Let’s cut to the chase – the Big Berkey provides the best contaminant removal of any gravity fed countertop system according to product information and consumer reviews.
For lead, Berkey reports considerably better results than Doulton’s best filter when considering gravity fed countertop systems alone.
Doulton Supersterasyl filters remove greater than 95 percent of lead whereas the Berkey black filters remove greater than 99.9% lead.
Berkey shines above the other gravity systems with Chlorine as well, removing greater than 99.9% compared to Doulton’s >95%.
Company also reports having superior microbe removal compared to Doulton and all other gravity fed systems.
While this may seem picky, decimal places count when germs are involved. If you don’t want any pathogens to get through to your drinking water, then you want to look for a filter that delivers the closest to 100% removal – Big Berkey is that filter.
The Big Berkey allows beneficial minerals like calcium and magnesium to pass through the system. Fluoride and arsenic filters are available for additional purchase.
Berkey replacement filters are self-sterilizing. The company recommends that the filters be cleaned every 6 months and replaced after every 3000 gallons.
Concerned about emerging contaminants?
These are substances that are less studied but could pose a drinking water hazard.
Glyphosate is a commonly used herbicide and pesticide that may be present in water supplies. This chemical is currently being studied for more insight into its impact on human health.
While laboratory reporting limits prevent testing of higher removal rates, Berkey reports that their filters will remove greater than 75 percent of glyphosate. Contaminants from plastics have also received recent attention.
The Big Berkey removes common plastics including BPA (Bisphenol A) and 1,1-Dichloroethane (11-DCA).
While Big Berkey filtration has been tested at third-party labs, Berkey filters have not been certified by a third party like NSF or WQA.
The company addresses this issue on their website, referring to the fact that they cannot ship to California or Iowa because these states require water filtration systems to be third-party certified and meet other requirements.
Berkey publishes limited information on the makeup of their filter media. Their proprietary formulation includes more than six different media.
Coconut shell carbon, a common filter media. Berkey indicates that their filter media forms a compact matrix with millions of microscopic pores.
They do not report the exact micron size of the pores. The Big Berkey comes with a 12-month warranty, and black filters are covered under a 2-year pro-rated warranty.
A unique feature of the Big Berkey is that the flow rate can be customized. When two filters are used, the system filters at a rate of 3.5 gallons per hour. That rate should provide plenty of purified water for a family of four.
With countertop gravity systems, the tank is typically refilled on a regular basis so that filtration is performed during the night or when everyone is out of the house.
With four filters, the same system can operate at a rate of 7 gallons per hour and provide purified water for 85-170 people per day. This feature can be used during emergencies when other sources of potable water are unavailable.
You may also find it convenient to have the option of increasing the filtration rate on the fly when you have a house full of guests.
Another handy feature is how easy the system is to transport. While it may look bulky when fully assembled, the upper chamber fits into the lower chamber. When nested, the chambers have a combined height of only 13 inches.
With this feature, the Big Berkey can travel with you to outdoor events and activities, like parties, sports games, races, etc. The system is also lightweight – 7 pounds when empty.
You can’t argue with the Big Berkey’s looks. Similar to the Doulton gravity system, the Big Berkey sports a beautiful stainless steel exterior that should fit into most modern kitchen interiors.
This system certainly gives a consumer a lot of chews on — claiming to provide the very best contaminant removal of any gravity system, providing many convenient features, and looking fabulous in the kitchen.
Does the lack of third-party certification give you pause? If you need a water filter for emergency situations and want to be sure that a system works as reported, consider testing a Berkey system before using it to treat non-potable water. If every Big Berkey performs as stated, then it must be the best gravity system around.