What's the Problem With Liquids?

In a nutshell, the problem with liquids is that there is little standardization between countries in terms of the meaning of the standard units of liquid volume. For example, in the United States a fluid ounce is 29.6 ml, in the UK, it is 28.4 ml.

This poses an obvious problem if you're in the business of converting liquid measurements. If a recipe requires 20 fl. oz of milk, and you don't know whether it's American or British fluid ounces, you're a bit stuck if you want to convert it to milliliters. Similarly, if you want to convert 200 ml of vodka into fl. oz, you're not going to get very far if you don't know whether you're talking American or British fluid ounces. To proceed accurately, you've got to know the system of measurement in play for both the source and destination measurement units.

So how does our converter deal with this issue? We don't want to give away too many secrets here, suffice it to say that the converter utilizes mutlidimensional contextual analysis to determine both source and destination measurement systems. No doubt this sounds like the sort of thing people say when nothing much at all is happening, and they want to obfuscate, so here's an example of one thing the converter looks at to determine the source measurement system.

There are certain ingredients that are country specific. For example, it is fairly unlikely that jellied eals or mushy peas will appear in a recipe put together by an American author for an American audience. On this basis, it is possible to develop sets of ingredients that function as an indicator that the source measurement system of a recipe is associated with a particular country. If you have enough of these indicators, based on further, different sorts of contextual analysis, then you can identify the source measurement system of a recipe with increasing confidence. If you know the source measurement system, then the task of identifying the destination measurement system is relatively easy.

In future iterations of our converter, we'll allow users to specify both source and destination measurement systems for liquids, which will result in greater accuracy, but in the meantime, we're confident that liquid conversions will almost always be accurate, especially if a recipe has numerous ingredients.