Beginners Guide to Incubating Shakers

Incubating shakers come in many shapes and sizes, from small benchtop models to chest models larger than a washing machine. In this article, we introduce the main types of incubating shakers and common models in that category. 

Due to the longevity of this type of equipment, when buying used incubating shakers you will encounter decades worth of models on the market. In our article, we help you also understand the relative age of models on the market so you can understand roughly how old your incubating shaker is compared to other models.

We also summarize our thoughts on the three major brands, Thermo Scientific, Eppendorf/New Brunswick, and Infors HT, so you can decide which one is right for you.

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Anatomy Of An Incubating Shaker

Here are a few key parts of an incubating shaker that you should be aware of before we get started:

Platform: This is the flat piece of metal to which the user attaches hardware that holds vessels. The platform is the most significant factor in determining the capacity of an incubating shaker.

Vessel Holders or Clamps: Usually designed to hold erlenmeyer flasks, these brackets attach to the shaker's platform.

It should be noted that there are other types of hardware for the platform to hold different types of vessels or expand the capacity of an incubating shaker. For example, there are shelves which anchor to the platform, allowing for a second platform to attach vessel clamps to.

Common Features

Refrigeration: Many incubating shakers are available with an option that allows you to cool your chamber using a refrigeration system. Manufacturers designate refrigerated models vs non-refrigerated in different ways:

Eppendorf/New Brunswick simply appends an R to models that include refrigeration. 

Thermo Scientific is a little trickier. Some of their model numbers append a “-7” or “-8” to the end of their model numbers.

We are not aware of an easy way to identify if an Infors HT shaker includes refrigeration outside of calling the manufacturer.


Humidity Control:  Some systems allow you to set the humidity level of the chamber.

Atmospheric Controls: Some incubating shakers allow you to set CO2, O2, or both gas levels in the chamber.

Throw: This is measured in the units of length and identifies the range of shaking motion that the platform undergoes. 

The Main Types Of Incubating Shakers

Compact Benchtop Incubating Shakers

Compact Benchtop Incubating Shaker Eppendorf New Brunswick 40

Currently only offered by Eppendorf and Thermo Scientific. These are the lowest capacity incubating shakers available with the largest sized systems offering 18”x18” platforms which can accommodate approximately 12L of volume.

Most benchtop incubating shakers on the used market lack extra features beyond heating and shaking. However, there are some that include refrigeration capabilities.

Current Models

Previous Generation Models

Super Old

  • New Brunswick C24

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Compact Stackable Incubating Shakers

Compact Stackable Incubating Shaker New Brunswick Innova 42R

Compact stackable Incubating Shakers are offered from all manufacturers and are the next largest incubating shakers on the market. Although their footprint isn’t much larger than a compact benchtop system, they offer two features that increase their capacity significantly compared to a benchtop model.

For one, they usually can be stacked on top of each other so that you double the platform space in the same footprint.

Secondly, they are usually oriented so that they are taller than they are wide. If you are using shorter vessesl, on some models this headspace allows for the addition of a shelf that attaches to the platform and shakes with the base platform. Adding this shelf increases the amount of vessels you can shake at a time.

In addition to the extra floor space, these incubating shakers usually offer the more advanced features you may need and more commonly can be found in refrigerated versions.

Current Models

  • Infors HT Minitron (White version)
  • Eppendorf/New Brunswick 42
  • Thermo MaxQ 6000

Previous Models

  • Infors HT Minitron (Black and Orange)
  • New Brunswick 4200 (4230 is the refrigerated version)
  • Thermo MaxQ 6000

Wide Stackable Incubating Shakers

Wide Stackable Incubating Shaker New Brunswick Innova 4430

These incubating shakers are the highest capacity incubating shakers by footprint. Unlike more compact stackable shakers, these models can usually be stacked up to three high, tripling your shaking capacity in the same footprint.

Also, these are usually the most feature-rich models with more options and variety than other types of incubating shakers. For example, with the Infors HT Multitron, there are four different “throw” configurations, and they offer an anti-microbial surface option.

Due to the size, Wide Stackable models can accommodate large flasks of up to at least 5L.

Current Models

  • Infors HT Multitron (White Version)
  • Eppendorf/New Brunswick 44
  • New Brunswick S44i
  • Thermo Scientific MaxQ 8000

Previous Generation Models

  • Infors HT (Black and Orange Version)
  • New Brunswick 4400 (4430 is the refrigerated version)
  • New Brunswick I26
  • Thermo Scientific 420 (490 is the refrigerated version)

Old Models

  • Infors HT (Vomit Orange Color)

Large Floor Model Incubating Shakers

Large Floor Incubating Shaker New Brunswick Innova 4330

These are the largest of the large capacity incubating shakers. If you have unlimited floor space and capacity is your main concern, these models should be your choice. 

Generally they are chest-style, opening from the top. Opening from the top offers ease of access and handling for the large 6L flasks that these models accommodate.

Large floor models seem to be the least popular models used, likely because of the large floorspace needed to accommodate them. Infors HT does not offer a model in this style.

It should be noted that these models are generally noisier and harder to work on when repairs are needed.

Current Models

  • Eppendorf/New Brunswick 43
  • Thermo Scientific MaxQ HP (SHKE481HP is the refrigerated model.)

Previous Models

  • New Brunswick Innova 4300 (4330 is the refrigerated model)
  • New Brunswick Excella E25
  • Thermo MaxQ 5000
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Top Manufacturers

Infors HT


Infors HT has been around for 65 years and offers premium quality incubating shakers. Their incubating shakers are built solidly and we have encountered many models that are two decades old.

The trade off with their quality is price: you’ll generally pay more, even for used incubating shakers, than you will for other models.

Another area where their cost is higher is in repairs. Infors HT products are difficult to work on, so you may not be comfortable repairing them yourself. The costs of hiring a service tech to do the work for you will only serve to increase cost of ownership. However, it’s possible that longevity may reduce your need for repairs.

If longevity and quality is your main concern, Infors is probably you best choice.

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Eppendorf/New Brunswick

When Eppendorf acquired New Brunswick in 2007, New Brunswick was an established brand over 60 years old. The respected New Brunswick name still lives on in the Eppendorf product line.

New Brunswick’s quality is nearly on par with Infors HT and can be expected to have a long service life making them a good alternative. It’s also easier to find current models from New Brunswick than Infors HT on the used market.

One quirk is that their controls are slightly less user friendly, but nothing that should turn you off of purchasing them.

Thermo Scientific

Thermo Scientific is a well-known brand in the scientific space, and like many of their other products, they tend towards affordability.

Thermo Scientific incubating shakers are the most affordable option on the used market. But their affordability doesn’t just stop at their sale price: their parts are cheap and readily available online and they are the easiest models to repair yourself.

Thermo Scientific also dominates the used benchtop incubating shaker category. It’s quite easy to find a used MaxQ 4000 on the market.

Shop for available incubating shakers here.