Alcohol stove newbie

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    Mike Whitesell
    BPL Member


    Locale: California

    So I currently have a Jetfoil minimo and for my upcoming JMT I’m trying to cut weight and this seems like a cheaper way to cut weight. I am doing all no-cook meals except for every morning I am doing instant Vietnamese coffee with creamer and sugar to get extra calories in. What set-up should I be looking at and also the best way to store the alcohol so it does not leak. I only plan on using it 12 times, so what would be enough fuel to get hot coffee every morning?

    Bob Shuff
    BPL Member


    Locale: SoCal

    Lots of people use used plastic water or soda bottles.  Just remember to mark them if you do.  A yellow HEET bottle is 12 oz, and many like that for fuel.

    Conservative is 1oz for a boil of 2 cups of water.  Water and air temp, and wind will affect the boil and are only somewhat predictable. Type of stove, pot and windscreen affect it too and you should obviously try your setup to see if you can take less or need more.

    Katherine .
    BPL Member


    Locale: pdx

    Some variation / configuration of a starlyte stove. The no-spill factor is a big deal to me.

    normally I’d say go with a caldera cone around it–love the stability—but for just a hot drink a homemade foil wind screen is sufficient.

    i use Everclear, because I can in OR. In any old plastic soda bottle.

    J R


    You’re going to get a million different answers to “what set-up should I be looking at”. The key is that your need is for water-boil only, not actual cooking. Some basic directions you can go in:

    • Ti pot, stove, and windscreen
    • Caldera Cone Keg-F (aluminum beer can pot)
    • tea kettle style with stove and windscreen
    • el-cheapo – IMUSA mug or grease pot, DIY cat food can stove, turkey pan windscreen

    They all work, some more efficient than others, some better for certain specific needs than others, so you can either experiment around or, if you’re thinking only for this trip them back to the JB then you may want to pick one and move on — you can’t go too wrong for a water-boil-only setup. Think about things like whether you want a separate mug for drinking or will drink out of the pot, that can help guide you through the choices. You want to consider how well it packs down — will the windscreen fit inside the pot, is it crushable, etc. Zelph’s Starlyte stove is an excellent one to consider — very light, very efficient, and safer for an alky newbie with its spill-less design.

    I carry fuel in an 8- or 12-oz disposable water bottle (depending on trip length), lighter than squirt bottles that hold only 4 oz and never had a problem.  An ounce of fuel per 2-cup boil is the most you should need, depending on your setup, my Starlyte with a Caldera Keg-F can boil 2 cups on only about half an ounce.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    Sure that you’ll be able to use alcohol? The brs-3000t stove is an ounce in it’s sack and 110 canister would give you the 12 boils with a bit left over. Foolproof and inexpensive.

    Bob Moulder
    BPL Member


    Locale: Westchester County, NY

    Sure that you’ll be able to use alcohol? The brs-3000t stove is an ounce in it’s sack and 110 canister would give you the 12 boils with a bit left over. Foolproof and inexpensive.


    Check the fire regs.

    One of those situations where a canister setup is probably the lighter option.

    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Alcohol comes in two major types to use as fuels, methanol and ethanol. Methanol is usually used fairly straight (near 95-100% because it is produced from industrial sources) and has around 9200BTU/lb. Often sold as HEET, or other fuel line anti-freeze. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol, Moonshine, etc…) is the drinking kind and has about 12000BTU/lb. You can often buy this as Everclear in liqueur stores, but, because it is distilled, you can only get around 95% or 190proof. SLX is denatured fuel and is a mix of around 50/50 methanol/ethanol. Look for denatured alcohol than says marine fuel on the label. Others don’t burn cleanly. Basically, alcohols burn about the same in most stoves. There is almost no difference in how they burn in open topped stoves, chimney burners, or pressurized stoves. However, enough oxygen needs to be supplied to the stove to mix with the vaporized alcohol. Methanol can be considered as partially combusted methane (common house gas.) Same for ethane and ethanol.

    The biggest thing is heat recovery after burning. Cones, wind screens, etc are the most important for this. Then pot shapes, types. Then a host of other things. Heat Exchangers(HE pots) only work on EXCESS heat. Small burners are more efficient than large ones. ~8-10 minutes to boil 2 cups is about the most efficient depending on the ambient temp. Boiling off alcohol before burning it can lead to fumes and strong smells and loss of efficiency. A clearish, blueish flame is the cleanest and hottest. Yellow flames are not good and produce soot…hence loss of efficiency…usually due to lack of oxygen. This can produce all sorts of strange compounds, CO being one problem.

    Have fun! These are fun to play with.

    Matthew / BPL


    Off-topic so please forgive/ignore if you aren’t interested but this seems like a great application for Esbit.

    I’ve gor several cooksets built around the light Toaks 550 or 10cm Imusa mugs that weigh in under 4.5 ounces complete including lighter and spoon. I don’t know how hot you like your coffee but I can reliably boil using two 4-gram tablets at 70° ambient temp with cold water. Given altitude/colder water/colder temps I don’t think you’d boil with 8 grams of fuel next to Guitar Lake but you’d be close.

    4.5 ounces for a kit like mine + 3.5 ounces of fuel (8 grams X 12) might be worth considering.

    You could drop at least an ounce off my kit with an MLD 450 mug/ti foil lid and no spoon if you are really just making coffee. I have this setup too and can weigh it if you want.

    Nick Otis
    BPL Member


    Locale: CA

    Having a “spout” dispensing mechanism is nice for pouring. You can bring a water bottle with two caps–it’s regular cap for storage, and an identical cap with a small hole poked in it to use as your “spout” mechanism. I use a Vargo Decagon with an aluminum foil windscreen, a Toaks 850ml pot, and denatured alcohol, and find that 1oz/2cups works well. As others said, it varies with conditions and set-up but in general that amount is a good bet. All I do is boil water–no meals made in the pot. Of course, a cat food stove is cheapest and lightest, which is part of what you were alluding to in your OP.



    Use the bottle that the HEET(yellow) fuel comes in.

    YouTube video

    Alex M


    I’ve used a bottle like this.  Flip-top is good for pouring/squirting accurately:  I put it in a ziplock for extra insurance

    One thing that’s tricky is seeing when the alcohol stove is out of fuel since the flame is colorless. I always stick my hand deep in there and make sure it’s cool to the touch, because you don’t want to add fuel while it’s burning.

    Cameron M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Los Angeles

    “Sure that you’ll be able to use alcohol? The brs-3000t stove is an ounce in it’s sack and 110 canister would give you the 12 boils with a bit left over. Foolproof and inexpensive.”


    At least 16 boils. Perfect trip length for this stove.

    Matthew B
    BPL Member


    I moved to an alcohol stove last year and it performs super well. I purchased the Mini Trangia 28-T, which includes the burner, a windscreen, boiling pot, and plate totaling 5.6 ounces. It’s small and packs easy. The windscreen is not that effective so I made my own from some thin, lightweight aluminum.  The cap seals tight so you don’t have to worry about unused fuel, it stays right inside the stove until you need it later.  I use it only for heating water for must-have coffee (16 oz each morning and evening), oatmeal for breakfasts, and dehydrated foods for dinners.  I use marine stove alcohol.  12 oz was more than enough for my wife and I on 5 full days (breakfasts and dinners), so 10 days for an individual, and it sounds as if you’ll be heating much less water than we did, so 12 oz will last a long time.  Hope this helps.

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