​Erlenmeyer Flask vs. Beaker: Which One Should You Choose?

​Erlenmeyer Flask vs. Beaker: Which One Should You Choose?

An Overview of Strengths and Challenges  

Erlenmeyer flasks and beakers are classic pieces of laboratory equipment that most of us have tried taking for granted now.

If you are in the market for new glassware for the first time in a while, you should probably brush up your working knowledge of laboratory containers before buying.

In this article, we go over the details of these two popular container choices and how to use them so you can do all of your shopping totally informed!

The Erlenmeyer Flask

These flasks are flat-bottomed, tapered cylindrical containers that have been instrumental to organic chemistry for centuries now.

They are traditionally made of borosilicate to withstand heat. They are intended for mixing solutions, and this is reflected by their tapered neck and wide bottom.

Some common applications include:

  • Growth and shaking of bacterial cultures
  • Mixing chemical solutions
  • Measuring liquids
  • Boiling liquids
  • Storage of laboratory liquids (covered)

While they do include measuring graduations along the side, they are not really ideal for performing measurements with.

However, one downside is they are more prone to breakage than counterparts that are made of tough laboratory plastic.

Do I Need Glass or Plastic?

See our “How to Use a Graduated Cylinder” article for a discussion of when to choose glass vs. plastic.

A good rule of thumb is to choose glass for long-term storage of harsh chemicals or repeated autoclaving.

Plastics like polypropylene, polycarbonate, and even nylon and HDPE are also quite durable though, and they can be used for short-term storage and infrequent heating.

Both container types can be made of any type of material, but you will find a different proportion of glass to plastic available for each container.

The Beaker

These containers are wide and cylindrical with defined measuring graduations along their sides. They are made of borosilicate glass or laboratory plastic.

Like flasks, they are often used for mixing and boiling solutions, but they are less ideal for high temperatures because they have no safeguards against splashing.

Unlike flasks, there is no neck region for handling them while hot, either.

They do not work very well for measuring substances because of the way they are designed.

Although they have a uniform shape and include many graduations, they are too wide for precision in measurement.

Common applications:

  • Measuring liquids and solids
  • Temporarily storing liquids or solids
  • Mixing solutions
  • Temporary waste containers for cell culture and bench work

Advantages and Disadvantages

There are a few important differences that set beakers apart from flasks in the lab.

One major advantage to them is that it is more often than not offered in plastic, which is great if you are worried about drops and breaks.

They also make passable measuring devices for work that does not require precision. Flasks make slightly more accurate volume estimates, but are not ideal either.

Both can be washed by hand, autoclaved, and used to hold harsh chemicals.

The major advantage to the flask is the tapered neck, which is good for gripping and also made to fit corks and other stoppers if need be.

The other has a wide open top, which is only an advantage if you need to discard liquids easily, either into or out of the container in question.

Side-by-Side Comparison Table


Erlenmeyer Flask   Beaker   
Good for long term storage with cap  Good for short-term storage only  
Good for mixing hot and cold solutions  Good for mixing cold solutions and warming  
Good for carrying hot and cold solutions  Good for carrying cold solutions  
Good for condensing liquids  Good for catching liquid waste  
Usually glass, breakable  Can be found in durable plastic form  
good as a secondary measuring device for liquids  Not good for accuracy or precision, but passable for rough estimates  


The Case for the Erlenmeyer Flask in Titration

An Anesthesiologist employed the use of this type of flask in the 1962 experiments on the solubility of halothane.

In these experiments, human and bovine blood and tissue homegenates in a 2L stoppered flask received 0.1ml additions of liquid halothane until fully saturated.

It’s is ideal in a titration scenario like this because of the tapered neck and the use of stoppers. The tapered form allows easier homogenization and fewer spills.

Beakers as Containers for Sensitive Experiments

The dominant feature is the wide open mouth. Because of this, it has an advantage as a container for processes that require extra space.

In this Raman spectroscopic test for microplastics in water, it is used to contain 6.37mL water samples while Raman imaging is run.

This is possible because the shape provides a clear path for imaging software while fitting safely within the Raman chamber.

Find the Perfect Glassware for your Lab with Stellar Scientific

When it comes to choosing glassware for the lab, plan ahead. The more you can get out of one container, the better.

Don’t go flying blind when you shop for laboratory containers.

You’re a busy professional and may not want to spend a lot of time on the details here, so we try to make things simple for you.

Beakers are a versatile choice for any laboratory handling a lot of liquids, but flasks are a sophisticated container that will be better suited to specific laboratory situations.

The choice is yours! And with our online catalog of laboratory glassware, you can find anything you need.

If plastic is more your thing, we’ve got an entire category of plastic beakers to browse through too, right here.

You can shoot us an e-mail or call during our business hours if you have a question about a product or need assistance. Just hop on over to our contact us page.



  1. Larson CP. Scientific Accuracy Matters. Anesthesiology. 2021 Oct 1;135(4):724-727. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0000000000003952. PMID: 34499097. 
  2. Yang Z, Arakawa H. A beaker method for determination of microplastic concentration by micro-Raman spectroscopy. MethodsX. 2023 Jun 15;11:102251. doi: 10.1016/j.mex.2023.102251. PMID: 37448948; PMCID: PMC10336159.