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Old 09-08-2017, 00:32   #1
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Propane vs Alcohol Stove

OK, I know this is sort of a DUH topic among cooking sailors, but here's my dilemma:

We want to upgrade our pressurized alcohol stove. No one on the boat is Bobby Flay, so low-fuss is possibly an advantage. Initially my instinct was to go with a modern absorption alcohol stove (like Origo makes). But after cruising in the Caribbean for a couple weeks I was told by many the heat is so low it's almost useless. I thought about propane, but every time I saw propane systems I got scared: most seem to agree you shouldn't keep a tank inside a boat because of the fire hazard. I don't want to drill any holes to fit a propane stove in the boat -- if it comes to that I'd likely just go with alcohol and eat warm oatmeal. So I got thinking about a third solution, using propane but with the small Coleman camp stove bottles instead of the bigger tanks, using an adapter. Those bottles would be stored when not in use outside the boat in a bag along the rail (like sailors do with propane bottles for their grill). It wouldn't require any surgery to install and it would use a fuel that's easy to find.
Does anyone see an inherent problem with this idea?
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Old 09-08-2017, 00:53   #2
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

Quote:
Originally Posted by WhistlingGypsy View Post
OK, I know this is sort of a DUH topic among cooking sailors, but here's my dilemma:

We want to upgrade our pressurized alcohol stove. No one on the boat is Bobby Flay, so low-fuss is possibly an advantage. Initially my instinct was to go with a modern absorption alcohol stove (like Origo makes). But after cruising in the Caribbean for a couple weeks I was told by many the heat is so low it's almost useless. I thought about propane, but every time I saw propane systems I got scared: most seem to agree you shouldn't keep a tank inside a boat because of the fire hazard. I don't want to drill any holes to fit a propane stove in the boat -- if it comes to that I'd likely just go with alcohol and eat warm oatmeal. So I got thinking about a third solution, using propane but with the small Coleman camp stove bottles instead of the bigger tanks, using an adapter. Those bottles would be stored when not in use outside the boat in a bag along the rail (like sailors do with propane bottles for their grill). It wouldn't require any surgery to install and it would use a fuel that's easy to find.
Does anyone see an inherent problem with this idea?
You're gonna get a lot of opinions Here's mine:

You stated you don't want to cut holes & build propane locker-FINE!
Go with the "portable stove" that uses the throw away bottles-totally OK & safe.
Also,nothing will give you fast high heat like propane.

Lots of variety available in "camp" stoves these days too!
Coleman Portable Propane Stove/Oven | Canadian Tire

http://www.pcmarinesurveys.com/Safe%...stallation.htm

Cheers/ Len
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Old 09-08-2017, 02:01   #3
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

A popular topic. The heat output from an Origo burner vs. a propane burner is not that different. In a recent test I did, it took 4:15 min (alcohol) vs. 3:35 min (propane) to heat a certain amount of water in a pot. In reality the difference is small. However, both solutions are expensive. Origo stoves cost a fortune and installing a propane system is not simple either.

If you cook occasionally, I suggest you go for alcohol. The benefits are safety, there is always alcohol on board (either for projects or you can even use drinking alcohol if denatured runs out. Now if you run our of drinking alcohol on a boat, then you have much bigger problems , and when not in use there is no fuel in the system as the alcohol evaporates over a few days. If you cook frequently, then alcohol gets expensive and you are better off with propane.

Whatever you do, please install a proper, gimballed, stove/burner inside the boat. If you want to use portable gas canisters, leave those for the barbeque on the rail. Just take my word for it, it is not worth arguing the point.
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Old 09-08-2017, 04:05   #4
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

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Originally Posted by WhistlingGypsy View Post
We want to upgrade our pressurized alcohol stove. ........ Initially my instinct was to go with a modern absorption alcohol stove (like Origo makes). But after cruising in the Caribbean for a couple weeks I was told by many the heat is so low it's almost useless.
Firstly may I say that I have owned both styles of alcohol stove.
I'm not sure its an upgrade to change to an Origo absorption type.

