At some point in history alcohol stoves or Spiritus stoves with a controllable flame were widely manufactured and used. These stoves are also called gravity fed alcohol stoves or valve controlled alcohol burners. The alcohol fuel isn’t under pressure as it is in petrol stoves. In the past many of them were manufactured in Germany. Today there is only one factory left that is still producing a classic proven design: Heidersdorfer Produktions- und Vertriebsgesellschaft mbH
The current model HPV Salsa (Spiritusbrenner) was previously sold under the name BAT Spiritusgaskocher 55/1 and Enders Cooky 1 Spirituskocher. Besides the single burner version there has always been a double burner version. The current model is named HPV Flüssiggaskocher Mambo or Spirituskocher Mambo.
Specs of the HPV Salsa alcohol stove:
– Power: 1.0 kw
– Fuel consumption: 0,2 l
– Fuel storage tank: 0,4 l
– Dimensions: 25 x 32 x 12 cm
– Burn time: up to 120 minutes
– Weight: 1,4 Kg
– Color: blue or white powder-coated
The alcohol flows by gravity through a pipe with a wick into a burner cap. On its route to there the liquid alcohol is heated into a gas. Just before entering the burner cap it is mixed with air. The result is a hot blue burning flame. No smell and no soot. The amount of gas that reaches the burner cap and therefore the intensity of the flame can be controlled with a needle valve.
In order to start the stove it is necessary to pre-heat the burner cap. This is done by igniting some liquid alcohol that can be dropped on the black pan under the burner cap by opening the needle valve for a short while. Once the burner cap is hot enough all the alcohol will evaporate into a gas and orderly flames will come out of the small holes on top of the burner cap.
The fuel tank is not under pressure. The only pressure that is used for feeding the burner with fuel comes from gravity. The fuel tank is permanently mounted higher than the burner itself. The alcohol fluid flows down to the burner with very low pressure and therefore also with very low noise levels of the flame. In order to secure a normal pressure (no over- or under-pressure) in the fuel tank there is a small hole in the fuel cap. Without this hole a vacuum would occur and no fuel would be able to flow down to the burner.
For a pressurized kerosene stove or petrol stove something like this would be unthinkable. The fuel tank in such stoves has to be under pressure in order to transport the fuel to the burner itself. In fact a leaking fuel cap rubber is one of the main causes of failure for this types of camping stoves. Downside of this pressure equalization hole is that fuel spillages might occur during transport or usage on boats. This problem can partially be solved by plugging the hole or covering it with tape. When the stove is burning the cap should be unscrewed a bit so that it fits loosely on the tank and air can enter the tank to avoid a vacuum. This is also the operating procedure from classic alcohol stoves like the Vulcano Tourist or the Turm Sport. When transporting the stove the fuel cap can be tightened and no leaking of fuel can occur.
Why Alcohol stoves ?
1) Alcohol burns a lot cleaner with lesser soot compared to oil based fuels. This is why petrol stoves are pre heated with alcohol. Also when fuel is spilled or incompletely burned during start up and shutdown there is almost no smell or annoying fumes. This makes alcohol stoves suitable for indoor use. A popular usage is on board ships and sail yachts.
2) Alcohol burners have a very simple and robust design. Only one moving part. No essential rubber rings. No pump that can brake. This makes alcohol stoves very reliable. It is not unusual that old rusty alcohol stoves that have been stored for decades will fire up at the very first attempt. Petrol stoves usually come with a kit of tools and spare parts. In the manuals you’ll find usually a whole list with possible malfunctions and how to solve them. With a regulating alcohol stove you don’t have to worry about that.
3) No risk for clogging. A common malfunction on petrol stoves is clogging of the fuel spraying nozzle. However this can easily be solved by cleaning the jet with a needle pricker. This clogging is caused by incomplete burning, impurities in the fuel and additives for car engines. Especially normal car Diesel is notorious for causing clogging of the fuel spray nozzle. Alcohol doesn’t come with these problems.
4) No noise of the flame. Since the fuel is not under pressure there is no noise. Maybe on high flame you can here something but it is nothing compared to petrol stoves or gas canister stoves.
Which fuel should I use ?
Alcohol burners use so called methylated spirits or denatured alcohol as fuel. This is normal alcohol (ethanol) combined with small or large amounts of methanol. The methanol makes it dangerous to use as consumption alcohol. Denatured alcohol without colorant and not too much additives works best. In many counties supermarkets sell denatured alcohol in the form of Spiritus. Hence the German warning Nur für Spiritus, only for Spiritus. Usually this is a mix of alcohol and methanol with a blue colorant. Besides methanol there are more additives to make it unsuitable for consumption. One of them is a substance that causes puking when the liquid is swallowed. This can avoid serious intoxication when Spiritus is mistakenly seen as lemonade by small children for example. However this gives a terrible smell and the blue color pigment can cause a blue sediment when the solvents are evaporated. Therefore it is better to use Bio-Ethanol. This is a colorless substance with normal alcohol (Ethanol) percentages as high as 95%. The smell is between vodka and acetone. A list with the names of different types of denatured alcohol in various countries around the world can be found on: www.fuel.papo-art.com and www.mark-ju.net