What if I told you that there is a filter that’s durable, portable, and removes a lot of contaminants?
You would probably say that this sounds like a cheap slogan of the salesman, and I wouldn’t blame you for this.
But the truth is, there is a specific type of filter that checks all these boxes called gravity-fed units.
I have already briefly covered some of them in my other articles. However, today’s guide is only about the best gravity-fed water filters and why you might want to give them a shot.
Here is a short list of my selection:
- Big Berkey
- Propur Big
- Aquacera Pioneer
- AquaRain 303
Before I get to review each of these products, let’s introduce gravity fed units a bit more.
What Is Gravity Fed Filter?
I think there is no need to overly complicate and describe what gravity fed units are.
It is precisely what the name suggests, and there is no magic or the high tech behind it.
It is a filter that uses gravity as the force to push water through the filter, in our case, it will be a ceramic cartridge.
That’s it. Literally.
Of course, this brings its own set of benefits but also complications to keep in mind.
But more on this later.
Right now, let’s have a look at the construction of gravity filters.
How Does a Gravity Filter Work?
If you want to use gravity to filter the water, you will always need two containers.
For this exact reason, all units I will talk about come with two chambers.
The upper chamber where you pour water has a set between 2-4 filtration cartridges at the bottom.
All you have to do is fill the top chamber with water and let it rest for some time.
As gravity pulls water down, it finds its way through the ceramic cartridges to the bottom chamber.
The bottom chamber doesn’t contain any filtration medium, and its only job is to hold clean water.
Also, the bottom chamber has a spigot to fill bottles or glass.
I think it’s worth to mention that during my research, I have noticed that lots of people are complaining about spigots.
I am not surprised, because putting a cheap plastic spigot to such a robust stainless steel construction of the rest of the unit, is just nonsense.
Read my other article about accessories for water filters, where I talk about this a bit more.
So you know what gravity-fed filters are. But you are still wondering whether you should keep reading, as you are not sure whether these are right for you.
Is Gravity Fed Filter Right Option For You?
Let’s address this section to your doubts and help you to figure it out.
Generally speaking, gravity-fed filters can be classed as a kind of hybrid between countertop, pitcher, and travel filters.
Let me explain what I mean by this.
These units are generally bigger than pitcher filters, but at the same time, do not require connection to the tap like most of the countertop units. At the same time, they don’t need any electricity.
Also, chambers can be nested to reduce their size, which makes them great to take for traveling, camping, and hiking or just use as the filter for RV.
Benefits of Using Gravity Filters
You can probably see the benefits already, but let me say it out loud.
Here is the list of why so many people love gravity fed filters.
When I talk about performance, it is worth to mention a study that highlights Berkey to remove some dangerous viruses out of water. (click here to read)
Disadvantages of Gravity Fed Filters
Of course, even gravity purifiers are not perfect, and there are a couple of flaws to bear in mind.
I would like to address attention to some of these points, especially the first one.
Many people talk about the treatment rate and point it out as a big drawback. I want you to look at this from a different angle.
First of all, these purifiers are working without any electric pump.
Also, there is only so much water that could be fit into a container, which creates some force, but not as much to create a steady high flow for treatment.
When speaking about speed, people often overlook the fact that pores of the ceramic cartridge are 1 micron. This means that there is no issue with the filter itself.
In fact, longer contact with water ensures better performance.
So, if you are happy with the fact that your filter won’t get a high flow rate, and you will have to refill it a bit in advance, keep reading.
Maintenance of Gravity Filters
The good thing is that the maintenance of these filters is fairly simple and doesn’t take much.
Pretty much, most of the required maintenance is cleaning.
You need to clean both the metal housing and scrub ceramic cartridges.
I would advise you to pay special attention to housing corners at the bottom of each chamber.
Corners are easy to underestimate but can cause you a headache later as they will accommodate and grow bacteria in the tight space.
So give corners a proper clean, and you will be fine.
Now, ceramic filters require a good scrub.
What am I talking about?
Here is the thing, ceramic filters will adhere to contaminants over time, which will reduce the flow rate and overall performance.
They are designed in a way that you don’t bin them as carbon filters or cartridges in pitchers.
Ceramic filters will last longer if you take good care of them and regularly scrub the top layer with contaminants.
When I say scrub, I don’t mean to use a metal scrub or anything that could damage the cartridge. You can use a toothbrush and scrub it under the flow of water.
It is good to remember that cartridges are designed to last a certain amount of scrubs as essentially they become weaker the more you clean them.
I would recommend you to check with the manufacturer or manual how many times you can clean the cartridge, but the general rule is don’t use them for more than 6 months.
The same way bacteria can spread in chambers, cartridges are not protected from them either. Although manufacturers like Doulton use silver in their cartridges to prevent bacteria from spreading inside the cartridge.
