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The Black Berkey Red Food Coloring Test

**Important - There are more and more "artificial-free" red food coloring dyes coming onto the market. This is great for our food consumption, but this type of dye will get through the filters and provide a false/inaccurate reading of a defective filter.  We're seeing this more and more with our customers who then think their filters are defective, when in fact they are NOT.

The red food coloring MUST be artificial using reds FD&C 40 and/or 3.  The test only works with this artificial red dye, and the filters are designed to remove this out.  If the artificial red dye makes it through, then you have a defective filter.

The Black Berkey red food coloring test provides the opportunity to showcase the impressive purification power of the Black Berkey elements. Many water filter companies make claims to their high quality, but Berkey water filters go one step further by making their lab test results public and presenting demonstrations such as the red food coloring test. While helpful for new customers to see the Black Berkey filters in action, it is invaluable for the existing customer base since it can be used at anytime during the life of the filters to ensure they are working to design specifications."Alternative" Filtered Water on Left; Black Berkey Filtered Water on Right

McCormick Red Food Coloring McCormick Red Food Coloring

Whether the original black berkeys have been in operation for the past 3, 7, or 10 years, one can perform this test at anytime to see if it's time for a replacement. We recommend customers place a cup underneath each filter as this will help isolate which filter is exhausted, and which is still purifying effectively.

With other water filters, the customer must assume their system is working to specifications or spend the time and money to perform water tests.  This time lapse video shows how simple the red food coloring test can be done after priming your Black Berkey filters.

Performing the Red Food Coloring Test

  1. Start with an empty system (upper/lower chamber) and be sure to remove any PF-2 filters that may be attached. 
  2. Check to make sure your black berkeys are installed with a tight seal and not allowing water to bypass the filter at the wingnut/washer connection.  You'll want to double check that these connections are tight.
  3. Place a glass in the lower chamber directly underneath each black berkey filter. So, 2 glasses if you are using 2 Black Berkey Filters.
  4. Next, fill your upper chamber with water and add 1 teaspoon of red food coloring for every gallon of water (only red please).
  5. After 5-10 minutes, look to see if any of the water in the glasses are red or have any pinkish tinge. If one does, then that particular filter above it is defective or saturated/exhausted.

Important Note For European Customers

Due to the fact that artificial red food color is banned in the UK/EU because of health concerns the instructions for the red food color test are not the same as the instructions you find on the American Berkey system assembly sheet. Do not follow the instructions on the enclosed assembly sheet.

UK/EU Red Food Coloring Test directions

Use only red food color sold in tiny 38-50ml bottles without any added glucose, sugars or thickening agents. These are available at all major supermarkets or Asian food shops. Do not use Dr. Oetker Gel Food Color Bright Red or any other gel-based food color.

Completely fill the upper chamber of a Travel, Light, Big or Royal Berkey with water, and then add a (1/4) quarter teaspoon or less of red food coloring to the upper chamber, stirring well. Add a (1/2) half teaspoon or less to the upper chamber of an Imperial or Crown Berkey. The water should have a slight pinkish tinge. If the food coloring is completely removed, your system is working properly. If not, make sure the wing nuts on the elements as well as the blocking plugs are securely tightened then re-run the test.

Once you have determined the water is running through clear for 5 -10 minutes the remainder of the colored water in the upper chamber can be discarded.

What Are Your Results?

As mentioned above, any red/pink in the filtered water indicates a need for filter replacement. If the water comes through clear, then you can be confident that the filters are performing as designed and removing contaminants from the water.

We recommend running this red food coloring test every 6 months. Besides checking that your filters are working as designed, it will also verify that the filter connections are sealed properly and everything is in working order.

49 thoughts on “The Black Berkey Red Food Coloring Test”

  • Dr. Cynthia Champion Olson
    Dr. Cynthia Champion Olson May 2, 2010 at 12:17 am

    Why do you not ship to California? Do you ship to Texas?

    Thank you,
    Dr. C. Champion-Olson

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Yes Dr. Champion-Olsen, we ship to all states with exemption of CA due to the new law, and Iowa due to the high licensing fees the state requires the seller to pay.

      Reply
  • Debbie

    Will this work to test my ceramic filters?

