Berkey Water Filter Review

Posted on Feb 22 2010 - 4:09pm by Russ

Berkey Light Water Filter

When I first heard about Berkey Water Purifiers I wondered how such a simple looking filtration system can actually work, and to be honest I still don't quite "get it".  The company that makes Berkey filters has been around for about 200 years.  The filters are pretty famous in most parts of the world and work in some pretty nasty environments.

I got my hands on a Berkey Light water filter system and have put it through the paces.  Read on for a review of the Berkey Light water filter system.

When I review a product one of the first things I like to do is build a list of questions, and then try to get the manufacturer on the phone.  Sounds easy, but it usually isn't easy to get a human on the phone these days.  I can tell you this, Berkey doesn't try and hide their phone number and when you call them they know their stuff. 

I am not a big fan of plastics made of harmful chemicals like BPA, and was concerned about the Berkey Light Water Filter's container.  Long story short, the person at Berkey let me know that the shell of the Berkey Lite is 50-mil thick and is made of BPA-free copolyester.  Dig further and you can find this info about copolyester, "New Eastman Tritanâ„¢ Copolyester is Ideal for reusable food and beverage containers, this new generation copolyester contains no bisphenol-A (BPA) and provides improved dishwasher durability."

The first thing I did after assembling the unit was to run some food colored water through the filter to see what would happen, Berkey claims the filter will even remove the small food coloring particles.  They were right, red water in the top compartment came out clear in the bottom compartment after filtering.  Pretty cool.Black Berkey Filter

One of the items that I like is that the unit is very simple.  It doesn’t need electricity, short life filters, water pressure, or a PHD to operate, it just works.  The unit comes with two black Berkey filters, a top tank with cover, a bottom tank with spigot, and a base.  It takes about 5 minutes to set up completely.  The filter works off of good old fashioned gravity, you pour water in the top tank and wait for gravity to do its thing.



In terms of costs, the filters come in many different sizes and shapes and all are priced  fairly.  The other thing is the filters are so cheap to use.  The filter elements are cleanable and last for thousands of gallons.

I ran some nasty San Jose tap water through the filter and was skeptical that the strong chemical taste would be removed by a gravity water filter Berkey Filterssystem.  I couldn't believe it, the water came out smooth and great tasting.  I had to make sure that it wasn't just my palate so I started torturing my friends.  Long story short, I made several friends do blind taste tests of normal tap water, Berkey water, and a famous bottled water brand (sounds like sparrow bed).  Not one person liked the tap water, it is pretty bad.  Almost everyone else favored the Berkey with few exceptions. 

I am sold, Berkey water filters work!


24 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. February 25, 2010 at 11:51 am -

    It’s always good to read an honest review. Yes, I am defending the Berkey products because they are really good. At the same time consuming filtered water is helping the environment.

  2. What Errr February 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm -

    Agreed. Not a big fan of filling the landfills with plastic bottles that were used for 5 minutes. Plus it tastes pretty damn good after being filtered by my Berkey.

  3. Bob August 19, 2010 at 3:54 pm -

    Bought my Berkey water filter fromDisaster Stuff and it has been awesome. They shipped it the same day I ordered and they had a unadvertised instant rebate that they guy applied to my cart while I was shopping. Pretty cool.

  4. Sue January 20, 2011 at 6:33 am -

    I tried to use the berkey system, but the water tasted terrible. It was no better tasting than what came from the tap. Berkey even sent new filters saying the first ones must have been contaminated. There was no difference…the water was not drinkable! I really wanted the system to work, but if the water does not taste good, what good is it?
    The company is very hard to deal with and doesn’t return calls promptly. Sometimes it takes a week and then it is at 8:30 pm. I would not recommend this product or the company to anyone. Do your research on RO water. It does not leach minerals from your body like Berkey claims.

  5. Grace January 20, 2011 at 9:18 am -

    Sue – Interesting. I find the exact opposite. In fact we have done blind taste testing at home (was funny) between tap water, bottled water, and Berkey Water. Berkey almost always won and tap water almost always lost. Our tap water tastes horrible until we filter it with the Berkey.

  6. Dick January 22, 2011 at 2:26 pm -

    I found the company not the greatest to deal with. No notice of shipping or how it was going to be shipped. After repeated emails and phone calls, finally told it was at my local PO and had been for almost 2 weeks. It was my fault I had not picked it up. PO didn’t leave a notice in my box. Still running 1st and 2nd “loads” of water through. The taste is a little different, but as long as it is pure, then I guess I am OK.. I am a full time RVer and use a lot of different water systems, so it will be nice to have the same water no matter where I go.