The bottom line is to keep good care of both housing and cartridge by giving them a regular clean.
Best Gravity Water Filters
Finally, we have made it to the most important part of this guide.
I have included a total of six best gravity-fed filters that are currently on the market.
I know that to select one of six units could be difficult so, here is a brief table to summarize all key features and best options.
Aquacera Pioneer SS
When we talk about gravity fed filters, Big Berkey is probably the first brand that most of us can think of.
It is a well-known manufacturer with proven track of history and quality in their products. So let’s have a closer look at the famous Berkey.
The Big Berkey comes with different size options, which is excellent as essentially, you can select one (or two?) based on your size requirements.
Available sizes are between 1.5 gallons up to 6 gallons for the biggest Berkey.
Let’s stop talking about sizes there and get to discover the most crucial part – filtration cartridges.
The original Big Berkey comes with 1 set of two cartridges with the option to purchase an additional set of your choice. The variety is quite wide, so there is an option to select based on your filtration needs.
Some people opt-in to get carbon filters, some will buy cartridges to remove fluoride, while others buy an extra set.
However, if you decide to use Big Berkey with only one pair of filters, that is also okay, and you can do it.
The manufacturer reports that cartridges last up to 6,000 gallons. This is enough to keep your whole house going for a long time, especially considering that reverse osmosis often needs to be replaced after about 2,500 – 3,000 gallons.
If you decide to get an additional pair of the same filters, you will double the lifespan.
What is important to mention is that Big Berkey’s cartridges don’t have a ceramic shell and are made of carbon coconut shell.
If you insist on having a ceramic shell cartridge, it is okay too, as you can buy them from other manufacturers, and mostly these are compatible with Berkey filters.
These cartridges are relatively expensive, but when you think about the lifespan, it is not that bad.
As you can see there, you can almost customize Berkey based on what you need to remove.
If you have heavy metals present in water, then ceramic or carbon filters are a good option for you. If you’re struggling with fluoride, then you can combine cartridges to remove fluoride.
Although Berkey is a quality product, there are a couple of things I personally don’t like.
First of all, it’s a plastic spigot. Again.
You when you see an overall great product, but there is this tiny little thing that drives you mad. In my case, it’s this spigot.
Another small thing is, Berkey has fitted rubber washers into the filter, which creates this rubbery smell and taste in water after a while.
Both of these things are very easy to fix as you can replace both spigot and washers, but let’s be honest; it is just annoying.
I will not mention the slow flow rate as a con, as I have covered it before as the general problem of gravity-fed filters.
But Berkey reports the flow rate of 0.033 gallons per minute, which is about 2 gallons per hour.
The manufacturer gives 6 months warranty on this product, which is a bit low in my opinion and it should be at least 12 months as with most products.
Big Berkey will work for you if you are happy to invest a bit more time into the filter to fix those design flaws. It gives you the option to customize the filter to fit your specific water treatment requirements, which is why I think it is one of the most selling gravity fed filters.
You will laugh, but Propur is the only one gravity filter that has made me happy with its metal spigot.
For this reason, let’s have a look at this unit more in-depth.
Let’s start with the most essential part.
This brand is the only one brand I have found that figured to put stainless steel spigot into their product.
Honestly, I am so glad to see it and hope that once I revisit this article in the future, more brands will follow Propur.
Propur comes with various sizes starting from 1.6 gallons up to 3.75 gallons.
I have mainly selected a version called Propur Big, which has a capacity of 2.75 gallons.
There is a reason behind that which I will explain in a minute.
First of all, I think it’s the best size in terms of mobility versus performance.
The thing is, each size comes with a different amount of cartridge allocations, so the smallest one will only have space for one cartridge and so on.
Each size increases the allocation of filtration cartridges by one.
Propur Big has the allocation for a total of three cartridges but also includes two 7″ inch cartridges.
When I compare it with Propur Nomad, which is a smaller 2 gallons version of this filter, it also comes with two filters included.
I prefer to have this extra size and extra allocation, as the cost of the bigger filter is just a few more bucks.
In terms of the performance, cartridges remove fluoride as many other contaminants, but the flow rate is slow, as for most of the gravity-fed filters.
There is also the issue I have spotted within the construction. The problem many people have is with the knob on the top of the lid.
It is plastic, and it cracks if you tighten it too much. To avoid this problem, just don’t screw it too much as it will break and fall apart.
Another issue you might face is that the spigot inside is dirty.
By dirty, I mean that the manufacturer doesn’t clean the inside of the spigot properly, and industrial oil and dirt are still present from the machining process.
It is also easy to fix, just take the spigot out and give it a good clean inside.
