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Should I use manual or automatic titration for my testing?

It truly depends! There are multiple factors that can help you decide if manual or automatic titration is the right fit for you and your testing needs.

It's decision time, let's compare the two!

How should you titrate? Manually or with an automatic titrator? There's a lot to consider when it comes to the way that you should test and choosing the science equipment that you need. We get it, this can feel very overwhelming! Not to mention, you have budget constraints, tight deadlines, and stringent quality standards to meet. That's enough to make anyone's head spin! 

The good news is, we're here to help you! Even if this means that you don't choose an automatic titrator for your testing solution. We know, crazy, right? At Hanna, we want to make sure that you pick the testing solution that is best for you.

Automatic vs. Manual Titration

Startup Costs of Titration

Automatic Titration

Automatic titration does have a few start-up costs associated with it, and full-sized automatic titrators can cost from $3,000 to over $20,000. The cost depends on what tier of titrator you are looking to purchase, as well as any connectivity/add-ons. Additional costs to consider are training, method development or optimization, further automation (autosamplers, LIMS connectivity, and more), as well as any missing laboratory components. Minimally, you will need a scientific scale and/or volumetric glassware, titrant, temperature probe, electrode, and beakers. Keep in mind these costs are associated with a full-scale automatic titrator – if you have only one or two types of titrations, a dedicated mini titrator may be the perfect fit (and they have a more economical price point)!


Manual Titration


Initial manual titration costs can start below $100, especially if you already have some basic equipment such as a scientific scale. To run a manual titration, you would need a burette with a stopcock, glassware (beakers), titrant, an indicator, and a scientific scale and/or glassware. Optimally, you would also have a stir plate and stir bar, but you could swirl manually while adding drops of titrant into your sample.

⭐ WINNER: Manual Titration

While an ROI (return on investment) is usually seen within 1 - 2 years after the purchase of an automatic titration system, manual titration is more cost effective initially. 


Maintenance Costs of Titration 

Automatic Titration

Wearable parts vary on instrumentation, but for potentiometric titrators, it is recommended to replace aspiration tubing, dispensing tubing, and the burette syringe for our Automatic Potentiometric Titrators (HI931/HI932) on a regular basis. Time is of the essence when it comes to maintenance, as wearable parts will degrade over time, causing issues such as clogs and leaks. Automatic titrators should also receive a certified calibration every two years.

Burette Syringe
Titrant Replacement Frequency
Caustic < 1N 1 Year
Caustic > 1N 6 Months
Non-Aqueous 1 Year
Any titrant > 1N 1 Year
Most Others 2 Years


Titrant Replacement Frequency
Titrants that crystallize (e.g. silver nitrate) 3-6 Months
Most others 1 Year

Need information on titrator service plans?GET INFO

Manual Titration

The wear and tear on manual titration equipment is fairly minimal as long as the stopcock in the burette remains unclogged and in working condition. 


⭐ WINNER: Manual Titration

Both manual and automatic titrations have costs associated with replacing titrant and sample preparation solutions, however, manual titration does have lower maintenance costs. 


Calculations and Graphs

Automatic Titration

Hypo-Landing-Page-GraphWhen utilizing an automatic titrator, manually calculating results, and charting graphs is a thing of the past. You can input your pertinent values into the method, and then simply enter your sample size. At the end of the titration, you have a full graph as well as results in your desired unit of measure (ie. % Acetic Acid).

Manual Titration

For manual titration where you are only using a burette with titrant and an indicator, you will always have to calculate the results based on the number of drops that were dosed to reach the endpoint. If you are manually titrating with an electrode and meter with a manual burette, you will  have to perform a manual calculation AND you will also have to manually graph the mV change caused by each drop of titrant to determine the endpoint. Manually charted graphs have a limited amount of accuracy and are time consuming.

⭐ WINNER: Automatic Titration

When it comes to manual titration, you do all of the work! Whereas with an automatic titrator, all of the calculations and graphs are precise and generated automatically for you.


Time Management


Automatic Titration

Time is a valuable commodity, and it can be hard to manage, especially because you can't rush chemistry. Sometimes chemicals just need time to react together. However, automatic titration can let you "set and forget" a titration until it is complete; you let the titrator do the work for you. Operators can perform other tasks simultaneously,  such as preparing the next sample while the titrator runs. Some automated titrations can take under 3 minutes from start to finish! You can also use an autosampler paired with an automatic titrator - you can run up to 18 titrations in succession.