    Reply
  • jna

    why only red food color? I used green on three filters before I found this and all have failed, is green smaller than red?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi JNA -

      Red does not have beneficial minerals in it, so when none comes through, you know it's performing correctly. The other colors do.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • jna

    thanks Dan,
    so in short a green failure is not necessarily a filter failure, correct?

    Reply
  • Vina Miller

    I don't understand the above post. Why wouldn't it filter the green food color if
    it filters everything so well? What do you mean when you say the green has beneficial minerals? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Vina - The media ingredients used for creation of the black berkeys do not remove beneficial minerals, thus if a food coloring dye has beneficial minerals in it like potassium, the filter will let this dye pas through. Red does not have beneficial minerals as part of it's make-up, so it will not go through the filter if the filter is working properly. If the red goes through, then the filter is not working properly, and this is why it's called the red food coloring test.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • JC

    Dan,

    In your last statement I think you meant to say that the red food coloring does NOT have any beneficial minerals in it, therefore it will not be allowed to pass through the elements.

    Reply
  • Sharon

    Why is it necessary to remove the PF-2 filters?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Sharon -

      The test is only for the black berkey filters. If you leave the PF-2's filters on and the black berkeys fail the test, then the red would get into the PF-2 filters. It would then take many flushes to fully wash the inside of the PF-2's of this red food coloring, and thus you'd want to try to avoid this potential of happening.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Jeremy

    I just got the travel Berkey. Is it necessary to perform this test on a brand new system?

    Reply
  • Mike

    Is there any way to test the pf2 filters ?

    Reply
  • Martha

    Could you use something that is non-toxic, yet red, such as pomegranate juice or red root tincture in alcohol? thanks

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Martha -

      No, artificial red food coloring must be used, since if the filters are working correctly, they would be removing these particulates. Pomegranate juice, etc, would flow through as there are no toxins/chemicals present.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Anh

    What method can we use to test the quality of water such as reducing bacteria and harmful chemical?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Ahn -

      The red food coloring is smaller than these chemicals/bacteria and that's why it's a good indicator test your filters are working correctly. Beyond this, you would want to get the water tested as a water testing lab.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Amanda

    Ok so we messed up and didn't read the "Notes" section on our PF-2 filter instructions. We didn't take our PF-2's off when we did the food color test. Everything came back clear but our filtration rate is very slow. I read that it takes many flushes to clean our the filters after this has happened. Could you go into more details? How many flushes do we need to do? Anything else we need to know to completely resolve this problem? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Amanda -

      Up to 10 full system flushes for the PF-2's. Make sure your PF-2's are only screwed on 8 revolutions so that water is able to flow between the filters freely.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • robert

    If you were to leave the PF-2 filters on and do the red food coloring test, would clear water on the bottom be a sign that the black filters did not fail? Basically what I am asking is, can the PF-2 filters themselves filter out the red food coloring if the black filters do not?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Robert -

      Always remove the PF-2 filters before performing this test. It is for the black berkey filters only and the PF-2's do not have a comparable test. Clear means the filters are working properly.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Domagoj

    Hi, we in Europe have many differrent red food colorings,
    what is the main ingredient to look for, E124 ?
    (http://www.ivyroses.com/Define/E124)

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi -

      We do not have personal experience with this food coloring, however it is synthetic in nature (which is the primary requirement), thus should be effective for this test.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Derrick Smith

    I have a Berkey Sport Bottle. Can I perform the red dye test on it and how much dye should I use?

    Reply
  • chris

    We did the test in our Berkey with Black Filters and the PF-2 Flouride filters (we didn't know to remove the PF-2's - now we do know). We didn't put a ton of red food coloring in, but what was odd is that the water came through slightly green. Do you know what this indicates?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Chris -

      This is not something we've heard of before, so we'd be guessing on why it would change color. Are you using artificial red food coloring? I would run the test again without the PF-2 filters to see if you get the same result.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Beth

    Is it necessary to perform the red food coloring test each time the Black Berkey filters and the entire system are routinely cleaned? I have been doing this (only 3 times thus far since it's a relatively new system) and last time it caught a problem with the filters which then were replaced by Berkey. I don't see that step mentioned in the routine maintenance/cleaning instructions. I don't want to continue it monthly if it isn't necessary or will more quickly wear out the filters, but still want to make sure everything is filtering properly. Thanks.

