Alcohol Stoves

  • Alcohol Stoves: Myths

    Alcohol stoves are lightweight, convenient and very versatile, they're also very cheap to buy and almost free to make. So naturally, they get a lot of flack from commercial stove manufacturers.

    Myth 1: Alcohol Stove Don't Work

    They wouldn't be so popular with thousands of hikers, backpackers, campers and tinkerers if they didn't. While these stoves have their limitations, they certainly work.

    Myth 2: They Aren't Reliable

    Contrary to belief they are actually the most reliable stove you can get. There are no moving or separate parts and so a well-constructed burner is difficulty to break. A home-made stove can be accidentally stepped on and crushed, there's no side-stepping that issue, but you could easily make a replacement on the fly. There are also rumours that they don't work at high altitudes or in cold weather - not true! In cold weather it can be more difficult to light the fuel and it may burn less efficiently, but it will certainly work. There's also no real evidence to show that high altitudes have negative effects of alcohol stoves.

    Myth 3: They are Dangerous

    Alcohol is a flammable liquid, hence why this myth takes hold. With the exception of spills, alcohol stoves are no more dangerous than any other stove. If you follow common-sense safety precautions, you'll have no issues.

    This post was heavily inspired by The Soda Can Stove.

  • What Are Alcohol Camping Stoves?

    Alcohol Camping Stoves

    Alcohol stoves are the most lightweight, and one of the easiest to use types of camping stove which use alcohol-based fuels, such as ethanol or meths.

    Alcohol stoves are extremely popular among lightweight backpackers and bare-bones campers. Alcohol stoves have a bit of a cult following with regular users demonstrating the benefits of their stove to anyone with an interest. These stoves are so versatile as they can run on a number of different alcohol fuels.

    There are quite a few variations of camping stove, each with their own advantages and limitations.

    There are a few reasons that alcohol stoves are so popular:

    • Lightweight - Often weighing a few grams compared to half a kilo or more
    • Simple - All you need to do is pour your ethanol into the reservoir and light with a match, lighter or fire steel.
    • Quiet - If the ethanol isn't too hot and boiling within the reservoir, they are generally silent.
    • Odourless - Unlike gas based stoves, if you spill fuel on your clothes or gear, it will simply evaporate and the smell of gas won't follow you around for the rest of your trip.
    • No Maintenance - Cleaning an alcohol stove is as simple as cleaning a bowl and due to their simplicity, there are almost no individual parts that can break and need repair.
    • Safety - Alcohol stoves don't used a pressurised fuel, it's not explosive and can be easily extinguished with water.
    • Low Cost - You can easily build your own penny-can or soda can alcohol stove using only 2 cans. Even store bought stoves are much cheaper than their gas counterparts.
    • Eco-Friendly - Bio Ethanol releases only water vapour and a small amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It's also a renewable source of energy.
    • Availability Alcohol stove fuel or methylated spirits can be found in almost any hardware store or petrol station.
    • Transportability - Not only is the stove lightweight and easy to carry, the fuel doesn't need any fancy metal containers, normal plastic bottles are fine.

    As great as alcohol stoves can be, there are of course some downsides to using one:

    • Reduced Heat Output - Compared to gas or other liquid fuels, you'll get a reduced heat output which means you'll be cooking for longer and you may end up using slightly more fuel to get the job done.
    • Invisible Flame - An invisible or translucent blue flame is actually a good sign as it shows that the burn is clean (a yellow flame is an indicator of incomplete combustion and CO2). However it can make handling the stove slightly more dangerous if you can't properly see the flame.
    • Temperature Sensitive - If the environment is quite cold, it can be much more difficult to light the fuel and once lit, may not burn as hot or efficiently as under regular conditions.
    • Durability - This only really applies if you've made your own stove using a can, but you can easily step on or otherwise damage/destroy your stove if you're not careful.
  • Alcohol Stove Fuel: Different Types

    The best fuel for an alcohol stove, is bio ethanol. Bio ethanol is ethanol made from the bi-products of growing crops. It's is very environmentally friendly and clean burning. We recommend, bio ethanol fuel from EkoFuel is a denatured alcohol which is 97% pure ethanol, 2% other alcohols with 1% of denaturing agent.

    methylated-spiritMethylated spirits are another denatured alcohol, which is ethanol denatured with up to 80% methanol. Methylated spirits are widely available and can be found in most stores. Methanol is poisonous when ingested and not good for the environment.

