Measuring Cylinders vs Beakers: Pros & Cons of common lab glassware

Measuring Cylinders vs Beakers: Pros & Cons of common lab glassware

When it comes to standard lab equipment in your laboratory, measuring cylinders and beakers are the most common yet useful equipment pieces in your experiments. Each piece of equipment, the graduated measuring cylinder, and beaker serves its own purpose with a specific function in the lab.

Measuring cylinders are more accurate at reading the liquid's volumes, whereas Glass Beakers are better for stirring and mixing liquids and solids in liquids.

They are both made from the same borosilicate glass, while Glass beakers are more rigid and less brittle and have higher heat resistance, which is essential when melting and mixing solid to liquids and boiling liquids.

Most common laboratory glassware as lab equipment is easy to clean and autoclave, and can be reused again and again with the right care, and can be used to measure, mix, boil, crystallize, evaporate, dissolve, store, and much more.

Let's Talk about the most common lab equipment, the glass beaker, first.

  • A Glass beaker is a simple glassware piece that resembles a coffee mug without the handle, with a wide cylindrical shape with a flat bottom and a small outward turned-out lip used for pouring liquids with ease. On its side are markings that denote approximately how much liquid is inside.

Laboratory beakers are commonly used for stirring, mixing and heating liquids found in laboratory settings. The capacity of a glass beaker ranges from 10ml to 1L.

  • A Measuring Cylinder is also called a Graduated Glass Cylinder, is a classic piece of laboratory glassware. It measures the volume of a liquid in milliliters (ml).

They were primarily used to measure the volume of an object or amount of liquid; as the name indicates, it's a glass cylinder with marks along the side similar to those on a measuring cup.

The volume is accurately read by looking at the top of the fluid from the side angle and reading the glass's mark from the lowest portion meniscus (liquid lens) of the liquid.

For accurate volumetric measurements, measuring cylinders are designed explicitly with graduated markers classified in (ml). 

Taking a reading before inserting an object in the graduated cylinder and then after inserting it, one can tell the object's volume from the difference between the two readings and subsequently calculate its density.

So how does a Beaker perform vs. Graduated Cylinders?


  1. Accuracy: Accuracy of transfer of liquids in experiments or while formulating is of paramount importance. When it comes to accuracy, with both types of equipment, in terms of measuring the volume of liquid and accurate transfer of a volume of liquid. The accuracy of a glass beaker is about 10%. A measuring cylinder is accurate to 1% of its full graduated scale.


  1. Margin of Error: The margin of error of beaker graduations is usually approximated at around 5% or greater, which can vary. Measuring cylinders are designed more specifically for accurate measurements of liquids with a much smaller error than beakers. They have many more graduation marks and have close to 0.5-1% error, which can be precisely used to measure liquids ranging from 1ml- 1L.


  1. Pros and Cons Of Beakers


  • The most commonly available lab glassware equipment
  • Available in a wide range of volume capacity, sizes, and shape
  • Can Calculate liquid volume when strict accuracy is not necessary
  • Easier to use in the stirring or heating process.
  • The spout helps in pouring


  • Not suitable for precise measurements
  • The wide mouth can lead to faster evaporation/vaporization


  1. Pros and Cons of a Measuring Cylinder


  • Wide range of volumes
  • Accurate measurement of smallest of liquid volumes
  • Can minimize the error by choosing the appropriate size
  • It's easier to deliver' volumetric container
  • It also has a spout to aid in the pouring process.



  • Error is still marginally too high for some analytical level applications
  • Requires formal lab training using is accurately
  • The tall, thin shape of the cylinder is not suitable for solution storage


In conclusion, for accurate measurement and transfer of liquids, go for a measuring cylinder. For mixing, stirring, and heating of liquids, go for a glass beaker. We hope this laboratory glassware article helps you in choosing the right lab equipment for your lab processes.

Also read: Uses of Wooden-Corks & Test-Tubes in decoration as well as in Labs

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