM calcium and 6.08 PPM magnesium. The AquaTru removed 97% calcium (to 0.7 PPM) and 94% magnesium (to 0.36 PPM). Sodium and chloride were also completely removed. 

Aquatru minerals detection

We weren’t surprised by this result given that we used AquaTru’s base model. We plan to buy the remineralizing VOC filter and retest the system to see how effectively it reintroduces minerals with this feature. 

Surprisingly, the Big Berkey actually eliminated 100% calcium and magnesium from our water in test 1, but these contaminants increased in test 2 (again, we think this is due to the difference in the quality of the water we used to prime the filters). We wouldn’t expect a water filtration system like the Berkey to remove minerals because they don’t provide the thorough filtration of an RO system. 

Berkey test i vs. test ii calcium and magnesium detection

Performance Certifications

Performance certifications tell you that you can trust a filter to remove contaminants as claimed by the manufacturer. 

The AquaTru excelled in this category. It has IAPMO certifications to a series of NSF Standards: 42, 53, 58, 401, and P473, for its ability to reduce 83 contaminants, including PFOA/PFOS, arsenic perchlorate, lead, nitrate/nitrite, fluoride, copper, TDS, barium, cysts, radium 226/228, selenium, estrone, chromium, BPA, and more. 

Berkey doesn’t match up – it only has independent third-party testing data to support the manufacturer’s claims, which isn’t as impressive or reliable as an official certification. 

🚦Filtration Rate

The AquaTru uses a pump to send water quickly through its filters, but it then stores filtered water in a tank, where it’s dispensed via gravity. We measured its filtration rate in gallons per minute (GPM). 

The Big Berkey is a gravity-fed system that filters water gradually using gravity. We measured its filtration rate in gallons per hour (GPH).

Because the AquaTru and Big Berkey are different types of systems, our filtration rate scores are based on different criteria for gravity-fed units (aka. Berkey) and pressurized systems (Aquatru). So, while it may appear that Berkey got a better score in this category, the two units can’t be compared using the same benchmarks, and AquaTru actually has a faster filtration rate. 

You can see how the filters compare for filtration speed in the table below. 

ProductFiltration Rate ScoreFiltration Rate
Aquatru7.500.08 GPM
Berkey10.002.6 GPH

We timed the AquaTru’s filtration rate, and it purified 1 gallon of water in around 12 minutes, so its flow rate was 0.08 GPM. 

Berkey’s filtration rate was one of the fastest we’ve recorded for a gravity-fed system. In our testing, it had a flow rate of about 2.6 GPH using the two black filters and two fluoride filters.

💲 Upfront Cost

At the time of uploading this review, the AquaTru is priced at $449.00 for the base model (the AquaTru Classic). You can spend a bit more money upfront on one of the other three system configurations: 

  • The AquaTru Connect, which is smart app compatible and lets you monitor the system from your phone (costs $499.00)
  • The AquaTru Alkaline Classic, which has an upgraded VOC filter that also adds healthy minerals and alkalizes water (costs $469.00)
  • The AquaTru Alkaline Connect, which is both smart app compatible and comes with the upgraded alkalizing mineral-boost VOC filter (costs $519.00)
Aquatru review

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The Big Berkey is virtually the same price as the AquaTru Classic at $447.00*, but this price only includes the two Black Berkey filters. A pair of fluoride filters costs $99.99 extra, bringing the upfront cost up to $546.99 – more expensive than any of AquaTru’s models. 

berkey sizes

We personally think AquaTru is the better value for money here given that you get the reliability of thorough RO water purification and remineralization (if you choose the Alkaline Classic model) without the hassle of priming the Berkey filters. Berkey is expensive compared to its competitors – other gravity-fed systems are generally at least $100 cheaper – and our own testing tells us that you don’t get a whole lot more for your money. 

*There are a few different Berkey distributors, and we obtained our pricing data from, one of the most popular Berkey distributors.

📐 Design

We ranked the AquaTru and Big Berkey for design by consolidating two separate testing data: 

  • The component quality – based on our personal experience using the systems 
  • Materials safety certifications – based on whether or not we could find certifications for the systems

We’ve shared our scoring data for design in the table below. 

ProductDesign ScoreComponent QualityMaterials Safety
Aquatru9.70OutstandingNSF/ANSI 372
Berkey7.80ExcellentNot certified

The AquaTru got the best score for design, largely because it’s certified for materials safety, while the Big Berkey is not. 

Component Quality 

The AquaTru is mostly made from Tritan plastic, which (according to the manufacturer) is BPA- and BPS-free. We were pleased with the component quality in our testing – the unit felt sturdy without the weight and bulk of metal, and didn’t seem likely to shatter like glass. 

However, Tritan plastics may not be as safe as they’re made out to be – one study discovered BHPF (another bisphenol) in Tritan water bottles, and we couldn’t find any solid evidence to suggest that Tritan won’t leach microplastics.  

