Gravity Fed Water Filter: What It Is and Why You Want One

Gravity Fed Water Filter: everything you need to know

I love gravity fed water filters! Why? Because they require no plumbing or electricity to run.

This makes gravity fed water filters a completely autonomous system that is perfect for off grid living, removing toxins from municipal water, and are handy for boil orders and emergency filtration situations.

In this article, I go over the three best gravity water filters available on the market.

I also cover pretty much everything you need to know about these systems from off grid use to filter maintenance and more.

Let’s get started!


Best Overall:

Berkey Water Filter Systems


Berkey Water Filter Sizes Comparison Chart

Berkey:Crown BerkeyImperial BerkeyRoyal BerkeyBig BerkeyTravel BerkeyGo Berkey
Image
Capacity6.0 gallons4.5 gallons3.25 gallons2.25 gallons1.5 gallons1 Quart
Min. Filters2 filters2 filters2 filters2 filters2 filters1 filter
GPH Min. Filters6.5 GPH5.5 GPH4 GPH3.5 GPH2.75 GPH1 GPH
Max. Filters8 filters6 filters4 filters4 filters2 filters1 filter
GPH Max. Filters26 GPH21.5 GPH8 GPH7 GPH2.75 GPH1 GPH
Dimensions11"D x 31"H10"D x 27"H9.5"D x 24"H8.5"D x 21"H7.5"D x 19"H4"D x 14"H
Weight12 lbs10 lbs8 lbs7 lbs6 lbs2.4 lbs
LinkProduct LinkProduct LinkProduct LinkProduct LinkProduct LinkProduct Link

Pros

  • Filters and purifies water removing 99.99% of bacteria and viruses
  • Compact system that provides a substantial amount of filtered water
  • Additional element can remove fluoride (separate purchase)

Cons

  • Rubber stoppers and washers can make water taste funny, easily replaceable
  • Filters can clog up quickly, requires regular flushing and maintenance
  • Will not ship to CA or IA

The Berkey water filter systems are well known in the off grid community as one of the best drinking water solutions.

There has been extensive testing on Berkey’s water quality and the company touts itself as the most powerful gravity filter currently on the market.

The Black Berkey Elements, which are the replaceable ceramic filters that go inside the Berkey, remove many contaminants:

Fluoride – 99.9%

Viruses – 99.9%

Pathogenic Bacteria – 99.9%

Coliform and e-Coli – 99.9%

Pharmaceuticals – 99.5%

Black Berkey purification elements

Black Berkey Purification Elements

Berkey filters also remove lead, arsenic, iron, mercury, chlorine, chloramine, pesticides, etc.
The additional fluoride filters can remove the tiny fluoride particles from municipal water sources. Note that these need to be replaced at different frequencies than the black filters.

Berkey PF-2 fluoride filter

Berkey PF-2 Fluoride Filter

You can find the Berkey water testing results here.

Users have reported that the unit is well manufactured and sturdy, although I do recommend upgrading to the stainless steel spigot as the plastic one can break.

As with any product, there are concerns and drawbacks.

The first problem is the rubber stoppers and washers. Users complain that it makes the water taste rubbery. I suggest replacing those immediately with plastic ones.

Another problem is the slow rate of filtering.

Some users report that their filters clog up within days of use. This is a typical filtration issue if water has a higher level of sediment, especially from well water and off grid systems.

I strongly recommend getting a whole house prefilter to clear up sediments and debris before running water through this unit.

iSpring sediment remover

iSpring Sediment Remover

This iSpring whole house water filter catches sediments down to 50 microns and is flushable, eliminating the need for replacement filters.

Berkeys can be a bit tricky to set up, especially priming the filters. Luckily, there are a ton of handy YouTube videos that give you the step by step instructions on how to get things set up properly:

I would like to point out that there have been claims that Berkey is a scam and that their test results have been doctored.

People question why Berkey will not comply with Iowa and California state lead certifications. Berkey has addressed this issue in this article.

In my opinion, between the published water tests and the article mentioned above, I find Berkey to be a reputable company.

Overall, I recommend Berkey water filter systems for their powerful purification process to remove virtually all bacteria and viruses from water. I also like that the products are made of high-quality materials and are built to last.

