Babcock bottle

A Babcock bottle is a clear glass flask with a long graduated neck, used in the Babcock test to evaluate the cream contents of milk.[1] It is also called a Babcock milk test bottle, milk test bottle, cream test bottle, and other similar names.[2][3][4][5]

Milk testing laboratory, Wisconsin dairy school (1894). A few Babcock bottles are on the counter, just below center.

This bottle (or variations thereof) may also be used to estimate the amount of a lighter phase in other two-phase mixtures, such as are obtained in standard tests for gasoline and other petroleum products.[6][7][5][8][9]


Hand centrifuge for the Babcock test, with three Babcock bottles inserted in their holders.

The Babcock test consists in adding to a standard sample of the milk certain chemicals that cause the fat to separate into a liquid layer, floating at the top of a water-based layer. More water is then added to the mixture, until the fat layer is completely inside the neck, where its volume can be read out from the scale.[10]

The Babcock bottle for milk testing was standardized with great detail in 1917 by the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA). The total height should be 150-165 mm, and the neck should be at least 63.5 mm long. The body should have a capacity of at least 45 mL. The graduated scale on the neck should have marks at every 0.02 mL of internal volume, corresponding to 0.1 percent fat in a standard sample of 17.6 mL (18 grams) of milk, from 0 to 8 percent. The top must be flared to at least 10 mm diameter.[10][5]

The bottle usually has a bullet-shaped body for easy cleaning. Its width and shape were chosen to match the manual centrifuges originally used in the Babcock test. The body was 37 mm wide just below the rounded top, and might be cylindrical or slightly tapered inwards going down. The minimum capacity of 45 mL is intended to contain the standard sample of milk, and at least an equal amount of other reagents. Some bottles had a ground glass stopper.[11]


Babcock bottles for measuring the fat contents in cream have wider necks to allow for readings of 50% or more (rather than up to 8%).[12]

Louis Nafis patented in 1921 a modified Babcock bottle, claimed to be less susceptible to accidental breakage. Instead of the integral long graduated neck, it had a short neck to which a rubber ring was fitted. After processing and centrifuging the milk in the bottom part, two other glass parts would be added. A wider glass tube would be hermetically fitted on the outer edge of that ring, and inside it would be placed a narrow graduated tube, with a flared opening at bottom, resting on the rubber ring without a seal. Warm water would be poured down between the two tubes, seep under the inner tube, and lift the fat into the latter.[13] However, there seems to be no evidence that this invention has ever been marketed or used.

A variant of the Babcock bottle has a glass tube parallel to the neck, that crosses the wall of the body and ends just above its bottom. It allows the addition of water without disturbing the layer of fat as it rises into the graduated neck. In this variant, the flaring is on the auxiliary tube instead of on the neck. [14]

Another variant of this flask is the Paley-Babcock or Paley bottle, which is intended for viscous liquids or solids (like cheese or meat) that would be difficult to introduce through the narrow neck. It has an opening on the body, just below the neck, that can be closed with a stopper.[15][16][17]

A Babcock bottle with different dimensions (165 mm high, 10 mL capacity) is used to determine the amount of unsaturated hydrocarbons in gasoline.[18][7]


The Babcock bottle was originally developed to determine the fat content of milk.[3][4] Other uses of the container and its variations include measuring the contents of:


The bottle and the test were developed in 1890 by Stephen M. Babcock (1843–1931), professor at the University of Wisconsin,[28][29]

In 1911, ADSA's Committee on Official Methods of Testing Milk and Cream for Butterfat, chaired by O. F. Hunziker, met in Washington DC with the Dairy Division of the USDA, the U.S. Bureau of Standards and manufacturers of glassware.[4] As a result of those talks, the procedure and glassware were standardized by the US Government in 1917.[10][30] Additional specifications were published by the Association of Official Agricultural Chemists (now AOAC International) in 1927.[31]