The Big Berkey is made of stainless steel, giving it a more industrial look and a heavier, sturdier feel. It’s not completely plastic-free, though – our unit came with a plastic spigot (some Berkey distributors sell stainless steel spigots at an extra cost). 

Stainless steel has one obvious benefit over plastic: it definitely won’t leach harmful chemicals or microplastics. But there’s still a potential that it might rust, despite the name “stainless” steel. We found a few Amazon reviews that mentioned corrosion or rust marks in the water chambers, but we don’t know how legitimate these claims are given how easily Amazon reviews can be manipulated. 

Filter Materials

AquaTru’s filters contain activated carbon media (typically made from natural materials like coconut shell and charcoal) and semi-permeable RO membrane materials. There’s also a sediment pre-filter, which could be made of several materials, including polypropylene, acrylic fiber, spun cellulose, glass fiber, polyester, and rayon.

aquatru filters 4 stages
Aquatru’s filters

Berkey’s main filters contain activated carbon and five additional media (undisclosed apart from the ion exchange resin). The fluoride filters use activated alumina encased in a plastic housing. AA is a relatively common water filter material, but we have concerns about the safety of the Berkey fluoride filter design because of the aluminum oxide leaching we experienced in test 1. But our first lot of filters might have been faulty. 

berkey replacement filters

Design Setbacks

We identified a few design setbacks with both AquaTru and Berkey during our testing. 

The AquaTru was limited by its smaller 0.75-gallon water holding capacity (the Big Berkey holds 2.25 gallons in comparison), which meant we were having to fill the water tank frequently if we wanted constant access to purified water. 

Because the AquaTru is an RO system, it wastes water, so we also had to empty the reject water tank manually to keep the system running properly. 

Berkey’s main design setback was caused by our inability to see the water level in the bottom chamber. We had no way to know how full the chamber was, which led us to overfill the system, causing water to spill out between the two chambers. 

Some Berkey distributors sell a spigot with a water level measuring tool. This, of course, costs extra, but is worth it to avoid the hassle of taking the chambers apart to check the bottom chamber. 

Materials Safety Certification

Materials safety certifications prove to customers that water filtration systems have been officially tested and proven to be safe for their intended purpose.  

AquaTru excels in this category – it has an NSF 372 certification for lead-free design, and its IAMPO performance certifications also encompass materials safety.

Berkey doesn’t have a materials safety certification, so it got the poorer score from us.

⚙️ Setup

We put the AquaTru and Berkey systems head-to-head in this category, timing how long it took to set them both up, and how easy we found each setup process.

Our scores and times for setup are highlighted in the table below. 

ProductSetup ScoreSetup Time
Aquatru10.00System arrived ready to use
Berkey6.501 hour 20 minutes

The AquaTru was the quickest and easiest system to set up. It’s a plug-and-play machine, so we didn’t have to do any DIY work, and the unit arrived partially assembled. 

There were just a few components for us to connect, and we had to prime the filters. This was easy because we didn’t have to use any tools or do any manual priming – we just ran 4 tanks of water through the filters inside the system, discarding the purified water. While the process took a long time, it wasn’t particularly challenging. 

Brian installing the filter cartridges of AquaTru Countertop RO System

The Berkey filters need to be manually primed, which made our setup process much more tedious and time-consuming. We used the priming equipment provided with our unit, and our experience wasn’t great. We struggled to get a seal with the tan priming washer on our faucet, and the blue priming nipple would only fit older faucets. Note: if you have a spray or pullout faucet, you won’t be able to use either Berkey priming option. 

We spent 1 hour priming all four filters, but at least the process of assembling the units themselves was quicker, taking less than 20 minutes. Berkey’s filter priming process was a real deterrent for us and we wish the filters were shipped pre-primed or required simpler priming. 

🔧 Maintenance

We compared the maintenance requirements and costs for the AquaTru and Big Berkey in this section. 

The table below shows the data that we used to obtain the maintenance scores for both systems. 

ProductMaintenance ScoreServicing RequirementsCosts
Aquatru9.75Outstanding$0.11/ gallon

Again, AquaTru did better in this category – it was easier and slightly cheaper to maintain than the Big Berkey. 

Servicing Requirements 

The AquaTru is a multi-stage RO system, with three separate filters to replace. We found the filter-changing process super easy, and we didn’t have to make our own filter change reminders for each filter cartridge because the AquaTru’s display screen provides real-time information on filter life. 

Alongside replacing the filters, we also cleaned the water tanks with warm water and soap at least once a week, and wiped down the exterior of the machine whenever we cleaned the rest of our kitchen. AquaTru says you should do a machine flush with pure water once a week, which is supposed to clean out the filters. This isn’t an essential task and we didn’t always do it.

Finally, a unique daily maintenance task for the AquaTru was to empty the reject water tank a few times a day. This wasn’t difficult, but we do wish the unit could be connected to a drain so that it could self-empty. 

The Big Berkey was more of a pain to maintain because each new set of replacement filters needed to be primed using the same time-consuming process as the initial filters. 

