Big Berkey Water Filter System *Review*

We recently were given the chance to do a review of the Big Berkey Water Filter System. How could I say no? I had heard about these systems for years, but had never gotten my hands on one. If you are interested in an system that will remove everything bad (including lots of maintenance), while leaving you with pure great tasting water at an affordable price, then the Big Berkey water filter system is what you are looking for. Lets take a look.

Big Berkey Water Filter Systems are built upon the Doulton tech of the Super Sterasyl Ceramic filter, which was heavily used by military forces, relief organizations, and missionaries who lacked access to clean water. Later these filters were developed into the classic black berkey filters used in Big Berkey Water Filter Systems today.


Features & Benefits of Big Berkey Water Systems

These are the features and benefits of Big Berkey Water Filter Systems as stated on their website:

  • Highly polished 304 stainless steel shell
  • Will filter bacteria to a 99.99999% leve land viruses to a 99.9999% level.
  • The black berkeys filter out Chlorine to undetectable levels
  • Removes Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals up to 95% levels.
  • PF-2 filters remove Fluoride and arsenic.
  • Black berkey filters exceed EPA log 7 ANSI / NSF protocols for filtration and are rated as water purifiers.
  • Gravity fed systems that require no plumbing or water hookups for use
  • Black berkey filters have 3,000 gallon life (6,000 used in pairs)
  • Allows red dye testing to know when filters need replacing (no expensive water tests)
  • In emergencies allows use of non-public water (stream, lake, etc.)

Our Review of The Big Berkey Water Filter System

We tested the Royal Berkey Water System, which has a filter capacity that would easily meet the demands of a family of four to six people. The Royal Berkey arrived double boxed, to insure there would be no damage to the water filter system. When I started to unpack the system I realized these units are heavy duty, for years if not decades of use. The housing is polished 304 stainless steel that is not whipy (a real man’s system), but the workmanship is nice enough that you (your wife) will not mind having this water system on your counter in plain view.

Assembly, Use & Specs

Assembly did not take long and easily within less than 30 mins. we were putting the Royal Berkey through the paces of giving us some clean fresh water. Some of that time was used washing the entire system. The only part of assembly that most people will not have experienced before is the charging of the water filters, which is simply done by holding the filter against a water faucet using a gasket supplied while forcing water through the filter. A process that is used to insure the filters are clean and ready to filter water. We disposed on the first 3 batches of water the unit filtered as the instructions recommended. This was done as we had installed the optional PF-2 fluoride and arsenic filters that are simple screwed onto the bottom of the black berkey water filters after both a water primed. The Big Berkey Water Filter Systems website does have a great help section. Our assembly time was so fast because we watched the videos on the website before the unit came, I would suggest doing this as it answers all your questions.

It took less than an hour for the Royal Berkey to filter each batch of around 3 gallons of water. By dinner we were enjoying our first water from the system. The water tasted so clean and good. It was very surprising that this came from a unit that is so simple to assemble and use.

Royal Berkey Water System Specifications (as tested)
Constructed of highly polished 304 stainless steel, the Royal Berkey comes complete with two purification elements and utilizes the latest technological advances.

  • Storage Capacity = 3.25 gallons (12.3 liters)
  • Height = 23″
  • Diameter = 9.5”
  • Portability = The upper chamber nests within the lower chamber for transport and stands only 15.25” in height.
  • Flow Rate
    • Configured with 2 Black Berkey purification elements the system can purify 4.0 Gallons per hour.
  • Fluoride Removal = 2 PF-2 Fluoride and Arsenic Filters installed in the lower chamber of this system
  • Tested with optional Sight Glass Spigot
  • Lid, Washers, Nuts, 2 Blocking Plugs, and Rubber Gasket
  • Cost as tested $275 + $53 for optional sight glass spigot = $328

Taking The Dirt Out

As I researched the Big Berkey Water Filter Systems, the more excited I became at what a well developed unit this system is. This system removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites entirely and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes.  It also reduces nitrates, nitrites and unhealthy minerals such as lead and mercury. This system is so powerful it can remove food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs. Also, the red food coloring test can be used at anytime to know that the filters have not exhausted their filtering ability.

