The Berkey water filtration systems comes in about seven verities, all of which make use of the Black Berkey purification filters, starting with the Travel Berkey that has a storage capacity of 1.5 gallons to the Crown Berkey with 6 gallon storage capacity. However, this review will focus on only three of the Berkey systems – the Big Berkey, the Travel Berkey and the Royal Berkey. The reason why I am choosing to focus on these three is because they are some of the most popular Berkey systems, and on top of that I have personally tried and tested each of them and therefore can tell you about my impressions.
The Big Berkey, the Travel Berkey and the Royal Berkey all function in a similar way – they turn both treated and untreated water into perfectly clean drinking water with the use of two Black Berkey purification filters and two PF2 fluoride filters (thus four water filters in total, but you have the option of adding two more Black Berkey filters if you are dealing with really contaminated water). The system is based on gravity – no electricity or external water pressure needed, the water just goes from the top tank to the bottom one, passing through the filters along the way. It is quite a clean way of getting clean water.
One of the most amazing things about all three of these Berkey systems is that all of them are very easy to use – you just pour some water either from the tap, from a stream, or even from a lake in the top tank and then wait a little while for the water to get filtered. Even more amazing about this product is the fact that bacteria, cysts, parasites, herbicides, pesticides, trihalomethanes, organic solvents and bad minerals (like lead and mercury) are all filtered out, as well as fluoride and arsenic with the PF2 filters, but the good minerals are left in the water for a clean, natural taste and health boost! Another big plus is that all of them are made from 304 stainless steel in a silver, chrome-like color for a sleek, unobtrusive look in any kitchen!
All of the three Berkey varieties come with the above-mentioned characteristics. Of course, there are also some differences that will help you decide which Berkey is right for you. Size and capacity are obviously two of the main distinguishing characteristics. They determine the necessary counter space required for the system as well as the amount of clean water that will be made available over a certain period of time. To get into more detail about these and other distinguishing characteristics of each system, the next sections will focus on each system individually. Here are my detailed reviews of these Berkeys, hopefully they will help you make the right decision.
The Travel Berkey Water Filter Review
The Travel Berkey is the smallest of the three, with storage capacity of 1.5 gallons, 18’’ tall and 7.5’’ in diameter. I’d say the output from one filtration is plenty for one person and even satisfactory for two, if we take into account drinking requirements only.
Like many other users of the Berkey, I found it most convenient to fill in the top tank with unfiltered water at night and have 1.5 gallons of tasty water waiting for me in the morning. The filtrations takes a few hours, so I definitely think everyone should get a Berkey which is big enough to satisfy their daily needs – unless you are willing to move the filtered water from the bottom tank of the Berkey in a separate container mid-day and then start another round of filtration. This is not exceptionally difficult but it does complicate the process a bit.
Also, if you get a bigger Berkey to use once a day, you will see that the water gets filtered more quickly – more water in the tank means more pressure and quicker movement of the water from one tank to the other. As I was trying out the bigger Berkeys, I definitely noticed a difference in the speed. Then again, it is not all that relevant since the filtration takes place at night and the bigger Berkeys definitely have more than enough output to satisfy the needs of two adults, those being me and my boyfriend.
One of the things I find very convenient about the Travel Berkey is that top half of it fits into the bottom half, thus making it very easy to transport for outings, camping and other outdoor activities. Of course, the Travel Berkey was developed for such activities and this is one of the features that makes it convenient for that purpose – it is easily packable and portable. If you are the type to go on road trips all the time or you love taking the RV out for a tour, the Travel Berkey can definitely provide you with some clean, wonderfully-tasting water on the road.
The Big Berkey Water Filter System
The Big Berkey can be used to store up to 2.25 gallons of water, it is 19’’ tall with 8.5’’ in diameter. This Berkey is recommended for two to four persons. However, this approximation only works if you are using it for drinking water only. I found that for a couple, the Big Berkey makes more than enough filtered water for drinking and for cooking. For me, this is a significant advantage over the Travel Berkey, which is too small to provide for both things. After all, many pollutants and harmful substances that can be found in our tap water have a higher boiling point than water. Hence, even if you are boiling the water in the cooking process you are not getting rid of those toxins. With the Big Berkey, my boyfriend and I have enough filtered water for drinking and cooking, and we can really taste the difference, especially when it comes to tea, coffee, soups and stews. I love boiling my pasta and rice in crispy clean water and not having to worry about things like pesticides, lead or arsenic!
