Comprehensive Big Berkey Water Filter Review [Updated 2019]

Comprehensive Big Berkey Water Filter Review [Updated 2019]
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If you’re taking your first steps into the world of off-grid living, comprehensive water filtration can seem daunting.

We’re used to turning on the tap and crystal clear water flowing on command.

When you’re on your own, however, you have to take measures to ensure you have safe drinking water.

Home water filters are the only effective way to do this. 

And when it comes to water filters, Big Berkey is the go-to choice, and for good reason. 

In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive Big Berkey Water Filter review that covers everything you need to know about Big Berkey Water Filtration systems, including what it is, how it works, and a whole bunch of other important topics.

Check it out.

Features

  • Removes over 100 serious organic and inorganic contaminants
  • 3,000 gallon capacity per standard filter
  • Functions without power or pumping
  • Durable and attractively designed
  • Able to filter water for a family of four
  • Simple, rugged design will last a lifetime with proper care
  • Can filter 3.5 Gallons Per Hour (GPH) with standard 2 filters – with upgrade to 4 filters, it can filter 7 GPH
  • Can hold 2.25 gallons at a time

OUR RATING



Our Rating

5/5

5 out of 5

 What is a Big Berkey Water Filter?

 

A Big Berkey is a gravity-fed water purification system for home or emergency use. It’s similar to the hiking and camping filters you’ve probably seen before, just larger and far more effective.

Where portable filters remove bacteria, some cysts, and debris, the Big Berkey can filter out nearly anything. It’s gone through intensive laboratory testing and been shown to remove dangerous substances such as:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Cysts
  • Lead
  • Heavy Metals
  • Pesticides
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Chlorine

The system requires some basic setup but is incredibly easy to use once put together. It stands 19 inches tall fully assembled and is 8.5 inches in diameter.

This is compact enough to sit comfortably on your countertop without taking up too much space.

Who is the Big Berkey for?

Let’s get this out of the way first, most people don’t need the kind of filtration the Big Berkey provides. 

If you’re on a municipal water system that isn’t dealing with corroded pipes or a similar situation, you’d do best to choose a less comprehensive filtration system at a lower price. 

The Big Berkey filter is designed to provide total purification for non-potable water. Unlike most water filters (and what makes Big Berkey filters so exceptional), it’s capable of removing bacteria, viruses, parasites, cysts, heavy metals, chemical contaminants, and a huge number of other substances.

Tiny home dwellers, homesteaders, those on well water, and those who simply want the purest water possible, greatly benefit from Big Berkey Water Filters. 

If you practice rainwater collection, you would also benefit from a Big Berkey. Who knows what kinds of pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals your neighbors may have been spraying just before the rain.

Finally, the Big Berkey is great as a backup water source in case of a natural disaster or other emergency. It can take almost any source of water and make it safe to drink. The composition of the Black Berkey filters lend themselves well to storage.

They won’t expire or go bad from sitting in storage and will always be ready to go when you need them

 

How The Big Berkey Works

The Big Berkey uses two water canisters, one on top of the other. Filling the top canister allows water to begin flowing through the filter elements into the bottom canister.

 

Gravity Powered

Unlike many more complicated filter systems, the Big Berkey is entirely gravity-fed. It doesn’t require any manual or automatic pumping and is perfect for use in off-grid or emergency situations.

The system uses the weight of the water itself to force it through the filters. It works best when the top canister is filled up to the brim and topped off as you use it.

When using two Black Berkey filters, water flows at a rate of 3.5 gallons per hour. If you spring for four filters, you can get that flow rate up to 7 gallons per minute.

Realistically though, most of us would be fine with a single filter element. We generally don’t use a gallon plus of water per hour after all. 

The Berkey Black Filters

The key part of the Big Berkey is the Berkey Black filter. These work using a process known as microfiltration.

Each filter has millions and millions of microscopic pores. Contaminants that try to pass through them get stuck in the pores and are prevented from entering your drinking water.

What sets these filters apart from other filters is a closely guarded secret of New Millennium Concepts, the manufacturer of Big Berkey filters.

Using a combination of 6 different filter materials, they can remove all kinds of nasty particulates and contaminants.

