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Berkey Water Filters Reviews

By: Craig Smith
Last Updated:
berkey water filters

If you have decided that you want your home’s water to be healthier to drink and it’s a Berkey water filter that you want to help you accomplish that, then you have made an excellent choice.

Berkey is a family-owned company that started near Pueblo, Colorado in the late 1990s and their reputation as water filtration specialists has only grown since then. 

It’s a company that features some of the highest-rated products in the water filtration industry.     

In this article, I will do in-depth Berkey water filter reviews on two of the company’s best water filtration products and give a short synopsis on many others too. 

I will also describe how their different filters work and give you some other helpful buying information on Berkey’s water filtration devices.

This should provide you with enough knowledge of the company’s water filtration products to decide if one or more of them is right for you.

Top 5 Berkey Water Filters

IMAGE PRODUCT FEATURES
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Big Berkey
  • People: 2-4
  • Height: 19.25
  • Capacity: 2.25 Gallons
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Travel Berkey
  • People: 1-2
  • Height: 18
  • Capacity: 1.5 Gallons
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Royal Berkey
  • People: 4-6
  • Height: 23
  • Capacity: 3.25 Gallons
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Light Berkey
  • People: 2-6
  • Height: 21
  • Capacity: 2.75 Gallons
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Imperial Berkey
  • People: 6-10
  • Height: 26
  • Capacity: 4.5 Gallons
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Berkey’s Water Filters Reviewed

1. Big Berkey Water Filter

There is a reason why the Big Berkey Water Filter is so popular. That’s because of this gravity-fed water filter’s superior filtration system for its class and its simplicity of setup and use. I feel that its many highlight features certainly justify its high purchase price.

This product comes with two stainless steel water chambers that stack up on top of each other. The top container contains the two filter elements that the water filters down through into the lower water storage chamber.

It’s a water filter that takes less than 10-minutes to have set up and working.

Although you will have to manually fill it, once that’s done, its very good filter cartridges will go to work removing or reducing many tap water contaminants.

Included in this impressive list are chlorine, chloramines, viruses, pathogenic bacteria, pharmaceuticals, Arsenic, E. Coli, and Nitrites.  

At 7 pounds and just over 20” in height and 8 ½” in diameter, it does offer some portability too. That’s why it’s not unusual for owners of this product to use it in their boats, RVs, and campsites.

One of the stranger aspects regarding the Big Berkey Water Filter is that it cannot be purchased in the states of California or Iowa.

Pros:

  • Removes or reduces over 200 common water contaminants
  • 2-year or 3000-gallon filter elements
  • 2.25-gallon filtered water storage
  • Tough stainless-steel construction
  • Easy setup and maintenance
  • Independently tested
  • Somewhat portable
  • Lifetime product warranty
  • Filters come with a 2-year guarantee       

Cons:

  • Expensive initial cost & replacement elements
  • Cannot be purchased in California or Iowa
  • Filters need to be primed before using
  • At 21” high may not fit under some kitchen cabinets
  • Slow filtration rate
  • Has to be manually filled

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2. Berkey Shower Filter

While Berkey has concentrated mostly on making products that purify drinking water. It should not be overlooked that they manufacture one of the best shower filters that are available. 

That’s why the Berkey Shower Filter resides at the top of our ‘8 Best Shower Head Filters for Hard Water & Chlorine Reviewed’ list.

It has one of the best working filters that I have ever come across on a showerhead filter. 

That’s because its KDF 55 filter media gives it the ability to filter out 95% of the chlorine that passes through it along with hydrogen sulfide, scale, and some soluble metals like lead, mercury, and iron.

During its exceptionally long 20,000-gallon filter life, you can also expect it to kill most microorganisms (including some pathogenic bacteria), and inhibit mold, algae, and fungi growth.

This showerhead filter’s compact 5” x 4” x 4” size also makes it a favorite of many. It can be purchased with a massaging-style showerhead or without.             

Pros:

  • Works with just about any pre-existing shower head
  • Filters out 95% of chlorine and more
  • It has an excellent 20,000-gallon filter useful life
  • This showerhead impacts water pressure very little
  • It’s not big and bulky like some showerhead filters
  • Inhibits limescale formation
  • Hot water compatible
  • These are all USA-made products

Cons:

  • One of the pricier showerhead filters
  • Warranty is not clearly stated
  • Needs to be periodically backflushed for cleaning
  • Replacement cartridges are costly

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3. Other Berkey Gravity Filter Models

These are some other very popular Berkey water filtration products:            

Go Berkey Kit   

This is by far the most portable of all the Berkey systems. That’s not surprising considering that it was made for those that like to go mountain biking, trekking, backpacking, camping, and do other activities in somewhat remote areas. 

