As you can see from the comments section of this post, the Big Berkey has a cult following, but there are less expensive water filters out there that do a better job. Here is why I broke up with my Berkey in favor of an Aquasana countertop filter.
When I first moved to Austin, I remember walking into a yoga studio on the east side, seeing a Berkey water filter and being very impressed.
The Berkey water filter, a staple in many health conscious homes, including apparently true wellness gurus like Dr. Ben Lynch, was always the gold standard for me.
Its shiny stainless chambers do an excellent job filtering water and look cool at the same time, or so I thought. I used a Berkey proudly for years, but recently switched to an Aquasana above counter filter system, which is much more effective and much cheaper.
Why did I move away from a Berkey?
First, Leigh, the eco-genius heading up our Leaf Score content, gave mixed reviews after compiling her list of the best water filters. Leigh’s concern is that Berkey hasn’t taken the extra step of proving the efficiency of its filters with the major tests and certifications. The Berkey is not National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified and there seems to be a discrepancy between some of the company’s claims and independent lab tests.
As a result, Leigh only gave the Berkey 1 leaf in her review.
Frankly, I was surpised to learn from Leigh that she had concerns about the Berkey, but there had been a series of issues that had me doubting my filter as of late for independent reasons.
The downside of Berkey water filters: my experience
#1. The Berkey filter is slow
The Berkey, despite its cult like following in health circles, has some major issues. For starters, it’s slow. For those of you who have never used one, the Berkey is a basic gravity filter. You add water to the top chamber and the water is then pushed through two heavy duty charcoal filters to the bottom chamber. The drip process can take some time, so if you’re in a rush, it could be awhile before your water is ready. The lack of speed forced a reluctant glass of tap more often than I would have liked.
Because of the fact that it’s slow, the Berkey also made me hesitant to use filtered water for cooking (I wanted to reserve my fresh water supply for drinking). But this water rationing kind of defeats the purpose of the filter in the first place. If you believe, or really just know, that there is some bad stuff in the tap water, why cook with it? I’d wake up, and make my buckwheat with a little hesitancy, knowing that the water seeping into the groats was full of chlorine. Same for the water I give to my dog, Ned. I love that damn dog and want him to get good water as well, but with the slow filter speed of the Berkey, I would sometimes give Ned subpar water when laziness or a rushed schedule took over.
#2. The Berkey leaks
Last, and this is a big one, Berkey filters are prone to leaking. My sister’s leaked all the time. Mine developed a leak after a few years of use. Leaks can spring from the actual faucet that attaches to the bottom chamber, or from upper chamber to lower as the metal floor of the top chamber gets dented, prohibiting a tight seal from the upper to the lower. This is what happened to my Berkey, and a leak like this is quite an issue since it prevents the charcoal filters from grabbing all the water that gets to the lower chamber, hence nullifying the filter altogether as water bypasses its intended route.
#3. The Berkey is overpriced and cumbersome to setup
For a company lacking important certifications, the Berkey costs an arm and a leg. A 2.25 gallon Berkey will run you almost $400, and that doesn’t include extras like flouride filters, which are a nightmare to screw on and get working.
My solution was a cheaper water filter that surprisingly beats the Berkey hands down on filtration ability, the Aquasana AQ-4000.
Berkey vs. Aquasana 4,000
For starters, an Aquasana 4,000 will run you about $100 vs. $400 for a Berkey.
Since Berkey has refused to this point to get NSF certification, it’s hard to compare these filters. Really, without certifications, it’s hard to do a meaningful comparison of Berkey vs. any of its competitors. Berkey won’t ship to California, is that because they aren’t prop 65 compliant?
In Leigh’s review, she points out that if Berkey’s claims about removing 99.999% of contaminants are true, Berkey is a great option. It’s easy to install and since it doesn’t require power, could be used in a natural disaster. The problem for Berkey is that competitors like Aquasana are “showing their math” and getting their claims tested to meet NSF standards. There is also testing showing Berkey’s don’t remove much chloroform, so what else might be slipping through the cracks?
So, when my Berkey bit the dust with this leak, I explored other options for my home use.
I filter my shower water as well as my drinking water, so as I mentioned above, a big priority for me was to be able to also filter water I cook with as well as water I give my pup. For the reasons we already discussed, a Berkey wasn’t going to work, so I looked to other above counter water filters.
The first one I ordered, an Aquasana under the sink model (View on Aquasana), wouldn’t fit in my current setup. I sent that bad boy back and instead turned to the above the counter model. Turns out the above the counter model was a cost-effective solution. Rather than fitting under the sink, with a big storage tank taking up space, the model sits right on your countertop, in my case to the left of the sink.
Installing the Aquasana 4,000 Filter
Assembly is pretty straightforward, but there is one issue that can trip you up, and that is the faucet. You need a faucet that has a spigot aerator that can unscrew, see the video below. If you don’t have an aerator that can unscrew, it’s reasonably affordable to buy your own.
As you can see from the video, the Aquasana creates a separate stream of water for the filter, not all the tap water goes through the filter. This allows you to use filtered water for cooking and for pets, but not wear down the life of the filter in the process. At a fraction of the price of even a travel Berkey, the Aquasana is my new go to.