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The Difference Between Black Berkey Filters And White Ceramic Filters

Let’s Go Back In History

To understand the differences between the old-style Super Sterasyl Ceramic filter and the Black Berkey purification element, it helps to have a brief history on the evolution of the business. Essentially, the Super Sterasyl filters are an evolution of ceramic filter technology originally discovered in 1827 by Henry Doulton in Britain. Over the years, the Doulton company made noteworthy improvements upon the ceramic filters by introducing methods for bacteria removal and self sterilization. Once these improvements were incorporated, gravity filters became heavily used by military forces, relief organizations, and missionaries who lacked access to clean water.

The general public also took note and the Doulton company built it’s core business around this Super Sterysyl Ceramic filter technology. Eventually In 1985, British Berkefeld was acquired by Doulton and continues to sell these ceramic filters across the world to this day.

Through a distribution partnership with Berkefeld, North American residents were given the opportunity to purchase the Super Sterysyl Ceramic filter product locally. This partnership built upon this filtration franchise by designing and creating the Black Berkey Element and expanding the lineup of Berkey housing systems and accessories.

Designed in the late 90’s, the Black Berkey filter element is a self-sterilizing proprietary combination of approximately 6 different types of media designed to take filtration to the next level. They exceed EPA log 7 ANSI / NSF protocols for filtration and thus are rated as water purifiers (as opposed to a rating of ‘water filter’, which is a lower filtration quality rating).

Black Berkey vs Old-style Super Sterasyl Filter Comparison in Depth


From a filtration perspective, the Black Berkey’s filter out the same chemicals and contaminants that the Super Sterasyl Ceramic Filters do, but go above and beyond by removing Lead, MTBE’s, and other heavy metals. In addition, since the Black Berkey’s are water purifiers, they filter out bacteria to a 99.99999% level and viruses to a 99.9999% level.  The black berkeys also filter out Chlorine to undetectable levels, while the ceramics will only remove > 90%.

The Black Berkeys and Ceramics are basically the same in terms of cleaning, price, and overall day to day use. However, the black berkeys have a much longer lifespan as shown below.

  • Black Berkeys last approx 6000 gallons (per set of 2)
  • 7″ Ceramic Filters last approx 800 gallons or 6 months, whichever comes first (per set of 2)
  • 9″ Ceramic Filters last approx 1200 gallons or 6 months, whichever comes first (per set of 2)

This longer black berkey lifespan would equate to lower filter replacement costs. While both filters are very durable, the ceramics have a slight edge and may benefit missionaries or those who expect to place daily physical wear and tear on the filter when breaking down the system for transport.

In conclusion, both filters are outstanding performers with a long proven track record and hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers, however the Black Berkeys last much longer, are more comprehensive in the array of contaminants they filter out, and have an advantage in their ability to remove many of these contaminants to a higher percentage. 

What About the New Berkey Earth Filters?

The new Berkey Earth ceramic filters were released Dec. 2015. These are designed to be the best ceramic filters on the market, providing Berkey quality at a lower price point while also being an upgrade over the older Super Sterasyl ceramic filters. They are available with all Berkey Models.

Cutting to the chase, the 3 primary advantages of the Black Berkeys over the Berkey Earths is the Black Berkey’s ability to remove viruses, a faster filtration rate, and a lower long-term cost for removing fluoride as they utilize the more cost-efficient PF-2 filter in the lower chamber.  For a more detailed comparison of the Black Berkeys and the Berkey Earth Filters, please see the Berkey Earth page.