How to Prime Berkey Filters (2023 Ultimate Guide) (2023)

The Black Berkey purification elements are incredible things: they have a lifespan of three years, and they can remove more than 200 contaminants from water.

But to make the most of the Black Berkey filters, you need to make sure to follow Berkey’s instructions for maintenance and care.

There’s not a lot to remember, but one essential habit to get into is to prime your filters before you use them.

In this guide, I’ll be discussing why priming Black Berkey filters is so essential and offering a simple step by step on how to prime your filters. At the bottom, I’ve also answered a few frequently asked questions, so check there if you’re interested to learn more.

Table of Contents

  • Importance of Priming Your Black Berkey Filters
  • Step by Step: Priming Your Black Berkey Filter
  • Frequently Asked Questions
(Video) How To Prime Berkey Filters With Priming Button

Importance of Priming Your Black Berkey Filters

Priming the Black Berkey filters is essential before their first use and at the time of setting up your system. Because the Black Berkey elements have a dense filtering medium, it can cause a high level of surface tension. This means that, in the first use of a Black Berkey filter element, water will struggle to penetrate the medium.

Priming the Black Berkey elements is essentially the act of forcing water through the filter, which relieves any surface tension and enables water to filter through. Remember that the Berkey is a gravity water filter, so the purification elements rely on a much less forceful pressure to send water through the filter media (as opposed to water pressure in an under-sink filter, for example, which is much stronger). This means that if the Black Berkey filter elements aren’t correctly primed, it’s likely that water won’t be able to pass through them at all.

If you’re interested in the Berkey water filter system, or you’ve gone further ahead and bought the system yourself, you’ll likely know how incredibly effective the purification elements are – so capable, in fact, that they can even filter red food coloring entirely out of water.

Because the filters have such tiny pores, they can remove bacteria and other microorganisms, setting them apart from most gravity filters. But these tiny pores, when the filters are dry, can become trapped with air, which is what creates the high surface tension. It’s only when the trapped air is released that the purification elements can work as they were designed to.

(Video) Priming Your Filters With Berkey Prime Rite

How to Prime Berkey Filters (2023 Ultimate Guide) (1)

Step by Step: Priming Your Black Berkey Filter

There are three different methods that you can use to prime the Berkey water filter elements:

Using the Priming Button

The most common method of priming the Berkey purification elements is to utilize the priming button. Here are the instructions for this method:

  1. Take out filter from packaging – Take out your new Black Berkey filter from its packaging and take the wing nut and the washer off the end of the filter. Then put the washer and the wing nut back onto the filter backwards.
  2. Assemble filter for priming – Next, push the tan priming button onto the threads of the filter. Use the nut as a way to force the button against the faucet at your kitchen sink, forming a tight seal.
  3. Turn on your water – Slowly turn on your water until you see water beads forming on the exterior of your filter. Keep the faucet on for about 20 seconds, then repeat with the second Black Berkey filter element.
  4. Install the filters – The priming button method is complete and the filters are now ready to install in your Black Berkey water filter system. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the install or check out this video below, produced by Berkey, for the full priming and installation process.

Priming Without Water Pressure

If you’re in an area with no water pressure from a faucet, you can prime the Berkey purification elements with around half the effectiveness of the priming button method. Basically, that means that your purification elements will have a 50% slower flow than if you’d primed them using the priming button method – but if it’s your only option, it’s definitely better than nothing.

Here’s how to prime your Black Berkey water filters without water pressure:

(Video) Berkey Water Filter Primer Pump Demonstration

  1. Assemble the Berkey system – Start by assembling your filter unit, but don’t add the purification filters just yet. If you’ve already assembled the filters, take them out of the upper chamber, then fill the lower chamber with water from your faucet.
  2. Place the purification elements in the lower chamber – Next, place each purification element in the water in your lower chamber. Make sure they’re upside down with the stems pointing up. Place a ceramic coffee mug, or anything else that’s weighty enough for the job, upside down over the stem of each purification element. This will push the elements to the bottom of the lower chamber.
  3. Leave filters to soak – Let the Berkey filters soak for a minimum of two hours, checking that the stems of the elements aren’t under the water. The water will release some of the air from the filter pores.
  4. Reassemble the filters – You can now assemble the Berkey water filters in the unit’s upper chamber. Don’t worry about emptying the water out of the filters – in fact, it’s better to try and keep as much water on the inside of each purification element as possible during your upper chamber assembly.
  5. Assemble the unit for use – Once you’re finished, empty the water from the lower chamber and fill the upper chamber with water. Try do this as quickly as possible, with no break between emptying the lower chamber and filling the upper chamber.

