Stove Built From Beer Can. Hobos Rejoice.


[Charles] sent in a tip about an alcohol based stove built from beer cans and a penny. The burner is efficient, lightweight, and tiny all while still packing a pretty big punch. It can boil water for sterilization, cook some rice for your meal, or make a spot of tea. The penny is used as the regulating valve. The cup in the burner has a hole in the center where the penny is placed using gravity to create a seal. Denatured alcohol is then poured into the cup and outer ring and lit on fire. As the burning alcohol warms up the cup, it starts to leak under the penny and into the fuel cup where it then begins to boil. This boiling alcohol expands as gas and exits the small holes around the outside of the burner, creating flames similar to the ones you use on your gas stove at home.

The genius here is that everything needed to make this is cheap and available anywhere. The basic build tools include a knife, drill bit, hole punch, two beer cans, a penny, and denatured alcohol. In a bind, you could complete the build using a pocket knife and without the drill bit or hole punch. It is also a nice alternative to hauling around a disposable propane canister when camping or backpacking. We’ve covered an aluminum can stove quite a while ago but that old link is dead and we think this is just as fun the second time around.

52 thoughts on “Stove Built From Beer Can. Hobos Rejoice.

  1. don’t know why this is in hacks, this has been used for as long as i can remember for quick stoves if you are camping and don’t want to haul stuff around. a little denatured alcohol and a soda can. come on guys get something good this is worthless.

  2. I see tons of these when I go backpacking. This is really old news, people have been making them for years, and running them off of pretty much anything. If made properly they do burn incredibly efficiently.

  3. h_2_o You are retarded, well no, that is an insult to retards. Please define the word hack and then realize that it usually goes something like, making things or objects do things they where never intended to do. In this case only the actual fuel might have been manufactured as a fuel source, but beverage cans are not intended as stoves, pennies are intended as money and the wire stand used is sometimes a coat hanger and sometimes just a heavy piece of wire, both not usually intended to hold up pots and pans. So your bitching about this not being a hack seems ignorant at best. Just because something is an old hack doesn’t make it any less of a hack at all.

  4. This IS a cool hack! I’ve made a bunch of variations on these. The problem is that there are stamped numbers on the bottom of the can where the penny goes so pressure can’t be built up.

    Apparently this didn’t used to be the case, but it is now.

    They are also difficult to make correctly.
    The best way was to have a threaded pop rivet for filling instead of a penny. This way it’s also safer since the flame can’t flash back through the big hole in the center and throw hot alcohol everywhere.

    It would be nice if someone made a commercial version of these with a good priming system and a little thicker gauge aluminum or titanium, but I never found any. Ended by giving up and getting an msr reactor.

  5. I’m sure that many people will find these “unworthy” of being here as well, but I’ll add my comments anyway. I’ve seen these little stoves before, and some are simple builds, and others are relatively complex. Whether they are “hacks” or not is debatable, but that is only because no one has posted the “official” definition in a hack on the front page.
    These little stoves are noteworthy because they fill a need that commercial dealers do not, and probably cannot, fulfill. They are lighter, cheaper, and more easily modified than any commercial offering. Here is a LOT of different stoves if anyone is interested:

    If you are interested in these, you might also be interested in this as well:

    For those who are interested, enjoy!

  6. For trips less than a week the amount of weight you are carrying is less efficient with alcohol stoves than the good ol’ isopro. Not to mention you can’t put these suckers out easily. It’s safest to just let them burn out. Oh and carrying alcohol fuel around is a big no-no in a lot of places. Like, say boats and air planes. I have been to a few places by puddlejumper and not one let me carry alcohol fuel. It tends to leak and ruin things. I’m continually supprised by the number of people in the world that think they know about or are backpackers.

  7. It may be old news, but I hadn’t heard of it before. I know we’ve all been complaining about the whole “not a hack!” thing lately, but this surely is a hack and though it may be old or on other sites, it still belongs on hackaday.

  8. Luckily, I always forget to bring my camp stove, but always remember to carry a bottle of denatured alcohol, two empty beer cans, a knife, a punch, and a sat phone and computer so that I can check instructables, so this “hack” is perfect for me.

