The 3 best reasons to buy stove alcohol in bulk
1. To extend your boating range and pleasure
It’s late in the afternoon. You’ve just pulled into an anchorage, the crew ate up all the snacks and granola bars during the trip and they’re now starting on happy hour with no food in their bellies. You head below and start dinner prep, chopping and slicing for half an hour.
With everything ready, you grab the lighter and click it over the burner and … you get no flame in response. You try the other burner, nothing. Your stove is out of alcohol.
You head to the cockpit locker where you store volatile substances and find the little plastic alcohol bottle is almost empty. Though you just bought it last week there’s now only about a quarter cup left. It will be enough to saute the veggies, but not enough to thoroughly cook the meat. Uh oh. You have to feed the savages you’ve never managed to convert to vegetarianism a meatless meal.
You grab your phone and search for a marine store to buy more. There’s nothing within walking distance. You quickly rearrange your plans for the next day. You were planning to leave before dawn to make it to your next destination but now you have to wait until stores open.
Meanwhile you face several hangry, and now possibly drunk, crew members who have nothing to eat but salad. As cook, you’re in trouble.
So my advice is, buy stove alcohol in bulk – Denatured Alcohol 1-Gallon size cans at the smallest – and everyone will be much happier.
2. To save money
Alcohol for your galley stove can be expensive – especially when you’re desperate as in the scenario above. Instead of buying your cooking fuel in small bottles, buy stove alcohol in bulk and save. One gallon cans will save you some, but buying five gallons is much better. You’ll save at least one dollar per gallon and probably more like four or five dollars.
The best place to find five gallon cans is at either a lumber yard or a paint supply store. Big box stores usually carry only one quart and one gallon containers. Five gallon containers of denatured alcohol are available online, but it may be difficult to get them shipped due to transport regulations. Check it out for your location. But also scope out the hardware, lumber and paint stores in town.
3. To reduce trash
Another great reason to buy stove alcohol in bulk is to save on that annoying packaging and reduce trash. Instead of accumulating five tinny gallon cans, by buying in the largest quantity you’ll only have to dispose of one larger can.
It’s easy to chuck the small containers into the trash barrel. But harder to do that with a five gallon jug. You have to think a little before tossing it. While the same amount of metal makes that larger can, it’s easier to recycle and less likely to end up in a land fill. And unlike the household type containers, industrial metal is recyclable almost everywhere.
That big can is also more apt to be reused – an even better result. Check with the marina manager. They, or one of their customers, may need a receptacle for transporting used oil or old gas to the recycling center.
Tips for Storing and Using Alcohol
Containers for long term storage
That big five gallon can is not going to be the best solution for storing your supply of alcohol however. First of all because cans rust, especially in the marine environment. Second, because the five gallon can is heavy and the edges are sharp. If the can shifts in your lazarette or other storage space it could do some damage. Even if the can never gets rusty, it’s sure to clatter around at sea, scraping up your boat and punching holes in your sailor’s high.
So, when you buy stove alcohol in bulk also get a 5 gallon plastic jug. One like this,
with handles on two sides makes lifting and pouring easier. Choose one a different color than your water and fuel jugs, to make sure the alcohol doesn’t accidentally make its way into the wrong tank or receptacle. Transfer the alcohol into the jug. Make the transfer where the can gets delivered – in the parking lot next to the recycling station is best – not on the dock if you can help it, and for sure not on your boat.
Mark the jug, just to be safe. I tried writing ALCOHOL on mine. Unfortunately denatured alcohol is an excellent paint remover, so you can’t mark the jug with a Sharpie, Marks-A-Lot, paint or any adhesive, they all come right off. Nail polish doesn’t work either. So the best way to mark the jug is with a tag of some sort. Like this big red A luggage tag, a zip tie, a length of yarn, whatever will indicate that this jug is different.
Transferring alcohol from one container to another
Pouring from big containers is always tough, and alcohol cans are notorious for glugging, dripping and spilling. So you need a funnel. But since alcohol is clean, and easy to rinse you can use the one from the kitchen. Don’t use one you also use on diesel or gasoline. You’ll contaminate your alcohol and it will burn badly and give off noxious fumes.
Also have an alcohol stove filling container
One thing I know is, when your stove needs filling you are not going to fill it using a five gallon jug. Trying to pour that huge stream into that little orifice … just no.
After trying several different containers for filling my stove I settled on a one gallon jug from Ocean Spray cranberry juice for my filling container. It has a good sturdy handle, a liquid proof lid and it’s clear, so I can see how much is inside. I transfer from the five gallon to the one gallon using a funnel, then pour – very carefully – from the gallon into the mesh wick container of the stove burner. I keep two of these small jugs in a tiny hatch in the cockpit where they’re easily accessible while we’re on the move. I refill the gallon jugs from the big one only when we’re at a dock. At anchor or on a mooring it’s just too hard to avoid spilling unless the day is dead calm. And if you spill there go the savings you enjoy when you buy stove alcohol in bulk
I hope these tips help you keep up with your alcohol supply. At least the cooking alcohol. You’re on your own with the beverage alcohol! (And never mix up the two.)