The heart of the Big Berkey Water Filter System is its black berkey filters. These black filters are near a foot long and are made from a proprietary combination of approximately 6 different types of media. They exceed EPA log 7 ANSI / NSF protocols for filtration and thus are rated as water purifiers. Water purifiers take water filtering to a whole new level. Units of this level often cost well over a thousand dollars. I was realizing this water purifier was respectably priced well within the reach of many people.

Here is how the Big Berkey Water Filter Systems Work

Without getting too complex, several methodologies are utilized by the Black Berkey purification elements. The elements are composed of a formulation of more than a half dozen different media types constructed into a very fine matrix creating millions of micro-fine pores. The pores are so small that pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, sediment and sedimentary minerals are not able to pass through them. The media formulation both “absorbs” some contaminates and “adsorbs” other contaminates. Next, heavy metals ions (mineral molecules) are extracted through an Ion exchange process where they are essentially electrically bonded to the media. Finally, our filter elements are designed such that each water molecule can take several minutes to pass through the filter elements whereas these molecules passing through other filtration systems pass through those filters in literally microseconds. The longer the water molecules are in contact with any media, the greater the removal of the various contaminates. –

Keeping it simple from a filtration perspective the Black Berkey’s filter out the same chemicals and contaminants that the Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filters do, but go above and beyond by removing up to 95% of the Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals. In addition, since the Black Berkey’s are water purifiers, they will filter bacteria to a 99.99999% level and viruses to a 99.9999% level (e-coli, etc.).  Also, the black berkeys filter out Chlorine to undetectable levels, while the ceramics will only remove > 90% of Chlorine.

PF-2 Fluoride and Arsenic filters came with our testing unit to remove the fluoride that is in our public drinking water in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Activated Alumina is the medium used in these filters to remove fluoride and arsenic. These units can be purchased separately from the unit as their filtering life (1,000 gals) is shorter than the black berkey filters. Read more about Activated Alumina in Fluoride In Drinking Water = Poison

In Summary

Our family is very pleased with the Royal Big Berkey Water Filter System. The taste of the filtered water is simply clean. I know that sounds funny but you once you have experienced it you will know what I mean. When looking at cost the unit is affordable ($225-$350) out of the box and cheap to operate over a 5 year period. The 2 base filters (black berkeys) in the unit tested do not need to be replaced for about 3 years, (family of 4 using 5 gallons water daily). If you opt in for the PF-2 Fluoride and Arsenic filters it will cost you around $55-$110/yr as their filtering capacity around 1,000 gallons. For the quality of water you are getting out of the Big Berkey Water Filter System the costs are cheap. A nice plus is when we take our summer trip to Galveston Beach we can easily bring the water filter unit along.

Big Berkey Water Filter System – Overall Grade A+

  • Filters bacteria to a 99.99999% leve land viruses to a 99.9999% level.
  • Removes Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals up to 95% levels.
  • Removes fluoride and arsenic. (see Is Chlorine In Drinking Water Safe?)
  • Removes chlorine. (see Fluoride In Drinking Water = Poison)
  • Easy to clean, and maintain unit.
  • Long lasting filters, (3,000 gal/black berkey filter).
  • Easy to assemble.
  • No plumbing needed to install.
  • Attractive look on counter.
  • Small footprint about the same as the average coffee maker.
  • Convenience of getting filtered water in the home.
  • Affordable price.

Big Berkey Water Systems are units that once purchased one would keep for a lifetime. I highly recommend them! If you want a water system that is solid, is on the level of a purifier and has low maintenance then Big Berkey Water Filter Systems maybe for you. These units are very popular so don’t waste time if you are thinking of getting one as they sell out quickly. Big Berkey Water Filter Systems does work hard to get them back in stock quickly. Look into trying this water filter system for yourself and recommend it to all your friends and family.

You can purchase Big Berkey Water Filter Systems at: Big Berkey Water Filters

UPDATE: 2 years after first review

It has been a little over two years since we did the review on the Big Berkey Water Filter System and I though it might be good to share what we have experienced. After testing the Big Berkey Water Filter System we decided to get one. As a family we liked the taste of the water from it and enjoyed the knowledge that it was helping to provide us with a clean source of water.

