Owners Manual: Soda Can Stove
Congratulations on buying or building the Simmering Soda Stove. If you are used to other alcohol, gas, or solid fuel stoves, the Simmering Soda Stove is very unlike most others you have used. To help you use, cook, and care for your stove I have put together this simple manual.
Soda Can Stove
Wind screen with paper clip
The Simmering Soda Stove is one of the sturdier stoves out there, but care must still be taken when packing the stove. The best recommended method is to store the stove and stand inside the pot you use to cook with the simmer ring and cap attached. For the windscreen and bottom heat shield, rolling them inside your sleeping mat is recommended. To make it easier, I normally fold my windscreen in half before rolling it inside my sleeping mat.
Very little maintenance is required for this stove. The part that most often needs replaced in my experience is the windscreen, which is made from an oven liner. They are very cheap and easy to cut with a pair of scissors. The holes in the windscreen are made using a standard hole punch.
One recommendation I can make is to bring an extra paper clip or two for the windscreen. I have lost mine on the trail and it is a hassle.
FUELING AND LIGHTING
The ONLY fuel this stove is designed to use is denatured alcohol. Never use any petroleum product or other flammables such as acetone in this fuel. The results could be catastrophic. Always use this stove in well ventilated areas, and never inside a tent. The flames of a Cat Stove are much taller than other such stoves and could surprise you in a bad way if you were to try cooking in a tent and remove your pot for some reason.
To fill the stove, simply pour the desired amount of alcohol (covered under cooking) into the center opening of the stove. To light the stove, use a match or lighter to get the flame inside the center of the stove. If you are cooking with 1/5 ounce of alcohol, sometimes you will need to add a small amount of extra alcohol to get the center full enough to light properly. The fiberglass wick inside the wall tends to absorb quite a bit of alcohol. The stove will light immediately, and you can start cooking on it as soon as it is light.
If you are planning to simmer, first allow the stove to cool back to room or outside temperature (very important), put the simmer cap on, then light normally. After the stove lights, close the simmer cap to the desired size to control the amount of flame coming from the stove.
To put out the Simmering Soda Stove, close the simmer cap and let the flame get snuffed out.
The windscreen included is made to custom fit your pot. When set to the right position, a gap no larger or smaller than about 1/8" should be around your pot. If you ever get a different pot, or need a new screen, then you should use the guide I include in the article: Build a Better Windscreen.
Some small deterioration to the top rim of your windscreen is normal with continued use. If is gets a little ragged at the top - don't worry.
The windscreen is equipped with a number of holes for good air supply. In a strong wind, an object placed near the windscreen to block excessive air from getting in is highly recommended.
This is a short how to, for a more thorough guide to cooking with a Cat Stove, read this article: Cooking With the Cat.
For a fuel container I use an empty soda bottle that weighs about 1 ounce empty. The cap makes an excellent measure, one full cap equals 1/4 ounce.
Start by knowing what you want to cook. I use a simple rule of thumb for cooking which divides my cooking into three categories: 1. Heat water; 2. Cook Food/Boiling Water; 3. Cooking with Simmer.
1. Heating Water - when heating water, I assume I'll need a pint (16 ounces) but don't really need it hot enough for full roiling boil. For this I use 2 caps (.5 ounce) of alcohol. Burn time is about 6.5 minutes. This is the standard I use when making breakfast.
2. Cooking Food/Boiling - Many foods I eat require you boil the water before cooking or just require you boil some water and let the food stand until ready to eat. For this I use 3 caps (.75 ounce) of alcohol. Burn time is about 9.5 minutes. This is the standard I use when making dinners.
3. Simmer - Some foods require you to simmer after boiling. The times vary, so I use a rule of thumb that one cap full equals 5 minutes of simmer. Thus, if I wanted to simmer for 10 minutes, I use 1/2 ounce of alcohol. To do this, first you should cook your food under method 2, then allow the stove to completely cool before adding any fuel. This is not for safety - alcohol shouldn't flash ignite like other fuel. The reason is to prevent the fuel from vaporizing too quickly and making the flame larger than it needs to be.