Using the Black Berkey Primer

The final method that can be used to prime your Berkey water filters if you don’t have water pressure is the Black Berkey primer method.

The Black Berkey priming tool can be purchased directly from Berkey and is a priming and purging bulb that’s powered by hand.

Below are the step by step instructions on how to utilize the priming tool as an alternative to the priming button method:

  1. Assemble the priming tool – To start, attach the plastic tubes to the valves on either side of the bulb, working the tubes into the ends of the bulb.
  2. Connect to your filter – Your next task is to connect the threaded stem of the Black Berkey element to the tube.
  3. Place filter in water – One by one, place each of your Black Filters into a bucket of cold water with the stem, attached to the Berkey priming tube and bulb, facing upwards.
  4. Squeeze the bulb – Squeeze the priming bulb and let the water flow through the tube and out of the other end. Once water is freely flowing, the filter is ready for use, and you can do the same with the second of your Black filters.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often do you prime Berkey filters?

You should prime the new or replacement filters in your Berkey system before using them for the first time. You should also prime your filter elements once every 6 months after you’ve cleaned them out.

(Video) How To Know If Your Berkey Water Filter Is Authentic (Updated 2023)

Additionally, you should prime the Berkey filters if you’re planning to put any of your systems in storage for an extended period of time. It’s fine to reuse filters that have been stored away for some time – just make sure you store them correctly. Priming them before use, thus ensuring any lingering air is forced out, is essential for enabling the filters to work properly.

Do you have to Prime Berkey filters?

No – but if you didn’t prime the black filter cartridges, they wouldn’t work properly. You’d be lucky to get much water in the lower chamber of your Berkey unit at all if your filter pores weren’t primed, as the air would prevent water from properly flowing through the media. Water might either flow slowly through the filter or be unable to pass through at all.

Do the Berkey Fluoride filters also need priming?

Yes. It’s just as important to prime the Berkey Fluoride filters, if you’re using them. The process for priming these filters is as follows:

  1. Make sure the blue caps on the filters are in place, then use running water and a mild dish soap to wash the outside of the filters.
  2. Wash your hands, then take off the blue caps from each end of each fluoride filter.
  3. As you would with the Black filter elements, replace the blue caps with the tan-colored priming washer and press the button against the faucet at your kitchen sink to create a seal.
  4. Gently turn on the faucet, allowing water to flow into the cavity of the filter and out of the other end. Let water flow through the filtering cartridge, releasing trapped air, until it runs clear.
  5. Repeat the process with the opposite end of the filter. The filter is now fully primed. You can repeat steps 3 and 4 for any additional or replacement fluoride filters that you have.

How long does it take to prime a Berkey filter?

The actual priming stage with tap water usually takes up to a minute. If you added on the few minutes it’d take to assemble the filter, it should take up to 10 minutes, or less than this when you’re familiar with what you’re doing.

Do you have to Prime Berkey filters after cleaning?

Yes. You should try to keep up with Berkey’s advised cleaning routine for your Black Berkey filters, washing them out with bleach and water once every 6 months or when water cannot property pass through the filter anymore. Once the elements have been cleaned, they then need to be primed to force out the air and make them ready for use once more.

(Video) How to Prime Berkey Water Filters (Easy Step by Step Tutorial for Beginners)

Do I need a Berkey primer?

No, you don’t need to purchase this priming tool, but if you live in an area with no water pressure (i.e. you don’t have a faucet to prime your filters), or if you only ever utilize your Berkey systems in areas with no water pressure (i.e. on a campsite), the tool may be very useful and help you to better prime your elements.

Note that when your filtration elements aren’t properly primed, it’ll take longer for your lower chamber to fill with clean water. Buying a priming tool could help you save time on water filtration, so it’s definitely worth considering if you need it.


Why isn t my berkey filter priming? ›

The problem you are experiencing is probably due to high water tension, which is preventing the air from being purged from the micro pores of the new purification elements. Water tension varies from country to country and from area to area and can also change from season to season.

How long does it take to prime a Berkey filter? ›

Tips For Priming Berkey Water Filters

Only use cold water; never use warm water, hot water, or soap to prime the elements. It can take 3-4 minutes per filter. It takes awhile sometimes, so if you feel like you're doing something wrong, try to wait a little longer, and it may start seeping through correctly.

