Berkey vs Brita: An Objective, Hands-On Comparison

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Berkey and Brita are two of the most well-known names offering solutions to filter water at home. While Brita is famed for its water filter pitchers, Berkey is best known for its stainless steel gravity-fed water filtration systems. 

We wanted to find out which brand has the best product offering, so we tested the Big Berkey and the Brita Elite 10-Cup Tahoe pitcher in our own homes to compare them across a range of performance categories.

Although the Big Berkey and the Brita Elite pitcher both use gravity filtration, their filtration processes and outcomes are very different. In our testing, the Big Berkey did a better job overall at reducing the contaminants in our water, but the unit’s fluoride filters appeared to leach aluminum oxide. Brita did a poorer job at addressing the contaminants specifically found in our water supply, but it has a major advantage over Berkey: an official performance certification. 

📊 Our Testing Data

We compared the Berkey and Brita systems across the board with 6 key scoring factors. You can find the scores we combined to rank both systems in the table below.  

Contaminant Reduction8.254.29
Filtration Rate7.5010.00

Here’s the data we used to reach the scores for each ranking factor. 

Overall Score8.026.59Berkey
Health Related Contaminants8.603.50Berkey
Aesthetic Related Contaminants6.709.90Brita
Performance CertificationNoneNSF/ANSI 42, 53, 401Brita
Filtration Rate0.75 GPH2.92 GPHBrita
Component QualityExcellentFairBerkey
Component CertificationNoneNSF/ANSI 42Brita
Servicing RequirementsWeakOutstandingBrita
Costs$0.13/ gal$0.17/ galBerkey

🚰 Contaminant Reduction

To award the Big Berkey and Brita Elite’s contaminant reduction scores, we conducted water quality tests using both systems at home, then looked for official performance certifications on NSF, IAMPO, or WQA databases.

Our Lab Test Results

We used Tap Score tests provided by SimpleLab to determine which contaminants were present in our source water, and the percentage of these contaminants that Brita and Berkey removed. 

When we tested the Big Berkey, the manufacturer claimed that it could filter untreated water as well as treated tap water. So, we tested the filter twice: once using our own home’s tap water supply, and again using an untreated river water sample.

Good to Know: Berkey has since revoked their claims that their filters can remove microorganisms. 

The Brita filter is designed only to filter treated water, so we tested it just once with our treated groundwater supply. 

We’ve listed the contaminants detected in each of our water sources, and the percentage removals of these by the Big Berkey and Brita Elite, in the next table.

ContaminantMeasurementBerkey Test 1 UnfilteredBerkey Test 1% ChangeBerkey Test 2 UnfilteredBerkey Test 2% ChangeBrita UnfilteredBrita% Change
Nitrate (as N)PPMNDNDNDNDNDND3.53.3-5.71%
Total ColiformsCFU/100mL150-100.00%NDNDNDNDNDND
Total Dissolved SolidsPPMNDNDNDNDNDND137134-2.19%
Total THMsPPB0.0270390-100.00%0.03520-100.00%NDNDND

The Big Berkey did a much better job at removing the contaminants detected in our water. Even though our overall water quality was affected by an issue with the Berkey fluoride filters, it still got a better score than Brita here. 

Note: We tested each system separately, at different times, so we can’t draw direct comparisons between the two. However, we still think the data is interesting and we used it to conduct our scoring accordingly.

Health-Related Contaminants

As we mentioned, we tested the Brita Elite filter (an upgrade of the Standard filter) just once to see which contaminants it could reduce from our water, so our score for health-related contaminant reduction was based on this single test. 

Our Treated Water Testing

The treated water supply we used to test the Big Berkey contained 12 contaminants with potential health effects (listed in the table below). We were the keenest to remove lead, chloroform, total THMs, bromodichloromethane, and cobalt from our water because they were detected at concentrations exceeding the laboratory’s guideline level.

Total THMsPPB27.040.32

The Big Berkey’s score for reducing health-related contaminants in our treated water was the combined and averaged score from two separate tests. 

In our first test, Berkey eliminated 100% of lead, disinfection byproducts, copper, barium, and manganese, and reduced a tiny amount of cobalt: 3.23%.

