Hummingbird nectar concentrate
August 22, 2014 6:35 PM   Subscribe

I have been using a 1:4 sugar to water ratio for our feeders. Will I get the same concentration by maiking a 1:1 ratio and then diluting the concentrate by a 1:3 ratio of concentrate to plain water? It seems right but I am second guessing myself. Thank you.
posted by harrietthespy to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: No, you'd need to dilute the concentrate by a 2:3 ratio with water. The 2 parts concentrate contains 1 part sugar and 1 part water, so the 2:3 diluted mixture contains 1 sugar and 4 water.
posted by zeptoweasel at 6:41 PM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can make a 1:1 concentrate and then dilute with a 1:1 ratio of water to concentrate.
posted by studioaudience at 6:56 PM on August 22, 2014

Oh, damn, ignore me, I gave you a 1:3 ratio!
posted by studioaudience at 7:01 PM on August 22, 2014

Response by poster: No worries, studioaudience. As soon as I saw the answer from zeptoweasel I dashed out and redid the feeders out back. Hubs will do the two out front that I can't reach shortly. My suspicions combined with a change at how long they were staying at the feeders made me think I was wrong. I'm glad I asked as they are fueling up to migrate south. They need the energy.
posted by harrietthespy at 7:16 PM on August 22, 2014

Do you mean that you are combining one unit volume of sugar with three unit volumes of water to yield a total volume of four units ("dilution factor of 1:4"), or one unit volume sugar with four unit volumes of water, yielding a total volume of 5 units ("dilution ratio of 1:4")?
posted by pullayup at 7:20 PM on August 22, 2014

This math is only correct if you are talking about weights. Because when you dissolve one thing in another the total volume is less than the sum of the two things. Sorta like if you poured a cup of sand into a cup of marbles. This is even true when mixing liquids: 1 L of water and 1 L of alcohol will yield 1.92L of solution1. But this is way more pronounced with something granular because a lot of a cup of sugar is filled with air.

Because I am an empiricist, I just mixed 2 fl oz water with 2 fl oz of sugar. I wound up with 3 fl oz of 1:1 simple syrup. If I wanted to make that a 1:4 syrup, I would need to add another 3 parts water, or 6 fl oz. So in this case you would in fact need a 1:2 dilution of 1:1 syrup and water. But it's not because of any simple reason that you could work out in your head, it's because that's how big 1:1 sugar syrup happens to be.

I also found out that you can't make a 1:1 salt syrup at room temperature.
posted by aubilenon at 10:15 PM on August 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

The 2:3 advice is not correct. Assuming aubilenon's trial is correct, his suggestion of a 1:2 dilution of your syrup is the way to go.

You've redone the feeders at 2:3 which means the final mix is still sweeter than the desired 1:4, but there's no need to go out and adjust again. The birds can and do deal with a wide range of sugar concentrations in their natural feeding from flowers.
posted by beagle at 5:34 AM on August 23, 2014

I worked aubilenon's experiment off of a chemistry sugar solution density table and came up with 2.87 oz of concentrated sugar solution and his experiment came out with 3 oz, so I would say his result is pretty much correct within the accuracy of the tools used. There is a few percent variation in the density of granulated sugar as it comes out of the box so it ain't rocket science.
posted by JackFlash at 9:46 AM on August 23, 2014

Response by poster: I gave up and just went back to 1 cup sugar and 4 cups water. I was trying to save myself some time but it cost me more. The birds are worth it though.
posted by harrietthespy at 11:01 AM on August 23, 2014

Here's a way to save time. Forget the stuff about boiling water. Take a quarter cup of sugar and put it into a glass. Add a cup of hot water right from the tap. Stir for 10 seconds and you have a cup of solution for the feeder. Done.

Use larger proportions if you have lots of feeders to fill. You could also use cold water from the tap but would have to stir a little longer to dissolve. It's not necessary to boil the water and it accomplishes nothing.
posted by JackFlash at 11:27 AM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

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