Making charcoal is what sets the CharCone apart from other burn barrels, grills, and smokers. By creating charcoal in a clean fire, you create a valuable commodity that can be used for fuel in the future or can be sequestered to help save the planet from global warming (read more below).
Charcoal: what is it?
Charcoal – real charcoal – is the carbon remains of wood after it has been heated under specific or controlled conditions. It is not the little pillows commonly sold as “charcoal briquettes” in your local supermarket or hardware store. Most of them have some real charcoal (ground up into powder and then reformed), but they also contain filler elements such as wood dust, “brown coal”, chemical additives, limestone and borax (go here for more details).
There is some high-quality real charcoal sold out there, but it can cost over $1.00/lb. Assuming the quality of the charcoal is good, and it was sourced responsibly (healthy trees weren’t cut down to make it), you also have to consider the production methods. It can be a very “dirty” (polluting) process if not done correctly. Charcoal is a global commodity, and it is possible that what you buy locally comes from far, far away where there are very few regulations or quality controls.
Well, these are all good reasons to make your own charcoal!
It’s just as easy as building a campfire – you just never stop adding wood. Get a fire going inside the cone and just keep adding your feedstock. The design of the CharCone keeps the flames going only on the top of the pile and the wood underneath “cooks” but doesn’t burn up.
After about 2 hours, you will have about 10 gallons of hot wood in the cone. Douse it with water (as you would a campfire) and what remains is charcoal. It can now be dried and used as fuel, crushed up and mixed into compost or soil or sequestered in the local landfill.
- It is an excellent fuel, either for cooking, heating or industrial processes. It burns hot and clean and can be easily stored and transported.
- It is an excellent soil amendment (biochar). It’s properties of retaining moisture and being a haven and conduit for soil microbes and fungi greatly improve the quality of all types of soil.
- It is stable carbon. Perhaps its greatest value, charcoal is the carbon residue of the CO2 drawn from the atmosphere through photosynthesis by plants. If sequestered (and not burned), it is in effect a direct reduction of atmospheric CO2 and its value as carbon (offset credit) can be calculated and traded.
Other benefits of charcoal:
- It is an excellent filter. The nature of its microscopic structure makes it ideal for filtering water and other liquids (it is most likely used in your home water filter).
- It is an excellent absorbent of toxins. Charcoal is used frequently to treat ingested poisons.