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Water Purification: Berkey Q & A


Water Filters are tricky things; you have to take it on faith it is removing the gunk as described by the manufacturerNot every water filter is truly a water purification unit. 

Unless you minored in chemistry, you only know what you taste.  Having many years of unfiltered well water, I can tell you that taste can deceive; in our last house, our well water was tested and “really good.”  I was fatigued all of the time.  I felt like I was walking through water just to maneuver from one room to another.  I had headaches too, but I could not pin down the cause.  About 5 months after moving into that home, we took a rather long road trip.  We drank bottled water for most of it, and I noticed that I immediately “perked” up.  

“Hmmmm, could it be the water?” I wondered.  I needed to rule out other Water Towerenvironmental factors, so I decided to stay on the bottled water for about two weeks after returning home and I still felt great!  The day I went back to the unfiltered well water, I had the headache again!  We bought our Berkey and never looked back.    

People who live in the plains have ground water that typically travels through thicker soil and has more time to purify on its’ way down.  It may have a lot of contamination, though, due to environmental factors.   Mountain dwellers (such as  ourselves) have less surface material to filter, and more minerals underground, creating a mineral-heavy groundwater (Water Smarts, 2002).


Public Drinking Water

Although we were country-folk on well water leading to our decision to buy a Berkey, we could spend the next 3 hours discussing city water pitfalls!  If your city chlorinates municipal water supplies –or– if you rely on purchased bottled water, stop immediately and read this blog !

Did you read it?  Good, let’s continue. 


Pure Water

We personally prefer the Berkey because: (1) this 200 year old technology is still unchallenged as the best, (2) it is gravity-fed and requires no electricity, (3) of the filter life span, (4) and its amazing capacity to filter out almost EVERYTHING!  I really cannot speak to any other filter out there; we only sell Berkeys because we can only speak to this brand from a highly positive personal experience.   


We appreciate those who call or email us with questions.  We have a high respect for those exhibiting good stewardship of their resources by ensuring the right purchase is made the first time.  Sometimes it can be difficult to locate the answers to all of those questions in one spot, so we have compiled some of the more commonly asked questions here, in case you share them.  If you have others, please add your question below!

 Do these filters (purification elements) remove fluoride and chlorine?
PF-2 Removes FlourideYes.  The Black Berkey Purification Elements do remove nearly all of the chlorine.  The PF-2 reduction elements do reduce fluoride which is very difficult to remove completely.


Do the filters (purification elements) need to be replaced? How often should they be cleaned?
Cleaning FiltersThis depends on what kind of water you are putting into the filter to be purified.  The purification elements (aka “candles” or “filters”) are rated to 3,000 gallons each/6,000 gallons for a pair.  We have spoken in person to missionaries and special operations personnel who have shoveled muddy water in the top and drank pure clean water out of the bottom–yes, this is possible.  However those particulates are very hard on the filters and will shorten their life considerably.  The cleaner the water is going in the top the longer the filters will last. 

 The filters can be removed and scrubbed with a ScotchBrite pad (or similar) to revive them.  If you have been using for Berkey for awhile, you will get the rhythm of the purification speed.  If this seems to slow down from what you could normally expect, it is time to clean them. 


Colored Water comes out clean!

How do I know when it’s time to replace my purification elements?

The company says to—no lie—put red food coloring in the top of the unit.  If the water comes out completely clear, then it is still working at full capacity.  We have personally experienced the pure water coming out of the bottom and know this works (if nothing else, it’s a cool party trick).  We are anti-food coloring though, and the idea of putting in my unit makes me cringe.  My suggestion if you do not own red food coloring is to try beet juice.


What size do you recommend for a family of 5?
Again, this depends.  Our family of five drinks all the water we want (with enough capacity to spare when guests come over) with our Big Berkey.  We use a well for our water supply, and do not need to filter out every drop of water that goes into the cooking pot.  If you have city water and you need that much water purified, I would recommend either the Big Berkey with an additional set of filters for the expansion ports or the Royal Berkey with an additional set of filters for its expansion ports.  In my opinion, the best value for the money is the Big Berkey as it has the same filter capacity as the Royal Berkey.  The Royal Berkey has a slightly higher throughput because the container on top is bigger and thus has more hydraullic head creating slightly more pressure to boost output.   

 Will it fit on my counter?

The Big Berkey up is about the same in diameter, but the towers climb higher.  To give perspective, our Big Berkey has a clearance 21 inches high, so instead of placing it under a cabinet, it rests between the back edge of the sink and cupboard.  We can access clean water without sacrificing valuable counter real estate.

I’ve been looking at a type of filter that connects directly to my faucet, which is convenient.  What is the benefit of a gravity fed system?

You have 2 basic benefits.  First, you have fresh, pure drinking water regardless of the state of electricity.  Winter ice storms or black outs will not prevent you from having fresh drinking water (provided you have a water source beyond an electric well pump).  Secondly, there is no way that a faucet water filter that relies on pressure will give you such a clean product.  Gravity is slow, giving time to the purification elements to remove all particles and bacteria.  If you shoot the water through a pressure filter, impurities will get through.  Here is an example: if you throw 100 small metal balls at a large magnet, some will bounce off.  If you walk over and gently place them there, they will stick.  This is, in essence, the difference between the two types—pressure units and gravity-fed units. 

Any questions of your own?  Please submit them below and we’ll help you out.

Ready to “kick the tires” on your own Berkey? Check out our comparison chart here.



Photo Attribution:

Water Tower

Water and a wine glass

  All product photos of Berkey are from New Millenium Concepts.


About Chaya Foedus

Flour on the ceiling. The ugliest vintage apron collection you've ever seen. And an affinity for old-fashioned kitchen skills that center on health, preparedness, and family meal-time. I am passionate about helping people find their kitchens and then teaching them what to do once they get there.

Produce, Prepare, & Preserve.