What is a Hectoliter?

Kim Masters Evans
Kim Masters Evans
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

A hectoliter is 100 liters (26.4 U.S. gallons) and is a term of measurement for volume or capacity that is part of the International System of Units or metric system. Volumes and capacities are often expressed in hectoliters in international commerce and are particularly common in the beer, wine, and grain industries. The prefix hecto- is abbreviated as h. Liter is abbreviated as either l or L. Thus, a hectoliter is abbreviated as either hl or hL. "Hectolitre" is an alternative spelling that is commonly used in Great Britain.

Volume and capacity are terms that refer to three-dimensional space. Liquids, solids and gases occupy certain amounts of three-dimensional space, and containers have a capacity to hold certain amounts of materials. These amounts are expressed in various units of measurement around the world.

The metric system or International System of Units is the most widely used unit system, and is formally known by its French name, the Système International d’Unités (SI). The meter is the base unit of length in the SI system, and a liter is equivalent to 0.001 cubic meters. The prefix hecto- comes from the Latin word hekaton and means hundred. Therefore, a hectoliter is equivalent to 0.1 cubic meters.

Since the metric system is not customarily used in the United States, it is important to be able to convert between hectoliters and the units of volume and capacity that are used in U.S. commerce. One hectoliter is equivalent to 26.4 U.S. gallons, 3.53 cubic feet, 2.84 U.S. standard bushels, 0.3524 U.S. Winchester bushels, and 11.35 pecks. Most of these units are used for volumes of dry materials, such as, grains or powders. Liquid volumes in the United States are mostly described in U.S. gallons.

Hectoliters are commonly used to express volumes and capacities related to the production of beer, wine, and grains, such as wheat and oats. The amount of beer or wine produced and the amount of water used to produce them are generally described outside the United States in units of hectoliters. The bulk density, or mass per unit volume, of a sample or shipment of grain is typically expressed in kilograms per hectoliter. This measurement is also known as a test weight or hectoliter weight. Although grain test weights within the United States are most often expressed in pounds per U.S. Winchester bushel, these amounts are converted to kilograms per hectoliter for international trade.

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Discussion Comments


One thing that I would like to know is what is the unit of measurement after hectoliters? I understand that a hectoliter is a lot for whatever is recorded but what comes after it and how much does it amount to of another unit of measurement?


@jmc88 - Your statement concerning the matter of convenience in measurement intrigues me. Although some people may say different things converting large measurements into smaller numbers and just bigger units of measurement makes it a whole lot easier to record and say.

A hectorliter is simply one of the big units of measurement that is used to help make large measurements easier to record. Considering that this unit of measurement is used in an industry such as brewing it does make sense that they would use the hectoliter measurement to both make it easier to record and to make sure that they do not make mistakes in their recording and keep track of everything that they make and sell so not to make a major mistake in their measurements.


@JimmyT - What you are thinking of is a four hundred and twenty five gallon tank that is specifically designed for pickup truck transport. Although they could measure this tank in hectoliters it would only amount to four and a quarter hectoliters and is probably not enough for someone to change the unit of measurement.

What hectoliters are for is to measure tanks that are in the thousands of gallons. Say there is a beer tank that measures to one hundred and ten hectoliters that is a lot easier to say than one hundred and ten thousand liters. The hectoliter is simply some unit of measurement that make the total numeric value smaller and easier to record and say. Something that is only a few hundred gallons is not usually converted to hectoliters because there is almost no reason or convenience in doing so.


A question I have is whether hectoliters are used to measure very large quantities of water. I have always thought that very large tanks that are carried in the backs of trucks, used for various agricultural means, measured to one hectoliter.

I would like to think that when large quantities of water or liquids are measured say in the thousands of gallons, they are broken down to larger units of measurements such as hectoliters, but I am mostly asking because of the large tanks that I saw in the back of trucks.

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