Big Berkey Gravity Water Filter System Review (Updated 2023)

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The Big Berkey is the most popular of all Berkey water filtration systems. It provides clean and pure water with no taste (as it’s supposed to) for up to 4 people.

Does this mean the Big Berkey is deal for family use? Let’s find out!

Big Berkey Reviews

Big Berkey

Price: $$
Serving: 1-4 People
Capacity: 3,000 Gallons
Annual Cost: $
Flow Rate: ~7.0 Gallons/h
NSF: 42, 53

Our Rating

Big Berkey Review – Key Features

When employing all 4 filter slots, the system’s maximum flow rate is approx. 7 gallons per hour – that means only when the upper chamber is filled to the top.

Because since Berkey systems rely on gravity to push the source water through their filter elements, the more water you pour inside, the higher the pressure and therefore flow rate is going to be.

The lower reservoir that collects the purified water can hold as much as 2.25 gallons.

What contaminants does the Big Berkey remove?

Examining the test results provided by New Millennium Concepts, ltd., the manufacturer of Berkey, it looks like their Black filter elements remove everything you can think of: From aluminum and heavy metals like lead to waterborne pathogens, chlorine, VOCs – you name it.

According to the company, the test results exceed NSF Standard 42 and 53 requirements.

If you also want to eliminate more than 97% fluoride and arsenic, consider purchasing the optional PF-2 post-filters.

Big Berkey Pros

The Big Berkey takes care of all of your cooking and drinking water needs having the perfect size for home use. It’s not too big to not fit on your countertop and still large enough to provide enough water for a whole family without long waiting times.

We also like its simple design that makes the system so easy to use. All you need to do is fill water into the top chamber and wait till it comes out at the bottom.

And in case you wonder, yes, all Berkey systems use the same filter elements. So if you ever want to upgrade (or downgrade) your unit, you can still use your old ones until they have reached their capacity to save money.

Speaking of money, 1 gallon of Berkey-purified drinking water costs almost nothing. This is because the filters have high capacities (about 3,000 gallons) and can last for years.

Only when you decide to use the additional fluoride elements will your costs increase slightly – still a lot cheaper than what you pay for bottled water.

What’s more, the Big Berkey will not remove any healthy minerals from your water (and thus not reduce TDS reading).

In addition, we like the stainless steel looks. 304 stainless steel also stands for longevity.

Another benefit is that Berkey systems do not run on electricity which again will save you money and is the best solution in a SHTF scenario. Plus you can use more or less any water source as your feed supply.
Big Berkey

The Big Berkey – learn more on

Assembly + Filter Priming

The Big Berkey does not require any plumbing to set up. In fact, assembling the unit does not even involve the use of tools. This allows you to stay flexible and move the system around wherever you want.

In case you miss clear directions, this is what you need to do:

Setting Things Up

  1. Fasten the lid knob.
  2. Add a washer to the spigot’s threaded part.
  3. Push the spigot into the lower chamber’s hole and turn it to the 9 o’clock position.
  4. Add a washer to the spigot’s threaded part inside the lower chamber.
  5. Fasten the spigot using a nut.
  6. Keeping the nut in place from the inside, turn the spigot so it sits straight.
  7. Connect the plugs to any holes that you don’t plan on using.
  8. Prime the filter elements.
  9. Use washers and wing nuts to hook up filters to the holes in the upper chamber, but don’t tighten the connections too much.
  10. Put the upper chamber over the lower chamber.
  11. Add water to the upper chamber until it’s full.
  12. Attach the top lid.


Filter Priming

All Black Berkey elements must be primed before their first use. This is a simple process.

  1. Push the priming button onto the first filter’s threaded stem.
  2. Push the filter, keeping the priming button on top, onto your kitchen faucet.
  3. Turn on your cold water so it can start flowing inside.
  4. Shortly after, water will start running down the filter.
  5. After five seconds, repeat the above steps with all other filters.

Priming for PF-2 fluoride elements is a little different. Follow these steps:

  1. Wash their outside using regular household soap.
  2. Take off the blue caps.
  3. Attach the priming button to the top of the filter – either end is fine.
  4. Push the priming button onto your faucet.
  5. Turn on your cold water gently.
  6. Wait for water to start coming out of the filter’s opposite end.
  7. Keep the water running until it’s clear. This shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.
  8. Invert the filter vertically and repeat the above steps.

It may be necessary to purge each element several times in each direction.

The Package (Parts)

  • Upper AISI 304 stainless steel chamber
  • Lower AISI 304 stainless steel chamber
  • 2x Black Berkey purification elements
  • 2x wing nuts
  • 2x washers
  • Priming button
  • Stainless steel lid with handle
  • Plastic spigot
  • Rubber gasket


In order to keep your Big Berkey in good shape, remember that you have to clean the filter elements from time to time. The frequency depends on your feed water quality and how much sediment and turbidity it contains. A good rule of thumb is about once a month or whenever you notice a significant drop in filtration speed.

To start the cleaning ritual, remove the elements and scrub them with a brush or scouring pad to rub off the outside layer that has absorbed all the impurities. This shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes. When done, re-prime each filter before reinstalling.

Instead of a brush or scouring pad, you can also use a vegetable peeler and carefully peel away the outside layer under running water.

For reasons of hygiene, you might also want to wash out the lower chamber with soapy dishwater every once in a while. And if you live in an area with very hard water, the spigot might clog up so that you will have to remove it and soak it in vinegar to get off all the scale.

Big Berkey Cons

Like every other water filtration system the Big Berkey, too, has its drawbacks:

  • The replacement elements are not exactly cheap. On the upside, they will last much longer than most cartridges sold by the competition.
  • The filtration does not stop once the lower chamber is full. So be careful not to overfill it and cause a flood.
  • With the standard version, there is no easy way to check how much purified water is left in the lower reservoir. You have to lift the top chamber and peek.
  • For some customers the plastic spigot started leaking.
  • The frequent re-priming can get tiresome. This also applies to the PF-2 fluoride elements that may add cloudiness or unpleasant taste to your water when not properly (re)conditioned.

Big Berkey Water Filter Review: Our Verdict + Best for

The Big Berkey is best for people who want a countertop water filtration system that’s easy to assemble and use, low in maintenance, and very effective at removing impurities to provide drinking water of superb quality. Not a surprise that the Big Berkey is highly popular – that’s 4.5 stars from us!

More Reviews:

This completes our Big Berkey water filter review. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!

About the Author Gene Fitzgerald

Gene Fitzgerald is one of the founders of BOS and currently head of content creation. She has 8+ years of experience as a water treatment specialist under her belt making her our senior scientist. Outside of BOS, Gene loves reading books on philosophy & social issues, making music, and hiking.
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Leave a Comment:

Isabel Coffin says March 3, 2022

My black Berkey water filters are about a month old. I’ve scrubbed them, rinsed them and re primed them, twice, over the last 2 weeks. The Berkey drains well for a few hours, and then quits emptying well. I’d appreciate any suggestions. Thank you.

    Gene says June 15, 2022

    Hi Isabel, it could be that you’ve received bad filters. Or maybe your water contains a lot of TDS? Are you using well water?

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