The Berkey Water Filter Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
Last updated: November 21, 2017
Are you wondering if the water coming into your home is safe to drink? It's not something any of us can take for granted anymore.
Maybe you've already decided that you want to buy a water filter. Now you need to figure out which one is right for you.
Chances are you've heard about the Berkey water filter system. It's popular because it's simple, portable, and powerful. I've been using one for years, and I agree.
In this review, I'm going to answer all your questions about how it works, how to decide which model you need, and the best place to buy it.
Pressed for time?
You can click here to go to Amazon to find the most current prices of Berkey filters and see what other buyers had to say.
Or click here to check for any special discounts at BerkeyFilters.com.
Click on a question in the quick navigation below, or continue to read the whole review.
How does the Berkey water filter work?
It works using gravity. The system is made up of two chambers and 2 to 8 Black Berkey filter elements. You pour water into the upper chamber, which houses the filters.
The filters have microscopic holes that allow the water to pass through to the lower chamber. The tiny holes block contaminants and sediment, so what ends up in the lower chamber is pure, delicious-tasting water.
Optional fluoride filters can be attached to the black filters. The water passes through both sets of filters before going into the lower chamber.
There's a spigot in the lower chamber for dispensing the water.
Is a Berkey filter portable?
Yes. The system is completely free-standing. You can set it on a countertop or on a stand. That means you don't have to deal with plumbing, and you can easily take it with you when you go on vacation or when you move.
And by the way, if you want a really portable water filter, check out the Sport Berkey water bottle. It uses the same powerful filtration material as the countertop systems, but on a much smaller scale.
What kind of water can you put in a Berkey?
Of course you can filter tap water (city or well water) through the Berkey, but what's really amazing is that you can put untreated water in it, too.
So if you're in an emergency situation or if you're camping, you can take water directly from a stream or pond and filter it!
The only water you can't filter is salt water because it will corrode the filter elements.
What contaminants does a Berkey filter remove?
The Black Berkey filter elements remove or greatly reduce viruses, pathogenic bacteria, parasites, cysts, pharmaceuticals, trihalomethanes, inorganic minerals (including chlorine), heavy metals, and volatile organic compounds. They also remove rust and sediment and get rid of foul taste and odors.
The optional fluoride filter removes fluoride, pre-oxidized arsenic III and arsenic V, MTBE, and other heavy metals.
For a great infographic that explains the various kinds of contaminants the Berkey filters remove, see the Quick Guide to Berkey Water Filter Contaminant Removal.
Does the Berkey take out good minerals?
No. Unlike some other filters, the Berkey does not remove beneficial minerals from the water.
What are Berkey filters made of?
The Black Berkey filters are a blend of carbon and five other media types.
The Berkey PF-2 fluoride filters are made from non-BPA Polypropolene #5 and contain activated aluminum oxide for effective fluoride removal.
What is the Berkey container made of?
Except for the Berkey Light, all Berkey filter containers are made of high grade stainless steel.
Berkey Light is made of a shatter resistant non-BPA plastic. It's not as heavy as the stainless steel models, so it's easier to transport, and you don't have to worry about denting it. It's great for camping or outdoor events.
Stainless Steel Berkey
How do you prime the Berkey filters?
Both the Black Berkey filters and the PF-2 fluoride/arsenic filters need to be primed before using them. That just involves flushing them out with water. You can do that using your kitchen faucet and the rubber washer that comes with the filters.
It's kind of a messy procedure. I always end up getting soaking wet when I prime the filters. But, there's good news!
Berkey recently came up with a hand pump that makes the process simple and keeps you dry.
Black Berkey Primer
Use the Black Berkey Primer to prime and to clean your Black Berkey filters. The filter just needs to be submerged in water when you do it, so you don't need to be at a sink.
Please note that the pump only works with the Black Berkey Filters. The fluoride filters still need to be primed at the sink. Here's hoping that Berkey will come up with a pump for the fluoride filters, too!
Which Berkey should I buy?
All of the models work in exactly the same way and accomplish the same thing. Which one you choose will depend on how many gallons of water your household uses in a day.
Generally speaking, you should plan on 1/2 gallon per person per day under normal circumstances. If the weather is hot or you're especially active, the amount of water you need will increase.
If you plan to use the filtered water for cooking, you'll need to take that into consideration as well.
You should also think about being prepared for emergency situations like natural disasters. During emergencies, you need 2 gallons of clean water per person per day for drinking, personal hygiene, and cleaning.
Berkey makes six different models and they each hold a different amount of water. They all filter the water at different rates, too, depending on how many filter elements they have.
All of the models come with 2 Black Berkey filters. You can add more black filters to all but the Travel Berkey and the flow rate will be faster.
So what you need to determine is how much water you need every day and how fast you want to be able to get it. You can get by with a smaller capacity if you add extra filters.
Is the spigot made of plastic or stainless steel?
The spigot that comes with the system is made of BPA free plastic.
You can buy a stainless steel spigot from Berkey Filters if you'd rather not have plastic. It'll set you back about $24.
Another option that a lot of people like is the sight glass spigot. It allows you to see how much water you have left so you know when to fill it. The only other way to tell is by lifting the top chamber up and looking down in. It's not so easy on the bigger models, especially if there's water in the top chamber.
