How to Prime Berkey Filter?- Can You Do It Yourself?

Should You Learn How to Prime a Berkey Filter?

If you are using the Black Berkey purification elements, then you should already know how great they are. They generally have a service life of more than three years, and are capable of removing over 200 unwanted contaminants from water. To ensure that the Black Berkey filters are working properly, you will need to follow Berkey’s instructions for maintenance and care.

There are a few things that you need to do, but one of the most important things that you need to do is to prime your filters prior to using them. In this guide, we will take a look at why it’s essential to prime your Black Berkey filters and we’ll also provide you with step-by-step instructions on how you can prime your filters.

Importance of Priming Your Black Berkey Filters

Priming the Black Berkey filters is an essential move prior to using it for the first time and when you’re setting up the system. This is because the Black Berkey elements come with a high density filtering medium that can potentially cause a high level of surface tension, and lead to the water struggling to penetrate the medium when you first use the Black Berkey filter element.

The act of priming the Black Berkey elements is essentially forcing water through the filter so the surface tension can be relieved and water can filter through it easily. Keep in mind that your Black Berkey filter is a gravity water filter, which means the purification elements don’t need much pressure to force water through the filter media, unlike the water pressure required for an under-sink filter.

This also means that if the Black Berkey filter elements are not properly primed, it is unlikely that water will be able to pass through them at all. The Berkey filters come with extremely small filter pores which can remove bacteria and other microorganisms. The pores are also small enough to filter red food coloring out of water.

However, when the filters are dry and become trapped with air, these micropores will create high surface tension. This is why it is essential to prime the filters so the trapped air can be released and the purification elements can work properly, like how they were designed to.

Priming a Black Berkey Filter@

There are three different methods that people use to prime Berkey filters and we’ll take a look at the step-by-step instructions for each method.

Using the Priming Button

Using the priming button method is one of the most common ways of priming the Berkey purification elements.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for the priming button method:

  1. Take the filter out from the packaging. First, take out the new Black Berkey filter from the packaging it came in and remove the wing nut and the washer from the end of the filter. Then, put the washer and the wing nut back onto the filter, but do it the other way round.
  2. Assemble the filter for priming. After that, push the tan priming button onto the threaded stem of the filter. This tan priming button can sometimes be in black color as well. By utilizing the nut as a way to force the priming button against the faucet at the kitchen sink, you will be able to form a tight seal.
  3. Turn on your water. Next, slowly turn on your water to begin the priming process of your filter. When you turn on your water, the exterior of the filter should have a formation of water beads. Let the faucet run for about 20 seconds, then repeat it with the other Black Berkey filter element.
  4. Install the filters. At this point, you would’ve successfully completed the priming button method and your filters are ready for installation in your Black Berkey water filter system. Be sure to follow the instructions given by Berkey when you install the filters.

Priming Without Water Pressure

While water pressure is necessary for priming the filter, it can still be done so even if the area you live in has poor water flow from the faucet. However, the effectiveness of priming the purification elements will only be at about 50% of the previous method. Since it might be your only option, it would still be better than nothing.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for priming without water pressure:

  1. Assemble the Berkey system. You can start by assembling the unit, but no need to add the purification filters yet. Once the filters are assembled, you will need to remove them from the upper chamber and fill the lower chamber with water that comes from your faucet.
  2. Place the purification elements in the bottom chamber. After that, you should start to place each purification element in the lower chamber that is filled with water, while making sure that the Black filter elements are upside down with the stems pointing upwards. You may place a ceramic mug, or something that’s heavy enough, upside down over the stem of each purification element.
  3. Leave the filters to soak. At this point, you should let the Berkey filters soak for about two hours at the minimum, and check regularly to make sure that the stems are not under the water. Air should be released from the filter pores by soaking in the water.
  4. Reassemble the filters. Now, assemble the Berkey water filters in the upper chamber. You need not worry about emptying the water out of the filters because it is actually better to keep as much water inside the purification elements as possible while you’re reassembling your upper chamber.
  5. Assemble everything for use. With that completed, you can now empty the water from the lower chamber and start to fill the upper chamber with water. It is recommended that you do it as quickly as you could, without any break in between emptying the lower chamber and filling the upper chamber.