It will also make a great addition to your survival kit. Surprisingly, despite its small size, it still uses regular Black Berkey purification elements. So, you will get some extremely pure water to drink from it.

  • Dimensions: 14” Length x 4” Diameter
  • Water Storage Capacity: 1 quart
  • Weight (lbs.): 2.4
  • Included Filters: 1          
  • Flow Rate (GPH): 1
  • Shell Material: Stainless Steel

This is a Berkey water filter that breaks tradition because of its small size and the fact that it’s not made to be a stationary unit. It also needs to have water manually pumped through the system to work.    

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Travel Berkey

This is another extremely portable Berkey drinking water filter option. That’s why it’s popular among those that have RVs, tow-behind campers, and cabin-style boats. 

Those with active lifestyles that want access to cheap filtered water no matter where they also like the convenience that the Travel Berkey Offers.

The Travel Berkey also fits nicely in apartments that have 1 to 2 occupants along with a pet or two that need purified drinking water.

  • Dimensions: 19” Height x 7.5” Diameter
  • Water Storage Capacity (gallons): 1.5
  • Empty Weight (lbs.): 6
  • Included Filters: 2          
  • Flow Rate (GPH): 2.75
  • Shell Material: Stainless Steel

This is the smallest and most portable of all the Berkey free-standing water filter models.

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Royal Berkey

This is the slightly bigger brother of the ever-popular Big Berkey Water Filter. As such it can also handle slightly larger size families that have 4 to 6 members. Best of all, you get the increased 3.25-gallon extra water storage capacity for around only 9% more than that of the Big Berkey.

It can support the use of up to 4 Black Berkey filters in its upper chamber which will help to increase its flow rate (does not increase its filtering capability) to around 7 GPH.

  • Dimensions: 24” Height x 9.5” Diameter
  • Water Storage Capacity (gallons): 3.25
  • Empty Weight (lbs.): 8
  • Included Filters: 2          
  • Flow Rate (GPH): 4
  • Shell Material: Stainless Steel

It’s the first Berkey water filter to be able to handle the filter water needs of homes with 4 to 6 people. This model also now competes strongly with the Big Berkey for being the company’s best-selling drinking water filter.

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Imperial Berkey           

Families that have 6+ members in them often turn to this model Berkey water filter. That’s because it has a 4.5-gallon water storage capacity and a generous gravity-fed 5.5 GPH flow rate.

This allows for plenty of enhanced water to be prepared ahead of time and easily stored. Placing 6 filters in its upper chamber will increase its filtration flow rate to a very acceptable 16.5 GPH filtration flow rate.

  • Dimensions: 27” Height x 10” Diameter
  • Water Storage Capacity (gallons): 4.5
  • Empty Weight (lbs.): 10
  • Included Filters: 2          
  • Flow Rate (GPH): 5.5
  • Shell Material: Stainless Steel

It’s the first of two Berkey water filter models that were designed not only for home use. It can easily be used to supply purified drinking water for small size events and even big family gatherings.

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Crown Berkey

This is by far the largest of all of the Berkey drinking water filters. Not coincidentally, it’s also the least portable model water filter Berkey makes but don’t mistake that for meaning it’s not portable at all.

This model water filtration product is a favorite of caterers, families that like to host large gatherings and places that hold big functions such as business meetings and wedding receptions.

  • Dimensions: 31” Height x 11” Diameter
  • Water Storage Capacity (gallons): 6
  • Empty Weight (lbs.): 12
  • Included Filters: 2               
  • Flow Rate (GPH): 6.5
  • Shell Material: Stainless Steel

When it’s maxed out with 8 filters being placed inside its upper chamber, it can produce high-quality drinking water at a rate of 26 gallons per hour.  That’s a faster flow rate than any other Berkey drinking water filter.   

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Berkey Light

No berkey water filter review would be complete without talking about the Berkey Light. It’s made for someone that enjoys drinking purified drinking water but does not want to pay top dollar to do that. 

That’s exactly why Berkey designed it with an all food-safe BPA/BPS plastic body instead of their more traditional stainless-steel body. That way it offers a more affordable Berkey filter option than any of their comparable size filters.