Berkey Water Filter System Filter Life

A few months after running the Big Berkey Water Filter System we noticed that the amount of time it took to produce a full tank of clean water started to increase. After we noticed the slow down, the Berkey seemed to take even longer to clean the water. What used to take less than a couple of hours started taking overnight. I checked with the seller and found that the filters may need to be cleaned, since we had only used maybe a few hundred gallons of water. With an average life use of 6,000 gallons for our setup we were way in the normal use period. The filters that get clogged first are usually the black berkey filters I learned from their website. We were running the PF-2 floride filters with the black filters, so I figured an easy test would be just to remove the PF-2 filters and see if the system was still slow, which it was. Now that we had figured out which filter was clogging we just had to clean it.

Cleaning The Black Berkey Filters

I found there are two methods of cleaning the Big Berkey Black Water Filters the both require removing the filters from the unit. One method called for scrubbing away the clogged surface of the Berkey Black filter using a scotch brite cleaning sponge while holding the filter under running water. Think of just sanding away the outside layer of the filter, the idea being that the filter material that has absorbed the pollutants is removed and fresh unclogged material is uncovered for use. Now I will tell you I was concerned that I was going to wear a hole through the filter, but Dan at Big Berkey Water Filter Systems assured me the filters were thick and I would have to scrub for a long time to wear through it. He was right! I kept scrubbing the filter while rotating it under the running faucet and I got tired of this process before I saw any holes. LOL. After putting the system back together quicker than you can say, “Tom is your uncle.” I had water flowing through the filters again. Don’t ask me why I said that stuff about Tom, guess it is something you say after cleaning your filters.

We ran the system and it was back to its old speed of cleaning the water. Or so we thought! A few weeks later we noticed that the cycle of water cleaning was taking longer again. After checking the Big Berkey Black Water Filters web site again we found an FAQ that dealt with the same issue we were experiencing. From what we understood at different times of the year water quality changes as the quality of the water changes in the reservoirs that hold our drinking water. The article also mentioned a different method of cleaning the filters.

Using a POTATO PEELER, yes you read that right! You use a normal potato peeler to peel away the outside layer holding the contaminates while rotating the filter under running water. I will tell you it sounds a lot more than it is. The layers that came off the filter were very thin, thinner than paper. When I was done with both filters they were reinstalled back into the berkey water system and no they did not look like lopsided cucumbers that were just black. The filters are harder than they look and it is actually quite easy to keep them round looking.

The water was flowing again and all without mention of Tom being someones uncle. Our Big Berkey Water Filter System after that kept running strong.

Berkey PF-2 Heavy Metal Filters

In a few months we noticed that the water was slowing down again, but this time I figured it was the PF-2 floride filters that needed to be changed out. From the useage we had been giving the system we knew it was about time for these filters to be changed. I learned that the amount of water the PF-2s will clean was all dependent on the level of floride, lead, etc. in our drinking water. These filters were easy to unscrew and change out, no cleaning this time.


We have recommended the Big Berkey Water Filter System to many of our friends and they have all been happy with the system. One or two of our friends have commented on the taste of the water. At first they did not like the water taste, but later enjoyed it. We talked about this with them and found that they were used to drinking bottled water. Now I don’t know about you, but I think bottled water is ghastly as it often has a strong plastic taste, wonder why? Later those same friends thought bottled water tasted bad too, humm.

Feelings So Far…

After about a year we needed to clean the black filters again. I used the peeler method again and everything is going strong. We figure in the two years we have had the system we are somewhere around halfway through the life of the filters, based on the amount of water we consume, 1.500 gallons/year. Not bad at all. We have only had to buy a $50 set of PF-2 filters since we got the berkey water filter system. Other than cleaning the filters all we have done with the water system is to take it apart and clean the tanks with soap and water to keep any water slime away. We are very pleased and have taken the unit on road trips and vacations. When we were in Houston last year teaching classes for a month it was great to know we had drinking water that was healthy and tasted great.

I will follow up with any additional cleaning or issues with our Berkey Water System as they happen….

Other articles about water you might like.

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Disclaimer: The information in this post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

About Jeff

Jeff Pearce is a board certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant and has coached hundreds of people in the Dallas/Fort Worth to help them achieve their health goals. If you would like more information about his services view the Health Consultations section. For those not in the physical area Distance Coaching is an option. A 15 minute "No Cost" informational consult is available, by phone, to chat and answer questions about services. To schedule your no cost informational consultation please contact us .


  1. Alexa Bartel says

    Cleaning the filters is definitely a pain, but don’t forget the the fact you have to clean them just shows how well it works! I’d be more worried if you never had to clean the filters 😉

  2. Excellent review of the Berkey water filter. I am very happy to own one Berkey water filter which I bought in Malaysia. Very nice. Simple to set up and maintain. Completely happy with the clean water.