We were pleased with these results – but one outcome was concerning to us. Our water’s aluminum concentrations had increased to 1.4 PPM post-filtration, which was alarming given that our laboratory’s health guideline for this contaminant is just 0.6 PPM. We spoke to the lab, and our only conclusion for this anomaly was that the alumina filtration media in the Berkey fluoride filters was leaching aluminum oxide into our water. 

The fluoride levels in our water were also only reduced by 50%, which seemed unusual to us since the main purpose of the PF2 filters is fluoride reduction, and Berkey claims they can reduce this impurity up to 99.99%. 

We retested our water after buying a new set of fluoride filters and running more than 100 gallons of water through them. Thankfully, our filtered water’s aluminum levels were now below the lab’s health guideline level, although we did still see a slight increase from 0.052 PPM to 0.069 PPM. The better news was that 100% fluoride had now been removed. 

Our test also detected potassium and sodium in our filtered water, but we don’t think this was an issue with the filters – we suspect these came from the 100 gallons of a different water source that was filtered initially. 

Moving on to the Brita Elite filter: our unfiltered treated groundwater source contained 8 contaminants with potential health effects. In this case, we were most concerned about fluoride and uranium because these were detected at concentrations above the laboratory’s health guidelines.

Nitrate (as N)PPM3.510
Total Dissolved SolidsPPM137none

Like the Big Berkey, the Brita Elite reduced 100% barium. It also did a great job of reducing 97% copper. But our other test results didn’t blow us away – the filter only reduced uranium by 26%, strontium by 13%, molybdenum by just 7%, nitrate by just 5%, and fluoride by 0%. Sulfate actually increased post-filtration, but only by 0.1 PPM, which was likely just a small detection difference between the two tests. 

It might seem like Brita offers a poor filtration performance for a water filter of its kind. But it’s important to note that the Brita Elite isn’t certified to reduce most of the contaminants that were detected in our water, and nor does Brita claim that it can. We imagine we’d get a much better outcome if we used the pitcher to filter contaminants that it is certified to reduce, like lead and cadmium. 

‼️ That’s why testing your water is so important – there’s no point in buying a filter that doesn’t address the contaminants in your water supply. 

Our Untreated Surface Water Testing

Our untreated river water test for the Big Berkey was positive overall, showing us that the system had reduced 100% of total coliform – but we’ve not considered this as a scoring criteria sine Berkey should not be used to filter untreated surface water.

Aesthetic Contaminants

Both our treated water supplies contained chlorine: our Berkey test water contained 0.5 PPM of chlorine, and our Brita test water contained 1 PPM of this chemical disinfectant. 

We wanted to eliminate the aesthetic effects of chlorine; notably the chemical tastes and smells that we could detect in our water.

The Big Berkey and the Brita Elite pitcher both removed 100% chlorine, and we were pleased to note that our filtered water tasted cleaner and purer in both tests. Both systems use activated carbon media, which is a popular filtration media that uses adsorption to reduce chlorine, tastes, and odors. 

Brita still did better in this category because Berkey’s aesthetic score was reduced due to the increase in aluminum in our test 1 filtered water. This increased our water’s pH to 8.7, which could cause aesthetic effects.

Performance Certifications

We value performance certifications for water filters because they provide official proof of their contaminant removal abilities.

Sadly, Berkey doesn’t have any performance certifications. We could only find third-party testing data for the contaminants removed (see the full list here), which doesn’t offer the same reassurance and reliability as official certifications. 
The Brita Elite did better in this category because its performance capabilities have been certified by the IAMPO and the WQA. However, Brita could still do better – it has only been certified to reduce 15 out of the 33 contaminants listed on the performance data sheet.

🚦Filtration Rate

The Brita Elite pitcher and Big Berkey are both gravity-fed systems, and we measured their filtration rate in gallons per hour (GPH).

We’ve shared our measurements for both systems in the table below.

ProductFiltration Rate ScoreFiltration Rate
Berkey7.500.75 GPH
Brita10.002.92 GPH

It took the Brita Elite 8:01 minutes to filter 0.391 gallons of water, which gave it a flow rate of 2.92 GPH. 

The Big Berkey actually had a much slower filtration rate of 0.75 GPH, which was a surprise to us given that we used the system with two larger Black Berkey elements. However, we had primed the Berkey filters and sent a lot of water through them already before we tested their flow rate, which could have reduced the filtration rate slightly. 