  7. Tom Larson January 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm -

    Working as an emergency management instructor and response team member safe water is not always available. This system has proven 100% effective for me and it is efficient. It is economical compared to many other systems. It has kept my canteens full when ever needed for myself and a few others at the same time. I have a canteen so I removed the bottle from the kit and put a foam wrapped second filter in the kit if needed. Just watch that the wet filter does not freeze but this is the case with any portable water filter system.

  8. Tennyson Lee February 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm -

    The standard berkey filter removes only larger particulates and the
    black berkey elements are made of activated charcoal.

    Berkey has published no evidence tthat their filter can remove
    viruses which are usually several orders of magnitude smaller than
    bacteria and parasites/cysts.
    Berkey also has not published comprehensive test results such as are
    commonly provided for RO filters. I would guess the reason they
    have not published such information is that their filter, unlike RO
    units, is ineffective against most dissolved contaminants or even
    very small particulates such as viruses. The lack of any such
    published data of their filter’s efficacy is why they cannot be sold in
    Berkey is essentially selling a filter that they do not provide
    comprehensive specs for and claim that a TDS meter will not
    quantify its efficacy. So, that leaves a typical user with no way to
    test the effectiveness of the Berkey filter. I certainly would not trust
    Berkey any more than I would a municipal water company, and
    probably much less since at least the water company publishes their
    test data.
    Berkey’s advertising material claims their filter is effective on a
    variety of contaminants, but they do not specify the test conditions
    (concentration of contaminants in the feed water among other
    The test data they released from reputable labs only address a
    handful of contaminants (the substances that are the easiest to
    remove such as E. coli and chlorine–using the activated
    charcoal/black berkey elements)
    Also, how does the Berkey filter distinguish between “healthful” and
    “unhealthful” minerals/metals/substances? What it comes down to is
    the Berkey filter will remove a portion of the substances that are
    attracted to activated charcoal if the black berkey option is used, and
    a portion of the substances attracted to alumina if the
    fluoride/arsenic option is used. If neither option is used, all it does is
    remove the larger particulates. (It’s funny that a “minute”
    unquantified amount of aluminum compound (presumably mostly
    aluminum oxide otherwise known as alumina) introduced by their
    fluoride filter is harmless, but a minute amount of fluoride and other
    substances is a serious health hazard.)
    There is no evidence the Berkey filter with or without the optional
    elements is superior to any RO system. Since Berkey does not
    provide comparable test data, we have no way of knowing with any
    certainty though basic chemistry and the data from a simple TDS
    meter strongly suggests the Berkey filter is not effective against
    dissolved contaminants.

  9. Andrea February 24, 2011 at 6:11 am -

    We recently purchased this same unit. We find it works exactly as promised. We are on a well with brown rusty water, which smells and is unfit to drink. We were spending alot on bottled water. Plus, we have two water conditioners which can barely keep up with our water for use even just for bathing or clothes washing. Now we drink this water. It goes in discolored and comes out perfectly clear and clean with no bad taste whatsoever.

  10. Cleany McWater March 9, 2011 at 11:06 pm -

    There’s nothing different from this than a pur water filter. I guess people like the big bottle or something. I dunno. I’d get an RO if I wanted SAFE water. Activated carbon is a great filter, but I have high hardness water and I need that taken out so my coffee maker lasts. Also use it to clean things like LCD’s, and I’d like to be sure I’m not just erecting an bacteria habitat. This kind of filter appeals to someone that buys a lot of incense. ha 🙂

  11. Stephen April 27, 2011 at 7:24 am -

    I don’t understand why an independent party or Consumer Reports simply do a straight out test to see how effective the Berkey is in comparison to RO or Aquasana or AquaPure or other gravity filters. Are there zero lab tests that aren’t paid for by Berkey themselves that can confirm their findings/claims? If Berkey is simply activated charcoal (as the black berkey looks like from the exterior) and if it’s no different from a pur pitcher water filter then it should be easily confirmed via an independent lab test. Couldn’t someone at home with access to a lab or scientific background simply confirm that the black berkey is straight out activated carbon by taking a small sample? Just some questions I’m sure other people have had…

  12. Stephen April 27, 2011 at 7:28 am -

    I guess my comment above was to see if there was anything besides anecdotal taste tests and the lab tests provided by Berkey themselves on the website… It seems odd that one this popular doesn’t have more information or could/would not be tested for California that’s all.