    Reply
  • james

    Every time I test with the black filter it passes, when connecting the PF-2 the test fails. Is the PF-2 filter allow get the red coloring to pass through?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi James -

      The black berkeys remove the red coloring first, so they should not make it to the PF-2's. If they are with the Pf-2's connected, it's more likley that your black berkeys are not secured properly, and when you add the PF-2's it's somehow loosing the black berkey connections up top, and ultimately letting the red water by pass the filters around the washer seal. We would check these connections and make sure they are fully tightened.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Beverly

    Can another color of food coloring be used for the "red food coloring test" such as blue or green?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Beverly -

      No, it must be red and artificial. This type of dye properly test the pore size and integrity of the filter. Other colors and natural food dyes can make it through the filter and do not provide an accurate reading.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • John Randomme

    The red dye test sounds brilliant! We just got a Berkey as we attempt to remove all antibacterial chemicals like chlorine from our drinking water. I notice that red food dye has the ingredient "sodium benzoate", an antibacterial chemical. Before we attempt to put sodium benzoate in the upper chamber of the Berkey, do you know where I could find out whether or not the Berkey's black filters are able to remove sodium benzoate? Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi John -

      It has not been tested for that chemical in particular, however the red food coloring is only meant as a test, so you would not be drinking the water that is used for the testing.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Sabra Parks

    This is my 2nd set of black filters. I have viewed your videos to ensure correct setup and have only hand tightened the filters to avoid overtightening. I ran 2 batches water before doing the red dye on this 2nd set of filters and the water is still pink tinged though not as red as the first defective filters. What now?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Sabra -

      Ok, so then you've probably made sure the washers are in the upper chamber and the wingnuts are tight. Please re-run the test, and make sure you are placing glasses underneath each filter to see which one is allowing the red through. This will help isolate the filter that may have a bad seal or be defective.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Heather McAllister

    My filters are failing the red dye test. If there is water remaining in the upper chamber following this test does that confirm there is not a problem with any of the connectors i.e. wingnuts etc.?

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Heather -

      Not necessarily as there just may not be enough pressure at those lower water levels to expose the poor seal. First off, I would make sure you are using 2 glasses underneath your filters in the lower chamber so that they are isolated when performing the test. As an alternative, you can also prop the upper chamber up on 2 large pots in your sink and then start the red dye test again (not using the lower chamber). You can then watch in real time as water starts to filter through and check to see if you see if water leaking at the seals. As an aside, a common error is not placing the washers in the upper chamber between the filter and the stainless steel.

      Thanks
      Dan

      Reply
  • Rob

    My test with red food coloring results in a pink color in the filtered water. I have refitted the elements to check. They are new elements. The pink water is definitely coming through both the filters, and not leaking through the fitting. Is it possible my red dye isn't artificial enough? Listed ingredients are - water, propylene glycol, glycerine, emulsifier (polysorbate 80), colors (carmine, curcumin), acidity regulators (citric acid, potassium hydroxide)

    Reply
    • Dan DeBaun

      Hi Rob -

      It needs to have the artificial red dye in there like this one.

      http://www.target.com/p/mccormick-red-food-color-1-oz/-/A-13353208?ref=tgt_adv_XS000000&AFID=google_pla_df&CPNG=PLA_Grocery+Essentials+Shopping&adgroup=SC_Grocery&LID=700000001170770pgs&network=g&device=c&location=9003977&gclid=CL-vpKa8wtMCFcdWDQodPa8CKg&gclsrc=aw.ds

      I would try that first before assuming both filters are defective.

      Thanks
      DAn

      Reply
      • Rob

        Thanks Dan for quick reply. I will get another dye.

        Reply
        • Dan DeBaun

          Ok, sounds good Rob.

          Yes, there are more and more zero-artificial red food colorings coming onto the market, so many customers are getting false readings in their filter tests. We appreciate your figuring this out.

          Thanks
          Dan

          Reply
  • Rob

    Just checked the food dye manufacturer Web page, it says no artificial colors or flavours! Guess I need a different red food dye?

    Reply
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