How do you prime a Berkey filter without water pressure? ›

How to Prime a Berkey Filter by Soaking
  1. Place the filters upright (stem up) in a container such as the bottom chamber. Place a mug or glass over the filters to weigh them down.
  2. Let soak for at least eight hours.
  3. Remove mugs. If filters float, they may need additional priming. If they sink, they are now primed.

Can you soak Berkey filter to prime? ›

Priming Black Berkey Filters Via Soaking

Stand filters in the bottom chamber or a similar container. The stem side should be facing up. Weigh the filters down with a mug or water glass on the stem. Let the filters soak for a minimum of 8 hours.

Why won t my Berkey filter water? ›

If you just purchased your Berkey® system and the filters are hardly filtering water, the problem is typically due to high water tension. This high water tension prevents the air from being purged from the micro pores of the new purification elements.

Do black Berkey filters need to be primed after cleaning? ›

For optimal performance, Berkey recommends re-priming the filters after they have been cleaned. Place the filter elements on a clean surface and allow them to dry. Clean the wing-nuts, washers, spigot, and rubber base, as well as the stainless steel chambers.

How long can Berkey filters go without water? ›

If you are traveling away from your Berkey system with Fluoride Filters, you will need someone to run water through your refrigerated Fluoride Filters, every 14 days, as if they were in normal use in order to keep them wet. Once Fluoride Filters dry out, they will need to be replaced.

Why is my new Berkey filtering so slow? ›

Why Is My Big Berkey Going So Slowly? If your filtration seems to be going at a slower rate than average, it might be because of the Fluoride Filter. This device relies on dense media to stop fluoride and arsenic from getting in your drinking water. This extra step can slow down a Big Berkey.

How long can water sit in Berkey? ›

How long can water stay in my Berkey system before I need to replace it? It is recommended that you replace your Berkey water after three days. For water that is in a cold environment, the water can keep for up to one week.

How do I know if my Berkey is working? ›

Fill the upper chamber with water and add a teaspoon of red food coloring for every gallon of water. Allow the water to run through to the bottom chamber. If the red food coloring is removed entirely, your purification system is working properly.

How often do you prime Berkey? ›

You should prime the new or replacement filters in your Berkey system before using them for the first time. You should also prime your filter elements once every 6 months after you've cleaned them out.

Can you put tap water in a Berkey? ›

I use a Berkey Filter because in my opinion they are one of the most sustainable, cost-effective, widely applicable, and easy to use filters on the market. This filter (and many other brands) can be used for both rainwater and tap water.

Can you let a Berkey filter dry out? ›

- For longer term storage, we recommend drying and sealing the filters. The key is to make sure they are completely dry before storing them, to avoid bacterial growth. One way to dry your filters is to leave them on a windowsill for one to three days and let them air dry. We also offer a priming and purging tool.

Can you use vinegar to clean Berkey filters? ›

Caution: Do not spray vinegar on Black Berkey® filters or PF-2 filters. To clean the tanks, you can use lukewarm water with a little mild washing-up liquid and scrub gently with a sponge.

Can I drink first batch of Berkey water? ›

Before one can enjoy the first sips from their newly purchased berkey water filter, any system using Black Berkey Elements must be primed to prepare the filters for use. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to do and is rather easy and straightforward.

When should I purge my Berkey filter? ›

We recommending cleaning the chambers and spigot monthly. The Black Berkey Filters should be scrubbed every 3-6 months or when the flow rate is noticeably slower.

How do I know if my Berkey filter is bad? ›

To perform the test, pour water dyed with Mccormick's red food coloring into the upper chamber (1 tsp per gallon). If the water that collects in the lower chamber is tinged with red at all, it is time to replace your filter elements.

Do Berkey filters get clogged? ›

This is why Black Berkey® water filters produce approximately 8 times more water per hour than other competitive elements. Although a number of the surface pores can become clogged with contaminants, it is very difficult to submerge all of the pores and thus clog the filter.

Why is my filter not priming? ›

Priming issues with hang-on filters are easily solved - they usually need filling with water before they are turned on. You may also need to top your tank up a little more to ensure that there are no problems moving water from the tank into the filter.

What can I do with old Berkey filters? ›

To recycle, you must cut the element open and remove the material before recycling the plastic shell. The same issue applies to the Black Berkey filters. The complex matrix of materials manufacturing the BB9 elements does not allow the elements to be easily classified by a single recycle code.