  • Dimensions: 28” Height x 9” Diameter
  • Water Storage Capacity (gallons): 2.75
  • Empty Weight (lbs.): 6
  • Included Filters: 2          
  • Flow Rate (GPH): 3.75
  • Shell Material: BPA/BPS Plastic

This is the only Berkey drinking water filter that comes with a plastic shell. It used to be used with ceramic filters to further cut its cost but those have been replaced by the more traditional and better working Black Berkey system filters.

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How to Choose the Right Berkey Gravity Water Filter

Berkey has 7 different drinking water filters to choose from so deciding which one will work best for you is not easy. 

All of them use the same setup and feature very good quality filtration systems (The Berkey Light does use different ceramic filters), so those will not play much of a role in your purchasing decision. 

Which one you buy will most likely come down to these factors:

  1. The number of people in your household
  2. Storage container size (how much purified water do you always want to have readily available?)
  3. Purpose/Situation (for just family, to host gatherings, or for use at large events)
  4. How portable do you want your water filter to be (size)?
  5. Will it be used indoors or outdoors?
  6. Desired filtration flow rate

How Much Purified Water Do You Need?

To start with, I will tell you that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to how much water each member of your family will drink each day. That’s because body size, activity level, and other factors play a role in personal water consumption.

There is a basic formula you can use to get a ballpark figure for household water consumption. Doctors recommend that each adult and older teen in a household drinks 1900 ml or 8 cups of water a day, so about ½ gallon of water each. 

A figure that should be adjusted upward for active teens and adults.

Toddlers need to consume about 1300 ml a day (6 cups or 1/3 of a gallon) and older children and young teens about 1700 ml a day (7 cups or just under a ½ gallon). 

Most families that use purified water for cooking should figure in an additional 1 to 2-gallons per day of filtered water use      

For an even more accurate assessment of how much water your family uses for drinking and cooking each day, you can chart it yourself over a few weeks. There are some good water use calculators available online too.

Do You Require Additional Fluoride Reduction?

Fluoride is a concerning substance that is used to purify water in about 60% of the municipal water systems found across the USA. 

That means if you have water in your home that comes from a municipal source, it’s worth making a phone call to your local water company to see if they use fluoride to treat their water.

When ingested in small amounts over a short time fluoride is not a big health concern. But this changes when ingested in large quantities at once or in smaller amounts over a longer period. That’s when many feel that fluoride does pose health risks.

Berkey does make optional fluoride filters available for all of their stationary filter models. These are placed at the top of the lower water storage chamber.

They will further decrease the filtration flow rate of the Berkey systems, so don’t purchase and use them unless you are sure that you have fluoride in your home’s water.   

Choosing the Right Size Berkey Filter

 Model People ServedWater Storage CapacityNumber of Filters Included Max Filter Setup Flow Rate(GPH)
Go Berkey Kit 1 1 quart 1 1 Normal:1 
Travel Berkey 1 to 2 1.5 gallons 2 2Normal: 2.75Max: 2.75
 Big Berkey 2 to 4 2.25 gallons 2 4Normal: 3.5Max: 7
 Berkey Light 2 to 6 2.75 gallons 2 4Normal: 3.75Max: 7.5
Royal Berkey 4 to 6 3.25 gallons 2 4Normal: 4Max: 8
Imperial Berkey 6 to 10+ 4.5 gallons 2 6Normal: 5.5Max: 21.5
Crown Berkey 8 to 12+ 8 gallons 2 8Normal: 6.5Max: 26

Summary of Which Berkey Filter Is Best for Which Situation

After previously doing a Berkey water filter review on each of these models, here is what I feel is the best use for each model Berkey water filter and their respective water storage capacity:

  • Go Berkey Kit: Biking, trekking, backpacking, remote camping, and as a main survival kit component.
  • Travel Berkey (1.5 gallons): For those that like to filter their water no matter where they go and boat and RV use.
  • Big Berkey (2.25 gallons): A good choice for family use for households with 4 people or less.
  • Berkey Light (2.75 gallons): An affordable and portable option for home, camping, RV, and boat use.
  • Royal Berkey (3.25 gallons): Great for use in homes with 4 to 6 family members.
  • Imperial Berkey (4.5 gallons): Recommended for large size families (6+ members) and family gatherings.
  • Crown Berkey (8 gallons): The best choice for large size family gatherings and events.

