The Big Berkey Water Filter could be the essential gear for your household, whether you’re living in a rural area and rely on well water.
The Big Berkey water filter not only counts with reliable materials but also is ready to provide safe H2O.
Suiting everyone, from those living in remote areas to the disaster-preparedness community, this countertop water filter can be used in all circumstances.
According to its manufacturer, it can purify water from most sources and remove almost all contaminants. Is that true, or is it all marketing hoax? Read our Berkey water filter review to find it out.
Big Berkey Specs
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What Is Berkey Water Filter?
Essentially, it is a gravity water filter designed to stand on a countertop.
The functioning process is simple. The system consists of two (2) containers, a top one, that you will fill with unfiltered water and a lower one that will collect the filtered water.
A system of filters placed between the two tanks traps impurities and other contaminants as it passes through.
Clean water then drips into the bottom tank, which usually has a faucet. When you’re thirsty, you can simply operate the faucet to fill your glass.
Since this kind of water filtration system is more cumbersome than a compact water filter pitcher such as the Zero Water Filter Pitcher, it is usually hard to move around.
Also requires more countertop space. For this reason, it might not be suitable for all households.
Big Berkey Water Filter Main Points
Despite its simple construction, the it does an excellent job in removing a wide range of contaminants.
This system was built with rural users in mind, so it was designed to remove impurities from well or rainwater too.
According to the manufacturer – as well as some independent tests – it can remove up to 99.99% of contaminants; this include:
- pathogenic bacteria and viruses,
- heavy metals,
- inorganic minerals (including chloramine and fluoride (we will discuss later),
- pharmaceuticals and pesticides, semi-volatile and volatile organic compounds and,
- sulfur (the smell of rotten eggs), which could be most importantly for people using well water.
- PFAS and Fluoride (discussed below).
Surely, there is additional compounds that can be reduced or removed. Check the Berkey Test Results for more information.
About the Black Berkey Water Filters
While the number of pollutants removed is impressive, the system uses simple filters that are readily available from the manufacturer and relatively easy to replace.
What a love the most about this countertop gravity fed filtration system is the possibility of adding an extra set of black Berkey water filter.
When you buy this Berkey water filter, you will receive only a set of two (2).
From my perspective, the use of only two (2) filters is good enough to have a descent flow filtration rate (which will deliver 3.5 gallons/hr),
if you require to increase the rate, you have the alternative of installing FOUR (4) black filters. This will deliver a roughly 7 gallons/hr.
Manufactured in EPA-approved laboratories.
Lastly, as an add-on, you can invest in separate fluoride filters (discussed bellow), which are only necessary if you believe the concentration of this compound is high.
Setup, Operation and Maintenance
As one of the most popular gravity fed water filters, this Berkey model is very easy to operate. Once assembled, all you have to do is fill the top container with the water you use.
The big Berkey water filter has no complicated setup requirements; comprehensive instructions show you how to install the filters step-by-step.
Nevertheless, the main point to check when installing the filters is to ensure they have been tighten good enough to avoid leakages (not to tight to avoid damages).
Unlike the under-sink water filtration systems that require your undivided attention, the big Berkey needs little to no maintenance.
The system is made from high-quality stainless steel, and all you have to do is clean the tanks every now and then to keep them pristine.
Considering the 2.25 gallons capacity – which is enough water for a family of four for a day – you won’t have to bother to replace the filters for a really long time; more specifically, for around 2 years.
How to clean the Black Berkey filters?
As any other carbon made water filter, particles will build up on the outer walls (distinctive darker color).
To assist with a longer filtration lifespan, you should scrub the external walls with a medium streght toothbrush and running water.
It is important to prime the filters back again to eliminate any leftover particles and fill up the pores.
How to clean the tanks?
Aside from a using a normal sponge and soapy water, you may need to check for build up of other elements, like calcium crusts.
It is common to see calcium crusts building up in the inner chambers, specially the spigot area.
If this is the case, add some vinegar to the affected chamber and let it soak for around 20 mins. This should soften the crust, then you can remove with a toothbrush, cloth or a sponge.
It is recommended to clean the inner containment at least every month (specially the bottom one); this way you will prevent biofilm creation over time.
The operation of the system is also not complex. The main thing here is to understand the filters efficiency.
Each filter has a lifespan of 3,000 gallons, which means the system can easily filter up to 6,000 gallons before needing a replacement.
Why priming the filters is important?
There are two (2) main things here:
- Removing the air inside the filter pores and,
- Removal of any loose particles (commonly seen in granulated carbon filters).
Failing to do this will affect the taste of the water and the filtering efficiency.
How to prime the Black Berkey filters?
There is two (2) methods that can be used to prime them up:
- Using the included brown washer, attach it to the nut end of the filter and press it to the kitchen faucet. Let cold water run until you see that all the outer wall is completely soaked and all bubbles are gone.
- By submerging the filters in a container full of water (preferably tap water), attach the black Berkey primer to the nut end and start pressing the bladder (which will force water to run through the system) until you see a “constant” flow of water at the other end of the primer.
This primer elements is great when you don’t have access to a faucet (camping) or enough space to squeeze the filter inside a sink.
Big Berkey Limitations and Downsides
There is no perfect filtration system and this system does also come with a few downsides.
Like most water filters that rely on gravity, this Berkey water filter configuration is not renowned for its flow rate.
According to the manufacturer, it can filter 3.5 gallons of water per hour (for 2 filters installed).
But in reality….
it filters around 1-2 gallon per hour. That should be enough for a small household, but insufficient for a big family.
For this reason, it is wiser to just filter the water in advance or let the system work overnight.
