make a pop can alcohol stove
30 Jun / 2013

How To Make A DIY Alcohol Backpacking Stove From Soda Pop Cans

Pop Can Stove Construction - Variations You Can Try

Cutting the Cans Apart:

  • Fastest - Just use scissors
  • Neatest - Score a line around the can with a razor blade and you can rip the cans apart with a perfectly smooth line.

Making the Fuel Hole:

  • Simple and Secure - Drill a 1/16" hole and put a removable screw in it. (It's important to have a secure plug. An open hole can turn into an explosive hazard.)
  • Elegant - Drill a few tiny holes and put a penny on top. It works like a pressure relief. But don't let it get bumped and fall off.
  • Mysterious - No "fuel hole"! Insert fuel through the burner jet holes using a syringe.

Fitting The Cans Together:

  • Dependable - Crimp one neatly all the way around so it's like a cupcake wrapper, and insert it into the other, securing it with J.B. Weld.
  • Elegant - Freeze one and heat the other, then (try to) fit them together.
  • Elegant #2 - Enlarge one by flaring out the edge just enough to slip the other inside
  • Alternative - The top can may be inverted, as in many varieties of what's commonly known as the "beer can stove", particularly the one popularized with old-style Heineken cans.

Making The Burner Holes:

  • Easy - Poke holes around the top with a push-pin
  • Precision - Drill tiny holes around the top in a mathematical pattern using a micro-bit.

Priming The Can:

  • Easy - Put a primer pan under it, ex. foil, brick, tuna can, etc.
  • Elegant - Wrap with fiberglass wicking, prime and light the wicking.


  • Many stove-makers like to add wicking material inside the can. It helps to speed up priming and regulate the burn to better conserve alcohol fuel. Besides ordinary wall fiberglass, a popular one is perlite.
  • You'll generally need a pot stand for these types of alcohol stoves.

Once you get into trying different combinations, you likely discover that especially with certain designs, there are actually important engineering principles at work.

For example:

  • The volume of the burner needs to be appropriate for the combined size of the burner holes to create the required pressure.
  • The precise size, location, and pattern of the burner holes can have a dramatic effect on the quality of the burn.
  • The exact shape of the can's ridge and center bowl can influence how well it works to a surprising degree.


Alcohol stoves run on any number of varieties of alcohol.

  • Ethanol - Grain alcohol. Everclear. Moonshine. (Don't get it from the gas station. The gasoline mix is too explosive for your little stove.)
  • Methanol - Poisonous to drink. Found in the automotive section as HEET anti-freeze in the yellow bottle, and paint section in some paint thinners. You might also be able to find it as "racing fuel."
  • Denatured Alcohol - Ethanol laced with methanol to make it undrinkable. Typically found in the paint section of the hardware store.
  • Isopropyl Alcohol - Rubbing alcohol is diluted isopropanol. You can find more concentrated stuff in the automotive section as Iso-HEET in the red bottle, but even this is more of a last resort, because there's usually too much water in these mixes.

Want More Info?

You can find a ton of info about Alcohol and other stoves at Zen Stoves

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