Berkey’s Water Filters

These are the main types of filters that can be placed inside Berkey water filtration products:

Black Berkey Filters

This is the main type of filter used in all of the Berkey drinking water filtration products. It can filter out an impressive number of contaminants from the water that you drink. Over 200 in all.

There are six media stages inside each Black Berkey Filter Cartridge that use either microfiltration or absorption to remove impurities from water. 

The most impactful water purification stage uses carbon composite media that mostly consists of high-grade coconut shell carbon.

Here are some of the lab results that Berkey has posted on its website regarding how impactful their Black Berkey system filters are:

  • Removes Viruses to >99.999%
  • Removes Pathogenic Bacteria (And Surrogates) to >99.9999% including Bacillus atrophaeus (Anthrax Surrogate); Salmonella enterica
  • Removes Trihalomethanes to >99.8% including Bromodichloromethane, Bromoform, Chloroform
  • Removes Inorganic Minerals up to 99.9% including Chloramines, Residual Chlorine, Free Chlorine, and Chloride
  • Removes Microorganisms to >99.9% to include Total Coliform, Fecal Coliform, e.Coli
  • Removes Pharmaceutical Drug Contaminants to >99.9% including Acetaminophen, Caffeine, Erythromycin USP, Bisphenol A, and Ibuprofen
  • Removes Pesticides & Volatile Organic Compounds to below lab detectable limits including Acetone, Benzene, Atrazine, Carbon Tetrachloride, Vinyl Chloride, and many more

Fluoride Filters

As was previously stated, if your community is supplied by municipal water there is about a 60% chance that water was previously treated with fluoride and it’s a good idea to remove it. Berkey offers an option that will do just that with its Fluoride filter elements.

These will remove greater than 97% of fluoride in the water that passes through them and significantly reduce (amount varies) the amount of Arsenic that’s found in that water too.   

The company’s Fluoride filters get placed in the top of the lower water storage chamber. Keep in mind that they will typically reduce a filtration unit’s flow rate by an additional 15 to 20%.                

Berkey Water Filters Pros & Cons

Here is my take concerning the good and bad points of Berkey systems:

Pros:

  • They produce high quality and great tasting filtered water
  • Most are portable
  • They feature a very long useful filter life
  • Berkey has an excellent reputation in the water purification industry
  • They look good and are durable
  • Berkey products are backed up by excellent warranties
  • The company’s filtration devices require no water feed lines or electricity to work

Cons:

  • High initial cost
  • Replacement filters are expensive
  • Filters require regular cleaning
  • They must be manually filled
  • Some don’t fit well on standard kitchen countertops
  • Slow filtration rates are the norm

Berkey Gravity Filters vs Other Gravity Filters

It must be said that Berkey systems are as good or better than most gravity-style water filters in its class. That’s why it made an appearance in the top slot of our website’s list of the Best Gravity Water Filters.

They hold up very well against the competition and Berkey is well aware of this. That’s why they are not afraid to compare their filters with those made by other manufacturers.

Other Articles that we have written such as our AquaTru Vs Berkey Countertop Filter Comparison also show that Berkey products fare very well when compared to other gravity-fed water filters.

What’s Up with the Berkey Water Filter Scam?

Some rumors were being spread that Berkey systems did not perform as advertised. The sources of the accusation of the company running a scam may have come from competitors after Berkey refused to have its products NSF certified so they could be sold in California.

Berkey countered by stating that their water filtration products have been independently tested, just not by groups that are specifically mentioned in the California laws on water filtration product certification.

The company stated that while its independent testing results are acceptable in 48 states, it was not worth it to them to pay the high costs associated with certification in Iowa and California.

To be clear, this is not something that appears to originate from customer complaints as purchasers of their products often rate their water filters very highly.   

How to Assemble a Berkey Filter System

Assembling any Berkey stainless-steel stationary water filter is very straightforward. It’s also done the same way regardless of their size.  There should be a parts diagram included in every water filter package.

