If you are unfortunate enough to live somewhere where the tap water tastes downright terrible, spend a lot of time camping, live in a rural area with questionable water sources, or you simply want the cleanest water possible, finding a way to filter large amounts of water (like your entire daily water supply) can be something of a challenge. Fortunately, the gravity water filter can help.
No matter where you live, you can probably benefit from water filtration systems. High quality filtration systems can open up new water sources, giving those living or camping in rural areas access to more water, or aiding in emergency situations. But even for those living in the city orthe suburbs and drinking from the tap, water filtration can be helpful to remove contaminants from tap water, like heavy metals that may be picked up from the plumbing, contaminants to the water supply, or even additives like fluoride. For more on how water filters work and what they do, check out this great HowStuffWorks article on water filters.
Counter top gravity water filters are capable of holding multiple gallons, equipped with high quality filtration systems, and require no installation. Installing filtration systems into the plumbing can be hugely expensive and difficult to maintain when the filter gives out. Solutions like filtered water pitchers can be helpful, but end up being quite inconvenient when it comes to filtering multiple gallons or making sure you always have a ready water supply – the counter top gravity water filter, in contrast, provides a huge multi-gallon reservoir of ready to drink purified water.
(UPDATE: While the gravity filters in this review are still fantastic filtration systems, we’ve kept up with the times and done an updated version of this article! Be sure to check out Best Countertop Water Filter Reviews 2017 for a few more modern suggestions!)
Comparing & Reviewing to Find the Best Gravity Water Filters
High quality gravity water filters can be an investment of several hundred dollars, so it is important to do some exhaustive research to find what best suits your households needs. To help you along the way, I’ve compiled my top 5 picks for the best deals and highest quality gravity filters available on the market.
This stainless steel Doulton looks quite nice on any countertop, but more importantly has some quality filtration. Equipped with two SuperSteraysl ceramic filters, the Doulton removes bacteria, chemicals, pesticides, parasites and most other nasty stuff that can work its water into the water supply. I tested the Doulton when I lived somewhere with particularly foul tap water, and unfortunately the Doulton wasn’t quite enough to get the taste completely out, but it did make it far more palatable.
At a 2.2 gallon capacity, the Doulton is on the small side, which is great for portability. When empty, the unit is very light and easy to move, though it can be difficult to maneuver when filled. Stainless steel construction means that it is virtually indestructible, making it ideal for taking with you where ever you may want to filter water! Versatile and easy to transport, the Doulton is equally at home on a counter top or at a campground.
My main complaint is probably the small dispenser spout. I expect it to take a long time for my gravity water filter to filter my water, but I’m not too happy with waiting to get my water out once its been filtered. The tiny spout spells a pretty low flow rate. Other than that, I don’t have any complaints about the Doulton. And hey, patience is a virtue.
In many ways, this British Berkefeld is like the Doulton we picked for #5 but supercharged with extra filters. Like the Doulton, it is stainless steel, gravity-fed through ceramic filters, and has a relatively low capacity of 2.1 gallons. But where the Doulton had 2 ceramic SuperSterasyl filters, the Berkefeld includes 4 7″ SuperSterasyl ceramic filters. In addition to using super-fine micron ceramic filtration, these filters are impregnated with antibacterial silver nanoparticles to further cut down on microbe content.
This powerful filtration allows the Berkefeld to filter from a huge variety of water sources: lakes, ponds, streams, questionable water sources, and much more. Aside from making your water at home taste as clean and pure as it possibly can, the Berkefeld can be your companion to clean water where ever you go. In the right (or wrong, I suppose!) situation, the Berkefeld could even be a life saving device.
Since it includes 4 filters, it can take quite a long time to filter water through the Berkefeld. Especially during first use, it can take up to hours for the filters to get properly saturated and reach the maximum flow rate. According to Berkefeld, this unit can filter up to 30 gallons of water a day. One huge benefit of this system is its washable filters – instead of replacing the filter constantly, you simply remove them and gently scrub them under running water. Berkefeld recommends washing the filter element whenever flow rate starts to decline, or every six months. Replacement filters are available for around $100.
