Gravity Water Filters: An Epic Primer to Gravity Fed Water Filtration

A gravity fed water filter system is one of the few commonly used water purification techniques today, just like distillation where you boil your water to kill bacteria. Some units do offer the same benefits you can get from distillation.

How do gravity water filter systems work?

gravity filter water

With this kind of system, you have a free standing unit where you put the water inside and let gravity do its work. But in a more detailed and specific explanation, the unit has two containers. As explained on freshwater, the upper container is where you put the water while the bottom part is where the filtration magic begins.

Inside the microporous ceramic cartridges, you will find activated charcoal bits also known as Granular Activated Carbon (GAC)—which is a major must-have when it comes to filtering your drinking water.

This combination for a gravity water filter unit, as stated on that source, is very effective against various types of contaminants like pathogenic bacteria and parasites that may cause some nasty diseases like cholera, dysentery and typhoid.

This process can also filter your water from chemicals like fluoride, chlorine and the like. Heavy metals like lead, copper and mercury are also included in the list of things this baby can protect you from, as what carehealth has pointed out.

How was this gravity filter water treatment brought to light?

The very first gravity filters for water were made way back in 1835 London, England. As cited on consciouswater, “Queen Victoria requested John Doulton (of later to become Royal Doulton), to produce a water filter with his ceramic making capabilities. Using various earth and clay materials, he created the first gravity water filter stoneware, Doulton water filters.

Carbon Water Filter, London, England, 1890 – 1915

gravity filter water treatment

Interesting isn’t it? Who would’ve thought that gravity fed water filter was first made back in the 1800s!

Pros and Cons

Now that we’ve covered the history, it is now time to go straight to the Pros and Cons of a gravity feed water filter. Why would you even consider this type of filtration unit for your needs? Take a look at why and why not:


  • This filtration system is actually quite simple and efficient.
  • Variety of sizes to choose from.
  • You can almost place it anywhere in your home from your counter top to another table in your living room.
  • Almost zero maintenance. You only have to replace the filter once or twice per year, or as suggested by the manufacturer of course.
  • No electricity needed.
  • It’s possible to build one yourself if you don’t want to buy commercially-made units.


  • Some parts of the unit may be expensive so be careful when handling them. Replacement costs for the parts of the unit can range from around $25 to possibly even a hundred. Again, the price cost will still depend on the type of water filter. Gravity comes cheap, but not the parts.
  • You need to make a right estimate or at least monitor the liter or capacity of water you drink per day. Buying a large filter can be quite expensive and a small one might not work out for you or your family, especially on a hot summer day.
  • One thing you should check out is how fast the unit can filter your water. Some offer a really quick filtration process while others may take a few minutes or so.
  • Lastly, buying it—or some may call it as an investment—is actually expensive. Counter tops or a free standing unit can cost up to a couple of hundreds of dollars while the whole house filter can go way up to a thousand!

These are probably the reasons why a gravity filter water unit is popular. You have different options in sizes and the benefits are almost the same.

Water Filter brands you need know about

What is the best gravity fed water filter brand against toxic heavy metal compounds and pathogenic bacteria: Berkey, Katadyn, MSR or Doulton?

Berkey gravity water filter

According to waterfilterlabs, the Berkey—or Big Berkey—filter is best used when your drinking water is packed with toxic elements like lead, copper, cadmium, arsenic and even uranium—which can be reduced for up to 100%! Based on that independent laboratory testing results of popular gravity water filters, they have suggested that the Berkey filter is the most reliable filtration unit when removing toxic agents in your water.

(Photo source: Berkey website)

gravity filters for water

The only flaw it has though is that, for some people, the price of $258 (for the Big Berkey) or $283 (for the Royal Berkey) can be quite pricey. Other than that, this is one heck of a filtration unit.

Doulton gravity water filter

gravity water filter

In one of the gravity water filter reviews I’ve read on Amazon for the Doulton filter (which costs at around $175), it was stated there that, this unit will in fact give you a much better tasting water and whatnot. But the only thing that’s keeping this baby from being the best gravity water filter in the market today is that, the metal casing of it may look thin and weak.

As for the quality of the water, the test results from doultonusa suggests that, this unit shows great potential against pathogenic bacteria like E. Coli bacteria and Cryptosporidium Cysts and the likes.

Katadyn gravity filter

katadyn gravity filter

While Doulton and Berkey filters are ideal for indoor use because of its bulky containers, the Katadyn gravity water filter on the other hand is great for the outdoors.. Just like Doulton, this one can also filter certain type of bacteria. The design on the other hand is much different compared to the other two as it has two bags instead of two steel containers.

On a brief detail product summary on rei, as stated there, the Katadyn filter can deliver 16 oz. per minute of filtered water and can hold up to 2.6 gallons of water in its bag. By far, this is the most affordable one of them all which only costs at around $89.95 to $99.95, as posted on a gravity water filters reviews on gearjunkie.

MSR gravity water filter

 gravity water filter reviews

This is another on-the-go water filter unit. The filtration process of MSR water filter is pretty much identical to Katadyn. The benefits are almost the same as the Katadyn unit when it comes to eliminating bacteria and VOCs. Let’s not forget the price. They both have the same price of $89.95 for the smallest while the bigger one may cost at approximately $96 (for the MSR), making the price more enticing than the latter.

