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Water Great Jug
Aqua Optima Water Filter Fridge Jug
Member Name: SWSt
Aqua Optima Water Filter Fridge Jug
Advantages: Excellent value for money; fast filtering
Disadvantages: Couple of minor design flaws
Looks Aren't Everything
Bog standard water filters are not designed to be the most aesthetically pleasing items so I won't spend too long describing it. The bottom section is a standard jug made from clear plastic, whilst the filtering mechanism sits on top of that and is made from white moulded plastic. It's nothing to shout out about, but its generic nature should mean that it can blend into any kitchen. Size wise, it is reasonably large (it has a capacity of around 1.5 litres but also slim line enough so that it should easily fit into that section of the fridge section reserved for bottles.
From an ergonomic perspective, it is reasonably well signed with a large handle down the side means that it is pretty easy to hold and never feels awkward or too heavy, even when filled to capacity. It's also pretty comfortable to hold when pouring - unlike our old filter jug which could sometimes feel a little top-heavy and imbalanced. The Aqua Optima feels nice and sturdy, without being too heavy and cumbersome.
Setting up the jug for the first time is straightforward and fitting the filter cartridge is very easy. It's pretty obvious where it goes, since there is a cartridge shaped hole in the top in into which you insert the cartridge. As soon as you hear a click, you know it's fitted.
Replacing a cartridge is slightly trickier as the first couple of times you do it, you're not quite sure how much pressure needs to be applied to remove the old one. The first time I tried it took more effort than I expected to remove it and I was slightly concerned that I might break something. Once you're used to this, it's not a big deal - it's just that first time that worries you a little!
You Fill Up My Senses
I mentioned at the start that this jug had opened my eyes to how filtering technology had changed and it's in the area of filling and pouring that this was most noticeable. Our old filter could be a bit of a faff to fill. You had to remove the entire lid from the filtering unit and then fill the inside with water. Inevitably, being a clumsy little monkey, I would end up dropping the lid or something, gradually breaking bits off.
No such problems with the Aqua Optima. This has a dinky little hole in the top with a flap on it. All you need to do is line up the hole with the tap and turn it on. The water pressure from the top causes the flap to depress, allowing the water to flow into the filtering unit; once the water reaches to the top, simply turn the tap off and the flap returns to the "closed" position without you having to do anything further. So simple even a short-sighted little monkey fellow like myself can do it.
What impressed me most, however, was the speed with which the water filters through. Our previous filter jug used to filter incredibly slowly - frustrating if you needed some filtered water quickly. It wasn't unusual for half a litre of water to five minutes to fully filter through. By comparison, the Optima is like lightening! As soon as you start the filtering process, there is a steady stream of filtered water flowing through and half a litre of water takes around 1-2 minutes to go through; much quicker than our old unit. Having said that, we have had some cartridges which (for no obvious reason) are slower than others.
Tip Me Up & Pour Me Out
In the pouring stakes, the Optima loses a few points against its older rival. Our old jug used to have a clever little gizmo which meant that if some (but not all) the water had filtered through, you could pour out the filtered stuff without the unfiltered liquid also coming out (well, it did until I dropped it and broke that bit off!). This went some way to mitigating the fact that it took so long to filter through. The Optima has no such device, so you have to wait until all the water has filtered before you can use any.
There's another minor design flaw, too: there's an annoying flappy bit over the spout, designed to keep flies, dust etc out of the water. This is fine if you are pouring the water into a fairly wide receptacle such as a mug or a bowl. Most of the time, I am filling a water bottle and the flap can cause problems. As you pour, the water causes the little flap to bounce up and down, interrupting the flow of the water or suddenly making it splash too quickly for the narrow neck of the bottle to be able to cope with, leading to major worktop related floods! The only way to avoid this is to manually hold the flap in the "up" position with your finger as you are pouring. Admittedly, this is probably a case of "user error" since the more pragmatic Mrs SWSt never experiences such issues.
Cartridge Costs & Lifespan
The actual filter cartridges were a further revelation. A pack of 12 costs around £25, which is about what we used to pay for the cartridges on our old model. There's a BIG difference, however because cartridges for the Optima last for 2 months whereas the old ones only lasted for 30 days. So a pack of 12 cartridges can last you 2 years, making this great value for money (you can also buy filters that last 30 days but they don't offer as good value for money). Things get even better if you read the instructions. One of the frustrations of our old filter was that it you fitted a new cartridge and then went on holiday for two weeks, you only got two weeks' worth of use, as you were still supposed to change it after 30 days. The Optima filters are different: if you go away, you can simply remove the cartridge, place it in a bag inside the fridge and then re-insert it on your return, so you don't lose any of its 2 month lifespan.
A clever little dial on the lid counts down the calendar months and tells you when it's time to change your cartridge, which is handy. Our old jug had a digital readout that was supposed to countdown from 30 to tell you when you needed to change the filter but water got into this and it stopped working about two months after we bought it.
The RRP for this jug is £15, but it can be picked up in many stores for around £9.99. Mrs SWSt did even better and got ours for £6.95 in a sale - about a pound cheaper than the best online price at the time. Clever old (oops! Young) Mrs SWSt!
Happiness is water you can filter
Overall, we're very happy with this water filter. It might have one or two minor niggles when it comes to pouring, but the price, speed of filtering and lifespan of the cartridges more than makes up for these.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: A massive improvement on our previous filter
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