  3. After owning a system for over 9 years and traveling, I too find the potato peeler method much more useful.

  4. thank you for sharing I had these exact same issues with the water running slow , now I know what to do.

  5. Amanda Patrick says

    We have a Berkey Light water filter and I couldn’t be more happy. The water is delicious and it gives me peace of mind knowing my children are not drinking pesticides, fluoride or any other heavy metals. I won’t go back to tap water which tasted like drinking out of a swimming pool. Plus I can take my Berkey anywhere we need to travel and always have clean water avaliable.

  6. Thank you for taking time to describe your experiences with Berkey. We have a better expectation of what’s to come with our unit now in transit!

  7. Leo Driscoll says

    I have a deep well in Illinois and I am more concerned with lead from galvanized pipes in part of the. underground piping including the well. I am thinking of purchasing mainly for that reason. I am wondering if the filters would get clogged as much as they do with city water from reservoirs. I do have natural limestone in my water though I use a water softener with Potassium Chloride Salt. Thank You

    • How fast they clog depends on what they are filtering. Keep in mind the country water system you a pulling from is not as clean as it was in the past. Farmers use do chemical farming and that all has to go somewhere. Yes the ground does help filter, but after 5o+ years the ground does get saturated, maybe? Yes, you would not have to be concerned with fluoride which is a good plus.

  8. I love my Berkey water filter. I own a Big Berkey which I bought in Malaysia. I’ve been using it for 1 year and it’s great and economical. Great tasting water. Powerful and affordable water filter system

  9. Stephanie Hilliard says

    Thanks for the great review. I have been wanting a Berkey system for years and I’m finally at the point where I can buy one. It is good to know that it will be worth the investment and a small amount of time spent keeping it clean and functional.

  10. Hi,

    I would like to know if I can use my Berkey to purify water from a Lake and drink it.

    Any of you know this?



    • Simon, Personally I have only used my Berkey for city water so far, but I did get it because I could use it for off grid use if needed. I have had people tell me that they used the Berkey to clean lake and stream water. One thing to keep in mind is that if the lake water is very dirty it could cause the filter to be used faster than a cleaner source of water such as city water. — Jeff

    • I was just reading the description on Berkey’s website and they indicated that it cleans lake water. 🙂

    • In reading your article I’m impressed with all the data you gave on what these filters are able to do. What I did not see was the reference to the lab(s) whose results you published. Am I, then, to assume the results are those listed in New Millennium’s product literature?

  11. Wow, thank you for sharing your experience with the Berkey as I have been considering purchasing one for a couple of years now and really didn’t know of anyone that had one ~ I appreciate you taking the time to share ~ although from what I see on some other reviews, there were complaints ~ still confused. Although your review is speaks volumes!

    • Joey, thank you for reading the review and taking the time to drop me a note. Keep in mind there are no prefect products on the market, so there are always complaints. Sometimes people that complain are just there to talk down an item and others might be confused on its operation. I would suggest clicking on one of the links in the article that takes you to the sellers site. They have been in business for years and offer lots of information about the Berkey. One reason we choose to work with this company is that their customer service is excellent. Dan an owner, will answer email questions all day and stand behind the products he sells. Hope you can get your questions answered there. All I can say is we have had our system for years and are still overall pleased with it. – Jeff

  12. How does everyone refill their Berkey? Ours isn’t next to the sink. Do I carry the top over to the sink (too heavy when full though! Or just use a pitcher and shuttle back and forth?

    • In the US a pitcher works great! In other countries the berkey is so widely used they have a water tap build into the house where the system goes.

    • Annie, I have a kitchen faucet that has a hose attached to the faucet head so that I can pull the faucet head over to my Big Berkey sitting next to the kitchen sink and fill the tank that way.

  13. Marge Sweigart says

    We’ve had our Berkey for about 6 years now and we replaced the black filters once. They do need a scrubbing every now and then, but I never would’ve thought of using a potato peeler on them! That’s really interesting and I’ll have to keep it in mind. Thanks!

  14. Thanks for putting the reasons up why everyone should love the Berkey. It’s definitely an outstanding water filtration system and I believe it’s a great investment. You deserve a towering feedback for this well-written review. Cheers!

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