The only difference of these two is the how fast they filter the water. The Katadyn can manage to filter 16 oz. of water while the MSR, as stated on cascadedesigns, can reach a whopping 1.75 liters per minute! It’s really surprising that a small filter like this can do so much in just a matter of minutes.

So in conclusion and for the sake of gravity water filter comparison, when indoors, it’s best to use the Berkey water filter (that is if you have the extra budget) and for outdoors, MSR gravity filter is the ideal candidate since it can filter water faster than Katadyn and the price is more enticing.

To summarize, the best gravity water filters are Berkey and MSR.

Different types of gravity water filter systems

Just like any filtration method, a gravity fed water filter also has many variations, and each one of them has a purpose to fill.

  • Ceramic gravity water filter. A ceramic water filter is ideal for people who are allergic or sensitive to chemicals, as what natural-health-and-healing suggests. For the how this type of water filter works, it is pretty much the same as the steel water filter unit. You put the water inside the top ceramic container and that’s it.

results of popular gravity water filters

  • Stainless steel gravity water filter. Most of the stainless steel filters in the market today are big in size or at least bigger than the average ceramic unit. If you are on the go or renting a house, this one is ideal for you like what healthy-house suggested. The difference between the two is, the ceramic one is very fragile and can break if you accidentally drop it on the floor. Since this unit is lighter and doesn’t need complex installation or hardware, more mobile families or people can take this along wherever they move.
  • Gravity water filter backpacking or just simply, a gravity bag water filter is the real on-the-go filter unit. Like the MSR and Katadyn, this type is beneficial for people who like to travel or go camping. You don’t want to bring a huge stainless steel gravity water filter when going camping--not very convenient if you ask me.

Do-it-Yourself or DIY Water Filter

gravity feed water filter

Having a water filtration unit in your house is a great investment for your future health especially in the case of terrible emergencies like water contamination disasters or hurricanes. That’s why here; I will teach you how to make your very own water filter system.

The things you will need for a free standing unit are, as suggested on

  • 2 Food Grade Buckets – You can get them for free. You just have to ask any restaurant if they have an extra one or two that they are not using. Just make sure you check the lid and see if it has a crack. Another option is that you buy one from Amazon.
  • Water Filter – you can choose from two different types of filters. One is the ceramic dome water filter which contains activated charcoals and the other is a fluoride filter. This is ideal for people who are living in an area where the local municipality adds fluoride in their drinking water.
  • Spigot or faucet - A plastic one will suffice as steel or metal faucets may be too heavy.
  • Drill – used to make holes on your food grade buckets.

The total cost of this project can go from $75 to $110.

How to make a free-standing water filter:

Step 1

Drill a hole on your lower container (where you will put your faucet in). Make sure that the hole you drilled is an exact fit for the spigot/faucet. Once you’re done, slide it in and put the knot to make sure it is sealed in place.

Step 2

Measure your dome water filter inside your second food grade bucket (or the upper container). Place the water filter dome inside and use a marker or just memorize where you put it. Then once you are contented with the placement, it is now time to drill the bottom surface of your upper container. After that, do not place your dome filter just yet.

Step 3

Pick up the lid of your lower container and put the upper container on top of it. You can clearly see the hole of the second container on your lid because of the plastic. Drill a hole that will match the other one.

Step 4

Put them all together by sliding the dome filter inside your upper container and the lid of the lower container and locking them in place with the plastic knot that was provided. Do that for the other one and you’re done! You now have your very own gravity fed water filter unit. Rinse and wash the filter properly after the process.

As for the gravity bag water filter, here are the things you must have first, according to this video:

Total cost would probably be around $80, give or take.

Step 1

Cut the ring off the top part of the Katadyn Hiker Pro Water Microfilter. Fair warning; be careful on this one.

Step 2

Cut the upper part of the Nalgene 32 oz. wide mouth bottle and the lid.

Step 3

Cut a hole on your dry sack bag, just the exact size of the tip of the Katadyn Hiker Pro.

Step 4

Now for the assembly part, take the Katadyn Microfilter and push the upper part of your Nalgene bottle. As said on that video, this is an exact fit and you shouldn’t worry about any leakage of some sort.

Step 5

Now once you have put them together, place it inside the bag and make sure the tip of the filter is inside the hole of your dry sack bag. Take the lid of your Nalgene 32 oz. wide mouth bottle and screw them together. You don’t want to screw them together too hard because it might tear the dry sack bag.

Step 6

Take the hose from the hiker pro filter and press it on the tip of your filter and that’s it! Just use a hose clamp to lock the flow and you are all set!

How effective is this compared to the other leading products?

gravity water filters reviews

(photo source: Berkey official website)

The effectiveness of your DIY water filter will depend on the quality of materials you will be using. For a filter system, we recommned a dome filter like the ProPur ProBlack-D High Performance Dome Filter.

Also, just to add, the Berkey Ceramic filter is also a good recommendation—since it is a trusted brand, though it is not a dome filter, more like a candle-shaped one. It also works the same and the only difference is the design.

​So there you have it! All the things you need to know about gravity water filter from how it works, its history, different types and how you can build one (free standing unit and gravity water filter backpacking). I hope you had fun! Keep safe everyone.