The Berkey Water Filter Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

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Are you considering buying a Berkey water filter?

If so, you probably have some questions you want answered before you take the plunge.

I've owned a Berkey filter for several years, and I've also done a lot of technical research on it.  So I wrote this review to help you decide if it's the right choice for you.

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How does it work? What contaminants does it remove? Which size system should I get? Where's the best place to buy it?

Keep reading to find the answers to these questions and more.

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. (I highly recommend checking them out!)

The Berkey Water Filtration System

How does the Berkey filter work? - Gravity!

Berkey Filters

Image Source: BerkeyFilters.com

Berkey filter systems work by using gravity. 

That's why sometimes they're referred to as gravity filters.

The system is made up of two chambers and two to eight Black Berkey filter elements, depending on the configuration you choose.

Optional fluoride filters can be attached to the black filters, too.  

You pour your unfiltered water into the upper chamber, which houses the filters. Gravity pulls the water downward through 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.

Then there's a spigot in the lower chamber for dispensing the water.

Stainless steel or plastic body

Stainless Steel Berkey

Berkey Light

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.

Choice of spigot: plastic, stainless steel, or sight glass

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.

Berkey sight glass

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.

Optional stainless steel stand

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.​

Berkey stand

Berkey filters are portable

This water filtration 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.

Berkey Filter Elements

What Berkey filters are made of

black Berkey filters

The Black Berkey filters are a blend of carbon and five other media types.

Berkey fluoride filters

The Berkey PF-2 fluoride filters are made from non-BPA Polypropolene #5 and contain activated aluminum oxide for effective fluoride removal.

Berkey removes most contaminants - including fluoride

The Black Berkey filter elements remove or greatly reduce:

  • viruses
  • pathogenic bacteria
  • parasites
  • cysts
  • pharmaceuticals
  • trihalomethanes
  • inorganic minerals (including chlorine)
  • heavy metals
  • volatile organic compounds
  • radioactive contaminants
  • rust and sediment
  • foul taste and odors

The optional PF-2 fluoride filter removes: 

  • fluoride
  • pre-oxidized arsenic III and arsenic V
  • MTBE
  • 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.

Click here to see independent lab test results of the Berkey filters.

Berkey leaves in good minerals

Unlike some other filters, the Berkey does not remove beneficial minerals from the water.

Distillers and reverse osmosis filters, for instance, take all the minerals out of water, including the good ones. It's not that big of a deal since we get most of our minerals from the food we eat. But some people want those minerals left alone.

And by the way, that's why a TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter will still show the presence of TDS in water filtered by a Berkey. It's a measurement of the minerals in the water.

Put any kind of water in a Berkey filter (except salt water)

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. (And that includes water from a salt water swimming pool.)

Berkey filters must be primed

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

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.

The Black Berkey Primer is available now at Amazon.​

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!

How fast does Berkey filter water? - It depends.

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
  • 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 a bit further down the page shows the flow rate of the different models.

How long do Berkey filters last? - A long time!

The Black Berkey filter elements are made to last a long time. I'm talking years.

Exactly 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.

As an example, I have 2 filters in my Berkey, giving me a total life of 6,000 gallons. When all the kids were living at home, I estimate that we used 5 gallons of water a day. So I would calculate 6,000 gallons total life divided by 5 gallons per day. That gives me 1,200 days of life for the filters. That's over 3 years for a family of seven! Not bad!

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.

How to Decide Which Berkey to Buy

Berkey filters

Image Source: BerkeyFIlters.com

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.

Berkey Sizes and Capacities

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. 

Model

Household

Capacity

Flow Rate gal/hour

Travel Berkey

1-2 people

1.5 gal

2.75

Big Berkey

​1-4 people

2.25 gal

3.5 with 2 filters

7  with 4 filters​

Berkey Light

1-5 people

2.75 gal

4 with 2 filters

8 with 4 filters​

Royal Berkey

2-4 people

3.25 gal

4 with 2 filters

8 with 4 filters​

Imperial Berkey

4-8 people

4.5 gal

5.5 with 2 filters

16.5 with 6 filters​

Crown Berkey

6-12 people

6 gal

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.

I own the Imperial Berkey, which hold 4.5 gallons. When I bought it, there were 7 people in my household, so we needed a minimum of 3.5 gallons of water per day. Some days we used more than that, and sometimes we used less. We never added any extra filters, but by filling the Imperial at least once a day, we always had enough water on hand. 

Berkey Imperial

My trusty Berkey Imperial. Still going strong after 5 kids and 2 moves. We've been through a lot together!

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 and Should Not 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.

And if you're looking for a reverse osmosis filter, this is definitely not for you. In that case, you might want to check out filters by APEC or iSpring.

Where to Get a Good Price on a Berkey System

Every Berkey distributor I checked out on the web is selling the systems for similar prices, and all offer free shipping.

I did find 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.

Model

Capacity

Price

Travel Berkey

1.5 gal

Big Berkey

2.25 gal

Berkey Light

2.75 gal

Royal Berkey

3.25 gal

Imperial Berkey

4.5 gal

Crown Berkey

6 gal

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.

The Berkey Warranty

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.

Berkey Makes a Shower Filter Too

If you also want to filter your shower water, you'll be glad to know that 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.

Berkey shower filter

Check out the Berkey Shower Filter at BerkeyFIlters.com

The Bottom Line: Berkey is Worth Every Penny!

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!

Or click here to go to BerkeyFilters.com.


You might also be interesting in reading How to Save Big on a Berkey Water Filter​.

And if you're still not sure and would like to see how Berkey compares to other popular gravity filters, please see 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​.

Marge Sweigart

I'm a healthy living blogger who loves to help people who care about having a healthy home environment make smart choices and save money. Read more

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