Berkey Water Filter Review: Top Filtration System in 2021?

Is The Berkey Water Filter Really The Best?

As a homeowner, you might be in a spot right now where you have to choose the best water filter for you and your family. The brand Berkey might have appeared in several reviews and it’s normal to still have doubts about it. But don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place to find out more about the Berkey Water Filter.

This is an in-depth review of the Big Berkey Water Filter where you will discover all the things you need to know about it. At the end of this review, you will be able to decide if this water filter is the best for your home.

Big Berkey Water Filter System Overview

Before we move on to all the details, let’s go through some of the overall features of the Big Berkey Water Filter.

The model that we’ll be looking at in the Berkey Water Filter review is the Big Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter. It is a stainless steel portable water purifier and the way it filters water is by using gravity to push water through the filter cartridge. As a result, it removes more than 200 harmful contaminants in the water.

The Berkey Water Filter is also a countertop water filter, but you don’t need to attach this to the faucet, unlike other water filters. You can easily use the Berkey Water Filter system by filling it with water and just let the filter do its job.

You will find that this water filter can be placed virtually anywhere and obviously, the most common spot would be on the kitchen counter. However, if there’s limited space in your kitchen, then you might need to clear out some stuff and move some things because this is not exactly a compact unit.

Since there’s no need to connect the water filter to a sink, it can be a lot more portable. Additionally, it uses gravity to carry out the filtration water, instead of using water pressure and this is something that you should keep in mind throughout the guide. Although gravity-fed filters aren’t exactly superior to filters that use water pressure, it isn’t all bad either.

Notable Features

The Berkey filter has different models but the one that we’ll be looking at is the Big Berkey Water Filter System. This Berkey filter is the most popular selection as compared to all the other Berkey filters. Generally, the features of Berkey filters are almost the same from one model to another and the following traits that we’ll be mentioning would be consistent.

Stainless steel filter unit

The Berkey filter is made from stainless steel and it has a size that is approximately 4 times of an average water pitcher. The design of this filter is also meant to be placed on a kitchen counter. Since it’s made from stainless steel, it will appear quite practical but not wouldn’t stand out too much in most kitchens.

Black Berkey elements

The Berkey is considered as a larger unit and because of that, it comes with 2 Black Berkey purification elements. Berkey also claimed that the Black Berkey purification elements are tested in a lab that’s EPA-approved and found to meet the NSF/ANSI Standard 53.

Being proven that it meets the NSF/ANSI Standard 53, it shows that their water filter systems are effective in removing pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Additionally, it can also remove heavy metals, inorganic minerals, trihalomethanes and protozoa.

User instructions

Many customers are grateful that this Berkey system doesn’t require a major installation but there’s still a user manual that contains instructions to guide you in setting it up.

You will find the user manual to be helpful when you’re using the Berkey for the first time because the manual is not only made to contain information for setting up the system, but it also has information on how to maintain the unit, testing for the filters and also changing the elements.

Lifetime warranty and 30-day money back

Something that you and every consumer would like to see is the lifetime guarantee on the Berkey system. This shows the confidence that Berkey has in their products and as a result, you don’t have to worry that you’ll buy a faulty unit. If in any case, your system is faulty, you can send it back and you’ll get a new replacement for it.

Additionally, the 30-day money-back guarantee allows you to try the system first and if you’re not satisfied with it, you can send it back to Berkey for a return or exchange.

Rating The Performance of Berkey Water Filtration Systems

For anyone that has some knowledge about countertop water filters, you are most likely aware that Berkey water filter systems are some of the best ones in its class.

Their filters use something known as elements, designed for filtration and at the same time giving purified water. This is no doubt the best choice to remove harmful contaminants without using a reverse osmosis system, which can cost you a fortune.

Remember how we said that the Berkey systems use gravity to filter water. Well, it sure doesn’t have the benefits you’ll get when using water pressure and if you were to compare the Berkey water filters to the faucet water filters, you’ll also notice that the faucet filter gives you clean water at a much quicker rate.

The reason behind it is due to the force of the water in your pipes that pushes the water through the water, which resulted in a quicker filtering process. Since the Big Berkey uses gravity to filter, you will have to put up with a much slower filtration process for your drinking water.

However, you should note that this will not affect the filtration quality and as a matter of fact, filters that utilize gravity are more thorough thanks to the slower speed of work.

Using the Berkey filter means you can’t get clean drinking water right after you’ve refilled it. This is because the 2 Black Berkey filters need time to remove the contaminants in your water and you will have to wait for up to three hours before you can get clean drinking water. On the bright side, the tank comes with a decent capacity of 2.25 gallons.