Some people also reported that housing starts to rust quickly. Although this is on a case by case basis, I feel obligated to let you know about this.
You can prevent this by regularly taking care of the filter and adequately cleaning it.
The beautiful thing is that Propur gives you a warranty on the filter for the duration of 2-years. This does not include cartridges.
Propur is another US manufacturer of gravity filters. It comes with it’s own set of problems as any product.
However, if you are looking for a filter with decent size and excellent performance, you might have just found one.
Doulton is another big name in gravity fed filtration industry.
Unlike most of its competitors, it is a more affordable unit, but is it worse in quality? Let’s find out together.
The main thing I want to talk about in Doulton is the Super Sterasyl (SS) candle cartridges.
First of all, let me explain what SS candle is and how is it different compared to standard carbon or coconut filters.
SS candles can be split into two simple categories.
The outer layer is the sub-micron ceramic matrix. It is the visible white layer on the picture.
This layer ensures that contaminants are unable to penetrate into the filter inside. This includes bacteria, cysts, and viruses. These organisms are trapped on the outer layer.
In addition to that, this ceramic layer is also impregnated with silver to ensure that bacteria don’t grow inside the unit.
This is good because bacteria can cause a lot of troubles within filters, especially if the cartridge is designed to last long.
The inner section is the activated carbon block to take care of chlorine, dangerous pesticides and herbicides, and other bad stuff.
Both layers are also charged with a negative and positive charge to remove charged contaminants.
What is in this for you?
You will benefit from the fact that the filter tells you exactly when it needs to be cleaned or replaced.
Compared to traditional carbon cartridges, SS candles won’t let water pass through as the contaminants will clog the filter, which indicates that it’s time to clean the filter. Cabron blocks usually make water flow through, even though they have reached the end of their lifespan.
By the way, the cartridge lasts about 1,000 gallons, so the pair of these will give you 2,000 gallons of water.
You might argue that it’s not a lot compared to Berkey, but in my experience, this is a more realistic number you can achieve with activated carbon.
Also, you want to replace them regularly and not wait until you use all 6,000 gallons as advertised by Berkey.
Doulton also comes with different sizes and has enough space inside to fit four cartridges.
The main problem of Doulton is the speed of filtration, and when I say it’s a problem, I mean it.
Based on where you are and what water quality you have, it could take even 5 hours to purify 2 gallons of water.
That is a long time, and if you plan to use it with some volume, you need to refill it and let it run overnight, or you can just put water into a different bottle or container.
Doulton is a great budget option for everyone who wants to get a gravity-fed filter. The unit itself is much cheaper compared to Big Berkey, and replacement cartridges are also a fraction of the cost.
Make sure you invest in the good spigot.
Aquacera is another filter of the gravity-fed family. Unlike its competitors, this unit comes with the set of cartridges that remove fluoride.
The reason why Aquacera has made it to this list is that for the price you pay, it has a lot to offer.
If you have read up to this point, you probably realized that most of these manufacturers will charge you extra for an additional set of cartridges to remove fluoride.
It comes with the original set of two cartridges that remove up to 85% fluoride, and the filter has got a spare space for an additional pair of filters.
Next to fluoride, Aquacera removes lead, chlorine, VOCs, mercury, heavy metals, bacteria and parasites, and more. The performance is similar to other competitors if we take the fluoride removal aside.
However, if you want better performance, you can easily fit 9″ cartridges, just search for the name Imperial candles. The standard set is 7″ long.
The capacity of the lower chamber is also comparable to Doulton with 2.5 gallons.
Because of the fact that this unit takes out fluoride, it seems that it is not doing very well on the lifespan of the cartridge.
But the truth is, compared to most standard countertop units, 700 gallons is actually a good lifespan per cartridge.
So in total, the initial set of 2 should last about 1,400 gallons.
If you want to increase the lifespan, go with the 9″ cartridges as I mentioned before, and you will get 900 gallons lifespan per filter.
Aquacera also comes with a 1-year warranty, which is pleasant to see compared to Berkey’s 6 months.
Aquacera is an amazing alternative to other gravity filters. It is much more affordable, and at the same time, it comes with the initial set of filters that already remove fluoride.
The price policy of replacement cartridges is also very modest.
Alexapure is gravity fed filter that removes fluoride and has exceptional performance.
Although it is a great robust product, there is this one thing that puts me off.
Alexapure is a popular product within the category, and there is no surprise about that.
It has a robust construction, and I also like the fact that metal housing is not shiny, but has brushed metal texture. It just looks good.
The second thing I love about this unit is definitely the performance, this is where Alexapure wins all its points.
The cartridge removes an incredible amount of over 200 contaminants and removes fluoride at the reported rate of 97+%.
