Saturday, 25 January 2014

Bio-ethanol Fuel, a Methylated Spirit alternative?

Based only a stones throw from myself, in Sheffield South Yorkshire, Fuel 4 produce a range of bio-ethanol items, including a fuel gel, liquid fuel and cook sets. To be honest, the cook sets look too bulky for my needs. But looks like a possible competitor to the Trangia systems. In this review I will look at the liquid bio-ethanol with a review of the gel to follow once I have done some tests. So what's the spirit fuel like?

I used my Trangia burner in the Trangia Triangle to boil up half a litre of water for a meal and to clean up afterwards. The bio-ethanol spirit doesn't have the strong smell of methylated spirit (methanol). The weather was quite breezy and cold, but the bio-ethanol took a spark from my ferrocerium rod as easily as meths does. The flame produced from the bio-ethanol seemed a little more lively than that from meths, but it may have been the weather conditions. I had been out for a few hours at this point, so the water was quite cold. A boil was reached within around 7-8 minutes, again competitive with meths.

So what are the pros and cons? The only con I can find is cost, but it's not a drastic con. Going by the costs of meths and bio-ethanol at a popular outdoor retailer the costs work out as follows:
Methylated spirit (Methanol) = £4.14 per litre
Bio-ethanol = £4.65 per litre
So the cost of Bio-ethanol is around 12% more expensive, based on that particular retailer. Shopping around may yield better results.
The pros of bio-ethanol are not outstanding, but they are there. Bio-ethanol is locally produced using natural sources. Although methanol is produced in the same way. But bio-ethanol is safer to handle than methanol (see link below).
The fact that bio-ethanol is safer to handle, and safer for the environment means it is now replacement for methylated spirit (methanol)

Here is the site with plenty of information about their gel:


  1. Been using bio-ethanol in my Esbit spirt stove for a couple of years, its avalible in Asda and B&Q in the summer months.

    1. Thanks for the information, I will keep my eye on these appearing for sale.

    2. You can buy it from b&q £5 for 2.5 ltrs you have to ask for it as they do not keep it on the shelf
      I have found that meths seems to boil the water faster I think it burns hotter But when cost comes into it (unemployed ) I'll use bio eth

    3. Nice one, any advice that saves us money is much appreciated.

      Thank you!

  2. Actually, just to be strictly correct, methylated spirits is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, extremely bad tasting, foul smelling or nauseating, to discourage recreational consumption. In some cases it is also dyed. The main additive has traditionally been 10% methanol, giving rise to the term "methylated spirits".

    1. I believe that is general knowledge with concern to Meths. My review was more concerned with a performance criteria. But thanks for reminding people.