Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trangia Burner Alternative Fuels

These are some common questions I got after the post about the Trangia Stove.
 Trangia Spirit Alcohol Stove 

Would one of these stoves work with a hard liquor like vodka, scotch or even gin? I ask this because my family has a pretty big cabinet of the stuff received as gifts, but nobody in my house drinks anything other than beer or wine.

It does burn any flammable spirit, the closer it is to pure alcohol the better it will work. The more additives it has, the more smell and black residual soot you’ll have on pots. A trick that seems to work well is adding 5% to 10% of water to reduce the soot problem.

Vodka is expensive and wont burn as efficiently as denatured alcohol, and it’s a pretty expensive fuel to use, but it can be done during an emergency.  This sort of flexibility makes the tough little Trangia appealing from the survivalist point of view. 70% Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl, HEET red bottle) can be used as well but its not recommended. It can be found in most households and first aid kits or bought in most gas stations or general stores.

Do you need a tripod or something to put over the top of it to set you cooking pot on?

Yes. Some of the Trangia kits include a stand of some sort, but you don’t get one when you just buy the burner. You can’t just place a pot over the burner. What I do is just get two or three stones and improvise a stand so as to separate the pot from the burner. A couple bricks would work two. Its generally not that hard to find something to improvise a stand, I’d rather use that space/weight for items that cant be improvised so easily. One stove you might want to consider is the Vargo Titanium Triad XE stove
Titanium Triad XE stove 
It has three legs on either side that fold down. Once unfold they work as a base to separate the stove from the ground and as a stand to place the pot on top.

Dear Ferfal,

I watched your Trangia Stove video and God laid it on my heart to buy
a Trangia 27-7 cook kit for $104. It really is a must to cook small
meals like oatmeal and tea when the power goes off. And I think the
power is going to be off for a long time here in the U.S.

I bought some denatured alcohol for the stove at the hardware store.
Is this the best type of alcohol to have, you think? Also, I was
wondering how long of a burn one liter of denatured alcohol will
last...Do you have any idea how much alcohol one should have before
the collapse happens? Clearly more is better but money becomes an

I pray for you and appreciate your website...Coulby

Hi!, thanks for your email.
Denatured alcohol is one of your best options, works well and it’s pretty inexpensive.
HEET (yellow bottle-methanol) burns well and can be found in several places including gas stations as gas line anti-freeze.
 HEET 28201 Gas-Line Antifreeze and Water Remover - 12 Fl oz. 
Ethanol, also known as ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol is more expensive but burns well. When distilled for drinking, its known as  “Moonshine” or “Everclear” or other brand names.  These are neutral grain spirits which are almost pure alcohol (95%). This would be expensive but again, more alternatives. 

My Trangia burned for 30 minutes when full with grain alcohol. Its takes about 10 minutes to have a large cup of boiling water.  Since fuels and stoves have different levels of efficiency, I recommend estimating how much fuel you need per meal cooked for your entire family and stocking up a month’s worth of it. Estimate three boiling cups of water per day per person. Some of the alcohol may have other uses such as HEET,  grain alcohol for disinfecting wounds even some neutral grain spirits if you drink. If you have the space though, its cheaper to just stock up on denatured alcohol. It has near indefinite shelf life so its one of those things you buy once, store well and keep for when you need it.

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Anonymous said...

Your point about using water to remove built-up soot (carbon) is scientifically very sound. The decomposition of the trace molecules in hard liquor (or beer or wine) leaves behind a residue of carbon.

A similar process also occurs in the petrochemical industry. When a complicated petroleum feed stock is catalytically cracked to produce more useful products, the cracking process invariably leaves carbon on the catalyst surface, which kills the activity of the catalyst. In order to regenerate the catalyst, the refineries will take the spent catalyst and expose it to steam. The steam reacts with the carbon on the surface to form gaseous carbon monoxide and hydrogen, both of which are much more easily oxidized (into water and carbon dioxide, respectively) than the surface carbon.

With the alcohol stove, the same basic process is happening. The water in the fuel suppresses carbon formation and promotes complete oxidation. You want an excess of water to ensure that the carbon isn't allowed to build up on the surface. If you include too much water, however, you wind up heating a lot of water that can't be used otherwise. That is, you waste energy that could be used for cooking. With the given application, I would probably start at 5% water (or perhaps a little less) and only go up to 10% if soot formation is really bad.

Anonymous said...

Aha something I know sumpin about!

These stoves can work with Methanol, Ethanol, Propyl, alcohol. Wut's the difference? Methanol is one carbon, Ethanol has two carbons, Propyl, generally available in the Iso-Propyl form, has 3.

Methanol burns CLEAN. It's used in stoves for use on boats, you can use it in an enclosed space (such as inside a boat in cold weather) etc. It works GREAT in these stoves. No soot, etc. It's what I use in my Trangia and you can also use it in a fondue heater, or just a cat food can you pour it in and light up, instant stove. Or a Vienna sausage can.

Next is Ethanol, drinkin' alcohol, two carbon atoms. It also burns pretty clean, I don't have a lot of experience with it since it's expensive and you need it in concentrated form, such as Everclear, to burn it without ending up with a bunch of leftover water in your stove. It is handy stuff though, not poisonous, good for a bunch of things from drinking to cleaning wounds, as well as cooking with.

Last comes IsoPropyl. Three carbon atoms. In this type of stove they don't all get turned into CO2 so you get soot and CO, carbon monoxide. Your stove will get sooty, so will your pot, and the CO can be dangerous. If you jet air into a isopropyl flame it will turn blue and efficient, but this adds a whole level of complexity. Isopropyl will work in a pinch, but in the US, methanol, Yellow HEET, is your best bet. In addition, the yellow HEET in the bottle is cleaner than that SLX brand you find in the paint store.

Happy cooking!