  9. This is the essence of hacking. I’ve seen these before too, but never made one.

    Regarding Trolls: There seriously needs to be some form of moderation on the comments here.

    This is very much a hack in every clause of the pseudo-term, and these morons just come on here trash talking, and it’s annoying; they’re obviously too illiterate and dumb to contribute anything to this community. Start noob slapping them so they will go back to 4chan/myspace/facebook/tritter.

  10. Jon, blow me ok. this is a worthless project anyone who has ever done boy scouts has done a thousand times. by this point it is not considered a hack any more. if you do not like it that people are pointing out these obvious lack of anything hack a day worthy then go somewhere else.

    let me put it another way, this is such a common type of stove that putting this here is like putting a picture of a new tread pattern for a wheel here and calling it a hack. it has been done countless times is known the world over and is not a hack.

  11. This hack is as old as the 1920s. These stoves were popular during the great depression and commercial versions are sold at places like Cabellas as survival stoves because they are light and easy to carry.

  12. Hmm h_2_o, It is you who should move to a different site, ingenuity is allowed here, slander is not. And Mike is right I do not remember a beer can stove in scouts… Grow up or get lost. Both options are acceptable. Constructive criticism is useful, Criticism by it self is self serving garbage. Present you’re great hacks (If they exist) or move on cuz you don’t belong here kid. Hmmm Wraith as you said they are sold,”at places like Cabellas as survival stoves because they are light and easy to carry.” This site is about making things and maybe buying a minimal amount of parts. End result a partially recycled product that is even cheaper the Chinese can make. Some people make me a sadddd panda……

  13. I thought this was really neat.

    One thing, though. Pennies haven’t been made of copper since the 80’s. They’re primarily zinc. Zinc has a low melting point and is somewhat volatile well below that. Zinc fumes are toxic.

    I wonder if a nickel, dime, or quarter would be a better choice…

  14. Seriously, what is it with you “That’s not a hack!” and “Hackaday sucks!” guys?

    Last time I checked, beer cans were for storing and dispensing beer, not cooking food. If chopping up a commercially-made item and rearranging the pieces to accomplish a *completely unrelated* task isn’t “hacking,” then what is?

    Do us all a favor– please define in advance what allowable hardware we can modify (apparently nothing mechanical), what kind of indicators are allowable (apparently no LEDs), what kind of processors are allowable (obviously no arduinos) and what kind of internet services can be used (no twitter, right?)

    Maybe if we all know in advance what the self-proclaimed priests of hacking will and won’t permit, then we can limit innovation to that which pleases you, and we won’t have to read fifty bitch-mail-comments at the end of every Hackaday article.

    I really like the fact that one can be candid and voice their opinion of projects posted here– and do so anonymously. Unfortunately, a system like that presupposes that the participants will be reasonable and behave like adults.

    Moderated forums are starting to look better and better.


  15. I had a ’70s-era Boys Scout manual that has instructions on how to make one of these. I was never a scout, but my father was an Eagle scout in the early ’60s. He remembers learning to make these in scouts as well. Perhaps they stopped showing scouts how to make it at some point?

    It would be interesting to know the relative ages of the posters who are claiming it was/wasn’t in scouts…

  16. I just checked out two old Boy Scout handbooks I have on hand, one with a 1948 copyright (“Handbook for Boys 65 cents”), the other is the “Boy Scout Handbook” seventh edition, 1968. No sign of any type of self-made cooking stove (or a commercial version either).

  17. I like seeing stuff like this on HackADay. It’s in the theme of the type of stuff I originally came here for.

    I’ve been here since the early days and only recently noticed the trolls. I agree on complaining about things like repetitive Adrino projects and such, but saying stuff like this is a crafts article, or doesn’t belong on a hack-howto site is frivolous BS.

    Age of a subject in no way dictates it’s worth in hacking either. If you don’t like this stuff why are you here?

    >>>Start banning emails of repetitive trolls to knock a dent in this problem<<<

  18. I’ve never seen this before, so stop whining about them posting things that have “been done before”. Of course they have, but that doesn’t mean everyone has seen it, or seen this specific (and very well-written) version. Thanks for this post guys. It’s nice to see everyday useful items in addition to the tech-oriented – who says hacks always have to be electronics and technology?

