Sunday, March 1, 2009

How to make Charcoal Briquettes

Seriously this post is how to make charcoal briquettes, and no charcoal briquettes is not euphemism for anything else. (At least I don't think so, wink wink, you know what I mean.)

In Haiti, there is an excess of peanut shells. There is also a shortage of fuel for cooking. Therefore several people have been working to be able to turn peanut shells into clean burning charcoal for cooking. After a bit of research with my good friend google, I found recipes and video describing the process.
I also found this amazing (and horrific) statistic.

More children die from poor indoor air caused from smoky fires than from malnutrition.

Can you believe that?

Before I go to Haiti and help train people, I wanted to be sure I understood how it was done. So Mr. Geek and I made charcoal this weekend. Oh yes we did!! I know you wish you were us.

So go ahead and ask: AbFab, how do you make charcoal briquettes from peanut shells? We have to know!!

Sit down kids! I will explain all!

First you need some peanut shells.

Mr. Geek and I decided we should have lunch at one of those restaurants that serve buckets of peanuts. Then we could take home our peanut shells (and those of the surrounding tables) as well as have a nice lunch out. Oh the will the sacrifices we make ever end?

But (gasp) the restaurant was closed!

So we ate at Chevy's, I had a quesedilla and a Sante Fe Salad, thanks for asking. It was very nice and oh where was I? The peanuts! Oh the peanuts. No success!

So I went to the grocery store and bought two bags of peanuts. However now I did not have tables of people to help me crack the peanuts out of the shell. So I took the peanuts with me to band practice. After practice, I made the group circle around and shell both bags of peanuts. Thanks everyone! You are the best!

Then we gathered our high tech equipment. In Haiti we will use 50 gallon drums, so for the Geek trial we will use empty cans. Mr. Geek used a nail to make several hole in the can to allow for air flow.

We put the peanut shells in the can and lit them on fire. (Okay can I be honest here, I mean we are all friends right? The first try was not successful. We tried chopping up the shells first before burning. The chopped peanut shells were too closely packed to catch on fire, even though we used ten to twenty matches... in the cold wind...brrr) The trick was to use whole peanut shells and they burned much more easily.

The peanuts burn until they are very hot and the smoke begins to die down. At this point, air is restricted. Our high tech equipment was a spaghetti sauce can and dirt.

It worked great.

After the peanut shells carbonize and the cans cooled, we gathered the resulting carbon fines and crunched them into small uniform pieces using our hands and a plastic ziplock bag. (The Geek household is all about high tech.)

Now to make the final briquette. A binder was made with tapioca flour and water. (The Geek household happens to have these supplies in the pantry.) When the mixture is cooked it makes a delightfully slimey gooey substance. I mixed the goo with the carbon and voila it formed a beautiful briquette! I dried it in the food dehydrator.
All that is left is the burning to see how successful we were!


Elizabeth said...

I love your geekiness. How cool!

Cheri and Jesse said...

This might be a dumb question, but what about people with peanut allergies? Will this harm them?

Mean Mom said...

I am amazed at the things that you and your husband get up to, in your spare time! Makes my cross stitching look a bit feeble. Hope it burns well!

Robin said...

Cheri, that is not a stupid question at all. The doctor that we will be working with says that she has not found a child in Haiti with a peanut allergy. However if you were very allergic (like lots of kids are) the peanut in the smoke could cause a reaction. The charcoal should be better (everything but the carbon should be burned off), but I would still worry.

Mean Mom, making charcoal is MUCH easier than cross stitching. Trust me!

Maggie May said...

We are in a smokeless zone!
I'm glad I don't have to go through all that palaver each day!
Always interested to read your geeky things though!
Who would have thought that it was possible to make these burger like things?
Peanuts are not allowed in the school where I work as so many children have an allergy. We all have to have training to recuscitate with epipens! Nor can we eat them before school unless we clean our teeth!

Jules said...

I am in awe of you and your escapades. This sounds like something my boys might enjoy... maybe too much - black billowing clouds smoking the neighborhood up.

On the other hand..... after much diligent thought..... perhaps I won't mention this to them... but it still sound like fun!

Bina said...

That is so cool that you guys did that, but it sounds so complicated! I'm not sure I could do it. But great job!

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jean23 said...

so does the charcoal briquette really work??if i try it,will there be a lot of smoke?as in big black smoke?

Robin said...

Jean, there is smoke when you are making the charcoal. However the charcoal itself burns with little to no smoke.

Mutuelle sante said...

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