This offering from Zen Water Systems is more than just a filter. While at the heart of the system is a powerful 0.2-0.5 micron ceramic filter which removes chemicals, bacteria, and all sorts of other contaminants, the Zen Water System doesn’t stop at mere filtration. Passing through the micro-ceramic filter is the first stage of the 5-step process. By the end of its journey, the water has moved through the ceramic filter, been purified with a carbon filter, alkalized, and mineralized. The Zen even incorporates an alternative medicine component known as “far-infrared ceramic balls,” reputed to have health benefits among alternative medicine practitioners.
While I can’t speak for the claims made towards the far-infrared ceramic balls (and would probably err on the side of skepticism,) alkaline water has been debunked as a fraudulent practice. Mineralizing water can be important, especially since much tap water across the U.S. can be lacking in vital minerals like magnesium which can have important health benefits.
The ceramic filters in this Zen Water System are excellent and comparable to some of the best on the market. Combined with its impressive 8-gallon capacity, multi-stage filtration, and alkalizing and mineralizing features, the Zen Water System is a steal at just $100. In my experience using it, the water tastes quite fresh and clean with no plastic flavor or any funk. But there is something of a “mineraly” taste – a lot like you get out of mineral bottled water as opposed to regular bottled water. The flavor from the Zen isn’t the super-clean taste of some filters, but this is not because it isn’t filtering as well as the competition: it is simply because it adds minerals.
Since the system is gravity fed and goes through multiple filters and channels, it can take awhile to fill it up -especially if you are filling it up to its 8-gallon capacity. When first putting water into a new unit, it can take minutes for the water to really begin making its way through. I haven’t had any problems with contaminants from the filter itself getting into the water, but be sure to flush before using. Replacement filters ($23) and mineral cartridges ($25) need to be swapped out about every 500 gallons or when performance declines.
Now we have entered the domain of the truly high-end water filter! In terms of any comparable portable water filtration system, you aren’t going to get water filtered any better than the AquaRain 404 will provide. With four super-microscopic sub-micron ceramic filters, the AquaRain removes over 99.9% of water contaminants including all sorts of bacteria and microorganisms, cysts, synthetic chemicals like pesticides and pollutants, water borne parasites, and all sorts of other microscopic contaminants, even some viruses!
In addition to filtering through the porous structure of the ceramics, the AquaRain passes water through a shell of sterile metallic silver which has anti-microbial properties to help further cut down on anything that might be living in your water. The ceramic filter elements are removable and can be cleaned if filter performance is declining, meaning they virtually never need to be replaced, or only after thousands of gallons – but if you want completely fresh filters, relpacements from AquaRain run about $150.
With a stainless steel design making it quite formidable, the AquaRain 404 is as tough as a tank and can accompany you anywhere. The 3-gallon capacity keeps it light weight and portable even when its full. Which is quite useful, since its powerful filtration is enough to make some of the most questionable water sources drinkable and even delicious – be it a puddle, a lake, or even just a tap you want to make a bit tastier, the purifying power of the AquaRain 404 is quite impressive.
(Find the best deals and prices on Berkey Filters at the Berkey Website.)
When we looked at our #2 pick, the AquaRain, I said you aren’t going to get better filtering from any other comparable portable system – and I stick by that. So why isn’t the AquaRain reigning at #1? Well, the Berkey BK4X2 BB Big Gravity Filter is just as capable as the AquaRain. Where the AquaRain 404 makes use of 4 ceramic filters, the Berkey BK4X2 has four filter elements which can be configured differently with various Berkey filter products. In this particular model, the BK4X2 has been equipped with 2 Black Berkey Filters & 2 PF-2 Fluoride Filters.
Overall, the Berkey may provide better filtering overall than the AquaRain. An independant analysis from waterfilterlabs.com concluded:
“When it comes to reliable removal of toxic elements such as lead, cadmium, arsenic and even uranium, Big Berkey is the best performing gravity water filter available on the market today.”