Size and required space
The size is not a downside for many, but if you have a really small countertop, this water filter could be too big for your needs.
Nevertheless, if you are a big fan of Berkey products, there are smaller versions that may suit your space needs.
Some people claim they have used it successfully in RVs, small log cabins, and even studio apartment kitchens. However, the truth is that you’d have to give up quite a bit of your countertop space.
If you really like cooking or also have other appliances, this water filter could easily get in your way.
In general, it has a very sleek and fresh look, however the inner design is a different story.
It is not bad as such, it is just the location (height) of the bottom part of the black filters (1st chamber) and the spigot on the second chamber.
I know you are expecting to filter the same quantity of water you pour in the top container, but it is not the case.
It is noted that some of the unfiltered water gets stagnant at the bottom, which later causes the plugs washers create an unpleasant rubber taste.
There are three (3) potential solutions for this issue:
- Remove the washers (industrial rubber made) and install the plugs.
- Replace the included washers with food grade silicone ones or,
- Install another set of two (2) filters (total of 4), so that you remove the need of plugs (this is a solution based on other users comments).
This last point could be beneficial in terms of increasing the water filtration rate but will translate in adding some bucks for a whole set.
Looking closely at the placement of the spigot, you could be expecting to have a leftover water at the bottom of the chamber.
This is not a major problem but you will need to tilt the big Berkey to get that extra liters of water.
Big Berkey vs Alexapure Pro Water Filter
As you may be aware, there are other manufacturers that also provide good quality gravity fed water filters.
One of the main competitor for the Big Berkey is the Alexapure Pro.
In the following table, you will see the most important features both filters offer:
|ASPECT||BIG BERKEY||ALEXAPURE PRO (Read Review)
|Filter life||3,000 gallons||5,000 gallons|
|Capacity||2.25 gallons||2.5 gallons|
|Filter stages||5-stage filtration (+1 more)||2-stage filtration|
|Filtration rate||3-4 hours||3-4 hours|
|*Filter priming required||Yes||No|
As you can see, both gravity fed filtration systems are very similar to each other.
Now, the biggest difference with the Alexapure configuration is:
- Washers are food grade silicon (positive).
- Filters diameter is bigger than the black Berkey ones (that is why you can have more filter lifespan).
- Priming not required (based on manufacturer details).
From my experience, it is always good to prime any filter for the following two (2) reasons:
Which one I would go for?
It is really hard to select a winner between the Big Berkey vs. Alexapure Pro Water Filter.
Both water filtration systems have good points and things to improve, as you will still have good results.
From my perspective, I like the Alexapure Pro due to its price and the filters lifespan.
Should you Buy the Big Berkey Water Filter?
Removing a wide range of contaminants, from microorganisms to chemicals, it can purify water from most sources, including wells, dams, ponds, and rainwater.
Its flow rate might not be jaw-dropping, but you can simply fill the top reservoir in the evening to have pure drinking water in the morning.
Long filter life and easy maintenance are other highlights. All in all, a noteworthy countertop water filter for your home.
Aside from the downsides discussed in previous sections, I believe the Big Berket water filter is an excellent choice for rural homes as well as people concerned about the municipal water quality in their area.
Most Frequent Asked Questions
Does Berkey water filter remove fluoride?
Fluoride is an odorless, inorganic compound with bitter taste that could be present in potable water.
If you are concern about the presence of this natural occurring element, you can also fit a set of Berkey PF2 filters, which will remove fluoride from you drinking water.
Installing Berkey fluoride filters is simple. You just need to screw the PF2 filter end to the black Berkey filter outlet (located in the lower chamber) and let water run to remove any left over impurities from inside the filter.
Just check the flow direction of the filter and good to go.
Keep in mind that the manufacturer recommends to replaces this set after 1000 gallons.
I think is a bit hard to know when you reach this volume, so my advice is to replace them when you feel a change in taste.
Does Berkey water filter remove PFAS?
Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are synthetic chemicals that do not occur naturally in the environment therefore, these are a contaminant of potential concern (CoPC).
Since PFAS are a CoPC, the Berkey water filter systems have been tested for PFOAs removal with a reduction of 99.9% in concentration. Check here to see laboratory results for PFAS reduction.
On the above note, does Berkey water filter remove PFAS? we can say that PFOAs can be removed from drinking water (not all types of PFAS occurring though) to an acceptable concentration for human consumption.
Other facts about PFAS:
PFAS are extremely persistent in the environment. They don’t follow the typical environmental degradation processes and bio-accumulate.
There are many different types of PFAS, and the most commonly known are:
- Perfluorocarboxylic acids (e.g., PFOA, sometimes referred to as C8 in literature from the USA); and
- Perfluorosulfonates (e.g., PFOS and PFHxS).
PFAS chemicals have been used on various material that are used on day to day activities, including but not limited to water proofing of fabrics, surface coatings for carpets, grease proof paper, aluminum foil and in firefighting foams.
Does Berkey water filter make water Alkaline?
Since the manufacturer claims their Berkey water filtration systems remove most of contaminants in water, I would believe that some important mineral (e.g., fluoride, magnesium and calcium) are also reduced.
These minerals are also responsible for increasing or decreasing the pH of the water.
But, what we need to see here is that other compounds are also responsible for decreasing the pH in water (such as CO2).
On the above note, when CO2 is absorbed by water, this means the pH will drop.
So, does Berket water filter make water Alkaline? In my opinion, it removes contaminants responsible for making the water acidic therefore the pH of you water will increase slightly.
How alkaline my drinking water will be?
It only depends on how low is the pH of the water supplied is (generally is neutral).