The Black Berkey® Primer 101


LPC Black Berkey ElementsBlack Berkeys are the strongest gravity-fed water purification elements in the world. This is because of their “secret formula” and construction.

Because their formula is proprietary, there's not much to discuss about their ingredients. But, we can definitely talk about their construction.

They are considered a carbon block-style filtration element. Compressed coconut-shell carbon forms the main structure of each body. The carbon is pressed together and has the shape of a cylinder.

Essentially, the Black Berkey® Element is a cylinder with very thick walls and an empty, hollow core. Not too long ago, I cross-sectioned a Black Berkey® Element to discover its wall was almost 1/2″ thick!

Before use, the Black Berkey® Elements must be “primed”. When a Black Berkey® Element is dry, air molecules fill the microporous spaces of the thick, dense walls of the compressed carbon. Priming the Element displaces the air molecules, replacing them with water molecules. When the whole body of a Black Berkey® is primed, water flows easily. Water is drawn from the outside of the element in through its thick wall and collects in its hollow center, ultimately passing through to the lower chamber where it is accessed via the spigot by the user.


Before the creation of the Black Berkey® Primer, users of the Black Berkey® Elements had very limited options if they wanted to completely saturate their filters in order to achieve optimum production and maximum flow rates of purified water. They were limited to using “in-line” plumbing (their sink faucet) and the tan priming button in hopes of creating a water-tight seal between the Black Berkey® and the faucet supplying the water into it. This would allow water pressure to build up within the core cavity of Black Berkey® and eventually fill up. Once the water pressure was completely built up, water molecules would then be forced through the carbon walls, from the center outward, eventually causing the outside walls of the Black Berkey® to “sweat”. Once the whole body of the Black Berkey® was “sweating”, it was primed.


This tan rubber washer comes standard with every set of Black Berkey® Elements, called the “priming button”. It is needed when priming the Black Berkeys via faucet.


To ease faucet priming, leave black wingnut on Black Berkey® Element and then place priming button over it before placing under faucet spigot.


To ensure a good seal with your fingers, turn cold water on slowly, allowing the hollow core of the Black Berkey® to gradually fill with water (increasing internal water pressure). NEVER use hot water with Black Berkeys, doing so will damage them.


Black Berkey® will “sweat” uniformly along its height, indicating that it is primed and ready for use.

Of course, for individuals using their Berkey® Systems in off-grid settings, whether permanent or temporary, in-line plumbing is frequently not an option of theirs. So, they'd either have to pre-prime their filters ahead of traveling off-grid, or create a primitive pump using bags, duct tape, tubes, and ingenuity. Enter the Black Berkey® Primer…


Sample of front of instruction card which accompanies Black Berkey® Primer.

The Black Berkey® Primer has removed the previous barriers to priming the Black Berkey® Elements easily, especially off-grid. The Black Berkey® Primer allows anyone to not only prime the elements by creating a simple hand-held vacuum, it also allows the user to use air to backflush or purge the Black Berkey® after scrubbing (to clear out the pores).


Because the Black Berkeys should be allowed to dry before being placed into storage, the Black Berkey® Primer also allows the user to pump air through its carbon body, expelling remaining water from its thick walls and dramatically reducing the time needed to dry out and be ready for storage.


The Black Berkey® Primer is 100% Made in the USA! It's affordable and easy to use. Every Berkey® owner should have one or a few Black Berkey® Primers.

Download the complete Black Berkey® Primer instructions here.


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