Using the Black Berkey Primer

Last but not least, you can use the Black Berkey primer method to prime your Black Berkey water filters if there is no water pressure. This primer is a tool that you can purchase directly from Berkey, and it is a priming and purging bulb that can be powered by hand.

Here are the steps that you can follow for using the priming tool as an alternative to the priming button way:

  1. Assemble the priming tool. To begin the assembly, attach the plastic tubes to the valves on any side of the bulb, working the tubes into the ends.
  2. Connect to your filter. Next, connect the tube to the threaded stem of the Black Berkey element.
  3. Place filter in water. Once that’s done, you can begin putting the Black filter elements into a bucket of cold water with the stem facing upwards while making sure they are attached to the Berkey priming tube and bulb.
  4. Squeeze the bulb. Finally, squeeze the bulb and let the water flow through the tube, and exit out of the other side. Once the flow of the water is smooth, the Berkey water filter will be ready for use, and you can perform the same steps with the second of your Black filters.


By following this guide, you will be able to prime Berkey filters even without any plumbing skills. However, if you are still unsure how to make sure the Black filters are fully primed, we would recommend you to seek help from a professional.

This is to prevent inflicting any unnecessary damage on your Black filters. If you are interested to find out more, be sure to check out the frequently asked questions that we’ve answered.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How often should I prime Berkey filters?

Ideally, you should prime the Berkey water filter when you just purchased it or if they are replacement filters for your Berkey system before you begin to use them. It is also recommended that you prime your Berkey water filter elements once 6 months after cleaning them out.

In addition, you should also prime the Black Berkey water filter if you decide to place the system in storage for a long period of time.

There are no issues with reusing filters that were stored aside for an extended period, but you need to make sure you store them correctly. Priming the Black Berkey water filter before you first use it again ensures that lingering air is forced out, allowing the filters to work properly.

Do you have to prime Berkey filters?

Yes. If you want your filter to function correctly, it is recommended that you keep up with Berkey’s advised cleaning routine for your Black Berkey filters. Ideally, you should wash them out with bleach and water once every 6 months, or when the filter reaches a point where water cannot pass through as it should.

After you clean the elements, they will need to be primed to release the trapped air to be ready for use once more. You can refer to the guide above on how you can prime your filter in a proper way.

Is it necessary to prime the Berkey Fluoride filters?

Yes. If you have the Berkey Fluoride filters, rest assured, that it is important to prime them as well. Here is the process that you can refer to if you want to prime the fluoride filters:

  1. Make certain that the blue cap on your fluoride filter is where it should be and use running water and mild dish soap to clean the outside of your filter.
  2. Then, wash your hands and take the blue caps off from each end of the fluoride filter.
  3. Similar to what you would do with the Black filter element, replace the blue caps with the tan-colored priming washer, and on the kitchen sink, press the button against the faucet, creating a seal.
  4. Slowly turn on the faucet and let the cold water flow into the cavity of the filter and out of the other end. As the water passes through the filtering cartridge, any air that was trapped will be released. Let the water run to the point where it runs clear and you’ll be done.
  5. Repeat everything that was mentioned with the other end of the filter and your filter will be primed completely. For any extra or replacement fluoride filters, you may repeat steps 3 and 4.

How long does it take to prime a Berkey water filter?

Typically, the actual priming of the water filter will take about a minute only. However, if you include the time for preparation and assembly, it will most likely take up to 10 minutes, or less if you already know what you’re doing. Even if you’re unsure and are referring to guides for assistance, it should take you less than 30 minutes to prime a Berkey water filter.

Do I have to prime Berkey filters after they are cleaned?

Yes. The period that Berkey advises its customers to clean the filters is once every 6 months or when water is not passing through the filter anymore. It is also recommended to do so with bleach and water. After the filter element is washed, you will need to prime the filter element so any lingering air can be forced out and you can use it once again.

Is it necessary to have a Berkey primer?

No. Buying the primer is not a necessary thing to do if you have decent water pressure in the area you live in. However, if there is no pressure, you don’t have a faucet in your home, or if you only use your Berkey systems in places with no water pressure, then the primer will definitely come in handy.

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