An earlier manufacturer of Babcock bottles was Louis F. Nafis (1874–1955),[32] whose eponymic Chicago-based company was sold to the Kimble Glass Company (now part of DWK Life Sciences) in 1932.[33][1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Kimble Glass Company (1943): "Kimble Dairy Glassware". Advertisement in Journal of Dairy Science, volume 26, issue 3, page 3. Accessed on 2019-03-04.
  2. ^ "Babcock milk testing bottle". Item 2014.0223.06, Online catalog, Smithsonian Institution. Accessed on 2019-03-04.
  3. ^ a b (2019): "Babcock cream testing bottle". Item 2014.0223.05, online catalog, National Museum of American History. Accessed on 2019-03-05.
  4. ^ a b c Ernest O. Herreid (1942): "The Babcock Test; A Review of the Literature". Journal of Dairy Science, volume 25, issue 4, pages 342–343. doi:10.3168/jds.s0022-0302(42)95301-3
  5. ^ a b c Capitol Scientific (2019): "Babcock bottle". Catalog entry, accessed on 2019-03-04.
  6. ^ a b R. A. Kishore Nadkarni (2000): "Method D483: Unsulfonated residue of oils". Guide for ASTM Test Methods for the Analysis of Petroleum Products and Lubricants page 336. ASTM International.ISBN 0-8031-2087-7
  7. ^ a b "Method 550.1". U. S. Bureau of Mines, Technical Paper 323 B.
  8. ^ (1945): "Method E3-45", section 9(a). ASTM International.
  9. ^ a b E. T. Scafe, J. Herman, and G. R. Bond (1947): "Determination of Olefinic Unsaturation". Analytical Chemistry, volume 19, issue 12, pages 971–975. doi:10.1021/ac60012a009
  10. ^ a b c d Otto Frederick Hunziker (1917): "Specifications and Directions for Testing Milk and Cream for Butterfat". Journal of Dairy Science, volume 1, issue 1, pages 38–44.doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(17)94359-0
  11. ^ a b I. W. Mills, S. S. Kurtz, A. H. A. Heyn, and M. R. Lipkin (1948): "Determination of Total Aromatic Plus Olefin". Analytical Chemistry, volume 20, issue 4, pages 333–338. doi:10.1021/ac60016a018
  12. ^ (2019): "Kimble Babcok bottle for cream test, sealed". Catalog entry, item M3669, Capitol Scientific. Accessed on 2019-03-04.
  13. ^ Louis F. Nafis (1921): "Milk-testing vessel". US patent US1499188A.
  14. ^ (2019): "Kimble Glass Babcock Bottle, Skim Milk Test". Catalog entry, item 3459001, Cole-Parmer. Accessed on 2019-03-05.
  15. ^ a b P. S. Kindstedt and J. K. Rippe (1990): "Rapid Quantitative Test for Free Oil (Oiling Off) in Melted Mozzarella Cheese". Journal of Dairy Science, volume 73, issue 4, pages 867-873. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(90)78741-3
  16. ^ a b Harold Salwin, I. K. Bloch, and J. H. Mitchell Jr. (1955): " Meat Analysis, Rapid Determination of Fat in Meat Products". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, volume 3, issue 7, pages 588–593. doi:10.1021/jf60053a002
  17. ^ (2019): "Kimble Paley bottle, cheese and sour cream test" Catalog entry, product 34590352, Cole-Parmer. Accessed on 2019-03-05.
  18. ^ (2019): "Kimble Babcock Bottle for Gasoline Testing". Catalog entry, item 1506610, Fischer Scientific. Accessed on 2019-03-06.
  19. ^ L. K. Crowe (1930): "Testing Ice Cream for Butterfat". Bulletin 246, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Department of Dairy Husbandry.
  20. ^ Meena Iyer, T. Richardson, C. H. Amundson, and A. Boudreau (1967): "Improved Technique for Analysis of Free Fatty Acids in Butteroil and Provolone Cheese". Journal of Dairy Science, volume 50, issue 3, pages 285-291. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(67)87411-3
  21. ^ (2018): "Standard Test Method for Unsulfonated Residue of Petroleum Plant Spray Oils". Standard ASTM D483 - 04(2018), ASTM International. doi:10.1520/D0483-04R18
  22. ^ G.R. Bond, Jr. (1946): "Determination of Olefinic Unsaturation. Nitrogen Tetroxide Method as Applied to Petroleum Hydrocarbons In the Gasoline Boiling Range". Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, Analytical Edition, volume 18, issue 11, pages 692–696. doi:10.1021/i560159a011
  23. ^ Percy Hargraves Walker (1916): Some Technical Methods of Testing Miscellaneous Supplies: Including Paints and Paint Materials, Inks, Lubricating Oils, Soaps, Etc., page 14. Miscellaneous publications, United States Bureau of Standards, volume 13, issue 15. 68 pages. (No ISBN)
  24. ^ W. P. Hoogendonk and F. W. Porsche (1960): "Determination of Mercaptans in Naphthas by Low Voltage Mass Spectrometry". Analytical Chemistry, volume 32, issue 8, pages 941–942. doi:10.1021/ac60164a014
  25. ^ Roland P. Marquardt and E N. Luce (1944): "Determination of o-Xylene in Recycle Styrene", Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, Analytical Edition, volume 16, issue 12, pages 751–753. doi:10.1021/i560136a010
  26. ^ R. M. Love, A. R. Padgett, W. D. Seyfried, and H. M. Singleton (1947): "Determination of Aromatics and Napthenes in Complex Hydrocarbon Mixtures Containing Olefins". Analytical Chemistry, volume 19, issue 1, pages 37–42. doi:10.1021/ac60001a011
  27. ^ W. B. D. Penniman and W. W. Randall (1914): "A Rapid Method for the Determination of Camphor and of Certain Essential Oils when in Solution in Alcohol". Industrial & Engineering Chemistry, volume 6, issue 11, pages 926–928. doi:10.1021/ie50071a016
  28. ^ Stephen M, Babcock (1890): "A New Method for the Estimation of Fat in Milk, Especially Adapted to Creameries and Cheese Factories". In Annual Report, Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Wisconsin.
  29. ^ E. B. Hart (1949): "Stephen Moulton Babcock". Journal of Nutrition, volume 37, issue 1, pages 1–7. doi:10.1093/jn/37.1.1
  30. ^ Roscoe H. Shaw (1917): Chemical Testing of Milk and Cream. U.S. Government Printing Office
  31. ^ (1927): "AOAC 920.111-1920(1997), Fat in cream". Digital document available from AOAC International. Catalog accessed on 2019-03-04.
  32. ^ (1928): "Illustrated catalog of Nafis scientific glass apparatus for the dairy industries". Louis F. Nafis, Inc., Chicago. At the Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass, item ID 139984. 44 pages.
  33. ^ (1955): "L. F. Nafis Dies". Journal of Dairy Science, volume 34, issue 8, pages 442–448. doi:10.3168/jds.S0022-0302(55)94997-3