The Difference Between a Beaker & a Graduated Cylinder

By Kari Wolfe; Updated April 24, 2017

Both graduated cylinders and beakers are pieces of laboratory glassware that have a specific function. Graduated cylinders typically are more accurate at reading the volumes of the liquid inside. Beakers are better for stirring and mixing liquids.


A beaker is a simple laboratory piece of glassware that resembles a coffee mug without the handle. On its side are markings denoting approximately how much liquid is inside. They are generally cylindrical in shape with a flat bottom, a wide mouth and a small turned-out lip for pouring.

Uses for a Beaker

Laboratory beakers are generally used for stirring, mixing and heating liquids found in laboratory settings.

Graduated Cylinder

A graduated cylinder is a standard piece of laboratory glassware used to measure the volume of an object or amount of liquid. As its name indicates, it is a glass cylinder with marks along the side similar to those on a measuring cup. The volume is read by looking at the top of the fluid from the side and reading the mark on the glass from the lowest portion of the lens-like meniscus of the liquid.

Uses for a Graduated Cylinder

Graduated cylinders are specifically designed to make accurate volume measurements. By taking a reading before inserting an object in the graduated cylinder and then after inserting it, one can tell the volume of the object from the difference of the two readings and subsequently calculate its density.


According to Indigo Instruments, the accuracy of a beaker is about 10 percent. A graduated cylinder is accurate to 1 percent of its full scale.

Graduated cylinders have a smaller width than beakers. This is why a beaker is better for stirring and mixing liquids.

About the Author

Located in Colorado Springs, CO, Kari Wolfe has written nonfiction articles for Demand Studios since 2008. Wolfe's main interests consist of literature, science, health, technology and philosophy. She holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and physics from Marshall University in Huntington, WV