Manual Titration

When using a manual burette, the operator has to titrate drop by drop. As each drop goes into the sample, it takes physical concentration to determine if there is a color change and if the endpoint has been reached. Over-titrating is easy to do, and if that happens you have to re-run the titration. 

⭐ WINNER: Automatic Titration

With Automatic titration, all you have to do is prep the sample, press the start button, and let the titration run automatically. On the flip side, manual titration requires your full attention and is time consuming.


Subjectivity and Results

Automatic Titration

Methods are pre-programmed into the titrator, making it easy for every single operator to run the titration the same exact way. The guesswork of visibly monitoring a color change is now a thing of the past. Automatic titrators use an electrode to monitor the chemical reaction occurring in your sample and give you an accurate result on the screen. This takes precision to a new level. 


Manual Titration

One question everyone asks themselves when manually titrating is "What is the endpoint color?" For example, the shade of pink used to determine the endpoint is subjective and can look different to each operator. Therefore, results can vary. Colored samples can make it hard to determine the actual endpoint.


⭐ WINNER: Automatic Titration

When manually titrating, the tendency is to over-titrate which leads to a highly visible color change (this results in errors). With an Automatic Titrator, being able to verify the endpoint with an electrode monitoring the titration allows for accurate results every time. 


Chemicals and Sample Consumption


Automatic Titration

Chemicals can be expensive (both to purchase and dispose of), and sometimes you have a finite amount of sample to work with. The last thing you want to do is to waste materials. The optimization of automatic titration paired with the precision dosing, allows you to use a smaller sample size and less titrant.

Manual Titration

To try and increase the resolution and accuracy of a manual titration, many times procedures will have you use larger sample amounts which means that more titrant will be used. 

⭐ WINNER: Automatic Titration

You can avoid over-titrating, wasting titrant and sample, and inaccurate results altogether with an Automatic Titrator. With manual titration, this just isn't feasible. 



Automatic Titration

Optimization is easy when you have an automatic titration system. The methods are completely customizable, which allows you to tailor the method to your sample matrix. You can customize everything from dosing size, dosing frequency, stability, endpoint detection, and more, so you can have accurate and repeatable results. 

Manual Titration

When performing manual titrations, the only optimization you can do is to adjust the sample size and your titrant strength. 

⭐ WINNER: Automatic Titration

If you're looking to customize your methods, then automatic titration is what you need! With manual titration customization is nearly impossible and very limited.

Data Traceability


Automatic Titration

Traceability and digital record keeping go hand-in-hand with automatic titration. An automatic titrator will generate a digital report that can be exported. Everything down to the GLP (Good Laboratory Practice Data) can be in the report. This is excellent for record keeping and reporting purposes, especially if you have to report to a governing body (i.e. FDA, USDA, EPA, etc.).

Manual Titration

With manual titrations, there is no traceability other than manual record keeping. You would need to keep meticulous lab notebooks (either manually or digitally). Either method can lead to errors when transferring data.

⭐ WINNER: Automatic Titration

With customizable reporting and a digital and traceable footprint, automatic titration is the best choice for managing and keeping track of your data. 

Which is best? How do I choose?

You know your testing needs and application best! Taking the main elements from this blog into account can help you make an informed decision about whether you should use manual or automatic titration. Perhaps you have a high throughput of samples that you have to run every shift, and an automatic titrator with an autosampler is the perfect fit. Or, maybe you're just starting out and need a low-tech option like manual titration instead.

Automatic titration is for you if:

  • You have the budget to invest in your instrumentation for the longterm.
  • You don't want to stress about performing calculations and manually graphing.
  • You want to save time.
  • You need an easy "plug and play" method for your operators.
  • Less chemical waste is a goal.
  • You need a customized method for your sample matrix.
  • Data reporting and traceability are important to your operation.

Manual titration is for you if:

  • You have a smaller budget and are looking for a low cost investment.
  • You don't mind performing your own calculations and/or graphing.
  • You have the time to perform the titrations manually.
  • The sample is clear or not highly colored.
  • You need a "low-tech" option.

Hanna Tip: If you need a solution in-between manual titration and automatic titration, you can sometimes use a meter (pH, ORP, etc.) with an electrode, and a manual burette to monitor the titration manually.

Looking for more content?

Click below to watch a video on the advantages of automatic titration!


Got Questions?

For more information regarding how Hanna Instruments can help you with your titration needs, contact us, at sales@hannainst.com or 1-800-426-6287.