The Berkey Water Filter System: What Is It? And Is It Worth It?

Here's what I learned after testing the Big Berkey filter for more than two years.

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August 20, 2020
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Photo by: Shutterstock Custom

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I’m a water snob. There, I said it. (Seriously though, I would ace a bottled water blind taste test with a head cold.) So when it came to investing in an at-home water filter system two years ago, I did tons of research and ended up purchasing the holy grail of filtration systems (according to the Internet): the Big Berkey Water Filter.

First, What on Earth Is a Berkey Filter?

Considered a pack leader of purification, Berkey Filters use gravity to feed water from a stainless steel top chamber through a gamut of “Black Berkey Purification Elements,” which then empties into a ready-to-drink bottom chamber. The element’s micro-pores trap and absorb harmful contaminants, while its innovative ion exchange intercepts viruses before they even get a chance to sneak into your drinking water. In fact, Berkey claims the 2.25 gallon system (the brand's most popular, although Berkey does offer other sizes!) eliminates 99.9999 percent of waterborne pathogens and viruses alongside more than 99.9 percent of heavy metals like arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium. For real.

Contemplating on becoming a proud owner of a Berkey, STAT? Here's what you need to know.

Better-For-You Hydration

The Berkey removes contaminants from your water, which is why it’s considered a water purifier — not just a filter. Its superior water quality and filtering capability is exactly why the Berkey outshines more mainstream, household names like Brita and PUR, not to mention its longevity and long-term affordability. Plus, the larger Berkey systems, like the Big Berkey and Crown, hold more water than their rivals.

But let’s talk about a super-important facet: taste. I’m not exaggerating when I describe my Berkey water as, “liquid gold — crisp, refreshing, clean and smooth.” For those who have well water, you will notice immediately that one trip down the purification elements ditches that salty sulfur smell. City water folks? Say goodbye to pool-like chlorine and fluoride burning your throat with every gulp. (If you don't notice it now, you will after switching your water filter, for sure.)

You Will Save Money

While the initial investment in a Berkey system may seem daunting, it actually ends up saving you cash in the long run thanks to the lifespan of the filters. To break down the numbers a bit, a pair of the Black Berkey Purification Elements ($120 for two replacements) last up to 6,000 gallons — or for my husband, dog and I, about a year. Say you consume 3 gallons per day, that’s 2 cents per gallon. You would need 150 Brita Pitcher filters to do the same job, weighing in at about $1,000. And for the bottled water obsessed? Going plastic, which we all can agree is frowned upon these days, is 3,000 times more expensive per gallon versus tap water.

You Will Up Your Eco-Friendly Status — Without Hugging Any Trees

According to the Earth Policy Institute, 17 million barrels of oil are required to produce America’s annual demand for bottled water. To make matters worse, in 2018 the Container Recycling Institute found that Americans bought 70 billion plastic water bottles and three out of those four ended up in a landfill or incinerator. And sales are only increasing. Berkey Filters reduces waste from said bottles, in addition to not needing constant replacement parts thanks to their long-lasting, BPA-free filters. Plus, Berkey systems are made from stainless steel rather than plastic. They’re pretty portable, too!

The Pitfalls…

If you skim through reviews online, you’ll read some reporting a slow flow rate, annoying maintenance and the fact that the Berkey can be a clunky counter space hog. While these complaints do have merit, the perks outweigh my lack of patience when it comes to waiting for the water to be filtered or the once-a-year filter replacement. If you're low on counterspace or only like to drink cold water, think outside the box! My husband just created a custom shelf for our Berkey in our pantry. We have also committed to a system where we keep a water pitcher and six glass bottles (I stole the idea of snagging these all-stars on Amazon from a friend) of filtered water in the refrigerator at all times. Cheers to that!

Lauren Seib is a mom-to-be, NASM certified personal trainer, Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist and group fitness instructor based in Darien, Conn.

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