  19. just checked through all of my scout manuals and this wasn’t in there. I was a scout up until the mid 90’s and never was shown this at any of the camps. This is cool, it may be old but I would have never thought of it until i seen it here. Still a hack in my book just because it doesn’t have an arduino to tweet the temp to my facebook page doesn’t mean it’s not a hack. Post your own stuff otherwise piss off about “it’s not a hack”

  20. I don’t go to makezine. I’ve seen interesting stuff there over the years but generally I think of it as the sears robuck of the thick framed glasses movement.

    I get to see the more gritty stuff here, like hobo/survival hacks, A5 reversing, RFID crypto, lock hacks etc.. If I want to see how to wire an LED array into a abrocrombe&fitch jock strap, or add bluetooth to a hello kitty vibrator I’d go to makezine and hear about it from suburban bob and his test bench gimp.

    But seriously it’s a little too generic, and the operators from what I’ve seen are pricks with power tools.

  21. “I”m also an Eagle Scout, and this is the first time I’ve seen this as well.

    Posted at 4:40 pm on Oct 11th, 2009 by tripp”

    Boy Scout myself. Never saw this in the books or was taught to do it on my camping trips. They had us build a camp fire the old fashioned way: straw, twigs, branches and logs with one match. No stoves or portable burners were allowed for cooking our foods.

  22. I believe this *used* to be in the good ‘ol Field Guide before they stopped printing the ‘good’ version (along with countless other excellent info that was considered irrelevant / outdated / unsafe).

    This may be cheap, but is not reliable, particularly in high-altitude and cold weather conditions. Try to use this for some serious mountaineering and let me know if you come back alive. And YES, this is old news (it’s been done a million times) If you can’t find this in the scout manual, then perhaps you should go back about 15 (maybe 20) years and find an original edition before they started to edit the hell out of it. (THOSE were the days.. )

    “But seriously it’s a little too generic, and the operators from what I’ve seen are pricks with power tools.”

    @tjhooker: And I thought I was the only one who felt that way! ;)

  23. @ luke
    Ah yes someone had to site “Tinny” in anything involving an ultra light stove. For those who don’t know youtube Tinny and ultra light stoves or check lukes link. Tinny makes custom stoves and has drilled it down to a science, you can buy his stoves too and they will last forever I think I would accidentally crush this stove in my pack.

  24. I’m sure hobos will open their laptops and use their credit cards to go to that site and have a prefabricated one shipped to them.

    “this is trash with holes”

    That’s kind of the point of this site and this article. To innovate and adapt instead of spend and ignore like the common hurd. Go sale your stuff elsewhere.

  25. Because even my wife can come up with more creative crafts then stuff like this, I’d perfer to see more TECH ONLY hacks and leave the quilting articles to the Ladies Magazines.

  26. To all those who complain about this hack…

    This is really good information to know after a catrastophy (hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, snowstorm…) just hope you never need it.

  27. @AlmostThere no this is really good information before a catastrophe. as you will still need a lot of alcohol. better just to have propane, as i do. a twig stove is even better, though i have not seen any decent plans for smaller ones yet, aside from the ‘commercial’ ones which are awesome.

  28. I’d like to see how this hack would scale up to larger cans and other fuels.

    I’m also an eagle scout. devoured scout books, and third party books on backpacking, survival, woodcraft. Taught the stuff. Took survival training, read survival manuals of US Air force, SAS, etc. Had to actually use the stuff in training, Never saw this in any of them. might be there, sure don’t remember seeing it.

    Since this was so common, maybe someone can scan the pages, plenty of old manuals around. I’d sure like to see how they used to do it.

    Does a hack stop being a hack because its well known by some people?

    The fact it doesn’t work in extreme situations does not diminish its value. Survival techniques that are useful in the desert, may not be useful in mountains either. Should I therefor not learn them?

    I’m guessing some of the commenters have never been close to any situation where this or its concepts would be useful. Be thankful.

    Old or not, its still new to many of us. Or is the rule that once its been published somewhere, somewhen, it can never be published again?

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