The flow rate for both systems will likely reduce over time as they become more saturated with contaminants.

💲 Upfront Cost

The Big Berkey is the most expensive filter of the two by far, costing $447.00 including two initial Black Berkey filter elements. If you want to remove fluoride from your water, you’ll need to spend an extra $99.99 extra on a pair of fluoride filters, bringing the total cost up to $546.99.

The Brita 10-Cup Tahoe pitcher was priced at $41.99 at the time of this review, including one initial filter cartridge. 

That makes Brita the obvious choice for folks with small budgets who want to spend less than $50 upfront on a gravity water filtration system.

ProductInitial PriceFilters IncludedReplacement Filter Cost
Big Berkey$447.002$99.99
Brita Tahoe Elite$41.991$19.99

📐 Design

Looking at filter design, we combined our own observations and notes on the Brita and Berkey systems’ design quality (their rigidity, durability, quality of build, etc.) with materials safety certification data from official organizations. 

We’ve broken down the design scores we assigned to the Brita Elite pitcher and Big Berkey unit in the table below.

ProductDesign ScoreComponent QualityMaterials Safety
Berkey7.80Below AverageNot certified

The Brita Elite got the best design score from us. Even though we thought that Berkey’s design quality was better, the Brita Elite has a materials safety certification, which pulled up its score to be slightly above Berkey’s. 

Filter Models

Both Brita and Berkey sell a number of different units that can be used with their gravity filters. 

Berkey’s Black Berkey Elements and PF2 Fluoride Filters can be used in the following Berkey countertop filtration systems: 

The majority of these systems have the same stainless steel design but differ in their water-holding capacities. The Berkey Light is the only system that has BPA-free plastic chambers and is Berkey’s more “affordable” option (we use that term lightly!).  

We’ve come across a whole host of different Brita filters online, but currently, the Brita website only sells three pitchers and one dispenser that use the Elite filter: 

All Brita pitchers and dispensers are made from plastic, and they’re very similar – their main difference is how much water they hold, and some have their filter change indicators in different locations. The pitcher handles and lids are sold in a few different colors, including red, blue, black, and white.

Component Quality 

Berkey got the best score for component quality because we prefer its stainless steel unit materials. We thought the unit felt sturdier and more durable than Brita’s plastic pitchers, and we know that many folks would rather store their water in a stainless steel vessel than a plastic one.

The Brita Elite pitcher is made from SAN (Styrene acrylonitrile resin) and polypropylene. These plastics are considered safe and can legally be used in the food industry for storage purposes, but a growing number of studies raise concerns about the leaching of bisphenols (even in BPA-free plastics) and microplastics from these materials. 

For instance, this 2023 review cited a UN estimate that around half of plastic constituents were composed of hazardous monomers and additives, adding that microplastic particles had been “frequently found” in drinking bottles and food packages.

The Big Berkey, therefore, is the better option for folks who want to avoid plastic and its negative connotations. Its stainless steel design gives it a heavier, sturdier feel and a more industrial look. It also offers the reassurance that it definitely won’t leach plastics or harmful chemicals, and it shouldn’t rust. 

It still contains some plastic, though – we noted that the spigot was plastic, and the filter cartridges were attached to plastic mounts. 

Filling a glass from a Berkey filter

Filter Materials

Brita’s filters have a simpler design than Berkey’s, which explains why Berkey filters can target a broader range of contaminants with their filter media. 

The Brita Elite filters use activated carbon core technology – and that’s all the info we could find on them. It doesn’t appear that the Elite filters use any additional filtration media, such as ion exchange resin or layers of physical filtration.

holding brita elite filter next to pitcher

The Black Berkey filters also contain activated carbon, but they’re more comprehensively designed, with an additional ion exchange resin and four other undisclosed media. The PF2 filters are predominantly activated alumina-based, which is known for its ability to reduce fluoride and arsenic. In Berkey’s filter design, we’re not convinced of activated alumina’s safety for this purpose, although it’s possible that we received faulty filters.

Berkey PF2 fluoride filters next to filter system

Brita’s filter media is housed inside plastic cartridges, while Berkey filters are glued to plastic mounts. 

Design Setbacks

Both Brita and Berkey have a couple of unique design setbacks that we want to mention. 