The Black Berkey filters have a working life of 3,000 gallons each.

When using two filters, a Big Berkey filter will provide daily water to a family of four for about two years.

Even better, you can easily check the status of your Black Berkey filter. Just add a few drops of red food coloring to the water in the top tank. The filters are so effective they’ll remove every trace of the die if they’re still functional.

Doing this dye test every few months lets you know precisely when it’s time to switch out your filters. 

Even when still good to go, it’s a good idea to give your Black Berkey filters a good scrub every now and then. Just run cold water over them and wipe down the outside of the filter with a scotch or brillo pad.

 

Super Sterasyl Filters

You also have the option of using Super Sterasyl water filters for your Big Berkey. 

If you’ve had your water tested and it showed no signs of heavy metal or chemical contamination, then the Super Sterasyl filters are a great option. They’re a type of ceramic filter thats been in use continuously since 1837.

They’re designed to remove bacterial contamination and inhibit the growth of other organic matter. They’re also barely half the price of the Black Berkey filters.

They filter water at a faster rate than the Black Berkey’s do, but need to be replaced more often. The manufacturer recommends switching them out every 6 months or 535 gallons filtered.

You can find them on Amazon here.  

Add Ons and Extras

One thing that really takes the Big Berkey to the next level is how customizable it is. You’ve already got the choice between Black Berkey or Sterasyl filters, but you can also choose options like:

  • Diatomaceous Earth Filters
  • Arsenic removal
  • Fluoride filters

The diatomaceous earth filters use a combination of ceramic filter elements with a natural blend of materials. One of these is diatomaceous earth, the fossilized remains of ancient plankton and other microscopic lifeforms. It’s the most affordable of all the Berkey filter options, while still being effective at reducing organic contaminants.

The combination arsenic and fluoride filters are useful if you’re on contaminated municipal water supplies. They remove all kinds of fluoride and other heavy metal ions in conjunction with the Black Berkey filters.

You can also get useful extras like a glass sight spigot and wire mesh stand. These allow you to quickly judge the water level of your Big Berkey and store drinking glasses underneath it.

Regular Upkeep

One often overlooked part of water purification systems is maintenance and upkeep. The Big Berkey requires regular cleaning and sterilization just like any food safe container. The manufacturer recommends you clean the system monthly for best results.

Its simple design makes this about as easy as could be. Just disassemble your system and scrub all the components other than the filter with your usual dish soap. Make sure you pre filter the water you use to clean your Berkey with to prevent any cross contamination of the pre and post filter canisters.

You can even put the stainless and plastic components of the Big Berkey in the dishwasher if you so choose.

 

Unboxing the Big Berkey Filter

 

 

The Big Berkey system is built to be rugged, dependable, and scalable in the amount of water it produces. Out of the box it includes:

  • Two stainless steel water canisters, with a storage capacity of 2.25 gallons
  • Metal lid
  • Two Black Berkey water filters
  • Two blocking plugs, wingnuts, and washers
  • One spigot
  • One priming button

The system is designed to accommodate up to four filter elements. The two included are capable of filtering a total of 6,000 gallons of water. When using it without four filters, the blocking plugs seal off the extra filter slots.

The upper metal canister is designed to slip right into the lower one for easy storage or transport when not in use. To set up the Big Berkey, put the bottom canister in place and insert the spigot. Every connecting element is designed to screw into place for a secure, watertight seal.

The filters and blocking plugs both fit into the top canister. You need to prime the filters before use with either a sink or bottle to push some water into them. 

Once you’ve got the spigot and all filter elements in place, you can set the top canister on the bottom one and fill it with water.

Big Berkey Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Removes over 100 serious organic and inorganic contaminants
  • 3,000 gallon capacity per standard filter
  • Functions without power or pumping
  • Durable and attractively designed
  • Able to filter water for a family of four
  • Simple, rugged design will last a lifetime with proper care

Cons

  • Has not submitted to NSF/ANSI testing, making comparison with similar filters difficult
  • Expensive initial cost
  • Larger than similar water filtration options

Big Berkey Water Filter Review

 

The Big Berkey is a gravity-fed water filtration system sized to provide safe drinking water for a family of 4. It’s made from quality materials that look sharp and provide you with years of reliable use. 