Check out my article Go Berkey VS Travel Berkey to clarify the differences between these products.


Best Bang for Your Buck:

Propur Big Gravity Water Filter System


Propur Big gravity water filter

Buy on Amazon

Pros

  • Upgraded elements can filter out microplastic
  • No priming of filters required
  • All-in-One filter removes contaminants and fluoride

Cons

  • Mixed customer support
  • Users report of rust
  • Some reports of top compartment not draining all the water out

The Propur Big countertop gravity water filter system rivals the Berkey water system as its new ProOne G2.0 filter elements can remove viruses, bacteria, and cysts from water. This upgrade makes the system capable of both filtering and purifying water in the wild.

The filters do not require priming which is a huge plus as some people have struggled with this finicky process.

Propur Big leaves good minerals in the water so the flavor is spot on. The micro-pore ceramic filters are also infused with silver that prevents the growth of bacteria.

Another thing I like about the Propur is that the fluoride removing element is infused with the main filter so you don’t have to purchase an additional filter. However, because of this, the filters need to be changed out more often.

Propur touts that their filters can remove microplastics. What is a microplastic, you ask?

According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that break off into the environment. These pieces leach out chemicals such as phthalates, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA).

Sounds like stuff I don’t want in my water!

Propur’s ProOne G2.0 series “all-in-one” filters are NSF/ANSI -42 certified and you can find their in-depth water testing reports here.

Unfortunately, one common issue is the reports of the unit rusting after a few months of purchase. This doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem but it would make me think twice about buying it.

I have also read reports that customer service is non-responsive. I do think the company has worked to remedy this issue as more recent users have had good customer support. Therefore, I rate it as a mixed bag.

Overall, there are things I do love about the Propur Big countertop gravity water filter system such as the microplastics removal, built-in fluoride filter, and the use of silver for bacteria prevention. Just keep a lookout for any signs of early-onset rust.


Best Value:

Doulton Gravity Filter System


Doulton gravity water filter

Product Link

Pros

  • Cheapest price point
  • Comes with two ceramic filters
  • High quality stainless steel unit

Cons

  • Does not reduce total dissolved solids
  • Plastic spigot can leak; upgrade to metal spigot
  • Customer service is poor

Doulton is a high quality product with the lowest price point of these class of gravity filters.

It is manufactured in the U.K. and users love the product.

The unit is 20 inches tall by 8.5 inches in diameter. The unit is made to hold 2 ceramic filters, but up to 4 can be used.

The unit can hold 2 gallons of water and takes about 4-5 hours for complete drainage.

Doulton filters remove most contaminants, but note that it does not reduce total dissolved solids. This leads to the water taste being not so great.

I suggest immediately upgrading to the stainless steel spigot, as users report leakage from the plastic spigot.

There is not a lot of information available on Amazon about this filter, so I suggest heading over to the manufacturer’s website to get more details: doulton.com.


Part Two: Information about Gravity Water Filter Systems


How Does a Gravity Water Filter Work?

A gravity container filter uses the force of gravity instead of water pressure to filter water. This eliminates the need for plumbing and electricity, which is great for an emergency or off grid situation.

The container is separated into an upper and lower chamber. Water is poured into the upper chamber and flows over the water filters to collect into the lower chamber.

antique porcelain gravity water filter
Antique gravity water filter

The main filtration element that gravity filters are known for is the porcelain filter. Unlike standard porcelain, gravity water filters use specialized porcelain that has micro-fine pores so the smallest of viruses can be removed.

Because these types of filters can capture contaminants including bacteria, viruses, and cysts, water from wells and the wild can be drunk after being filtered through these units.

Each system does vary and will have different types of additional proprietary filters installed.

Benefits of a Gravity Water Filter

The biggest benefit to these filters is being able to take water from the wild and make it drinkable. Just be sure to prefilter water so you don’t gunk up your unit with too much debris or sediment.

dipping cup into stream water

These units work well in a survival or emergency water situation. If your water gets shut down or you only have access to untreated water, these filtration systems can provide you with accessible drinking water without having to boil or use chemicals.

You do not need electricity or plumbing for this filtration system to work.

The filters come in various shapes and sizes which can accommodate being placed on a countertop and are easily transportable.