The Brita 10-Cup Tahoe Water Pitcher had the advantage of being small, portable, and easy to carry with one hand. But a setback of its smaller water-holding capacity was that we had to refill it much more often than the Big Berkey, which holds 2.25 gallons of water. 

Brita’s offerings also have the disadvantage of being made from plastic, as we discussed earlier. 

Berkey’s main design setback was caused by the fact that its stainless steel casing didn’t allow us to view into the bottom chamber as we could with Brita. The unfiltered water chamber sits on top of the filtered water chamber, and we accidentally overfilled the top chamber, causing water to spill out of the gap between the two onto our countertop.

We also didn’t like the fact that the Big Berkey’s spigot is plastic. Many Berkey distributors sell stainless steel spigots and glass spigots as optional upgrades, but at an extra cost. 

Materials Safety Certification

Materials safety certifications are additional certifications that water filter manufacturers can obtain, this time not for performance, but for design. 

Brita has obtained a materials safety certification from the WQA, so it got the top score from us here. 

Berkey units haven’t been certified for materials safety.

⚙️ Setup

The Brita Elite pitcher and the Big Berkey are both countertop gravity water filtration systems, so they have the advantage of being no-install when it comes to setup. 

But we found their setup processes very different, and we’ve shared how we scored each system based on setup time and complexity in the table below. 

ProductSetup ScoreSetup Time
Berkey7.801 hour 20 minutes
Brita9.50<5 minutes

The Brita Elite was the easiest system to set up by far. 

Many water filter pitcher manufacturers, including Brita, have recently reevaluated their water filter designs to make it quicker and easier to prepare them for use. 

There was a time when these filters had to be soaked, or we’d have to filter and dump several batches of water, which was time-consuming. But now, Brita filters just need to be held under running water for 30 seconds, then they’re ready to use.  

We also washed out the Brita pitcher and reservoir before we started using it. And that was it! The process took us less than 5 minutes in all.

Unfortunately, our Berkey setup process was a lot more time-consuming

We had to manually prime our filters, which added an hour to our overall setup time. Our unit came with a tan priming washer, which was almost impossible to get a seal with our faucet. Some Berkey distributors also sell a blue priming nipple, but we found that this would only fit older faucets. 

Note: you won’t be able to use either priming method if you have a spray or pullout faucet.

Assembling the Berkey unit was quicker and took us around 20 minutes. 

🔧 Maintenance

The Brita pitcher uses just one filter, which has a decent lifespan of up to 6 months, while we got the Big Berkey with four filters: two Black Berkey elements and two fluoride filters. We knew that our maintenance costs and frequency for Brita vs Berkey would differ for this reason. 

You can see the maintenance scores for both systems in the table below.

ProductMaintenance ScoreServicing RequirementsCosts
Berkey8.50Weak$0.13/ gal
Brita9.75Outstanding$0.17/ gal

Brita did best in this category – even though Berkey filters have a lower ongoing cost, Brita filters are still very affordable and are much quicker and easier to replace.

Servicing Requirements 

We had two key maintenance tasks for our Brita Elite pitcher: 

  1. Replacing the filter (every 4-6 months or so)
  2. Cleaning the pitcher and reservoir (around once or twice a week)

These tasks were easy, and it was a nice change for us to only have to buy 2-3 filters a year – most other water filter pitchers we’ve tested need new filters every 2 months. Our pitcher came with a filter change indicator, which was a useful guide on when to replace the filters, although it’s not 100% accurate as it doesn’t account for water quality. 

Again, we didn’t have to prime the filters. They were ready to go after being flushed under running water for 30 seconds.

The Berkey system required three maintenance tasks: 

  1. Replacing the Black Berkey elements and fluoride filters according to their own timelines
  2. Cleaning the water chambers
  3. Cleaning the Black Berkey filters with a Scotch Brite pad every 3-6 months to extend their lifespans

Even though cleaning the Black Berkey filters was extra effort, we were glad to be able to do it so we could avoid replacing the filters for as long as possible. We faced similar issues with priming the replacement filters, which required the same time-consuming process as the initial filters. 

Brian installing the Big Berkey filter element

Maintenance Costs

Both Berkey and Brita are affordable to own in the long run, predominantly because of their long filter lifespans. 