To put the capacity into perspective, the average person is recommended to drink 0.5 gallons of water per day. For a family of 4, the 2.25 gallons capacity would be more than enough and you’ll only need to fill the top chamber once per day. After that, you’ll get clean water to drink throughout the day and it’ll be available whenever you need it.

Other Models and Specifications of Berkey

This guide is focused on the Big Berkey but there are also other models available which are variations of the Big Berkey. Each variation has a slight difference in design and intended functions. Here are the Big Berkey specifications and the other different Berkey systems that are also available.

Model Best for Capacity Number of filters if fully expanded Max Filtration time Max flow rate/Gallons per hour (GPH)
Go Berkey 1 person 1 quart 1 filter element 45m 1 gallon/h
Travel Berkey 1 to 3 people 1.5 gallons 2 filter elements 1h 30m 2.75 gallons/h
Big 1 to 4 people 2.25 gallons 4 filter elements 2h 15m 7.0 gallons/h
Berkey Light 2 to 5 people 2.75 gallons 4 filter elements 2h 45m 7.5 gallons/h
Royal 2 to 6 people 3.25 gallons 4 filter elements 3h 15m 8.0 gallons/h
Imperial 4 to 8 people 4.5 gallons 6 filter elements 4h 30m 16.5 gallons/h
Crown 6 to 12 people 6.5 gallons 8 filter elements  6h  26.0 gallons/h

It is clear that the number of filter elements the system can take depends on the size of the system, which also means a higher flow rate with a larger system. For your information, if you have the Big Berkey and don’t want to use all 4 elements, you’ll be given the tools to close holes that you’re not using. With that said, now let’s look at a quick summary to help you decide which is the best.

Summary of the Berkey systems

  • The Berkey system that is mentioned in this review is the Big Berkey. It is the most popular choice for families of 4 and one of the reasons for its popularity is thanks to the portability.
  • The Go Berkey has the smallest size and is ideal for trips and getting filtered water on the go.
  • Next would be the Travel Berkey. It is slightly larger than the Go Berkey but still reasonably compact. This variation is ideal for 3 or less people and anyone staying in small apartments.
  • The Berkey Light is the perfect choice for anyone with a tight budget. However, unlike the others, the Berkey Light is not made from stainless steel but from BPA-free copolyester (plastic). Hence, why the Berkey Light is offered at a cheaper price. It also uses Berkey Earth ceramic filters to provide decent water quality at a lower price.
  • For a larger capacity, the Royal and Imperial Berkey would be the top selection.
  • After Imperial, Crown would be the largest option with a big capacity of 6.5 gallons of water. The flow rate is also impressively high for a system that uses gravity so you won’t need to wait for a long time to get filtered water.

Anyone that’s selling the Berkey systems to you will say that the bigger it is, the better. That is true to a certain extent because it would mean that you don’t need to refill so often. However, you will also have to consider your budget but considering the number of years you’ll be using it, the price difference doesn’t really matter anymore.

Information about Filter Elements

Besides the Black Berkey filter that we’ve been talking about, there are actually other types of filter that Berkey offers for their filtration systems. Let’s have a look at the details of Black Berkey filters and the others.

Black Berkey filters

The most popular choice is the Black Berkey filter elements. Black Berkeys have an incredible service life of 3,000 gallons. The Black filters are definitely the top of its kind and Berkey also calls the elements “the leader in gravity-fed water purification”. It is certainly a statement that many people can agree with, given the number of contaminants it can remove and the gallons it can filter before they need to be replaced.

The Black Berkey filter is effective at what it does but it also comes at a great cost. The reason for its expensive pricing is due to the design it adopted. There are millions of tiny micropores that only allow the smallest water particles to pass through and as a result, your drinking water is free from contaminants such as heavy metals and bacteria.

Berkey Earth filters

Most people are aware of the benefits that Black Berkeys can bring and would usually opt for it. However, if you have a tighter budget but still want to enjoy the Berkey systems, then the cheaper option would be the Berkey Earth filters.

Similarly with the Black Berkey filters, the Berkey Earth filters can also last for up to 3,000 gallons or 3 years. But unlike the Black Berkeys, the Earth filters cost only half the price. Since it’s not as expensive, the flow rate is also slower. To put into perspective, the Black Berkey filters have a rate of 168 gallons in 24 hours while the Earth elements only produce 18 gallons at the same time.

PF2 Fluoride filters

Unlike the two filters that were mentioned earlier, the PF-2 fluoride filters function differently from the main purification elements. While the other two filters are a compulsory part, the fluoride filter elements are just an add-on for those that are looking for something extra with the system.

