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Big Berkey Water Filter Review & Guide

8 min read

Berkey Water Filter Size Comparison

For safe, off-grid living, you need access to electricity, heat, and most importantly, clean water. When it comes to clean water and enough storage for a family, one name comes up the most. Here’s everything you need to know about Berkey water filters!

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How Do Big Berkey Water Filters Work?

Berkeys are gravity-fed water filtration systems with two chambers. In the top chamber, you pour unfiltered water in, where you’ll find several holes. Each of these holes will be plugged by either a purifying element or a stopper.

Assuming it is set up correctly, your water will only have one way to travel down to the lower chamber; through the purifying elements. These can be the Black Berkey elements that remove at least 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria and 99.99% of viruses. They can also dramatically reduce heavy metals and pharmaceutical drug contaminants.

Because these are gravity-fed filters, filtering 2.25 gallons (the most popular size) can take up to 2 hours and 15 minutes. This isn’t a problem if you remember to fill your Berkey at night. From there, you can access clean water from a spigot at the bottom, which will give you clean, purified water from the bottom chamber.

Sizing Comparison

There are different types of Berkey water filters, as they all come in different sizes. All of them will filter the same way and offer the same level of water safety, but choosing the right size will help.


System Holding Capacity Fully Expanded Flow Rate @ Full Expansion
Travel Berkey 1.5 Gallons 2 Elements(Filters) 2.75 Gallons/hour
Berkey Light 2.75 Gallons 4 Elements(Filters) 7.5 Gallons/hour
Big Berkey 2.25 Gallons 4 Elements(Filters) 7.0 Gallons/hour
Royal Berkey 3.25 Gallons 4 Elements(Filters) 8.0 Gallons/hourr
Imperial Berkey 4.5 Gallons 6 Elements(Filters) 16.5 Gallons/hour
Crown Berkey 6.0 Gallons 8 Elements(Filters) 26.0 Gallons/hour

The most popular unit is the 2.25-gallon Big Berkey. This holds 2.25 gallons in the lower chamber, which is more than enough for a household of 1 to 4 people.

For larger families or anyone living with an unreputable water source, the 6-gallon Crown Berkey is the largest system. This is the most expensive and it will take up the most space (30” in height, 11” in diameter), but it can easily supply clean water for a household of 6 to 12 people for daily use.

What’s Included In the Kit?

When you order a Berkey water filter, you will receive a kit in the mail with everything you need to start using your system. This includes:

  • Stainless steel chambers
  • 1 hard plastic spigot
  • 2 Black Berkey elements (unless you order more)
  • 2 wingnuts
  • 2 washers
  • 2 blocking plugs
  • 1 primer starter kit
  • 1 stainless steel lid
  • 1 rubber gasket to protect the base

This is enough to get you started with your system and start filtering water on day one. We’ll discuss more about setting up your system and priming your filters momentarily.

Will I Need Anything Else?

Big Berkey water filter bundle with accessories

It depends on your needs and preferences. For example, if you don’t have enough counter space, you may want a stand for your Big Berkey. If you want a strong spigot that will last forever, you may want to order a stainless steel spigot to match your filter system.

Moreover, you may also want to filter specific contaminants. In that case, you may need to ogre specialized filters. The Big Berkey can hold up to eight filters at a time (for the Crown system), and two Black Berkey elements can’t do it all. The most common filters customers order separately are the arsenic and fluoride elements, but there are others to choose from.

Also, you may want to order other accessories, including a primer and transportation bag. You can prime your system with the priming starter kit, but a primer is affordable and makes the process easier. The transport bag can help keep your chambers clean and free from contaminants, as well as prevent damage to your system during transport.

Setting Up Your Berkey System

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You will see instructions with your system when it arrives, but it’s all pretty straightforward. 

  • Step 1: Screw the black handle on the top of your stainless steel lid.
  • Step 2:Add the black, plastic washer to your spigot (flat side against the spigot) and screw it onto your lower chamber until secured.
  • Step 3: Add the black, plastic nut to the inside of your lower chamber to hold the spigot in place.
  • Step 4: Plug unused holes in the upper chamber. If you are only using two filtering elements, screw the stoppers into the other holes, securing them with the black wingnuts on opposite sides.
  • Step 5: Add yourprimed filters to the remaining holes, securing them with the wingnut. If they are slightly off-center, this is okay. Do not over-tighten to prevent leaning.

From there, you can enjoy safe, clean, and purified water. Fill up the upper chamber and you should have a gallon of clean drinking water within the hour!

Prime Your Elements

Before installing the filtering elements, you will need to prime them. Screw the wingnut down enough for the priming button that came with your system so that the button can rest flush with the stem of your filter. Tighten it against the bottom of the faucet until you see the filter begin to sweat. Hold this for two minutes on each filter, and they are ready for use!

How Long Do Big Berkey Water Filters Last?

