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Berkey vs Zen: Which one is the best for 2021?

By Austin Armstrong May 23, 2021

Berkey vs Zen: Which one is the best for 2021?

Are you searching for a device to help you filter your tap water? Are you confused by the wide array of products at various price points with their different features and components? There are indeed many products to consider. Today we compare two companies: Berkey and Zen.  

Berkey makes a line of state-of-the-art water purification systems, not filters. The difference is critical. Purification removes contaminants to a much higher standard than filtration. On this page, we compare Berkey’s “Big Berkey” system to the “Active 8-Gallon” system made by Zen. Both are countertop systems designed for domestic use. However, it hardly matters which system we choose to represent each company, as all of each company’s products use one filter. We will compare filter performance, price, and other factors, and arrive at a conclusion based on which product stands out. We make some interesting discoveries, and stay tuned to the end, as our conclusion might surprise you. 

Berkey vs. Zen: What Contaminants Do They Remove?

Berkey’s website offers performance-related data for its charcoal filter element, and we have imported that data here. Zen however, offers almost no data on its filter products. Here is the comparison we came up with:

Filtration Efficiency (%)


* Berkey reduced chemicals in these categories to undetectable levels. Although some of them were specifically tested for, none were found.

** Zen’s website provides no specific information about what kinds of bacteria or pesticides/herbicides it removes at 99% efficiency.

The Results

Zen makes no specific claims on its website about what kinds of contaminants its filters remove. Zen does claim that its filters remove a number of impurities, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and chlorine, but it does not say what percentage of each is removed. In the FAQ section of Zen’s website, one response reads as follows: “Although the filters in Zen Water System effectively reduce over 99% of bacteria, chlorine, herbicides, pesticides and hundreds of other man-made chemical, they do not remove fluoride.” However this response fails to reference any other part of the site where specific performance-based data are introduced. 

In other words, we have no specific information about this product. Three phone calls and an email to the company provided no additional clarity. We don’t know what kinds of pesticides, bacteria, or “man-made chemical” the company is referring to. We do know that the pores in the charcoal filter are slightly smaller than most bacteria. And the company representative did indicate that Zen does conduct testing on its filters to gauge their efficiency. However, it does not release the results of those tests to the public.

Given the lack of information, and given the stellar performance of Berkey when compared to its competitors, one must conclude that it provides a superior level of water purification. Zen simply isn’t in a position to make serious claims about how its product performs. That’s a death blow to its credibility, as the primary reason why customers buy water filters is health. If one cannot determine how effective a filtration system is when removing contaminants from your water supply, then you simply have no reason to purchase that system.

Models and Costs

Cost Comparison: Berkey vs. Zen


The Big Berkey $278.00

Replacement Filters   120.00


Active 8-Gallon countertop system $129.95

5-stage Mineral Water Filter     18.95

Annual Maintenance Kit     67.95

Before we can draw any conclusions about the costs of these two systems, we must factor in their longevity. To write these comparisons, we arbitrarily chose an average household consumption rate of 1.5 gallons of water per day. That adds up to about 540 gallons each year. But wait... Zen clarifies that users must replace the mineral water filter every 6 months, or every 500 gallons, whichever comes first. Therefore, since after six months, our “comparison family” would only have consumed 270 gallons of water, we must calculate the costs of the estimate based on months rather than gallons. So now we need to know how long each product’s filters last:

Berkey dual filter 6000 Gallons (approx. 11 years)*

Zen’s Mineral Water Filter   500 Gallons (or six months)

* assumes that owner(s) use 1.5 gallons/day

So, we crunch these numbers with the expectation that our product will last us for eleven years. Remember, the Active 8-Gallon system comes with a mineral filter, which will last for 6 months. So to make sure that the product will last a household for 11 years, we must purchase one replacement filter for $18.95, which will last another six months. After that, the user will need an annual maintenance kit for each subsequent year. Each kit contains all of the replacement parts that wear out on the device, as well as two filters, and other materials needed to operate the system for a year. Here’s a breakdown of what that looks like for eleven years of operation:

Zen’s Active 8-Gallon countertop system   $129.95

1 5-stage Mineral Water Filter     18.95

Annual Maintenance Kits (10 @ 67.95 each)   679.50

TL $828.40

By comparison, Berkey’s estimate looks like this:

Berkey (includes 1 set of filters) $278.00

To summarize here, if you purchase the Big Berkey system, you have just saved yourself $550.40! 

Remember, your purchase will not only save you $550 in filter costs over the next eleven years. While you’re saving that money, you will be enjoying a much higher quality of drinking water! 

Our conclusion? If you are interested in saving money over the life of your product, there is only one choice here. Berkey is the way to go!