Even though the Black Berkey is advertised to reduce up to 99.9% of fluoride, there’s still a reason why the PF-2 fluoride is offered. The fluoride elements are recommended by Berkey if the fluoride level in your water is more than 0.5mg/l. Which also means that the standard filters can’t filter fluoride at a higher level.

The PF-2 fluoride filters are advertised to reduce up to 99.99999% of fluoride from your water, which is practically all the fluoride. The service life of this fluoride filter is 1,000 gallons or 12 months before you need to get them replaced.

Can Berkey Filters Remove Contaminants?

Not only do the Berkey systems filter tap water, but they are also marketed to give you purified water. Being one of the most thorough filtration systems on the market, the Berkey water filter systems are able to reduce most viruses and pathogenic bacteria from water.

Additionally, larger sediments such as rust and silt are also removed along with protozoa, heavy metals, inorganic materials, pesticides and chlorine.

Here is also an overview of the contaminants that are removed:

  • VOCs, herbicides & pesticides
  • Heavy metals such as aluminum, chromium, copper & lead
  • 99.999% of viruses
  • 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria
  • 99.9% of chlorine & chloramine
  • 99.9% of microorganisms like fecal coliform, E.Coli & total coliform
  • 99.9% of pharmaceutical drugs
  • 99.8% of trihalomethanes
  • 99.6% of chloride

How To Install and Maintain a Berkey Water Filtration System

Now that you have a better knowledge about the Big Berkey, let’s go through the assembly and maintenance of it. Realistically, it shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to install the Berkey system and that includes the time taken to prime the filters.

The most time consuming part would be the priming of the filters, which is to flush out the filters to remove any sediment residue that would give your water a bad taste. Since Berkey’s filter has a 3,000-gallon lifespan each, it minimizes the maintenance you need to do. Additionally, make sure you clean the chamber once per month and the filters every 6 months.

Assembly

Just like any new appliance, learning the assembly of the unit can be quite troublesome. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you install the Berkey system with a few easy steps and it’ll be done in just a matter of minutes. Regardless of the variation of Big Berkey you opt for, you can also follow this process:

  1. Before you proceed to install or do anything with the unit, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly first. This is to ensure that your hands are free from contaminants that could contaminate the system.
  2. Unbox the Black Berkey elements and sit them on a clean surface.
  3. Attach the lid knob screw to the lid and place the lid knob to where it belongs. Be sure to tighten it with your hand and don’t utilize any tools.
  4. Prime the elements. The following section will cover the procedure for this step.
  5. After priming, at the threaded part of the elements, fit the sealing washer and use the wing nuts to screw the elements to the base of the upper chamber. If there are any unused and empty element holes, insert the blocking plugs to prevent water from flowing through.
  6. The threaded section of the outlet tap or spigot should be inserted with a rubber washer and then you can attach the threaded section at the side of the lower chamber of the unit. Then, attach the other washer on the spigot thread and use a nut to secure it.
  7. Lastly, fit the upper chamber above the lower chamber and add the lid. The system will be ready to use now.

How to prime the filter

Priming the elements is an important step before you get the system started. When you buy the elements, they have no prior contact with water until now and there is trapped air which increases the surface tension. This surface tension will slow down your flow rate significantly and hence the reason why priming the filter is important. Here are some simple steps that you can follow for the priming of your elements:

  1. Identify the circular priming button within the box.
  2. The button should be pressed with the threaded stem of the filter element.
  3. With your faucet, gently press the filter and the priming button against it.
  4. Turn on the cold water slowly to let the water flow inside.
  5. The water should flow out from the side after a while.
  6. Wait for about 5 seconds and do the same for the other elements.

Besides that, there is also a procedure for the priming of the PF-2 elements for the removal of fluoride. Here are the steps to how you can perform the priming of Berkey’s fluoride elements:

  1. Use mild dish soap for the purpose of cleaning the exterior.
  2. There are blue caps on both ends that you need to remove.
  3. Regardless of which end, position the priming button above the filter.
  4. The priming button should be pressed against the faucet.
  5. Turn on the cold water slowly.
  6. Wait for the water to come out from the other side to remove any residual contaminants from the media.
  7. Let the water flow until it turns clear, which may take a few minutes.
  8. Rotate the filter upside down and repeat the steps.

Cleaning the filter

The cleaning of your Berkey water filtration system is essential to preserve its durability and Berkey has recommended their users to do so once every 6 months. It’s simple work and you only need to do it once every half a year.

Normally, the filters that get blocked up first are the Black elements and those are the elements you should focus on. Cleaning them isn’t too difficult, just remove them from your system and you can proceed with washing them with a brush or scouring pad and be sure to scrub the exterior. This process should take you a few minutes and after you’re done, get them primed before you install them back to the system.