  13. Lovew my berkey April 27, 2011 at 11:10 am -

    We have had the Royal Berkey for about a year. I didn’t used to drink much water, because I did not like the taste. Now I am a water fan, My Berkey makes it clear and clean, I would say my first few glasses tasted odd, but I am now sure that I needed to get used to the lack of chlorine, rust from pipes, etc.
    The best anecdotal proof I have is the pets want Berkey water now, too. We now cook with it because the flavors of the food are improved. When I find myself needing to drink “normal” water from someone’s tap, I always cringe, because it just is foul to me now. YAY Berkey! We used to have a Brita Pitcher, which is just activated charcoal, but it did not improve the water quality as the Berkey does.

  14. Robert Stein May 30, 2011 at 5:10 am -

    Tennyson Lee,

    Your comments are ingenuous. Their filters remove smaller particles. Their website does list all the contaminants the filter blocks to include viruses. and lists where and who the tests were accomplished by.

    California is my state and we are too extreme when it comes to environmental issue especially when it starts effecting livelihoods. As far as not being able to sell in California, They adopted AB 1953 / SB 1334 & 1395 / HSC Section 116875, commonly referred to as the “no lead law” this measure has forced Berkey to suspend shipment of water purification systems to the state of California until certification in acquired.

    Give the company a fair shake. Everything I’ve read, They seem to produce a top notch filter/purifier that has been tested and proven by many people over time. My friend and I have done quite a bit of research and he decided on the Berkey Filter. He says he’s very happy with his purchase. I haven’t bought mine yet, but at this point, I’m leaning in the direction of purchasing a Berkey system. I’m just more skeptical than most and don’t like to jump into anything too quickly. I had a Pur water filter and it didn’t impress me at all and broke after two months. I recently purchased an under sink Kenmore water filter from Sears and so far, it seems to be working out pretty good but it is not portable, that is why I need another one. The berkey just might fit the bill. We shall see….

  15. tom June 9, 2011 at 12:55 am -

    My wife purchased a Berkey Water filter. She wanted to use it in Jakarta, Indonesia where the water is contaminated with E. Coli and other substances. After watching it in use, I wouldn’t risk my life with this system. I would rather have a system that is whole house in line with the plumbing. Too many things can go wrong with the Berkey Water system. First the system we have is the all metal system where you can’t see into the chamber. At any given time, a leak can develop between the upper chamber and lower chamber through the filter washer or a leak can form through the hole plugs & washers that are used to stop water from passing through the unused holes when optional extra filters are not used. Am I to trust my life with this polluted third world country's water with a system that a leak can start and I would never know. Do they think I am going to put a color dye into every fill up of water?
    Upon installing the hole-plugs, I found that it had a nice fit and I was able to hand tighten the nut to the post of the plug. The diameter and threading of the plug was larger than the filter element’s nut and post. I can make the hole-plugs nice and tight. On installing the filter elements however, when you try to hand tighten the nut, it eventually over tightens and then the nut slips and becomes loose again. You have to retighten the nut again hoping that it won’t be too tight where it will slip and become loose and also hoping you don’t under tighten the nut where water will leak through. Why couldn’t they design the diameter of the shaft and nut of the filter element with the same larger threading as the hole-plugs so you can have a nice torque of the nut without it slipping.
    Lets move on to the next poor design. The spigot. At first it didn’t leak and then a few days later it leaked. Water seeps between the hole in the container and where the spigot passes through the side. They give you one flexible rubber washer, which is supposed to go on the inside, and one stiffer, rigid thin washer, which goes on the outside. Well the spigot has a flat surface which mates to the wall of the chamber, that has a curved surface. Guess what happens, a leak. Even if the washer can conform to the curved wall of the chamber, water still leaks through the threading of the nut. What kind of design is this? Water is obviously passing through the nut and threads to the outside of the container. Couldn’t they have a permanent, welded on threaded port for the spigot, which you can seal with Teflon tape if you had to just like home plumbing? For the overpriced cost of this unit, it seems homemade, with little thought?
    After watching real world use of the Berkey water filter by my mother in law, filling up the upper chamber, I noticed some of the contaminated water spills or drips on the outside of the upper chamber. This water eventually runs down the sides of the upper chamber and then through the airspace or gap where the upper chamber meets the lower chamber. This contaminated water then enters the lower chamber of the supposedly clean filtered water. This is another poor design. I know Berkey stated they need the air to seep out of the gap to let the gravity water feed in. Well it’s too easy for contaminated water to enter the lower chamber. Nothing is safe about this design.
    I should have saved my money on the Berkey water filter and bought a bottle of antibiotics instead. Now I need both.