The Origo absorption style is much safer but I'm not sure it burns as hot.

Metho stoves as we refer to them in Aus certainly take much longer than gas to boil the kettle.

No , they are not useless, we lived aboard for many years with young children and cooked with alcohol (methylated spirits). It was very difficult in the North of Australia, to buy at times, as some of the locals liked to drink it, so many stores either didn't stock it or had it under lock and key , out the back.

Alcohol is certainly cheaper for the initial installation. ie No gas sniffers, pipe runs, approved installation standards to be met etc.

Once installed ,Gas is so much easier, quicker and cheaper.
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Old 09-08-2017, 04:42   #5
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

A propane bottle, even a small camp size, is still a risk inside a boat so you would have to be 100% certain to remove it every single time you're done cooking. Are you sure you can be that cautious.

Haven't used an Origo but alcohol inherently has less energy than propane so not sure Origo would be that much better than any other alcohol stove. Also, the alcohol fuel can be very expensive and it doesn't last very long.

If you stay close to home or supplies of alcohol and don't cook very much or very often then alcohol may work for you. If you cruise distant areas, stay out a long time, cook more then I would go propane.

Making one small hole for leading a propane line is not that big a deal.
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Old 09-08-2017, 05:14   #6
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

Lots of misconceptions about heating capability of alcohol vs propane burners. It is not only the actual temperature of the luquid but the design and diameter of the burner. The Origo 6,000 stove has two 6,800 BTU burners on top and one 5,250 BTU oven burner. The average propane burner at home is 7,000 BTUs. It is true that the alcohol burner will use more alcohol by volume to deliver this heat but this is a storage issue vs. gas (that needs a pressure vessel).

For comparison to propane cookers:
Force 10-2: 1x 4,100, 1x 8,200
Force 10-3: 2x 3,800, 1x 9,500
Eno: 1x 3,400, 1x 6,000, 1x 8,500

So you just choose the design you like.
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:03   #7
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

We are on our boat every weekend during our six month season, plus two weeks for vacation, and have not found the heat to be an issue on our Origo at all. We cook all of the things we would at home, and are planning on sticking with it when we take off in twelve months and twenty-two days. The people who told you "the heat is so low it's almost useless" are incorrect.
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:26   #8
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

The portable propane stove brings a lot of dangers with it. An installed propane stove is great for cooking and pretty safe if installed by a pro to strict ABYC standards.

If you try to do it yourself and don't understand the requirements, it is not safe and you shouldn't try it.
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:28   #9
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

We love our Origo, it's works flawlessly and so simple. Much cheaper, we use about a gallon a month and pay about $12/gal. Safe and easy to store. I don't see much if any difference in cooking times.
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:29   #10
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

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Originally Posted by Cthoops View Post
We are on our boat every weekend during our six month season, plus two weeks for vacation, and have not found the heat to be an issue on our Origo at all. We cook all of the things we would at home, and are planning on sticking with it when we take off in twelve months and twenty-two days. The people who told you "the heat is so low it's almost useless" are incorrect.

Agree. I have propane and Origo onboard and prefer cooking with the Origo. 163 degree eggs are much easier with the Origo simmer sensitivity.

A hiking stove windscreen will concentrate the heat.

Get SLX denatured alcohol from that great marine store Walmart.

Important to cut some 1/8" thick plastic covers for the Origo burners once cool. This dramatically cuts down evaporation loss when you aren't using the stove.

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Old 09-08-2017, 06:45   #11
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

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Originally Posted by Cthoops View Post
We are on our boat every weekend during our six month season, plus two weeks for vacation, and have not found the heat to be an issue on our Origo at all. We cook all of the things we would at home, and are planning on sticking with it when we take off in twelve months and twenty-two days. The people who told you "the heat is so low it's almost useless" are incorrect.
Agree. I installed an Origo after doing about a week of research. Replacing a tired CNG system I could no longer refil. Didn't want to mess with building a propane locker and all the associated systems. The oven makes great biscuits I will say that. We've been extremely happy with it over all.