Pros and Cons


Zen’s Active 8-Gallon countertop system utilizes an 8-step filtration process which seems to remove a wide array of impurities. It also adds minerals to your drinking water, which improve your body’s pH and contributes to your overall health. Nonetheless, the company has been quite vague about which impurities its product removes, or to what degree of efficiency it removes them. Because filter efficiency is the most important reason for spending money on a water filter, why would anyone in their right mind consider such a significant expense for a product that is vague about what it can offer in the way of quality? 


The Big Berkey system has a slightly higher up-front cost of $278 when compared to Zen. However, Berkey outperforms Zen’s products both with respect to long-term costs and filter efficiency. Berkey’s filter reduces a wide array of toxins, chemicals, and microbes to levels that are undetectable, while removing chlorine, fluoride, heavy metals, and more. Berkey’s product (like Zen’s) is gravity-fed, requiring no electricity. Berkey’s setup and regular maintenance require less time and effort. In other words, Berkey beats Zen in all areas!

Which should I buy? Berkey or Zen?

Neither! Buy the Water Machine!!!

Huh? What does The Water Machine have to do with this product comparison? That’s a good question. The Big Berkey (or any other Berkey system) does in fact blow Zen out of the water. (Pun intended.) To be fair, Berkey is superior to just about every product on the market. However, The Water Machine is just a bit better.

The Water Machine uses the same charcoal filter element that Berkey does. Not the same design... but the same filter. That means that The Water Machine purifies water to the same degree of efficiency as Berkey’s products do. It filters the same contaminants at the same percentages. And the dual filter will last for 6000 gallons before you will need to replace it. The Water Machine is identical to Berkey with respect to filter performance. It also has the same overall design, with the same setup and maintenance.

Alright. So how is The Water Machine better? The Water Machine beats Berkey in a few important areas: Cost, utility, and taste. Let’s look at these one at a time:


Revisiting our cost comparison from earlier, we include The Water Machine this time.


The Big Berkey system $278.00

Replacement Filters (1 pair)   120.00

The Water Machine

The Water Machine $299.99

Replacement Filters (1 pair)     74.99

I know what you’re thinking: The Water Machine is more expensive at $299.99. But hold on a second. The Water Machine holds 3 gallons of water, while Big Berkey holds 2.25 gallons. Berkey also makes three additional products that each hold more water and cost more than The Water Machine. In other words, The Water Machine is comparable in size and cost to Berkey’s other products. The real difference here is the cost of replacement filters.

The Water Machine charges $45 less per pair of filters than Berkey. However, if you are able to find four new customers who want to purchase The Water Machine, the company will send you a free pair of replacement filters. Given that your filters last for 11 years, you have plenty of time to make that happen. What a nice bonus for the company to offer: A way to make sure that you won’t have to pay another dime for your system! 


As we mentioned earlier, both Berkey and The Water Machine use a similar two-tank system: Water is poured into the upper tank, and drains through the filter element into the lower one. The key difference is the material: Six of Berkey’s seven products are made of metal, and the other is made of plastic. However, The Water Machine is made of hammered glass. The glass design makes the tanks easier to clean. It also allows the user to quickly assess the condition inside the tanks.


Given Berkey’s design, filtered water must drain into either a metal tank or a plastic one. Any time you store water in a plastic tank, it will eventually start to taste like plastic. Anyone who has ever purchased water in a plastic jug has likely experienced this. Similarly, when you store water in a metal tank, it can develop a metallic taste. 

However, The Water Machine is made of glass! So the taste of the filtered water will always remain pure. If you want fresh-tasting water, don’t think too long! Choose The Water Machine!

The Water Machine beats Berkey and Zen for Fresh-Tasting, Pure Drinking Water, hands down!

Do you want a water purification system for your home that always provides fresh-tasting, clean drinking water, free from all kinds of contaminants? If your answer is ‘yes’, then choose The Water Machine. Its gravity-fed design requires no electricity, making it ideal in a crisis situation, when your household is in desperate need of clean drinking water. Its glass design helps to keep your water fresh, and is easy to clean.

The Water Machine filters out just about every kind of toxin, pathogen, heavy metal, chlorine, fluoride, and radioactive contaminant. If we hadn’t already shown you the price you might assume that a water purification system that produces the highest quality of drinking water would be the most expensive product on the market. Actually, the opposite is true. When you factor in the cost of all the replacement filters one must buy, The Water Machine is the least expensive product on the market! 

Go to our product information page to learn more about this amazing product, and add it to your shopping cart. Just think: From one purchase, you and your household will get 6000 gallons of amazing fresh drinking water! Who wins the product comparison between Berkey and Zen? Easy! The Water Machine!

Purchase The Water Machine today!

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