  16. Tommy July 11, 2011 at 7:15 am -

    I have the portable stainless unit and love it. I only wish it would come with a spicket that was as durable as the unit it self.

  17. PATRICK GRIMES September 8, 2011 at 4:33 pm -


  18. Iowan September 13, 2011 at 4:22 am -

    We were drinking RO water (store bought) for the last 7 years. Last month we bought Royal Berkey with 2 black and 2 PF-5 (bottom) filters.
    Unfortunately, the water does not taste good. Maybe its the hard water in Iowa (cedar rapids), but still I don;t like the taste of it. Also, its been leaking ever since. I am ready to go back to RO.
    Do your research before buying it.

  19. Iowan September 13, 2011 at 4:31 am -

    Most of the people who are giving good review for the Berkey are the Resellers. Watch out.

  20. Iowan September 13, 2011 at 4:34 am -

    The best way to use Berkey is to use the rain water instead of the city tap water. If you have a house you can harvest the rain water from the roof gutter and other places and use it in the Berkey.

  21. mike October 20, 2011 at 7:43 pm -

    I used 5 black berkey filters and they all leaked, and had to be returned.

    Don’t trust this company. My opinion is that they are knowingly selling leaking filters.

    As I said, 5 filters and they all leaked.

  22. Mark B February 11, 2012 at 6:19 am -

    After using a Berkey filter I decided to get a reverse osmosis system as an alternate purification source. The system came with a water purification meter. (I should have gotten the meter a long time ago). Anyway, what I found was the water out of my tap registered 25 on the meter. After running it through the osmosis system the meter registered
    15. I then ran the tap water through the Berkey filter and the meter registered 65. The Berkey filter made the tap water less pure. Very disappointed!

  23. Daniel February 27, 2014 at 11:17 am -

    Please save yourself the money and buy a water purification product not made by Berkey. Their products are soooo bad! Literally the worst water filtration system design I can think of….it’s like a bad dream.

    1. The spigot will leak, maybe right away or maybe in three months and when it does gallons of water will go all over the floor and you’ll have to jimmy rig the unit in order to continue using it.
    2. You need to buy additional filters to clean out fluoride.
    3. The black filters have a good chance of eventually just crumbling apart! Then your only recourse is a “pro-rated” warranty on your filters….in other words you get a credit based on how long your filters actually lasted… so this company knows and is expecting your filters to fail.
    4. The water tastes bad and can be contaminated with charcoal dust from the filters themselves which are suppose to clean your water! I’m told it can take up to a week of running water through the filters for the taste of the charcoal dust to finally subside.
    5. The “priming” of the filters is proposterous….your suppose to run water backwards through the filter to help clean out the charcoal manufacturing dust. YOU WILL NOT KNOW IF YOU’VE DONE THIS RIGHT, AND EVEN IF YOU DO WATER WILL SPLASH ALL OVER YOUR KITCHEN AND YOU WILL STILL HAVE PARTICULATES AND DUST FROM THE FILTER CONTAMINATING YOUR WATER!
    6. When you call Berkey and eventually complain about any one of the seemingly endless supply of potential system pitfalls, they totally have an “I don’t care” attitude, and tell you to prime the filters again……as if it’s going to help…LOL…. they dont care because people complain all the time and rightfully so!!
    7. The instructions come pieced out separately one in the filter box and one with the unit….they do not explain well how to put the unit together…you WILL eventually have to perform trial and error tactics to put the unit together.
    8. The internal washers may fail at any time allowing unfiltered water to fall through to your drinking source….who knows when or in what quantities, but this is going to happen sooner or later and its nearly impossible to ascertain without first having drunk much unfiltered water.
    9. It’s almost as if these people sat down and thought up “How can we make the worst water filtration system in the world”. Let’s see, have poor instructions, have the filters themselves contaminate the water (LOLOL), have parts constantly break, fail, or become contaminated (ooooo! especially concentrate on spigot failure so maybe we can ruin their flooring with water stains from the failure), need filters for your filters to clean out the fluoride (OMG….that’s REAL!), be unsure as to whether water is being filtered, and give poor customer service.

    Berkey needs to go out of business

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