Here are the steps necessary to assemble a Berkey water filter system:

  1. Put the lid assembly together using the knob screw, knob washer, and knob.
  2. Insert the Black Berkey filter elements into the bottom of the upper water supply chamber. It’s important to note that you must also prime your Black Berkey filters every time BEFORE you install a new one. Step by step instructions on how to do that can be viewed here.
  3. Next, take your newly primed filter elements and simply thread them into place by hand until snug. Prime and install your optional fluoride cartridges the same way except they will be installed into the top of the bottom water storage chamber.
  4. Any remaining filter placement slots that do not have filters installed in them must have the included plugs placed in them.
  5. Now attach the spigot to the bottom side hole in the lower water storage chamber. This is done by inserting the threaded spigot end into the outside of the hole and then tightening it up by placing hex not onto the threads from the inside of the lower chamber.
  6. Install the anti-air lock clip onto the top lip of the lower chamber.
  7. To finish the filter assembly, place the lower chamber on a sturdy flat surface and then slide the upper chamber down into it in place.
  8. Now fill the upper chamber to capacity, place the lid on the unit, and in about 30-minutes you will be enjoying extremely pure drinking water.

More on setting up your Berkey water filtration system can be seen on the Berkey website.

How to Clean & Maintain a Berkey Filter

The secret to having your Berkey water filter system perform at an optimal level at all times lies with your ability to clean its Black Berkey purification elements on a routine basis. 

This can be a little tedious at times but it only needs to be done once every 3 to 6 months or when the water flow out of the tap becomes noticeably slower.

You don’t ever have to worry about cleaning your Black Berkey water filters too much either as each is designed to be cleaned up to 100 times.

Here is how to clean your Black Berkey Filters:

  1. Make sure the upper water supply chamber is empty. Then gently unscrew the Black Berkey system filters from the slots they are placed in.
  2. Next turn on your sink faucet. Place the filter under the running water. Then, using a new 3M Scotch-Brite pad, scrub the entire outside black surface of the filter cartridge for several minutes. DO NOT use any type of soap or liquid detergent during this process.
  3. Place the filters aside and thoroughly wash your hands, then reverse the process you used to take your filters out to reinstall them.

Please note: For remote filter cleaning if you have no clean sink water, use some purified water from your system in a big bucket to scrub and rinse your filter elements.

More on how to clean your Black Berkey Filters can be viewed on the company website.

Berkey Water Filter FAQs

These are some questions that I get repeatedly about Berkey systems.             

Why Are Berkey Filters Illegal in California?

If you are wondering why Berkey water filter systems are illegal to be sold in California, don’t worry too much because it has nothing to do with the quality of the product.

Berkey refuses to pay a 3rd-party certifying body such as NSF (which is required by California law) to test its products and the associated state fees that are required to maintain their ability to do sales in the state.

Are Berkey Filters NSF Certified?

As was mentioned above, one of the contributing factors to Berkey systems not being able to be sold in California is the fact that their water filters are not NSF certified. 

The company claims that all of its filtration products have been tested by other 3rd-party groups and these testers claim Berkey products meet or exceed NSF standards.

How Long Does it Take Berkey Filters to Clean Water?

When trying to figure out how long it takes Berkey system filters to clean water, keep in mind that Berkey filter elements are so impactful because the water passes down through them slowly.

As a general rule, no matter which Berkey model you own, you can expect a full upper chamber to pass down through two filters in about 30-minutes time. Units that have more than two filters installed will see this filtration time lowered even further.

Are Berkey filters better than Brita pitchers?

Brita water filters are a very popular way to enhance tap water but are Brita pitchers better than Berkey systems? According to the specs that each company puts out on its products Berkey systems are better because they filter out many more tap water contaminants than Brita pitchers do.      

Some Final Thoughts on Berkey Water Filtration Products

While Berkey water filter systems do have some competitors with models that come close to them, I feel none of these are better than any of the Berkey systems models that make use of Black Berkey Filters. They are that good at removing impurities from water.

Are they perfect water filters? No, but none really are. They have drawbacks such as having to be filled up manually, needing their filter elements cleaned regularly, and the company’s filters are fairly pricey and sometimes require expensive replacement filter elements.

The bottom line is, Berkey system gravity water filters are simple to use, fairly portable, and they make the water that flows through them much safer to drink. 

I don’t feel that you can possibly go wrong by purchasing a Berkey water filter model. They are very comparable to a good reverse osmosis system in what they filter out of water. 

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AUTHOR
Craig Smith
Craig got his start in water working in the swimming pool and spa industry. Water treatment would grow into his main career but he ended up working in the pool industry for over 26 years where much of his time was spent balancing the water in customer's swimming pools and installing water filtration equipment. Craig offers an abundance of water treatment knowledge after helping homeowners get pure water for 26 years.

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