Washing the lower chamber on a monthly basis is also a good practice and you can do so with soapy dishwater. In any case where you live somewhere with very hard water, the spigot can get clogged up and you should remove it and let it sit in vinegar to remove the scale.

Honest Review of The “Berkey Water Filter Scam”

Over the years, there has been some controversy about Berkey claiming that the test results that they provide about the removal of contaminants are fake. It also begs the question on whether Berkey can even produce purified water at all.

This “scam” happened when Berkey arranged for a third-party testing for their systems rather than getting a NSF/ANSI certification. Although the test results show that Berkey systems are capable of improving municipal water quality and meeting the Standard 53 for the removal of arsenic, lead and other impurities, they don’t actually have any certification from NSF/ANSI.

Because of that, Berkey’s rivals say that Berkey isn’t living up to what they claim which also leads to the prohibition of selling Berkey systems in some states like California and Iowa. However, it still depends on the state laws and you can find out more about it online.

Based on what Berkey is saying, their test results are supposed to be more reliable than NSF/ANSI. This is because Berkey claimed that their tests are more rigorous and apparently enough for the other 49 other states in the U.S. All in all, their products are still tested, just not against the NSF/ANSI standards, but supposedly, more rigorous.

Why you will like this product if:

You are looking for a system with a long service life. As compared with some other water filtration units on the market, the Big Berkey has a 6,000-gallon service life which is superior to most options that use gravity to filter water and those last for about 20 weeks only.

You want something that is good at removing impurities. When it comes to the removal of undesired impurities from the water, Berkey’s filtration products can get more than 200 of them removed. It includes herbicides, pesticides, arsenic, lead, bacteria and viruses.

You prefer a unit that is easy to assemble. Unlike the larger units that you see on the market, the Big Berkey is relatively small and portable, making it the perfect choice for anyone staying in small apartments. Most importantly, setting it up is incredibly easy and will only take you less than 20 minutes.

You want a versatile water filtration system. Not only is the Big Berkey great for city tap water, but it is also great for well water use, which makes it one of the most versatile filtration units available. Plus, people that use well water can also enjoy filtered water at a reasonable cost.

You enjoy the additional option to add on a fluoride filter element. While this element is optional and not 100% necessary, it is still good that Berkey is offering it. Finding a filter that targets fluoride specifically is not something easy to come by so if your home has a problem with that, then the Berkey would be a great solution.

Why you will not like this product if:

You don’t like how slow it filters water. Since the Big Berkey relies on gravity to filter tap water, it won’t be able to do so instantly. Normally, it would take about 120 minutes to send water from the upper chamber to the lower chamber. However, it’s not necessary to wait for the upper chamber to fill. As long as there’s water in the lower chamber, you can get a drink.

You are not a fan of the high-cost replacement filters. Unlike most filter cartridges, the Berkey filters are quite expensive and if you go for the fluoride elements, it will be another additional cost. Luckily, you will only need to purchase the replacement filters once every 3 years which makes the cost reasonable. Plus, it’s not a must to buy the additional filters.

You don’t like that the beneficial minerals are removed as well. Not only is the Big Berkey good at removing the unwanted impurities, but the beneficial minerals such as calcium and magnesium are removed as well.

You would prefer systems with proper certification. The Berkey went through a rigorous testing but unfortunately, the testing was done by a third-party instead of the official certifying bodies. Even so, their system is still good for filtering heavy metals and other impurities, giving you safe filtered water to consume.

You dislike the fact that it doesn’t have a consistent water flow. One thing that you will notice after months of using the Big Berkey is the slowing down of your water flow rate. Because of that, you need to be maintaining the filter on a monthly basis to ensure a consistent flow of filtered water.

FAQ on Berkey Water Filters

How often should I change my filter?

Typically, the filters need to be changed every 6 months, which means you don’t have to constantly worry about it. But there are some factors that can affect this too. For instance, the water quality and the content of the water in your home, frequency of use and also the number of filters you are using.

How long can the water remain in the chamber after filtration?

It is not recommended for the water to sit in the chamber for more than 3 days. In any case where the water has been sitting in the upper or lower chamber for over 3 days, make sure you ditch the old water and refill the chamber to let the new water go through filtration before using. If you are going on a trip, be sure to empty the system for hygiene purposes.

Will the pH of my water be affected with the Big Berkey?

No. The pH of water depends on the water source and even though the Berkey system can provide pure water, it doesn’t change its pH. The reason behind that is because the acidic and alkaline impurities are both removed, which balances each other out.

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