    Isopropyl AlcoholIsopropyl alcohol
    , also known as rubbing alcohol is found in drug stores and comprised of 70% alcohol. Rubbing alcohol produces a lot of heat, but doesn't burn cleanly (yellow flames) and can soot. As it's mixed with water, it can also be inefficient.

    Festival StoveAlcohol Gel is quite common in outdoors and camping shops. It is slightly safer than liquid fuel as it's more difficult to spill. The majority of gel alcohol stoves don't get hot enough to properly cook food or boil water, due to their small openings.

  • Commercial Alcohol Stoves

    Trangia 25 Cookset With Kettle & Spirit BurnerTrangia

    Trangia is the market leader and also the most well-known name in alcohol stove, most alcohol stoves, branded or not are simply referred to as Trangias. The Trangia burner is an open jet style alcohol stove. They have high quality construction and the lightweight cook set packs away inside the largest pot.

    Esbit 985ml-Dual Fuel Stove Hard AnodisedEsbit

    Esbit is another popular alcohol stove, though they are mostly known for their pocket stoves which burn hexamine blocks. The Esbit alcohol burner itself is almost identical to the Trangia burner, with only small variations. Where the two differ are with their cook sets. The Esbit cook set is made from anodised aluminium. Like the Trangia, the cook set fits inside the largest pot.

    Dometic ORIGO 9103303882 3000 Alcohol Stove 2-Burner Freestanding ModelOrigo

    While not as popular among campers and backpackers (due to their size and weight), Origo (owned by Dometic) are the largest name in marine alcohol stoves and ovens. If you see a stove on a boat and it isn't fuelled by gas or petrol, it's likely to be an Origo alcohol stove. They come with a dual burner and are the closest you'll come to a standard gas camping stove with alcohol. While they can run on most alcohols, best results will come from specific marine stove alcohol.

    Evernew Titanium DX Stove SetEvernew

    Evernew stoves are Japanese made, titanium alcohol stoves. They have a patented Bi-Level Jet system allows the stove to give 2 separate levels of flames. It also allows the burner to be used without a pot stand.

  • DIY Alcohol Stoves: Types

    There are a number of both DIY and commercial alcohol stoves available and naturally, each has its own defining characteristics, advantages and disadvantages. There are 5 types of alcohol stove, though there are variations within each type:

    open-stoveOpen Reservoir - An open reservoir is the simplest design and can be made from any small metal tin or container (e.g. tuna can or cat food).
    They are easily to ignite and easy to extinguish.

    open-ventedOpen Vented
    - These stoves are similar to open reservoirs, but have ventilation holes to increase the supply and circulation of oxygen.

    siide-burner-stoveSide Burner - These stoves have holes punched into the sides of the container. The flames come from the side of the stove meaning that a cooking container can be placed directly on the burner, without the need for an elevate platform as it won't smother the flame.

    Evernew Titanium Alcohol StoveOpen Jet
     - The popular Trangia stove is an open jet alcohol stove as are most soda-can stoves. They have an open reservoir and small holes around the lip of the burner where the flames shoot out from. Rather than burning the liquid fuel itself, these stoves burn the vapours as the fuel evaporates. They do need pot stands and can be slightly less efficient due to the large opening in the centre of the burner.

    pressurised-jet-stovePressurised Jet - Identical to an open jet stove, but without the large opening in the centre of the burner. Instead the opening is closed off to allow the stove to build pressure and force the vapours out of the jets. Pressurised jet alcohol stoves will burn hot and cook fast, often with greater fuel efficiency. However these stoves generally need to be preheated and they can be very difficult top construct.

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