The Big Berkey takes slightly longer to filter water to capacity compared to the Travel Berkey, but that is to be expected since there is more water to go through. When it comes to time and output tradeoffs, I find that the producers took these factors into account for their approximations of the right size Berkey for different sized households – they are mostly in line with my experience, with the slight adjustment that if you are planning to have clean water for cooking as well, you should get one size bigger than the one recommended for the number of people in the household. Thus, the Big Berkey covers everything for a two person-household and the Royal Berkey for a four person-household.
One issue I had with the Big Berkey was that I could not really tell how much to water to put in the top tank so that it fills up the bottom tank just enough but doesn’t overfill it, because then it would start to leak. It was a bit hard to approximate correctly by just looking at the tanks. I knew I could order a glass spigot from Berkey, but I wanted to first try and figure something out. I started using a large, plastic measuring cup to fill up the top tank. Once you get the measure right, you will always know exactly how many filled up cups it takes to get the optimal result. This little trick works with the other Berkeys as well. Still, a glass spigot is really convenient as well – if you want to keep things simple then you should definitely get one.
Speaking of little tips and tricks, I should mention that setting up the Big Berkey, and the other Berkeys for that matter, is not complicated or time-consuming. However, if you want to do it in the least amount of time and hassle-free I highly recommend watching some YouTube videos that come with very detailed instructions. Everything is easier to do once you can see it get done. In addition to the videos, I also recommend that you read the instruction manual start to finish before you do anything with the parts. Understanding the set-up process and getting it right the first time can save you a lot of problems later on, from leaky spigots to malfunctioning filters. This was my approach with the Travel Berkey, the Big Berkey and the Royal Berkey, and I had each one up and running in 30-40 minutes.
The Royal Berkey Water Filter System
The largest of the three is the Royal Berkey, with a storage capacity of 3.25 gallons, height of 23’’ and width of 9.5’’ in diameter. With such large storage capacity, I would say that it makes enough water to satisfy drinking and cooking needs of a four person-household or alternatively the drinking requirements of a larger household.
One somewhat annoying thing about the Royal Berkey is that it takes such a long time to prime the filters and start enjoying the filtered water. The priming takes a couple rounds of filtering, but because it is such a large quantity of water this takes a really long time – even though the water is getting filtered more quickly than with the other Berkeys per gallon of water, there are simply a lot more gallons to be filtered. Let’s just say that if I used the Royal Berkey on a regular basis, I would not look forward to changing the filters (and then priming them, of course) once or twice a year.
In addition, the filtration itself takes a lot longer than with the Big Berkey because of so many gallons being filtered. This would be useful if we could use up the water over a single day, but since we can’t we have to store it in the fridge and use that while the next round of filtration is getting done. With the Big Berkey these unnecessary steps of pouring water from the bottom tank to pitchers to storing them in the fridge are all avoided. As it is, we are sticking to the Big Berkey – perfect output to time ratio for us! However, if our needs were larger, I would still find these small inconveniences well-worth the trouble for the payoff of healthy and clean water.
Keeping all of the above in mind, I’d say that the Travel Berkey is really suitable for one or two person-households that often go on outings or camping outside. If camping is not part of the plan, then I would really recommend the Big Berkey instead. It will provide enough water for drinking and cooking for one to three-person households. The Royal Berkey will do the same for four to six-person households.
Berkey Water Filter Review Verdict
In terms of the quality of the water, all three Berkeys provide the same tasty, clean water. This should not be surprising since they all use the same system, have the same parts and the same filters – the two Black Berkey ones and the two PF2 fluoride/arsenic ones. Great water quality was the reason why I tried these Berkeys in the first place. After reading reviews about Aquasana, reverse osmosis systems and the Berkey, I decided the latter was the one I really wanted to try. And my verdict is, it is money well spent
Ease of Use8.5
Ease of Cleaning8