Why is my Berkey draining so fast? ›

That means your Black Berkey® filters have been primed perfectly! The water flows in a trickle as soon as you fill the top tank. It is the weight of the water column that forces the water through the filters. Once the water column is smaller (between the last third and half), the water flows in a fast drip.

Why does my Berkey water taste weird? ›

The most common cause of the initial metallic taste is failure to fully prime the Berkey Fluoride Filters. The granular nature of the fluoride-capturing media in the Berkey PF-2™ filter results in some finer material being present.

Can I keep my Berkey in the fridge? ›

/FAQS / Sport Berkey® FAQ / Can I put my Sport Berkey® in the refrigerator? Yes you can refrigerate the Sport Berkey®, but don't let it freeze as freezing could expand the pores within the filter element and could compromise the integrity of the filter element.

Can bacteria grow in Berkey filters? ›

Berkey filters require unnecessary maintenance

This cleaning method has the potential to introduce harmful bacteria and hinder the filter's performance. In short, any attempt to clean the filter could actually create an unsanitary environment for your drinking water.

Does Berkey filter e coli? ›

Heavy metals were removed to greater than 99.1% after it was poured into the Berkey. Coliform and e-Coli were also removed to over 99.9% after the testing. Another laboratory conducted a series of tests for the Berkey Water Filter.

How do you test if a water filter is working? ›

The most effective way to determine if your water filter is working properly is to test your water before and after it passes through your filter. Such analysis is called performance testing because it tests the effectiveness of your filter in reducing or removing potentially harmful contaminants that pass through.

Can I filter rain water with a Berkey? ›

The Black Berkey® water filters used in Berkey® purification systems are fully capable of filtering rainwater.

Is Berkey water better than distilled water? ›

What is a Good Alternative to Distilled Water? Berkey Water! Providing a fantastic alternative to distillation, Berkey water filter systems combat several issues found in water. The first being the quality of the water.

How healthy is Berkey water? ›

HEALTHY ~ Berkey water filters are preferable to other filtration systems because they remove viruses, harmful pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites as well as unhealthy chemical contaminates and impurities while leaving in the essential minerals your body needs.

Where do you put Berkey in the kitchen? ›

It is designed to sit on the countertop. But because it's 19 inches tall, it won't fit under many wall cabinets, which are typically set 18 inches above the countertop.

Should I use 2 or 4 filters in my Berkey? ›

Using more than two Black Berkey Filters in a Berkey will not remove more contaminants. The more filters you use the faster your water will filter from the upper chamber to the lower chamber. Using more filters will decrease the amount of volume in the upper chamber, so you may see less water in your lower chamber.

Why does my Berkey have white residue? ›

This process is called flocculation. This is not dangerous and is in no way a symptom of a failure in your system. The white residue is minerals that were already in your water and are now simply visible when they were previously invisible due to their suspension in ionic form.

How do I know if my Berkey water filter is working? ›

Fill the upper chamber with water and add I teaspoon of red food coloring for every gallon of water. Allow the water to run through to the bottom chamber. If the red food coloring is removed entirely, your water filtration system is working properly.

Why is my Berkey filtering super slow? ›

If your Berkey filter isn't working early on, the slow flow rate is likely caused by air pockets. Air pockets occur when the filters have not been fully primed and pockets of air have not been forced out of the filters by water during the priming process.

How long can a Berkey sit without water? ›

If you are traveling away from your Berkey system with Fluoride Filters, you will need someone to run water through your refrigerated Fluoride Filters, every 14 days, as if they were in normal use in order to keep them wet.

What is the lifespan of a Berkey filter? ›

Black Berkey water filters last for more than 10 years.

Each durable and efficient filter will last for up to 11,350 liters (22,700 liters per set of two) and provide you with years of efficient water purification. For instance; If you were to use 38 liters per week, this is equivalent to 600 weeks.

Can you over fill a Berkey? ›

If you unfortunately do overfill and experience an overflow, you may find that hardly any water comes out of the spigot. Just lift the upper chamber slightly to let in some air. This should remedy the problem.

How often should I wash my Berkey? ›

When and How Often to Clean Your Berkey Filter. We recommending cleaning the chambers and spigot monthly. The Black Berkey Filters should be scrubbed every 3-6 months or when the flow rate is noticeably slower.


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