The system itself is made of stainless steel and will last for several lifetimes with proper care. Of course, it doesn’t always work like that. Some components of the Big Berkey water filtration system are made of hard plastic, like the spigot. However, you can opt for a stainless steel spigot if you choose.

Fortunately, if something does happen to your system, we offer a lifetime warranty beyond the manufacturer’s warranty, which only lasts for 6 months to 2 years. This way, if something does happen to your system, you can get a new one with no questions asked.

Purifying Elements

Berkey black elements

Each Black Berkey element should last for at least 3,000 gallons of water, and you can double that when you use two at a time. That means that two gallons of clean, Berkey-filtered water each day will last for 8 years. From there, you will only have to replace the purifying elements.

Let’s do the math. When you buy the system and filters at first, you will spend around $0.02 per gallon of clean water. After that, buying new black filters every 3 to 10 years means that you will only pay roughly half of that. 

Cleaning & Maintenance

Berkey water filters are very low-maintenance. You will only have to replace your filters every 6,000 gallons, and take care of the system as needed. Occasionally, you may run into other issues, and here’s what to do!

Cleaning Elements

Don’t worry, this is not something you will have to do once a month. Even once a year is unlikely, depending on how often you use the system. However, there are occasional issues to know about.

For example, if the system is filtering too slowly, then it may require a cleaning. Remember that these are gravity-fed filters, so they do not operate at fast speeds. However, if they are filtering slower than usual, this may be a sign that it needs cleaning.

If that’s ever the case, simply empty the water from your system and remove the two black elements. After enough time (no more than 12 months), they will need a quick cleaning. Wash the outsides of the elements with cold water, and prime the elements with cold water and a Berkey Primer.

Stainless Steel Chambers

Remember that you’re holding clean water inside of your system. It’s unlikely to cause any issues like mold or mildew inside. However, if you are filtering water regularly from untrustworthy sources, it’s best to clean out the top chamber occasionally.

Another potential issue is rust. Even stainless steel can rust over enough time. Your warranty will cover this if it happens, but try to keep the outside of your system dry and fairly clean over time. Don’t panic about it, as rusting is quite unlikely.

Spigot

Again, the spigot that comes with the system is plastic, and it is the last component of the system that the water touches. Therefore, your water is only as clean as your spigot, which is exposed to the open air. For this reason, we recommend cleaning off your spigot once every week or two by simply wiping it down with a sanitary wipe and rinsing it off with cold water.

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Honest Review of Big Berkey Water Filters

Now that you know everything there is to know about Big Berkey water filters, let’s see if they really hold up to their claims. Here’s an honest review of Berkey water filter systems from our experience!

Portability

To be fair, not everybody will want to move their Berkey system. Most of them are meant to be stationary, and they take a while to refill. However, if you want to take them on a long camping trip or to your summer home, it shouldn’t be a problem if you have the space.

While they are quite large, the stainless steel is quite durable and the system is only 7 pounds (3.17 kg) when empty. If you want an even lighter system, the Berkey Light can hold 2.75 gallons (12.5 liters) in the lower chamber, and it only weighs 6 pounds (2.7 kg).

Durability

There’s a reason sellers can offer a lifetime warranty. Stainless steel Berkeys will last for a lifetime with regular use. As long as you aren’t filtering seawater every day, the chances of the system rusting are quite slim.

Usability

The only challenge with Berkey water filters compared to other popular brands is that there’s no easy way to check your water levels. Stainless steel is great for long-term use, but it isn’t exactly see-through. We wouldn’t recommend doing a “lift check”, as this could easily lead to a spill, but it is something to keep in mind.

If this is a problem for you, we recommend the Berkey Light, which is made of clear plastic. It works the same as the stainless steel models, but it is see-through!

Time to Filter

If there was any knock for the Berkey filter, it’s that it takes a while to filter. However, this is the case with any gravity-fed filter, and that’s really a testament to the quality of the filtering elements.

Also, with a large chamber of 2.25 to 6 gallons, you won’t notice it as long as you keep the top chamber filled. Simply refill whatever water you take out, and you won’t notice it.

Water Quality

Pouring clean water into glass

The most important aspect of a water filter is the quality of the water that comes out. On this metric, Berkey filtered waterexcels. The Black Berkey filters alone will completely eliminate any chlorine taste or smell, and they do a better job of purifying contaminants than any other filter on the market.

Are Big Berkey Water Filters Worth It?

Without a doubt, Big Berkey water filters are worth every penny, especially if you live off-grid or with an unreliable water source. At around 2 cents per gallon, even with arsenic and fluoride elements, it’s hard to beat this level of quality. Overall, there are no other systems that offer the same level of filtration, filtering capacity, and a lifetime warranty.

Keep reading our blog for our latest product reviews, and buy a Big Berkey today with free shipping and a price match guarantee!

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