Alexapure comes with a slightly lower capacity at 2.25 gallons per chamber. The difference is very minor, so it definitely wouldn’t put me off.
However, there is a thing that would.
The main problem I have with this filter is the fact that it comes with only one filter, although it has the allocation for four.
Yes, this is one filter, not one pair of filters.
I feel like I am just being robbed because most of the competition is giving you an initial set pair of filters.
The second part is that if you want to use all four allocations, prepare to pay an extra $300 for three more cartridges as each cartridge costs about $100.
I think it is a rip off on the cartridge there, but at the same time, compared to the competition, these are probably the best performing gravity-fed filters you get.
Yet, reverse osmosis replacement cartridges are still much cheaper.
Although the manufacturer reports that the cartridge could last up to 5,000 gallons.
This is only a theoretical number, and in reality, you would probably get half or even less of this number. Especially if you used only one out of four filters.
Alexapure gives only 30-day no questions asked guarantee to return this filter, and returns after this period will be considered on a case basis.
I am not a fan of such an approach, especially considering the price of the product.
If you are looking for an exceptional performance and don’t mind spending money to get additional cartridges and replacement ever after, you will do great with this filter.
However, this might not be the unit for budget-conscious people like I am.
Aqua Rain is one of the less popular filters amongst gravity-fed units, which is a shame because, in reality, it is a perfect system that has it’s placed here.
Let’s introduce this hidden gem a bit more.
What is a pleasant surprise, that unlike most of its competitors, AquaRain comes with three original cartridges and wins points there. This is also the maximum allocation for cartridges.
This gravity filter is also slightly bigger compared to others with a capacity of 3 gallons.
I personally prefer this capacity because of a simple reason.
All gravity fed filters take ages to process water. Therefore, I would like to leave the filter with water overnight to purify it.
The bigger size gives you this ability to purify more water during the night. Therefore you won’t need to purify it during the day unless you have a big family.
The good thing is also the fact that AquaRain does treat water at the tested rate of 1 gallon per hour.
Considering the usual speed of treatment in gravity-fed filters, it’s not too bad, but keep in mind that in the end, water quality is what determines the rate.
Let’s talk about the lifespan of the cartridges.
I will tell you directly that I wasn’t able to find the lifespan, which is usually provided in gallons or time.
Instead, I was able to find that the AquaRain ceramic shell lasts about 200 cleanings or scrubs.
Yes, I agree that this is a bit odd type of measurement, but let me explain why it might work.
As filters purify water, the ceramic shell gets clogged and stops water from passing through. Now, this might occur once in a while if your water is relatively clean, or they might clog in a couple of days.
For this reason, it is hard to determine how many gallons have passed, as in both cases, numbers will be different.
If you measured the shell based on the number of scrubs instead, you could get the rough lifespan of it.
The surface of the shell gets thinner with every clean, and at some point, it’s too weak to purify water well, and this when you reached the end of the lifespan.
But generally, I wouldn’t keep cartridges longer than 12 months, because of the carbon block filter inside.
What I also really like about AquaRain is a 3-years warranty. This is huge and feels like a manufacturer actually believes in its product by giving you such a long time.
AquaRain seems to me like a great gravity filter that comes with reasonable pricing and at the same time good service with it’s 3 years warranty.
You also won’t be broke buying replacement cartridges unlike with some other earlier mentioned brands.
Read my direct comparision of gravity-fed and reverse osmosis units here.
FAQs About Gravity-Fed Water Filters
There has been somewhat of a discussion about ceramic filters and whether they are good or not.
I have decided to include some of the most common questions and clarify everything, but if you want to know more information, feel free to get in touch via comments below.
What Do Ceramic Filters Remove?
Ceramic filters often work in combination with carbon filters.
Meanwhile, carbon filters are designed to remove most contaminants; ceramic shell eliminates bacteria, viruses, and pathogens.
For better performance, manufacturers sometimes add silver into the cartridge to ensure bacteria are not breeding inside the filter.
How Much Ceramic Replacement Filters Cost?
Prices of ceramic filters highly vary from manufacturers.
Some brands start to sell ceramic replacement cartridges at $50, while the other starting point is $100.
Therefore, when purchasing the filter, I recommend you to check the price of replacement cartridges for this particular brand and see if you are willing to pay such amount on replacement units.
Do Gravity Fed Filters Remove Fluoride?
Yes, some of the gravity-fed units remove fluoride.
I would recommend you to always check with the manufacturer if their filter removes fluoride and at what rate.
Because some units will only remove a portion of fluoride but are advertised as that they do remove it.
Selecting a gravity-fed filter is not rocket science if you know what you want it to do.
I hope my article has helped you to make a decision, and now you know more about these interesting stainless steel filters to make an informed decision.
Share your thoughts in the comments below.