Is the Berkey water filter all it’s cracked up to be? I give an honest, full review of the pros and cons of this popular water filtration system.
Ever since I started leaning into natural living, I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of drinking ultra-treated city tap water, especially since I was starting to understand just how important hydration is. I wanted to drink lots of water, but not just any water- really clean water! I started looking into options for purification and filtration.
The Berkey systems (the Big Berkey, in particular) stood out as the favorite amongst people with similar values to mine. There are a lot of great things about the Berkey system and there are a few downsides as well, but overall I am completely satisfied.
Let me break my thoughts down for ya!
About the Berkey Water Filter
The Berkey is a stainless steel countertop water filter with a top and bottom drum. You simply fill the top drum with cool or cold water and it filters down into the bottom drum, where it stays until you open the spigot to let it flow out.
Berkeys are actually considered water purifiers, because of all the junk they remove from water. We’ll get into that a bit later.
Pros of the Berkey Water Filter
Ease of use – The Berkey is so easy to use. Fill the top with water and once it’s filtered, open the tap to get it out. It’s also quite easy to prime the filters (flush out air). It can be put together in a cinch- simply screw filters on and plug spare holes (if using 2 filters instead of 4) and attach the spigot.
Stainless steel – Because the drums are made of stainless steel, it’s durable, rust-proof and looks great on your countertop!
Portable – You can take the Berkey anywhere you want, as it’s not connected to your water supply. You can also move it around in your kitchen to find the spot that works best for you.
Price per gallon – Berkey comes out on top when you compare its cost per gallon of filtered water vs other filtration systems.
Testing – You have the ability to test your Berkey filters to ensure they are filtering water properly. Empty your Berkey, mix 1 tsp of red food coloring into a gallon of water and pour it into your Berkey. If the water comes through clean and clear, the filters are working properly! If some red comes through, your filters have been damaged or compromised and it’s time to get new ones. With other systems, it’s impossible to find out yourself if the filters are doing their job properly.
Beneficial minerals are retained – Many water filtration systems, like distillation and reverse osmosis systems, remove all the minerals from the water they filter, including the healthy ones. Berkey takes out the bad and leaves the good.
Filter quality – These filters remove 99.999% of everything bad from your water! It’s a very long list – viruses, pathogenic bacteria, heavy metals, toxins, parasites, chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, detergents, etc), offensive tastes and odors. I could go on, but you get the point! You do need to purchase the separate PF2 filters to filter out fluoride and arsenic from the water, but it’s worth it!
Emergency preparedness – The Berkey is a great water filter for an emergency situation, like a natural disaster where your clean water source is cut off. Because it filters so much out, you can put rain, pond or river water through it! Just strain the water through a t-shirt or towel first to remove any debris- this will extend the life of the filters.
Cons of the Berkey Water Filter
Takes up space – Berkey’s are larger and take up more space than many water filtration systems. We have very limited counter space, so ours sits at the end of our kitchen table. It’s not ideal, but it works.
Regular refilling – You need to keep track (somewhat) of how much water is in the Berkey and refill it when needed. If you forget to refill it, you’ll have to wait a while for filtration to occur before you can get any filtered water. Berkey does offer a sight glass spigot that allows you to see, at a glance, how much water is remaining in the lower drum.
Upfront cost – Even though over time, the Berkey is a very economical way to filter your water, it is a large purchase upfront.
Cost of additional filters – Fluoride and arsenic filters need to be replaced every 6 months (according to Berkey), while the black filters last up to 4 years. So, if you want the PF2 filter it will be more costly to use those regularly.
Leakage from overfilling – If there is still water in the bottom chamber and you fill the upper chamber, the bottom chamber will overflow. As with all of us Berkey users, it will happen once to you and likely never again! So, be sure of how much is in the bottom before filling the top.
What Does the Berkey Filter Out?
Berkey filters out almost 100% of all sorts of harmful contaminants including viruses, pathogenic bacteria, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals, chemicals, parasites, nitrites, petroleum products and more! Visit Berkey’s website here to see the full comprehensive list.
Berkey does not filter out beneficial minerals in the water, unlike so many water filtration systems!
What Size Berkey Should I Get?
The most popular size is the Big Berkey (2.25 gallons), which Berkey states is adequate for a family of 2-4. As a family of 3, this is the model we chose and we refill it 1-2 times daily. Here are the other different sizes:
- Travel Berkey (1.5 gallons) 1-3 people
- Royal Berkey (3.25 gallons) 2-6 people
- Imperial Berkey (4.5 gallons) 6-10+ people
- Crown Berkey (6 gallons) 6+ people
When to Replace Berkey Black Filters
The set of two black Berkey purification elements will purify about 6000 gallons of water before needing to be replaced. Take note of how many gallons you use each day to calculate how long your filters will be effective. We use 4-5 gallons each day and therefore will need to replace our black Berkey elements after 1200-1500 days. That’s 3-4 years!
When to Replace Berkey Fluoride Filters
PF2 filters that reduce fluoride and arsenic in the water are effective for filtering 1000 gallons. If using 4-5 gallons a day, the filters will need to be replaced every 6-9 months.
Can Berkey Overflow?
Yes! It has happened to me. Always check the lower chamber before completely filling the top chamber (and going to bed… sigh. What a surprise in the morning!)
Is Berkey Water Distilled?
The Berkey is a gravity filter as the water is forced by gravity through the purification elements into the lower chamber. Distillation is the process of heating and then cooling to purify, so Berkey water is not distilled.
Why Isn’t the Water Filtering?
Berkey filters need to be primed (have the air flushed out and the pores opened up) before first use and whenever you find the filtering is slowing down. You can also clean the outside of the black Berkey filters with a cleaning pad or toothbrush, as there may be a buildup of tiny particles causing the flow rate to slow. Don’t use soap or detergents on the elements themselves! Here are more detailed instructions on this process.
Are Berkey Water Filters Worth It?
My final word: yes. It is a large investment upfront, but after the initial cost, it’s very economical. The Berkey does a great job filtering and you can really taste the difference.
More Berkey Products
Do you use a Berkey water filter or another one? What has your experience been? I’d love to hear in the comments below!