So you’re looking for a good water filter system to produce fresh drinking water. Perhaps you’ve only ever heard of Brita, or maybe you’ve heard that Brita only removes chlorine and you want better water filtration. People love their Berkey filters and they look fancy, but are they all they’re cracked up to be, and do they suit your needs?
We’re going to address these points and more here, addressing truth and hearsay. So read on, and let the Berkey vs Brita review begin.
Verdict: Berkey vs Brita
We know you want a quick answer, so let’s start with our recommendations depending on what you’re looking for. Read on further down to know more.
If you’re looking for a space-saving water filter that is portable and can fit in the fridge and your primary concern is better-tasting water that removes chlorine and a few other things, go with a standard Brita pitcher or jug. If you want your water to filter ASAP and taste better, try out a Brita stream pitcher or jug.
If you’re looking to filter out lead and other things like some pharmaceuticals, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals from your water and you want space-saving, simple, low-maintenance and certified, go with a Brita Longlast filter or a faucet mounted filter.
If you’re looking for robust purification because of potential microbial contamination, if you sometimes have boil water advisories in your area, have well water, or if you plan on traveling to areas where the water is iffy and you want a filter you can bring with you, you can be certain that Berkey is the way to go.
For the environmentally-conscious person who wants to reduce plastic, doesn’t mind spending more upfront but saving in the long run, has counterspace to spare and doesn’t mind a bit of maintenance to get great-tasting, pure water that still contains healthy minerals, then Berkey will be your happy place.
Also, if you use a lot of water in a day for drinking, cooking, pets, plants and other things, the Berkey is not limited by the quantity of water you should filter every day.
Berkey vs Brita: Size
The smallest Berkey system for home use, The Travel Berkey, is about the same size as the largest Brita pitcher, the Ultramax Water Dispenser Filter, at 18 cups or 1.125 gallons. This means that the maximum filtering capacity of the largest Brita dispenser is equivalent to the minimum filtering capacity of the smallest Berkey water filter.
So if bigger is better, then go with Berkey. If smaller is sufficient, go with a Brita.
Berkey vs Brita: Cost
The upfront costs are vastly different. Berkey is much more upfront but can last years and then some.
In terms of maintenance costs, two Black Berkey purification elements can last up to 6,000 gallons. That’s years! A standard Brita filter needs replacing every 40 gallons or two months. To filter 6,000 gallons (the lifespan of two Black Berkey filters) you would use about 150 standard Brita filters. That would cost about a grand in standard Brita filters.
Of course, if you go with a Longlast Brita filter, you would use a third of the filters, but the filters cost two to three times more, so you’re back in the same place for filter replacement cost.
So upfront, Brita costs less. But in the long run, Berkey costs less. You’ll need to decide what suits you best.
Berkey vs Brita: Lead removal and beneficial minerals
Reverse osmosis, distillation and carbon filtration are the most reliable solutions for removing lead. RO systems and distillation remove beneficial minerals along with everything else. Carbon filters are the most economical, simple and practical option for filtering lead out of your drinking water. But for carbon to be effective, it requires more contact time with the water.
With a Berkey water purifier, the combination of slow gravity filtration, tiny pores for microfiltration, adsorption and absorption, and ion exchange makes for effective removal of lead.
Brita Longlast and faucet filters are NSF/ANSI certified against standard 53 for lead due to the greater contact time the water has with the carbon filter and absorbent media.
Both Berkey and Brita claim to leave beneficial minerals such as calcium, magnesium and others in the water.
We all know Brita – or do we?
Brita is one of the original and most trusted brands in American households.
If you are looking for a water filter pitcher that fits in your fridge or easily on your countertop without taking up too much space and you want a decent water filter that will make your water taste and smell better, then the Brita water filter system is for you.
And if you live in the city, then a Brita might be all you need. Most people enjoy the taste of the water produced by a standard Brita water filter especially if they are used to drinking tap water.
Brita Stream: simple chlorine removal
Brita’s latest product is the Brita stream filter. This filter pretty much just removes chlorine and some particulates. The main feature of the stream filter is that it’s super fast – it filters the water as you pour so there’s no waiting around for it. Brita makes 10-cup pitchers and extra large 25-cup jugs that specifically fit the stream filter.
What else can Brita filters do?
Although people often think Brita mainly just removes chlorine, Brita filters can actually remove quite a few contaminants to some degree, although they only claim between 6-60 depending on the filter purchased. Brita doesn’t make claims for the additional contaminants it removes, however, since the filtration levels don’t meet certain specifications. Honesty always establishes trust.
A standard Brita filter is tested and certified by the WQA against NSF/ANSI Standard 42 for the reduction of chlorine and zinc and NSF/ANSI Standard 53 for the reduction of copper, mercury and cadmium. Standard Brita filters contain a mesh screen, activated carbon to absorb contaminants, and ion exchange resin. Standard and Longlast Brita water filters have a recommended filtering capability of 2 gallons per day.
