Big Berkey Water Filter Review: Best Gravity Filter For 2019?

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In this Big Berkey Water Filter Review, we’ll take a look at whether this powerful gravity water filter is still one of the best options for a home water filter system.


The Big Berkey At A Glance

The Product: Big Berkey Gravity Water Filter
Rating: 4.9 (out of 5)
Recommended? Yes


What Makes the Big Berkey Such a Great Choice?

Big Berkey is one of the best selling brands in water filters and purification systems all over the world. In fact, it’s been  recommended as the No.1 filter system by a variety of health magazines, labs and independent health sites.

Employing a slower rate of filtration than other filter types, the Big Berkey is arguably the most superior and efficient filter around. It’s also the filter of choice for humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross.


5 Reasons to Own a Big Berkey Gravity Water Filter


1 – Slower filtrations means better filterage

The key benefit of gravity fed water filters are their slower filtration, which makes them superior to almost any other filter type.

As you might expect, slower filtration means better filterage. To use a Big Berkey gravity water filter, you simply pour water manually into the upper chamber. This then passes through the filter candles, under pressure of gravity, into the lower chamber where the filtered water can be accessed via a tap on the front of the filter.

2 – Made of quality stainless steel

Big Berkey gravity water filters are made from high grade, polished, quality stainless steel. Many other filters use plastic, which even if they’re BPA free, may still leach chemicals, over time.

3 – Employs powerful Black Berkey (or ceramic) filters

The Big Berkey is compatible with both ceramic and Black Berkey filters.

Ceramic Super Sterasyl Filters are the ‘candle’ filter type and of outstanding quality. As well as offering powerful filtration they are both self-sterilising and re-cleanable. They’ve also been around for some time – in fact, as early as 1827, when Henry Doulton first developed ceramic filters for removing bacteria from drinking water.

However, it’s the Black Berkey filters that have become the flagship filter for the Big Berkey. The Berkey website states they are ‘more comprehensive in the array of contaminants they filter out’. They also last longer, as they’re designed to purify around 3,000 US gallons of water before needing replacement.

4 – Cost effective, saving you money long term

If you think about the cost of bottled water or the amount of replacement filters you need with pitcher filters, a Big Berkey could actually start to save you money pretty quickly. The average cost of a gallon of bottled water in the US is around $1.50 in bulk, compared to a Big Berkey, which works out at around 2 cents per gallon, over the lifetime of the unit.

The Big Berkey filter system is also made of quality stainless steel, rather than the more commonly used plastic. Stainless steel should last for years, if not a lifetime, with filters which are both cleanable and longer lasting than most other filter types.

5 – Portable & easy to install

The Big Berkey gravity water filter system is a standalone unit, which requires no electricity or plumbing. This makes it ideal for the home, but due to its portability, also just as effective on camping trips (if you have transport) or with caravans or camper vans.

The Big Berkey is also a great piece of kit to have during flooding or emergencies when water quality may become compromised or unavailable.

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Key Features of the Big Berkey Gravity Water Filter

  • 8.5 total litre capacity 
  • stands 50cm tall and 22cm in diameter
  • made of high quality, polished stainless steel
  • independently tested for contaminant removal
  • add up to 4 filters to increase flow rate
  • removes fluoride with dedicated fluoride filters installed
  • easy to set up, no plumbing required.

What Does the Big Berkey Gravity Filter Remove?

The Big Berkey system is one of the most powerful filtration units in the world. It:

  • removes 99.999% of pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites
  • reduces harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and VOCs, without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs
  • reduces nitrates, nitrites and unhealthy minerals such as lead and mercury.

With the correct filter employed, the Big Berkey is also able to remove fluoride (via a PF-4 or PF-2 filter).

Over 60% of US municipal water supplies now contain fluoride, but its removal from water is notoriously difficult to do and the majority of everyday water filters can’t do it (see more filters that remove fluoride).

You can see independent lab reports on exactly what the Big Berkey removes here.


How Many Filters do I Need?

All Big Berkey gravity water filter systems start out with 2 filtration elements in the upper chamber.

You can then build upon this, should you so wish, depending on your needs.

You can add up to 4 ceramic, or Black Berkey, filters to the upper chamber of a Big Berkey water filter, but note that more filters means faster filtration, not better filtration.

Should you wish to tackle arsenic and/or fluoride in your drinking water, you will need to employ PF-2 or PF-4 Arsenic / Fluoride filters.

Important Note: At the time of writing PF-2 filters are listed as compatible with Black Berkey filters and PF-4 with the ceramic filters.


Black Berkey or Ceramic Filters?

Historically, there’s been a lot of discussion online as to the difference between the Black Berkey ‘revolutionary’ filters and the Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filters and which one is best to use. This information could get confusing.

From a filtration perspective, Black Berkey filters claim to remove or reduce the same chemicals and contaminants as the Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filters, but with the advantage of also going above and beyond by removing lead, MTBE’s and other heavy metals.