I've managed to get along without a sight glass spigot, but you might want to have one. You can check out the sight glass spigots at Amazon right here. Note that there are different size sight glasses for different size Berkeys.
Can I get a stand for the Berkey?
Yes, you can get a 6 inch high stainless steel stand for all but the Berkey Light. It has rubberized feet to keep it from sliding or scratching your furniture or countertop.
If you're going to get a stand, make sure it's the right one. There are different sizes to fit different Berkey models.
How fast does Berkey filter water?
The length of time it takes to filter a gallon of water depends on a few factors: the number of filter elements you have in your system, the condition of the filters, and the amount of water in the upper chamber.
Most of the systems can take additional Black Berkey filter elements, and that will speed up the process.
Also, after a while, the filters get a dirty buildup on the outside, and that affects their ability to take in water. So you'll want to take them out and scrub them every now and then with one of those scratchy green cleaning pads and plain water.
Finally, keeping the upper chamber full of water makes it work faster. More water up there means greater pressure to force the water down through the filters.
The chart directly below here shows the flow rate of the different models.
What's the capacity of the different Berkey models?
Here's a list of all the models, the size household they're recommended for, how many gallons of water they can hold at a time, and how many gallons they can filter in one hour.
Flow Rate gal/hour
3.5 with 2 filters
7 with 4 filters
4 with 2 filters
8 with 4 filters
4 with 2 filters
8 with 4 filters
5.5 with 2 filters
16.5 with 6 filters
6.5 with 2 filters
26 with 8 filters
It's important to note here that the flow rate is calculated with the upper chamber completely full of water. As the water level goes down, the flow rate decreases. So if you want to maintain that rate of flow, you'll need to refill the upper chamber frequently.
How long do Berkey water filters last?
The Black Berkey filter elements last for a long time. How often you'll need to replace them depends on how much water you use. Each filter has a life of 3,000 gallons.
So, if you use 2 filters, you have a total life of 6,000 gallons. Divide the total life by the number of gallons you use per day, and you'll get the total number of days that the filters will last.
The optional fluoride filters don't last as long. Each pair has to be replaced after 1,000 gallons of filtering. At 5 gallons a day, I'd need to replace them about every 6 months.
What's the cost per gallon for water filtration using a Berkey system?
Based on the lowest price ($107) that I can find for a pair of Black Berkey filters, it costs about 2¢ per gallon for basic filtration, without the fluoride filters.
$107 ÷ 6,000 gallons = 0.0178
The PF-2 fluoride/arsenic filters cost a minimum of $46 per pair, and each pair is good for 1,000 gallons. So that's about 5¢ per gallon.
$46 ÷ 1,000 gallons = 0.046
When you add the cost per gallon for the PF-2's and the Black Berkey filters together, the total cost goes up to 7¢ per gallon.
Of course, if fluoride and arsenic are not a concern, you can skip the fluoride filters and the cost will be 2¢ per gallon.
Note that this is only looking at the cost of filter replacement. It doesn't include the initial cost for the complete system.
Who should buy a Berkey?
If you want a powerful water filter that sits on top of the counter, and if you don't want to have to mess with plumbing, then this is a good choice for you.
If you want a system for everyday home use and for emergencies or for travel, buy a Berkey. No other filter is this versatile.
On the other hand, if you want an under the sink filter that you don't have to refill by hand, then you might not want a Berkey.
Where can I get the best price on a Berkey system?
Every Berkey distributor I checked out on the web is selling the systems for the exact same price as Amazon, and all offer free shipping.
Prices at the manufacturer's website were either more expensive or unavailable, and they charge for shipping by weight.
The only variations I found were some different bundle deals on Amazon. If you are planning to get the optional fluoride filters, it pays to look at the different options on Amazon.
Prices at Amazon are subject to change. That's why I don't include the prices in my reviews. But you can easily find the current price by clicking on the buttons below.
I would also suggest checking the price at BerkeyFilters.com. It's an authorized distributor that has bundled deals and other specials from time to time. Sometimes you can find scratch and dent models at a deep discount. Click here to visit Berkey Filters.
What kind of warranty does Berkey have?
The manufacturer offers a 12-month limited warranty on the systems and all of their components. In addition, the black filter elements are covered for 2 years.
Does Berkey make a shower filter?
Yes, Berkey has a high quality shower filter available.
It reduces contaminants like chlorine, water soluble metals, bacteria, and algae.
Please see What’s the Best Shower Head Filter? to learn more about Berkey shower filters and my other Top Four shower filter picks.
The Bottom Line
I have to say that I love my Berkey filter and I have never regretted buying it. It's durable, it's powerful, and it makes water taste fantastic. And by that I mean no taste - like it should be!
I love its versatility and portability. I love the security of knowing that if there's some kind of natural disaster or other emergency, I'm set.
And I love knowing that the water my family and I are drinking every day is free of anything that might hurt us.
I don't have to rely on somebody else to keep our water safe. Because we all know how that works out (or doesn't work out) sometimes!
So, if you feel like the Berkey water filter is right for you, click here to head on over to Amazon and get one for yourself!
Read How to Save Big on a Berkey Water Filter at this link.
If you're still not sure and would like to see how Berkey compares to other popular gravity filters, you can click here to read Countertop Gravity Water Filters: Which is Best?
To learn more about all of the great products that Berkey offers, see Meet the Amazing Berkey Filter Family here.