Did you know Brita can remove lead, pesticides, certain pharmaceutical contaminants and more?
Brita Longlast filters are designed to last 3 times longer (6 months or 120 gallons) and filter more contaminants including 99.99% lead. This filter is pleated and contains absorbents to enhance its absorption of contaminants and lifespan. It’s recommended to filter no more than 2 gallons per day.
Longlast filters are NSF/ANSI certified against standard 53 for lead, mercury, cadmium, benzene, and asbestos, NSF/ANSI certified against standard 42 for chlorine and class I particulates, and NSF/ANSI certified against standard 401 for bisphenol A, estrone, ibuprofen, naproxen, and nonyl phenol. Longlast and faucet filters likely do not contain ion exchange resin, hence they don’t claim to remove zinc and copper.
The great thing about the Longlast filters is that you can upgrade any standard Brita pitcher or jug to accommodate the Longlast filter, making your Brita product even more effective.
The Brita faucet filter removes similar the same contaminants as the Longlast filter above (except for mercury and cadmium) and also removes cysts, trichlorobenzene, trihalomethane, atrazine, and a host of VOCs, pharmaceuticals and pesticides/herbicides – and it is NSF/ANSI certified against standard 53 for all of them. Faucet filters last 100 gallons or 4 months. They are very affordable and take up no counter space, which are big pluses!
Brita pros and cons
- Faster filtration, especially with the new stream filters.
- Pitchers fit in the fridge and faucet filters take up no extra space. Larger containers have a short, slim design.
- Lighter to lift, pour and move around.
- Low maintenance. Just wash the pitcher occasionally and replace the filter on schedule.
- Has a filter recycling program.
- Low upfront costs.
- Longlast filters lower maintenance costs, last longer and remove more contaminants.
- Faucet-mounted filters remove many more contaminants than a standard Brita filter.
- Not a water purifier, just a filter.
- Removes fewer contaminants than the Berkey.
- Pitchers are limited to 2 gallons a day of filtration.
- Higher maintenance costs. Over time, you’ll spend more money on filters.
The Berkey water filter system
Berkey filters are not just water filters but also water purifiers. Water purifiers remove microbial contamination including bacteria, protozoa and viruses, making the water safe to drink. This makes it ideal for those on well water or people who experience occasional boil water advisories.
Berkey water filters are countertop gravity water purification systems – in fact, they’re the only one, as they’ve been shown to remove viruses, which is the distinguishing factor between filtration and purification.
Except for the Berkey Light, all Berkey purification systems are made of a two-chamber reservoir of highly durable stainless steel. They also all use the famous black Berkey filter element.
Berkey offers multiple sizes of purification systems, from on-the-go systems to smaller and large countertop systems. Let’s have a look at a few below.
The Big Berkey is the original product. It’s been around for at least 20 years. It’s a 2.25-gallon, two-part reservoir that is 21″ tall and 8.5″ wide and 7 lbs empty. This size is good for a family of 4 and comes with two black Berkey filters but accommodates up to four filters, increasing the filter lifespan and filtration rate.
Although with two filters it has a filtration rate of up to 3.5 gallons per hour, it is suggested that it may require 2 hours and 15 minutes for the upper chamber to completely filter into the lower chamber.
Fluoride filters that attach to the black filters and remove 97% fluoride can also be purchased separately.
The Travel Berkey has the same design as the Big Berkey and all other Berkey filtration systems, only smaller. It’s 19″ high by 7.5″ wide with a 1.5 gallon capacity and a filtration rate of 2.75 gallons per hour.
For single people or couples who have low to moderate water consumption, it might be a better size than the Big Berkey. It’s a good fit for countertops and can fit into an airline carry-on bag if you plan on going anywhere exotic with iffy water. The Travel Berkey comes with two filters for a total lifespan of 6,000 gallons if well maintained.
The Berkey Light is the clear-blue, BPA-free plastic alternative to the Big Berkey. It costs a bit less and weighs a little less than the Big Berkey but holds a bit more water at 2.75 gallons. The main advantage is that you can see the water inside so you’ll know when to refill it and how much water to add so it won’t overflow. It also comes with a 6″ wide stand, and it comes with two filters but accommodates up to four filters.
The main disadvantages of the Berkey Light are that it requires more frequent cleaning to prevent algae growth and it has a shorter warranty. While the stainless steel Berkey systems come with a lifetime warranty, the Berkey Light system comes with a two-year warranty.
