The Big Berkey Is the Water Filter You Can Take with You When the World Ends

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Big Berkey water filter review: A silver Big Berkey filter on a kitchen counter
  • Value: 18/20
  • Functionality: 17/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetic: 16/20
  • Water quality: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 91/100

When I noticed green fuzzy things floating around the gallon water filter we kept in the fridge, I knew it was time for an upgrade. And though New York City is said to have grade-A tap water (it’s what makes the bagels so perfect, they say), as a nursing mom, I’m a little (OK, wayyyy) more careful about what I’m consuming these days.  So, when I spotted a statuesque stainless steel...vat (?)…drum (?)…keg (?) in my friend’s kitchen, I implored, “What is that thing?” Her response? The Big Berkey.

Unbeknownst to me, I’d stumbled upon a cult-favorite brand among both off-grid survivalists and urban dwellers alike. A couple weeks later, I was in possession of my very own Big Berkey. Here’s my review.

What Does the Big Berkey Do, Exactly? 

The Big Berkey is the 2.25-gallon option of Berkey’s water filter systems. It’s made of two stackable chambers. The top chamber includes two Black Berkey elements—essentially two long rods—that, according to Berkey Filters, “have been tested to remove 203 contaminants commonly found in drinking water, including viruses (99.999 percent), pathogenic bacteria (99.9999 percent), Chloramine (below lab detectable limit), trihalomethanes (99.8 percent), pharmaceuticals (99.9 percent), pesticides (below lab detectable limit), heavy metals” and more. The bottom chamber is where all that (nearly) pathogenic-free water settles. 

The overall promise is that one *could* take dirty pond water, run it through a Berkey and safely drink it (although, they don’t recommend it), and I wasn’t really up for the challenge. This is all without installing anything in your faucet or plumbing, which is precisely why folks traveling long-term in an R.V., living off-grid or preparing for the End Days have a special place in their hearts for Berkey. It’s hefty, but it’s also portable if you need it be.

The price is also quite hefty. At $384, the Big Berkey is an investment, for sure. But if you break down the cost per gallon, if you drink a lot of water, it’s worth it. Two filters equate to 6,000 gallons of water. That’s…a lot of water. Berkey recommends changing your filters every two to five years (a set of two replacement filters goes for $249), as opposed to your Brita, which requires much more frequent changes—and let’s be honest…if you remember to do it.

And while the filters do require some maintenance that might feel a bit more hands-on than your store-bought water filter (cleaning every once in a while and priming when you first use them), for me, it seems like a fair trade-off.   

So How Does It Fit and Function in a Normal Kitchen?

As I don’t foresee myself going off grid (let alone going camping) in the near future, my Big Berkey has been sitting pretty on my kitchen counter. Admittedly, in a New York City apartment, the Big Berkey takes up some major real estate. Not to mention, it’s 21 inches tall. Unless you have a large cubby or a walk-in pantry, anybody who walks into your kitchen is going to comment, “What is that thing?” So, if you’re not wholeheartedly committed to seeing what looks like the Tin Man in your peripheral vision 24/7, this might not be for you. I personally like the look of it—it has Catskills-by-way-of-Brooklyn aesthetic. Some might call it camping chic. Others might think it’s Wizard of Oz cosplay.

It’s also a bit…slow. To keep up with my household’s water demands, we basically have to fill the top chamber every time we take from it. And while this felt like a hassle at first, it just becomes part of your routine and makes you more aware of how much water you’re consuming.

Can You Taste a Difference in the Water?

Yes. Hands-down, yes. The purified water has a softer, rounder mouthfeel and no aftertaste whatsoever. It gives me peace of mind when I’m chugging city water and I know it will be the first thing I pack with me when the world ends. Dirty pond water, here I come. 

The PureWow100 is a scale our editors use to vet new products and services, so you know what's worth the spend—and what's total hype. Learn more about our process here.

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Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...