 

It’s larger than inline filter systems, but functions even without traditional water pressure or electricity.

 

The Black Berkey filters are one of the things that really set the Big Berkey apart. They remove a dizzying list of dangerous contaminants.

If you draw your water from a well, then heavy metal, pesticide, and bacterial contamination is a real worry. The Big Berkey is capable of reducing all of those contaminants to a nearly nonexistent level.

New Millenium Concepts has commissioned numerous tests and independent studies as to the effectiveness of the Big Berkey system and Black Berkey filters. 

And while they’ve chosen not to submit their filters for NFI/ANSI certification, they claim that their filter systems meet NSF/ANSI Standard 53, the widely accepted standard for all water purifiers.

That doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad, but it does make comparison with other filters more difficult. 

One place we know the Big Berkey shines is in removing lead from your water. Every study performed showed a reduction of around 99.9%, making the Black Berkey filters highly effective at removing harmful lead.

It works without power, without pumping, and requires only basic maintenance and cleaning. 

And while it may not be as convenient as inline filtration system, it’s just about the most perfect filter to use where power, plumbing, or other common off grid concerns are important.

All in all, the Big Berkey filter is a phenomenal water purification system, and is hands down the best option if you’re looking for a water filtration system that make nearly every water source drinkable. 

Features

  • Removes over 100 serious organic and inorganic contaminants
  • 3,000 gallon capacity per standard filter
  • Functions without power or pumping
  • Durable and attractively designed
  • Able to filter water for a family of four
  • Simple, rugged design will last a lifetime with proper care
  • Can filter 3.5 Gallons Per Hour (GPH) with standard 2 filters – with upgrade to 4 filters, it can filter 7 GPH
  • Can hold 2.25 gallons at a time

OUR RATING



Our Rating

5/5

5 out of 5

Other Berkey options:

The Big Berkey line has 5 different options, differentiated by size, how many gallons each can hold, and maximum gallons of water filtered per hour. Besides these 3 things, there no differences between any of the filte

  1. Travel Berkey
    • Comes with 2 filters, which can filter up to 2.75 GPH
    • Perfect for up to two people 
    • Can hold up to 1.50 gallons at a time
  2. Big Berkey (pictured above)
      • Most popular option
      • Perfect for up to 4 people
      • Comes with 2 filters, which can filter 3.5 GPH
      • With 4 filters (upgrade), can filter 7 GPH
      • Can hold 2.25 gallons at a time
  3. Royal Berkey
      • Perfect for up to 6 people
      • Can hold 3.25 gallons at a time
      • Comes with 2 filters, which can filter 3.5 GPH
      • With 4 filters (upgrade), can filter 7 GPH
  4. Imperial Berkey
    • Perfect for up to 10 people
    • Can hold 4.5 gallons at a time
    • Comes with 2 filters, which can filter 5.5 GPH
    • With 4 filters (add-on), can filter 11 GPH
    • With 6 filters (add-on), can filter 16.5 GPH
  5. Crown Berkey
    • Perfect for up to 12+ people
    • Can hold 6 gallons at a time
    • Comes with 2 filters, which can filter 6.5 GPH
    • With 4 filters (add-on), can filter 13 GPH
    • With 6 filters (add-on), can filter 16.5 GPH
    • With 8 filters (add-on), can filter 26 GPH

Final Thoughts

Is there such a thing as a perfect water filter?

The market is huge and crowded, with hundreds of different models and thousands of potential suppliers. Ask around though, and you’ll hear one name mentioned by just about everyone.

Berkey.

The Big Berkey water filters have developed a reputation as some of the best water purification systems available. They’re used by tiny house dwellers, homesteaders, preppers, and everyday people all over the world.

And this isn’t just hype. 

All of the New Millenium Concepts Berkey line of products are attractively designed from durable stainless steel. They’re built to provide pure, clean, contaminant-free water in trying conditions, and they do just that.

If you’re looking for a great home water purification system, Berkey is, without a doubt, the way to go. 

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