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Am I Getting Accuracy With My Liquid Measuring Cups?

Adding a cup of water to a tincture brew sounds easy enough, doesn't it? Sure, pouring the liquid is simple, but when you assume it was actually one cup—that's where the trouble starts. Clad in all sorts of official-looking lines, they can make it easy to think that a cup is a cup is a cup—dump in the water, glycerin, or alcohol, and feel reassured you've followed the recipe correctly. But the truth is, a measuring cup isn't always accurate, and for some herbalists, it can be a challenge to read them properly. Working with accurate cups, and knowing how to read their gradations, increases your chance of recipe success.

The Criteria: What We Look for in a Great Set of Liquid Measuring Cups

Liquid measuring cups should be accurate, durable, and have good pour spouts and some level of heat resistance. We like sets that include 1, 2, and 4 cup sizes, which can tackle just about any apothecary.

Accuracy is what we prize most in measuring cups, but they should also have durable gradations that won't rub away over time. When you're pouring, the stream should be easy to control and tidy, without running down the side of the cup.

One important thing to know is what a correct measure is.

The curvature formed by a substance in a measuring cup is called a meniscus, and it's created by surface tension on the top of the liquid. To read a measuring cup accurately, place it on a flat, stable surface, like a table or countertop. Add the liquid until it reaches just under the gradation line you're aiming for. Then get down at eye level with the mark, and you'll notice the liquid isn't straight—it sort of walks up the walls on the edges. Carefully add more liquid until the bottom of the meniscus is level with the gradation on the cup.

While there are inherent redundancies, we consider 1, 2, and 4 cup measuring cups essential. Yes, you can fill a 1 cup measurer four times, but that compromises accuracy, and it's less efficient. Dragging out a 4 cup measure for eight ounces of water doesn't make a lot of sense, either. A 2 cup size, with markings for 2/3, 1 1/3, and 1 2/3 cups, is useful for most jobs, but a larger, 4 cup vessel is handy when you're portioning larger quantities of liquids for your menstruum. Of course, weight is another issue if you're buying a glass set: A 4-cup glass measure weighs about two and a half pounds, while the same size cup in plastic is just over 10 ounces.

We have found that sticking with one brand of measuring cup is best. Anchor Hocking has been reliable measure and affordable if something needs replaced. Also OXO measuring cups, if your looking for a lighter weight. Just be careful of the 2 cup measuring cup, we did notice there was not a consistency with the other OXO cups in the set by about 2 teaspoons.

Are liquid and dry measuring cups the same?

No, liquid and dry measuring cups are not the same. Liquid measuring cups are for measuring, well, things that are liquid: Water, Glycerin, oils—you get the gist. Dry measuring cups are for measuring dry ingredients like herbs and beeswax. If you use just one type of measuring cup for all measuring tasks, you'll end up with some inaccuracies. That said, if you want hassle-free, truly accurate measurements (like capsules), we recommend weighing your ingredients and using a kitchen scale.

We'll cover measuring spoons next.

How do you measure liquid without a liquid measuring cup?

If you have a kitchen scale and are following a recipe that notes ingredient amounts by weight, you can use a kitchen scale to measure liquids without having to reach for a measuring cup. For a truly accurate measurement recording weights will be the best.

What size is a liquid measuring cup?

Liquid measuring cups come in many sizes. Our favorite liquid measuring cup set contains 1, 2, and 4 cup sizes, there are some smaller sizes. There are larger measuring cups out there, but we haven't used them and cannot speak to their accuracy.

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