The good news is that we could avoid changing the filters for a long time if we committed to cleaning them with a Scotch Brite pad whenever the flow rate became noticeably slower (every 3-6 months on average). While this was an extra job to remember, the cleaning process was at least much easier than priming a new set of filters. 

We also cleaned the Berkey’s water chambers around once a week. They’re bigger than the AquaTru’s water tanks, so if your kitchen sink is small, you might struggle to fit the tanks even when separated. 

Filling the big berkey with water

Maintenance Costs

Both AquaTru and Berkey have affordable long-term maintenance costs. 

We calculated AquaTru’s filter cost of $0.11/ gallon. Each separate filter in the system costs: 

  • Classic Pre/Carbon Filter: $0.03/gallon
  • Classic VOC Carbon Filter: $0.04/gallon
  • Classic Reverse Osmosis Filter: $0.04/gallon

The Big Berkey, containing both sets of filters, has an ongoing filter cost of $0.13. The separate filter costs are:

  • Black Berkey elements (x2): $0.034/gallon
  • Fluoride filters (x2): $0.09/gallon

That makes the AquaTru and the Big Berkey affordable to maintain in the long run, which should soften the blow of their expensive upfront costs somewhat. 

Note: We calculated these costs based on the manufacturers’ predicted lifespans for the filters. Your actual spend on filters may vary depending on your water quality and usage. We’ll update this guide once we’ve used and replaced all the filters, so we can comment on their actual cost per gallon for us.

🏢 Company

Here, we compared AquaTru and Berkey as companies, including their warranties, their shipping offerings, and their returns policies. 

Note: Since Berkey filters aren’t sold directly by the manufacturer, we assessed to obtain Berkey’s scores in this category. 

See the table below for the AquaTru and Berkey company scores.

ProductCompany ScoreWarranty LengthShippingReturns
Aquatru8.801 yearFree shipping to all 50 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico30 days
Berkey9.10LifetimeFree shipping on orders over $99 to the lower 48 states30 days

Berkey did best overall here because offers an unbeatable warranty. 

Warranty Length 

The AquaTru is backed by a 1-year limited warranty against defects in materials and workmanship, while backs its products with a lifetime warranty. is the best we’ve seen here – we wish AquaTru’s warranty was longer given the high upfront cost of the system. 


AquaTru products are shipped for free to all 50 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico. offers free shipping to the lower 48 states, but only to customers who spend at least $99 (most Berkey products and accessories cost more than this anyway). Berkey also ships to Canada, Alaska, and Hawaii, but purchases to these locations incur a shipping fee regardless of the spend. 

That means AquaTru offers the more appealing shipping deal because customers get free shipping without a minimum spend. 


Both the AquaTru and Big Berkey are backed by a 30-day returns policy, which is what we’re used to seeing for countertop water filters. 

⛔️ System Setbacks & Flaws

Their different designs and treatment processes mean that the AquaTru and Berkey systems each have their own setbacks, which are worth being aware of before you spend your money. 

AquaTru Setbacks

  • Wastes water – The AquaTru is a reverse osmosis system, so it wastes water during the purification process. The redeeming factor is that it has one of the best efficiency ratios we’ve seen for a countertop RO system (4:1, meaning that only 1 gallon of water is wasted per 4 gallons purified).
  • Removes minerals from water – AquaTru’s base model demineralizes water, which may affect its taste and pH. The model with the remineralizing filter costs extra.
  • Expensive – Not everyone will feel comfortable spending $450+ on a countertop water filtration system. 
  • Slow water dispensing – Purified water dispenses slowly from the tank, and the dispensing speed only gets slower as the tank empties.  

Berkey Setbacks

  • Expensive – The Big Berkey has a starting price that’s almost in line with AquaTru’s, even though the unit has a cheaper-looking design and doesn’t purify water.
  • Not certified – Berkey systems don’t match up to AquaTru from a performance perspective because they aren’t officially certified. 
  • Overflow risk – Being unable to check the water level in the bottom chamber may cause you to overfill the system. 
  • Lengthy setup & filter changes – Priming the Berkey filters adds an hour to the setup & filter change process.
  • Aluminum oxide leaching issue with fluoride filters – The PF2 filters leached aluminum oxide into our water in our first test.

🆚 AquaTru or Berkey: Which One’s for You?

We think there are certain situations where the AquaTru or the Berkey might be better for you. 

We Think the AquaTru is Best For:

Folks who want the reliability and reassurance of purifying their water with reverse osmosis.  
Anyone who’s keen to remove fluoride from their drinking water with a safe process that won’t leach filter materials. 
People looking for the best value for money from a countertop water filtration system within the $400-$500 range. 
Folks who value performance certifications.

Choose the Big Berkey If: 

You want to be able to filter untreated surface water. 
You prefer a system that doesn’t use electricity. 
You want to avoid plastic-heavy water filter system designs. 
You want to remove harmful contaminants while retaining healthy minerals. 

❗️ Looking for more info?

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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