I have a separate 2.5 gallon propane tank mounted on the stern that feeds the magma. I hate those little green propane bottles.
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Old 09-08-2017, 06:53   #12
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

One other thing, perhaps the main thing, about camp stoves is that they are not equipped with the safety device that shuts off the gas if there is no flame, so you do have to be extra careful to be sure the flame is lit every time or the gas is really off. I've seen it done and the boat did not blow up and the folks seem fine. Not endorsing it, just saying it can be done.
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Old 09-08-2017, 07:15   #13
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

Every stove type is a compromise.

What follows is just a few quick comments based on observations:

1. I have seen a wide spread fire in a boat caused by a pressurized alcohol stove. Very scary to see when out at sea. I would not have a PRESSURIZED alcohol stove on my own boat.

2. I have cooked on a marine alcohol stove and did not mind the lower BTU. The non pressurized are very simple to operate.

3. On one boat I crewed on, the owner told me how their propane stove "locked out" because of solenoid or safety valve operation somehow messed up, and the propane stove would not work when offshore. They had to eat their numerous frozen food items cold. Very disappointing to the crew, and the cook who had prepared some frozen meals ( some luckily were precooked).

3. One owner I crewed for had some issues and concerns getting his old propane tanks filled when abroad, because they did not meet the safety requirements of the visited country.

4. Owner had problem with propane stove operation. Very weak flame and no flames, despite full tanks. Required taking it apart, searching for parts, taxi rides, visiting hardware stores, unloading lockers, tracing propane lines from the locker in stern to galley, buying parts, multiple hours of frustrating Troubleshooting. Turned out to be a clogged fuel line..

4. If the boat came with MARINE propane stove, just maintain it and tanks and make sure the gas locker vents overboard, or store the tanks externally.

5. Campstoves (propane or gasoline) can be dangerous. Read about them in the CF archives via the linked list below before going that route.

Previous discussions about campstoves:

https://cse.google.com/cse?cx=011403...ves&gsc.page=1

Here are many previous discussions about all types of stoves on Boats.
https://cse.google.com/cse?cx=011403...ire&gsc.page=2
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Old 09-08-2017, 08:02   #14
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

I've purchased one boat with a pressure alcohol stove and a couple with Origo stoves, all of which I eventually replaced with propane.

I spent a fair bit of money and effort special ordering the parts for my pressure alcohol stove only to conclude it to be dangerous. While fairly safe, I'm not a fan of the Origo stoves finding them slow, I've had problems with the alcohol evaporating and found finding and carrying alcohol to be a pain.

I've used both camp stoves and a marine stove with an adapter to use with the one pound green propane tanks and for less than full time cruising have felt that to be a good, simple solution. Those one pound canisters can be harder to find and more expensive outside of the U.S., although I've found canisters designed for small torches have the same fitting. I always stored extra canisters where any leaking would be outside, although over several years, I need had a single one leak ever.

Note, they make screw caps to cover and seal those small canisters. One problem is that if you remove them frequently from the stove system, they do tend to leak. I know this from extensive camping use more than cruising.

I think much depends on personal preference, where you are cruising and what fuel is available, as well as your personal comfort regarding the safety of various stove options.
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Old 09-08-2017, 08:14   #15
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Re: Propane vs Alcohol Stove

I had an alcohol stove on a previous boat, the kind where you fill a canister with alcohol and it burns on the surface of a pad in the canister. You cover the canister between uses so the alcohol doesn't evaporate. In my current boat I have a "real" marine propane stove with three burners and an oven.

Compared to the propane stove on my current boat and the natural gas stove at home, the alcohol stove was pathetic. Yes, it provided heat and if you planned far enough ahead, you could cook meals on it but not much.

It depends on how often you plan to cook on the boat, how ling you plan to keep the boat and your level and expectation of comfort, but I would look at a complete, ABYC compliant propane system and stove as an "investment". On the other hand, alcohol is quick and cheap to buy.
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