In fact, the Big Berkey website states that the Black Berkey’s are so powerful, they are rated as water purifiers, since they filter out bacteria to a 99.99999% level and viruses to a 99.9999% level.  It is also claimed the Black Berkeys filter out Chlorine to undetectable levels, while the ceramics will only remove > 90%.

Each Black Berkey Element is also designed to purify approximately 3,000 US gallons of water before needing replacement, which means it has a longer life span than ceramic filters.

Here’s what the Big Berkey Water Filter site says:

…both filters are outstanding performers with a long proven track record and hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers, however the Black Berkeys last much longer, are more comprehensive in the array of contaminants they filter out, and have an advantage in their ability to remove many of these contaminants to a higher percentage. This is why they are our Flagship filter.’

Is The Big Berkley NSF Certified?

There also used to be some concerns that the Black Berkey filters weren’t NSF certified and that little independent lab evidence existed to back up the filter’s powerful claims. Here’s what it says on the Berkey website:

The Black Berkey® Purification Element formulation has been tested by State and EPA accredited laboratories to exceed NSF/ANSI Standard 53

You can also view their independent lab reports here.

If you want them, you can still get ceramic filters, but you’ll see the Black Berkey filters much more readily available.

Whilst Big Berkey state the ceramic filters have the slight edge in terms of durability, either filter will suit you fine for everyday, average use in the home.

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What About Earth Filters?

The Berkey Earth ceramic filters came out in 2015. Basically, they were designed as an upgrade to the older Super Sterasyl ceramic filters.  Here’s a short video which explains the differences between the Black Berkley filter elements and the Berkey Earth filters.


How Do I Clean Big Berkey Filters?

How to clean Big Berkey filters is a commonly asked question. Cleaning them is a great thing to do (if it’s necessary) since it can enhance their performance, plus ensures they last as long as possible.

Here’s a short video from Big Berkey Water Filters on how to prime and clean the Black Berkey water filters. If you have ceramic filters, you should find some instruction in the Big Berkey manual on how to clean them.


Does the Big Berkey Come in Different Sizes?

The Big Berkey is a best seller in the Berkey range of filters and a perfect choice for the home.

But if you have a large family, or simply require a larger capacity filter, the Royal Berkey may suit you better. It’s recommended for 2-6 people and generally doesn’t cost much more than the Big Berkey.

For a smaller travel version, check out the Travel Berkey (stainless steel) or the Berkey Light Water Filter (made from a lighter shatter resistant, high impact strength non BPA copolyester).

For some handy tips on choosing the right Berkey filter for your needs, check out this video:


Are There Any Drawbacks To A Big Berkey?

One of the most common complaints about any gravity water filter is that they’re slow to filter. This is true – they are slower than some other types of filter. But this is because slower filtration generally means better filtration. Simply fill up a Big Berkey before you go to bed and you’ll have a supply of filtered water by morning.

Big Berkeys also come with plastic spigots, so if you’re looking to avoid plastic, you might want to consider replacing it with a metal spigot.

If you’re on a budget, Big Berkeys do have a higher price point than many other filters. However, they’re exceptionally durable and should last you a lifetime. This  actually makes them a very cost effective, long term investment. If you are on a budget, consider investing in an entry level pitcher filter. These glass ones avoid BPA and will remove or reduce common contaminants such as chlorine/some heavy metals.

Replacement filters are also more expensive than many other replacement filters, but they also offer more powerful filtration, plus they generally last longer. For example, many carbon based pitcher filter replacements  only last a month or so, whereas the Black Berkey filters (depending on usage) can last for years.

Lastly, Big Berkeys are not small! So if you don’t want a largish stainless steel filter on your countertop or you simply don’t have the space for it, a quality faucet water filter or reverse osmosis under sink filter may suit you better.


Alternatives to the Big Berkey

Big Berkey vs British Berkefeld

If the price point of the Big Berkey is a bit steep, check out the British Berkefeld Stainless Steel Water Filter.

It’s generally only readily available in the UK/Europe, (from what I understand, Berkey is the original North American distributor for British Berkefeld).

The British Berkefeld is another great gravity water filter that is very similar to the Big Berkey, but uses the white Super Sterasyl Ceramic filters. This is actually what I have and use (I’m UK based) and I personally love it.


Bottom Line – Big Berkey Water Filter Review

If you’re looking for a powerful water filter, the Big Berkey is almost certainly the most superior filter in terms of contaminant removal rates, durability, affordability and overall flexibility.

Big Berkey gravity filter units are used by NGOS and the military and they’re a mainstay of many kitchens around the globe.

With the correct additional filter added (PF-4 or PF-2)) a Big Berkey will also tackle flouride, arsenic and heavy metals.

For great tasting, clean water and a filtration unit that should last you a lifetime, a Big Berkey is my number 1 recommendation for a home water filter.

The price does make it prohibitive for some people, otherwise I’d give it the full 5 stars.

If you enjoyed this review, or want to leave your own thoughts or personal review, please drop me a comment below.


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