Brita says that the Elite filter should last up to 120 gallons, or 6 months, on average – that’s around three times the average lifespan of a water pitcher filter. Using this estimate, we calculated the ongoing spend for our Brita Elite pitcher as just $0.17 per gallon. 

We assumed the Big Berkey would be more expensive given that we had four filters in total to replace: the two Black Berkey elements and the two fluoride filters. 

But actually, thanks to Berkey’s massive 6,000-gallon projected filter lifespan for a pair of Black Berkey elements, our unit had a cheaper ongoing filter cost of $0.13 per gallon. Here’s a breakdown of the separate filter costs:

  • Black Berkey elements (x2): $0.034/gallon
  • Fluoride filters (x2): $0.09/gallon

We haven’t yet tested any of the systems for long enough to compare the manufacturers’ projected filter lifespans with our actual experience. This could affect the filters’ actual cost per gallon for us, and we’ll update this guide when we have this data.

🏢 Company

We want to feel that we can trust a manufacturer before we invest in one of their products, and warranties, shipping, and returns policies help us to get an idea of the level of service we can expect. 

In this section, we’ve compared Berkey and Brita as manufacturers. 

Note: Berkey filters aren’t sold directly by the manufacturer, so here, we evaluated, a popular Berkey distributor. 

See the company scores for both manufacturers in the next table.

ProductCompany ScoreWarranty LengthShippingReturns
Berkey9.10LifetimeFree shipping on orders over $99 to the lower 48 states30 days
Brita8.501 yearFree shipping on orders over $3530 days

Both did well here, but offers an unbeatable warranty, which gave it the best overall company score. 

Warranty Length 

Brita’s 1-year warranty is one of the best warranties we’ve seen for water filter pitchers. But still wins this category with its lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects. 


Brita’s shipping fees only apply to orders of less than $35, while only offers free shipping to customers in the lower 48 states who spend $99 or more. 

The good news is that Berkey’s and Brita’s products generally cost more than their minimum spends for free shipping anyway, so you should at least get free shipping on your initial purchase. 


Brita and Berkey products are backed by a 30-day returns policy, so they’re equally matched in this category.

⛔️ System Setbacks & Flaws

Here, we’ve compared the setbacks we identified with the Berkey and Brita systems during our testing. 

Brita Setbacks

  • Only removes a few contaminants – The Brita Elite filters are only capable of removing a select group of contaminants, and our pitcher did a poor job of reducing many contaminants in our water. 
  • Not certified for reducing all contaminants  – Brita claims to reduce many more contaminants than the Elite filters are actually certified for. 
  • Long filter lifespan concerns – We’re concerned about contaminant clogging, flow rate issues, and biofilm growth in Brita’s filter media over their 6-month projected lifespan, especially as they can’t be cleaned like Berkey filters. 
  • All-plastic design – Brita currently only sells pitchers and dispensers made from plastic. 

Berkey Setbacks

  • No certifications – Berkey systems don’t have performance certifications or materials safety certifications, while Brita filters have both. 
  • Expensive – The Big Berkey cost hundreds of dollars, so it’s not a budget-friendly choice. 
  • Overflow risk – We didn’t like how easy it was to accidentally overfill the bottom chamber, causing water to overflow. 
  • Takes much longer to set up and replace filters – Our setup and maintenance processes took hours for our Berkey unit whenever filter priming was involved. 
  • Fluoride filters affected our water quality  – Our filtered water contained aluminum oxide, which we believe came from the Berkey fluoride filters.

🆚 Berkey or Brita: Which Do We Recommend?

We think Berkey and Brita both have their fair share of selling points, and a few setbacks, too. We don’t think one is categorically better than the other, but there are a few situations where one system might be the better choice for you.

We Recommend Berkey If:

You’re keen to remove a broader range of contaminants from your water. 
You prefer to limit your water’s exposure to plastics. 
You’re looking for a filter unit that holds a lot of water. 

We Would Recommend Brita To:

You only feel comfortable buying a water filter that has a certified performance. 
You have a smaller upfront budget and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a water filter. 
You prefer a filter that’s small, portable, and easy to carry with one hand. 
You want to avoid the controversy of the Berkey name and go for a brand with a long-time positive reputation. 
  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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