Big Berkey water filter surrounded by clear, refreshing cups of water

Tap and Bottled Water Is Laced With Toxins—I Found Something Better

Welcome to the Berkey water cult. Can we offer you a delicious, toxin-free cup of water?

From the moment I woke up to the sheer volume of harmful, endocrine-disrupting chemicals lurking in my clothing, food, and home, I’ve been on a vendetta to upgrade the biggest culprits I use every day. I’ve swapped my non-stick pan with a ceramic-coated Caraway, my Swiffer for a Dupray steam mop, and my plastic Tupperware for Pyrex.

My latest installment: the Big Berkey Water Filter. Considering the water in Los Angeles sucks (at least, in comparison to my native Oregon), and bottled water is expensive (plus, plastic bottles may tank your testosterone) upgrading to a quality gravity-fed water filter has been top of mind.

According to preppers, outdoor enthusiasts, and the health-conscious alike, the Berkey is the holy grail of filtration systems. So I figured, why not get the scoop? Is it worth the money? I used a Berkey for two months to find out.

What’s Not So Good About the Berkey Water Filter?

Not NSF/ANSI certified

The biggest issue with the Big Berkey? It’s not NSF/ANSI certified—the gold standard for water filter quality. Berkey claims its filters can remove far more contaminants than competitor water filters which are NSF/ANSI certified. Yet, Berkey’s testing is done through a third-party, so we can’t be sure how accurate the test results actually are.

My thoughts: I’m using the Berkey to filter tap water which is already safe (by government standards). Whatever edge the Berkey can provide in filtering my water is much better than no edge, but that NSF/ANSI stamp of approval would go a long way for my peace of mind.

It’s a total pain in the ass to set up

I’m not going to lie, the first time we tried setting up our Big Berkey was not successful. The setup process doesn’t appear complicated. You basically have to prime the two Black Berkey Elements by filtering water directly through the sink into each filter until water is beading out of the sides. From there, you screw the elements into place, then stack the tanks. Fill with water, et voila.

Unfortunately, we got caught up on the first step: priming the filters. I’ll spare you the details, but it turned out the sink we were attempting to prime the filters on wasn’t quite the right size, so we couldn’t get the water to actually feed through the filter. After watching several homemade YouTube videos and multiple failed attempts we tried the bathroom sink—which worked like a charm. Needless to say, prepare yourself for a little resistance.

Water isn’t cold

The Berkey does nothing to insulate your water or keep it cold. And if you’re thinking “Just add ice cubes”, think again. Using ice cubes straight out of a fridge dispenser is the same as mixing unfiltered water with Berkey water—what’s the point? Unless you go through the annoying process of filling ice cube trays with water from your Berkey, you’re basically SOL. Of course, I didn’t think of any of this until my Berkey arrived on my doorstep.

My simple solution to this problem is pouring the filtered water into a pitcher that I keep in the fridge. From there, I pour the cold water into my 40-ounce Stanley tumbler (yes, I’m one of those girls) where it stays perfectly chilled for hours on end.


Compared to your average Brita, the Berkey ain’t cheap. However, it falls in line with other gravity-fed water filters that offer a similar level of filtering and goes miles beyond your run-of-the-mill fridge filter.

I did the math and the entire Big Berkey system I bought on Amazon (for $384) comes down to roughly $0.06 cents per gallon of filtered water. Six cents a day? That’s smaller than pocket change these days and a hell of a lot cheaper than bottled water. Plus, once I swap the current filters out with replacements ($166 bucks a pop) that’ll bring my water down to around $0.03 a gallon.

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to filter tap, well, or running water through a rigorous filtration process that removes hundreds of toxins, the Big Berkey Water Filter is one of the best you can buy. It doesn’t require installation, and the set up process is relatively painless—making it great for travel, hiking, or camping and convenient for home use. However, if you want a water filter with the NSF/ANSI stamp of approval, this isn’t the filter for you.