Black Berkey Filters are made from a proprietary blend of 9 different types of filtering media designed to extract every possible contaminant. Combined with the 2 fluoride filters, the BK4X2 is the ideal choice both for purifying drinking water from questionable sources and for making tap water as pure as can be. With the powerful Black Berkey filters able to remove enough contaminants to make just about any water source accessible, the BK4X2 is a great outdoors companion especially thanks to its relatively low capacity and lightweight design. The addition of fluoride filters rounds out the BK4X2 as a remarkably versatile filtration system, perfect for removing all contaminants from a home tap and even reversing water fluoridation for those concerned with fluoride intake. Berkey includes some interesting information about the performance of the Big Berkey BK4X2 and their other filters on their website.
If you desire, you can even switch out which filters you are using in the BK4X2 by selecting other compatible filters from Berkey, like their ceramic filters, or other specialized filters which target specific compounds. The Berkey consistently turns out clean, delicious tasting water no matter the source and with any filter configuration I’ve installed – whether its a truly disgusting stagnant pool or just a funny tasting tap, the Berkey can render it pure and drinkable.
To get a bit of a visual demonstration of how the Berkey is put together and works, check out this YouTube video courtesy of emergencyfoodwarehouse:
I’ve named the Berkey BK4X2 #1 over the AquaRain because it is a bit cheaper – about $30, yet the only thing sacrificed is about a two-thirds of a gallon of capacity, since the Berkey holds 2.25 gallons versus the AquaRain 404’s 3 gallon capacity. Both have a stainless steel container and housing, so you can rest assured that no BPA or other weird plastics are making their way into your water.
Berkey lists a filter life of 3,000 gallons for the filter elements in the BK4X2, but the Black Berkey filters are washable much like ceramic filter elements and can often have their lifetime extended well past even this extremely generous allotment. If you give the filter a gentle cleaning any time flow rate starts to decline, it can remain in service for thousands upon thousands of gallons of use. Considering the Berkey only filters about 3.5 gallons of water per hour, that is some serious filter life time even if you replace them every 3,000 gallons! The fluoride filters are not washable, unfortunately, and may need more frequent replacement. A 2 pack of Berkey PF-2 Arsenic/Fluoride Filters is just under $40, and pack containing 2 Black Berkey Filters and 2 PF-2 Filters is available for around $140.
Finally, here is another video from emergencyfoodwarehouse which compares the Berkey with our #3 pick, the Zen Water System – definitely worth a watch!
Berkey offers excellent prices and customer service with their direct sales available on their website. They often have deeply discounted sales as well as their “Scratch & Dent” section which offers exceptional deals on models with minor cosmetic flaws. For the frugal shopper, this is definitely the place to look.
Clean Water, Healthy Body
Drinking plenty of clean, pure water is an essential part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you have any concerns at all about the quality of your water, don’t hesitate to pick up a water filter! The options explored above are affordable and can do wonders for the taste of your water and even potentially improve your health.
If you aren’t quite ready to dive in with a whole gravity filter counter top set up, you can still filter your water with other methods, like an incredibly portable filtered water bottle, or a filtered water pitcher if you need a bit more capacity.
Looking for something a bit more high tech than just a gravity fed counter top filter? Check out our review of the Amway eSpring, a neat above- or below-counter filtration system which combines a UV light with carbon block filtration and connects to any sink.
More Filtration Resources
Since this article was originally published, we’ve done quite a few more articles that might be helpful for those looking for filters. Check out our piece Best Water Filters That Remove Fluoride for some ideas on tackling water fluoridation. If you’re concerned with chloramine, check out Simple Guide To Chloramine Filters & Chloramine In Drinking Water.
If you know you need a quality filter but want something a bit smaller and more portable, be sure to read our Best Portable Water Filters for Camping Or Hiking Guide.
Interested in learning more about the why behind your need to filter your water? Have a look at Top Five Reasons Your Water Tastes Funny.
Also don’t forget to check out the new and improved Best Gravity Water Filters of 2017 article!
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Comprehensive comparisons and reviews of 5 of the top Gravity Water Filters available on the market in 2015.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.