Berkey® vs. British Berkefeld

We are often asked: What is the difference between a Berkey® water purification system and a British Berkefeld filter?

Many self-proclaimed specialists give their point of view, leaning towards one or the other system, without really knowing the specificities and often based on feelings, on purely aesthetic criteria or simply on the price. But the comparison should not be made on these criteria. Of course, the purchase price is an important parameter, but on the latter, for example, one should compare, not the purchase price, but the price per litre filtered, taking into account the longevity of the filter elements. But the main focus should be on what these devices are designed for: filtering water! What is their real filtration capacity, their efficiency on pollutants? Because above all, a water filter must filter water!

Here is a comparative test of the two systems.

DOULTON - British Berkefeld

Berkefeld water filters are gravity-filtration systems, like Berkey® water purifiers, but are equipped with Stérasyl filters from Doulton, a long-standing manufacturer of water filters. And more specifically ceramic filters, the modern version of which is based on a discovery that dates back centuries: the water in a pottery jar eventually passes through, thanks to the porosity of this material, and the water that escapes is cleaner than the water contained.

In the early 19th century, Henry Doulton modernised this discovery and created the first ceramic filter, now used to filter water in some gravity systems.

Berkey vs Berkefeld - Berkey® Store

How Sterasyl filters work

The operation is similar to other filters in this category. They are made of a porous material (in this case ceramic), with pores large enough to allow water molecules to pass through but to retain some larger pollutants. When these filters become clogged, they can be cleaned a number of times before they become unusable.

Sterasyl filtration capacity

Ceramic filters are capable of removing some chemical pollutants and pesticides, chlorine, VOCs and larger micro-organisms such as bacteria and cysts by microfiltration. The much smaller viruses are not removed by Doulton filters, and their ability to remove heavy metals is limited.

Lower initial purchase cost (but higher cost per litre filtered) ✖️ Shorter life span (3000 litres compared to 22,700 litres for Berkey®)
✖️ Higher cost per litre of filtered water
✖️ Works only by microfiltration
✖️ Lower filtration fineness
✖️ Does not filter out viruses
✖️ Analyses not released

Berkey® Filters

Berkey® filters were first introduced in the 1990s. They are the latest in a line of scientifically researched filters that use technological materials to provide highly sophisticated water purification systems.

Berkey® filters work by gravity, like Doulton filters, moving water from one tank to another with a filtration time that gives them optimum efficiency and exceptional results. The Black Berkey® filter elements at the heart of the Berkey® system are based on a proprietary blend of high-tech media that provide a level of filtration that no other filter can match.

Berkey® specialises in the design of domestic filters for drinking water. The range includes 8 different models for both home and outdoor use, from the smallest, suitable for one or two people, to the Crown Berkey®, which can purify drinking water for up to 600 people a day in an emergency situation. And unlike other systems that claim to be water purifiers but have little filtration capacity, Berkey® systems are true water purifiers, capable of filtering and making drinkable just about any water.

Système Berkey - Berkey® Store

How Berkey® filters work

The Black Berkey® filter is a proprietary blend of six different types of media, specifically designed for water purification, compacted into a microporous matrix. This matrix forces the water to flow slowly through microscopic pores and tunnels in what we call a "winding path". The diameter of this network effectively traps sediment, bacteria, cysts, parasites and other pathogens. This is what we call microfiltration.

This is often where the capacity of many other, more advanced water filters ends. But Black Berkey® filters do not stop there. They also use absorption, a phenomenon that allows certain elements to be trapped. This is actually an ion exchange membrane that acts on negatively charged contaminants, chemically bonding them to the filter media, rendering them inoperable and inert. This is how Berkey® filters remove heavy metals from water such as lead, copper, chromium, cadmium, aluminium and mercury.

The last characteristic of Black Berkey® filters is adsorption, which can be likened to an adhesion phenomenon. In order to understand this principle, a parallel can be drawn with the electrostatic force such as that which can be seen when small polystyrene balls stick to the skin. Unlike bacteria, which are much larger and are retained by the microporous matrix through microfiltration, viruses are much smaller and pass through the finest channels. However, when they enter the filter, the viruses are held by electrostatic force and drawn out of the water and held against the surface of the media and cannot be released. For science buffs, this phenomenon, called the "Van der Waals Force", is explained on this page.

It is because of this feature that Berkey® purifiers are able to eliminate 99.9999% of all viruses.

Finally, thanks to the silver contained in the media, Black Berkey® filters are both bacteriostatic and self-sterilising (to kill organic elements) so that no element can escape or contaminate the filtered water.

Berkey® filtration capacity

Black Berkey® filters, through microfiltration, and like a standard ceramic filter, remove turbidity, rust, bad tastes, odours, bacteria, parasites, pesticides, herbicides, VOCs and other chemicals. But the comparison ends there. They go much further by removing endocrine disruptors, MTBE, lead, chromium and other heavy metals, and above all 99.9999% of viruses, which the filters fitted to Berkefeld systems cannot do. This makes them real water purifiers, capable of supplying you with drinking water in any situation and at any location. On this page you will find the results of the Black Berkey® filter tests.

✔ Much larger list of contaminants removed ✖️ Slightly higher start-up costs
✔ Better efficiency on bacteria
✔ Virus removal
✔ Higher filtration fineness
✔ Much longer life of the filter element
✔ Much lower cost per litre filtered
✔ Analyses disponibles


In order to make a meaningful comparison, we have chosen two systems of roughly similar design and capacity. On the one hand the British Berkefeld 8.5L with 2 Ultra Sterasyl cartridges and on the other hand the Big Berkey® 8.5L with 2 Black Berkey® filters.

Big Berkey® British Berkefeld
Volume 8.5L 8.5L
Cost 450.00€ 299.90€
Filter life if filled once a day 7 years 1 year
Cost per litre filtered for a pair of filters 0.009€ 0.022€
Filtration fineness 24 Nanometers 200 Nanometers
Flow rate 11 litres / hour 1.7 litre / hour
Filtration technique Microfiltration, absorption, adsorption Microfiltration
Virus filtration YES NO


Looking at the key elements of the two systems, it can be seen that in all areas except the initial cost, the Berkey® filters are superior to the British Berkefeld. Even the initial higher cost of the Berkey® is quickly absorbed in comparison to the cost of a water bottle and the system more than pays for itself after a few months of use.

Tests have been carried out specifically for heavy metals and radioactive isotopes by an independent laboratory on various filtration systems. The British Berkefeld filter is part of these tests, you can see the results on this page. You will see that the results are very poor, and even bad on aluminium since the filters increase its content (see here a summary table).

Doulton may be a historic company in the water filter business, but our increasingly polluted environment requires more efficient filtration based on more modern and advanced technology. If you want a quality water supply, regardless of your environment or location, at the lowest overall cost of ownership, the choice is obvious...

Berkey® purification systems are the world leaders in water purification!