The water tastes wonderful; odors and bad tastes are completely removed.

Drawbacks of a Gravity Water Filter

The flow rate is pretty low on these filters. The typical gravity fed filter can provide from 2 to 6 gallons a day.

You do need to refill these filters manually, so make sure to keep on top of topping it off.

You will need to calculate how much drinking water you need before purchasing a unit. Make sure to see the output of these filters so it can match your family’s water usage.

There will be additional filters that will need periodic replacing and replacement parts can be expensive.

Pitcher Water Filter vs Gravity Fed Water Filter

You may be wondering if a standard water pitcher, such as a Brita or Zero Water pitcher, would work to get your drinking water clean enough.

The bottom line is that these pitcher filters are not going to be tough enough to filter water from the wild.

This is because these filters are not designed to eliminate bacteria and viruses, only sediments and chemicals.

However, pitcher water filters work decently enough to filter water from municipal sources.

Zero Water pitcher water filter

Product Link

I personally use the Zero Water Pitcher Filter in my camper when I am on a municipal source. I like this pitcher because it comes with a PPM tester so I can see how much contaminant is being filtered out of my water. I typically get .001 PPM readings after running through this filter; in one area my municipal water was reading at 112 PPM! Gross!

The main reason for purchasing a porcelain gravity water filter when on a municipal source is for emergencies. If you have a boil order you will need additional purification of your tap water. If your municipal water source gets shut off and you have access to wild water, you can use this system to make it potable.

Considerations when Purchasing a Gravity Water Filter

Capacity – calculate how much drinking water your family needs then purchase a filter accordingly.

Flow Rate – Depending on the system will depend on how fast or slow the water gets filtered. Typically, the slower the flow rate, the better the filtering job will be done as the water has to pass through smaller pores.

Contaminants removed – although most filters take out the most prominent contaminants, if you have a special water situation with a particular contaminant you may need to do additional research to make sure that filter will work for you.

Filter Changes – aside, from the ceramic element, there are typically additional filters in the system that will need more frequent changing. Make a note of how often you need to change those filters.

Using a Gravity Water Filter Off Grid

It is highly imperative to prefilter your water before running through your gravity fed water filter. Well water with high sediment levels and water from the wild with debris needs to be cleansed thoroughly or else you will clog your container filter quite quickly.

A simple cheap whole house water filter will do the trick. I recommend if you are pumping water from the wild to build a screen enclosure around the pump to keep larger debris out before running through the prefiltering unit.

Make sure that when you purchase a filter, that it will filter out viruses too. Many filters can catch bacteria, but viruses are so teeny tiny that they can clear through filters that are only built to catch bacteria.

I suggest looking at test analyses for the unit you are looking to buy. I have included these test results in my reviews portion of this article.

Gravity Water Filter Maintenance and Preparation

There is a preparation period for these systems that require a priming process. This process is when the filtering elements become saturated with water. This may take up to a few days to complete, depending on the filter.

Some elements require initial water flow through the filtering elements; these need to be primed with water pressure from your faucet.

Follow all manufacturer directions to make sure you properly prime your filter.

Maintenance is easy for these units; filtering elements need to be cleaned periodically with a water rinse and a wipe down from a wet clean cloth.

NEVER EVER use soap or hot water! Soap will ruin the filters and need to be replaced.

Filters that need replacement will reduce the flow rate. Try to wash out these filters and if the flow rate does not improve it is time to replace them.


I hope you have enjoyed my article about the best gravity fed water filter systems on the market today.

Regina, owner of Maximum off Grid

Hi, I am Regina, the creator of Maximum Off Grid.

My goal is to teach you how to become more self-sufficient, no matter how small the change.

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.

Have a great day!

Regina Ferrari


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  • Can you mix differing sizes of the same style of filtering elements if they will fit the unit you are using? I.E. 4″ dome with a 7″ candle, a 10″ candle and a fluoride filter as long as they all fit and do not touch each other?

    • My concern would be if you use a smaller filtering element in a larger container, will the water get filtered enough. I would also be concerned about the flow of the water. That being said, it would probably be OK for water from a municipal source but I’d be cautious about using it to filter wild or well water.

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