Do you know what's in your tap water? Most city water contains high levels of chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride which have been added to reduce harmful bacteria. It's great that they're getting rid of the nasties in the water, but you don't necessarily want to be drinking the chemicals. Your water could also contain chemicals like hormones, antibiotics, prescription drugs and lead that have gotten into the water somewhere along the way. We've tried the filtration pitchers you store in your refrigerator, but they're only designed to remove bad taste and soften your water, they don't actually remove any pathogens.
We were in the market for a large counter-top water filtration system, so we investigated the Berkey from BerkeyFilters.com.
We purchased the Royal Berkey, which holds 3.25 gallons. It can be configured with either two or four filters; we chose to use four. With all four filters installed you can purify up to 8 gallons per hour, or 4 gallons per hour using two filters.
The Berkey system works like most other water purifiers - water flows from the upper reservoir (the large can on the right) through the filters and into the holding reservoir (the can on the left). Other than the water spout, there are no moving parts to wear out. It takes about 5 minutes to assemble, so let's get started!
The Black Berkey Purification Elements are said to remove 99.9999% of bacteria, plus volatile organic compounds, minerals, heavy metals, and other nasty stuff. A pair of filters will purify 6000 gallons of water. These filters do not remove fluoride and of course there is no water filter that will remove a virus. If you are concerned about viruses in your water, treat the water with chlorine and then filter the chlorine out with the Berkey.
Before installing, the filters have to be primed. This gets rid of the air in the micro-pores of the filter, allowing water to flow faster. We started by attaching the included priming button to the filter, and slowly letting it fill with water from the faucet.
Once the filter is full, you need to pressurize the water going through the Berkey by pressing the priming button against the faucet, forcing water inside. This is tricky, we wound up shooting water across the room (like putting your thumb over the end of a hose) several times!
When the filter starts to "sweat" (you see beads of water being pushed through from inside), the filter is primed. Set it aside, on a towel (it's going to drip for a while) and prime your next filter.
The upper water reservoir has four holes in the bottom. You can either fill all four with filters, or just use two filters and fill the other two holes with...
These included plugs. Hint - If you start off using four filters, be sure to hang on to these plugs in case you ever decide to switch to just two.
The plug is inserted through the hole...
... and a nut is screwed onto the end.
Two washers make the hole watertight.
The filters are installed exactly the same as the plugs - insert one inside the reservoir...
...and screw the nut onto the other end.
All four filters have now been installed.
Looking down into the water reservoir at the filters.
Place the rubber ring around the base of the Berkey to keep it stable.
Here we've placed the upper reservoir on top of the lower and have begun to fill it. The lower reservoir is larger than the upper, so when they're both empty you don't need to worry about overfilling the upper. However, once the lower reservoir has filtered water in it, you want to be careful how much to add to the upper so that it doesn't overflow.
Place the lid on, and let gravity take over. The water will flow into the filters, through the micro-pores, and out the bottom nozzles.
The water comes out the nozzles as a constant drip rather than a stream. With four filters installed, it will take about 30 minutes to fill the lower reservoir.
We don't have any way of testing for pathogens in the water, so the next best thing is to use food coloring. If everything is working properly, colored water in the top will be clear when it hits the bottom.
And just to add another layer of testing, we flavored the water.
We added close to an entire bottle of coconut flavoring. Don't worry, it was the artificial stuff, we didn't waste the good stuff!
As you can see, the water is definitely red...
The filtered water coming out of the spout - not a trace of red.
Not really sure how this is going to taste...
Thumbs up! No color, and not a hint of coconut flavor. Personally, I think this system produces better tasting water than our under-counter water filter. The water may not be as cold by the time it is filtered, but you could always fill a pitcher and put it in the refrigerator.
Now, the Black Berkey Purification Elements do not filter out fluoride, as I mentioned above, or arsenic. If this is a concern in your area, there are add-on filter elements that will take care of this. We didn't purchase these, so unfortunately we can't show you a picture, but basically it's another filter that screws onto the nozzle of the block filter - the part that drips into the lower reservoir. They don't last as long as the black filters - they should be changed every 1,000 gallons - and they will make the filtration process a little slower, and slightly reduce the capacity of the lower reservoir (they take up some space inside it). But if you're concerned about fluoride in your drinking water this may be something to look into.