How do Berkey Filters Work? Explained

How do Berkey Filters Work?

Berkey’s water purification system is an effective, freestanding water purification system that provides drinking water for everyday use or in an emergency. Since it is gravity-fed, it does not require electricity. 

Almost any type of water can be poured into the upper chamber of the unit, and by the time it reaches the lower chamber, it is the purest and healthiest water available: Berkey Water.

How do Berkey Filters Work?

The Black Berkey Filters, sometimes referred to as the Black Berkey Purification Elements, are the heart of the Berkey system. The three processes are absorption, adsorption, and microfiltration. They are combined to create a unique filter system.


Berkey purification elements are composed of proprietary formulations of more than six different media types, all constructed into a compact matrix that contains millions of microscopic pores.

As a result, they create a “Tortuous Path” that pathogenic bacteria, cysts, parasites, organic solvents, VOC’s, detergents, cloudiness, silt, sedimentary minerals, foul tastes, and odors must travel through.

Due to their small widths, these pollutants cannot physically pass through them and become trapped, thereby eliminating them from your drinking water. The process is called microfiltration.


Additionally, our media formulation uses unique adsorption and absorption properties. Through adsorption, we create an ionic barrier similar to surface tension. The microporous water filter is perfectly suited to this barrier because it effectively allows the tiny pores to block water contaminants smaller than the pore size itself.

Berkey water filters are capable of removing submicron viruses through this blocking process without having to use harmful chemicals such as iodine or chlorine.

Heavy metals ions (mineral molecules) such as cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, aluminum, and other harmful heavy metals are extracted from the water by an ion exchange process where they are attracted and transformed by electrical interaction with the media.


Berkey systems are so effective at removing contaminants from water due to the extremely long “contact period.” Other filtration systems depend on water pressure that forces water molecules through elements that operate at 60-90 PSI.

For a fraction of a second, water molecules come into contact with the filter media. As a water molecule passes through a Black Berkey element, it is gently dragged by gravity and stays in contact with the media for a long time.

Consequently, the filter media captures contaminants more effectively. Researchers, engineers, and water purification specialists worked diligently for years to develop, refine, and validate this advanced technology.

The flow rate or time of exposure through the Black Berkey purification elements has been calculated to remove the greatest volume of viruses, toxic chemicals, and bacteria.

Berkey water is better water

As a result of independent lab testing, the Berkey can be classified as a water purifier, not just a water filter. A water filter must remove 99.99% of pathogenic bacteria. A water purifier that meets the higher standard must remove 99.9999% of pathogenic bacteria.

Results of independent testing confirm that Berkey water meets NSF/ANSI standard 53 for reductions in heavy metals, like mercury and lead, disinfectant byproducts, parasites, VOCs, and radon along with pesticides and MTBE.

Berkey Water Filter Systems utilize a variety of scientific methods to produce unsurpassed drinking water quality. Easy to use and powerful technology. Using a Berkey Water Filter System is as simple as pouring water into the upper chamber.

Using the long-lasting filter, you can get purified drinking water for pennies a gallon. For years and years, microfiltration, adsorption, and absorption have worked well.

When to Replace Your Berkey Filter

Typical Scenarios

How much water will pass through the filters during the filter’s lifespan? Individuals would be at the low end of the demand spectrum, so they would likely select a smaller model like the Travel Berkey. 

The customer might fill the upper chamber once in the evening to have purified water ready in the morning for making coffee and filling some reusable water bottles, then again before heading out to work to have delicious water to sip on throughout the evening. 

About two gallons of water are used per day. That means the Black Berkey elements will last eight years!

A couple with double the water needs for drinking and perhaps some additional water needed for cooking might find the Big Berkey water filter sufficient. We estimate this to be about four and a half to five gallons a day. 

With two filters, this would come out to the same three years as in the previous example. If you have four filters, you can go six years between filters.

A large family with several children would be at the other end of the spectrum. As a result, a large Berkey like the Royal, Imperial, or even the Crown Berkey would be best suited to accommodate lots of thirsty kids, make hot and cold drinks, cook, and perhaps even have some water for pets. With six filters, an Imperial Berkey will last almost five years, putting out ten gallons of water per day.

Atypical Scenarios

Filters wear out faster when the water is extremely contaminated. In the same way, if a car is driven over rough terrain, it will wear down more quickly than one driven on smooth, flat surfaces. Use the Water Quality Search Tool to find out what kinds and levels of water contaminants are in your area.

Occasionally, a film will cover the Black Filters. It can appear orange and feel slimy. In some cases, a simple rinse might work, or you can use a vegetable peeler to scrape off the residue to extend the life of the filter. 

When used and cared for improperly, filters can become damaged. Make sure they remain saturated. Re-priming is necessary every time they are dried out. 

There is very little chance that the filters will be defective. When they are troubleshooted, they still do not work. At Berkey Filters, we are committed to providing excellent customer service and high-quality products.

Black Berkey Filters are warranted to be free from material and workmanship defects for two years, prorated in six-month intervals. Find out more about our warranty policies. 

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