Larger stainless steel Berkey sizes include:
- Royal Berkey: 3.25 gallons, good for 2-6 people with moderate to high water needs
- Imperial Berkey: 4.5 gallons, good for 6-10 people, accommodates up to 6 filters
The famous Black Berkey filter elements
A Black Berkey filter is a carbon composite of high-grade coconut shell carbon and a proprietary blend of five other types of media. The Black Berkey filter has been tested by State and EPA-accredited laboratories including the Department of Toxicology and Environmental Science at Louisiana University, Spectrum Labs, and the University of Phoenix.
Although they are not certified, the Black Berkey purification elements are said to exceed NSF/ANSI Standard 53 and remove 203 contaminants including viruses, pathogenic bacteria, chloramine, chloride and other chlorine products, trihalomethanes, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, VOCs, heavy metals, lead, nitrites, petroleum products, fluorene, rust, sediment, and much more. As for purification, one hundred percent of pathogens were removed with zero pathogens found.
Berkey lifespan and warranty
All stainless steel Berkey systems come with a lifetime warranty (no need to register, your order number is sufficient) and have a 30-day money-back guarantee. Try it out and return it if you’re not completely satisfied.
Berkey filters have a lifespan of 3,000 gallons because of their unique ability to be cleaned up to 100 times using a 3M Scotch-Brite pad. The Black Berkey filters themselves each have a 2-year warranty!
Berkey pros and cons
- Berkey is a water purifier, not just a filter, so it can also remove bacteria, protozoa, cysts and viruses.
- Lower maintenance costs (one filter will last years or 3,000 gallons with proper care!)
- They last a long time – years and years
- Reduces plastic use and waste
- Removes far more contaminants than Brita
- Some tests have shown Berkey filters to exceed NSF/ANSI Standard 53
- Reviewers say it even removes color from the water (tannins, etc.)
- Can purchase additional fluoride filters
- No maximum daily filtering capabilities
- They’re slow. You might need to keep a separate pitcher full so you’re not waiting around for the water to filter.
- You can’t see how much water is in the bottom reservoir and risk overfilling it and leaking. However, this is solved by purchasing a sight glass spigot.
- These don’t fit in your fridge; they are definitely a countertop item. If you like cold water, you’ll need to fill a separate pitcher to keep in the fridge.
- They’re big. They may take up more counter space than a Brita pitcher and may not fit well into all kitchen layouts.
- They’re heavy, which could be a concern for older people. However, you shouldn’t be moving it while it’s full of water anyway. Just be sure it sits near a tap. And the spigot makes this a bit of a moot point anyway.
- Their initial cost is higher and the filters cost a lot more money too. However, with proper maintenance, they do last a long time.
- They are higher maintenance than Brita. You’ll need to wash out the reservoirs monthly as well as flush and scrub the filters every 6 months or so.
- They don’t do annual NSF certification while Brita does, and they are not WQA certified.
The final word on Brita
Whether you’re looking for chlorine removal and immediate results or in-depth filtration, small space-saving designs that fit in the fridge or larger countertop jugs, lower-maintenance and longer-lasting filters or just simplicity, they have something for everyone. Brita is a trusted brand for good reason, especially for city dwellers.
The final word on Berkey
If you scour the internet, you’ll find articles contesting the filtration claims made by Berkey. It is unfortunate that they don’t invest in formal water testing and certification by the main groups that are standard in the water filtration industry, such as NSF and WQA. And it’s unfortunate that we don’t know exactly what their filters are made of.
However, people who own a Berkey say they work very well and love them. Just be sure to follow the instructions and clean your reservoir every month and your filters every 6 months or so with a clean 3M pad to ensure they continue to filter your water the way they should.
Many people who have previously had a Brita say that Berkey water tastes better. Berkey is especially well suited for those in rural areas or for those who don’t trust their water supply.
Q: Can a Berkey filter be used with a water softener?
A: It’s not recommended as soft water (full of sodium) may prematurely clog the filters, shortening their lifespan.
Q: Do Berkey filters or Brita water filters soften drinking water?
A: No. In fact, Berkey filters leave in the beneficial minerals. And because Berkey water is slightly more alkaline, you might see calcium precipitating out of the water into the reservoir or sticking to the spigot. Simply rinse it out with a mild vinegar solution. Brita also does not soften the water or remove healthy minerals; however, many people say the water tastes and feels softer, likely due to everything that is being filtered out.
Q: Does the Berkey remove everything it says it does?
A: Some articles on the internet state that there’s no way Berkey filters could remove everything they say they do due to their carbon-based filter. But Berkey filters are actually made of proprietary technology, so we don’t know exactly what’s in them, therefore we can’t effectively refute what they do or don’t filter. It is unfortunate that they don’t certify for NSF or WQA.
Q: What’s the best Brita filter system?
A: The Brita faucet mount filter removes the most contaminants. The Brita Longlast filter for pitchers removes more contaminants than the standard pitcher filter.
Q: What system is best for well water and city water?
A: In short, a Berkey would be better suited to well water while a Brita would be better suited to city water.