Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Epicurean Ti ESBIT Stove

ESBIT is a common backpacking fuel.  ESBIT consists of hexamethylenetetramine, which is usually just called hexamine.  ESBIT is generally acknowledged to be the lightest weight method of cooking for backpackers.  In other words, if you want to lighten up, ESBIT might just be the fuel for you.
A typical 14g cube of ESBIT
But cooking with ESBIT is typically either all or nothing -- it's either burning or it's not -- unless you have an Epicurean Ti ESBIT stove.
An Epicurean Ti ESBIT stove from FlatCat Gear
Ultralight Baking with ESBIT
What can you do with low, steady heat from ESBIT?   How about ultralight baking?  Yes, I am serious.
A fresh blueberry muffin baked with an Epicurean Ti stove and ESBIT fuel
I was pretty blown away when I was told that I could bake.  I mean, come on, baking with ESBIT and an ultralight set up?  Now, that's cool!
A fresh-baked triple berry muffin.  Yum!
Today, I just want to cover the Epicurean Ti stove in detail, but if you're interested in ultralight baking with ESBIT, please see my article in Seattle Backpacker's Magazine:

I've been using the Epicurean Ti stove for about nine months now, and I'm super impressed with it.  First of all, it bakes and simmers.  Yes, an honest-to-God simmer using ESBIT.  That's no mean feat.  Simmering with ESBIT is just another example of the creative mind of Jon Fong over at FlatCat Gear.

Second, it eliminates (in simmer mode) all but the smallest amounts of the typical residue build up on the bottom of your pot.  My Ti pot is pretty beat up, so I don't know if you can see it well or not, but there's none of that sticky brown residue that ESBIT typically leaves behind.
The Epicurean Ti stove pretty much eliminates the brown residue of ESBIT when used in simmer mode
Third, when in simmer mode, the Epicurean Ti stove all but eliminates that nasty fishy odor that burning ESBIT produces.  I have however caught an occasional faint whiff when the wind gusts for a moment.  Still, it's like night and day the difference between using another stove and the Epicurean Ti in terms of smell.

The Epicurean Ti stove has two modes:  high and simmer.  Point the holes down for high, and...
An Epicurean Ti stove in high mode (holes down)
 ...point the holes up for simmering (and baking).
An Epicurean Ti stove in low mode (holes up)
In high mode, the ring portion of the stove focuses the heat, giving you better efficiency.  Note that on high you still do get the brown residue and odor.  Can't have everything I suppose.  In low mode, you can get 45 minutes or more burn time with a very controlled low heat.

So, now wait a minute.  Those little vent holes?  I mean come on.  How much of a difference can they really make?  Well, let's see.  Here's a photo with the holes down (high mode).  Note the height of the flame above the windscreen.
The Epicurean Ti stove operting in high mode
Now, here's a photo with the holes up (low mode).
The Epicurean Ti stove operating in low mode
As it turns out, the mode makes quite a bit of difference.

And what's the "weight penalty" for all this?  A mere fourteen grams -- the same weight as one cube of ESBIT.  Flat Cat Gear lists a weight of 19g for the Epicurean Ti stove, but I double checked just now, and my gram scale at home says 14g.  There may be some variation stove to stove.

Of course there are lighter ESBIT stoves, but very few ESBIT stoves have the kind of flame control that the Epicurean Ti stove has.  If however you did want a lighter weight option, there is the UL15 version of the Epicurean Ti stove which weighs only seven grams.  Note:  I have not used the UL15 version.

Wind Protection
Now of course ESBIT has to be used with a windscreen.  Trying to cook with ESBIT without a windscreen is often an exercise in futility.  You can use your own set up or purchase a very well tuned complete system from Flat Cat Gear, the Bobcat Stove System.  In my post on the Bobcat stove system, I show the Flat Cat stove, which is an alcohol stove.  For use with ESBIT, you would just swap out the alcohol stove and use the Epicurean Ti stove instead.  The Bobcat system works equally well with either stove.
The Bobcat stove system
Other Brands of Fuel
Of course there are other brands of hexamine fuel including Stansport and Coghlans.  The advantage of some of the other brands is that they are cheaper than the name brand, ESBIT.  But Stansport and Coghlans offer smaller, round fuel tablets, not the lozenge shaped tablets from ESBIT.
A box of round Coghlans brand hexamine fuel tablets
In my testing, I found that Coghlans brand works just as well as ESBIT; I just had to use two of the small Coghlans tablets instead of one ESBIT tablet.  The burn time is just slightly longer with two Coghlans tablets.  The Coghlans tablets are significantly cheaper in my area than ESBIT brand, so even though I have to use two tablets for every one ESBIT tablet, Coghlans is cheaper overall.  Coghlans does leave an odd ash behind.
The odd ash left behind by Coghlans brand hexamine fuel tablets
Tips for Use
Be sure to scrape the base plate of the stove clean between uses.  Mounding left behind by old fuel can cause the fuel to burn differently (typically hotter) which can leave you with a burnt supper.

Concluding Remarks
So there you have it, the Epicurean Ti ESBIT stove, an ESBIT stove that actually give you options in how you cook with ESBIT type fuel -- and opens up whole new possibilities in terms of things like ultralight baking.

The Epicurean Ti ESBIT stove from Flat Cat Gear.
What's good about it:
  • Flame control with ESBIT!
  • Can be used for ultralight baking
  • Residue on bottom of pot eliminated in simmer mode
  • Fishy smell eliminated in simmer mode
  • Light and effective
  • Easy to use
  • Can accommodate different brands of ESBIT type fuel
  • Compact, easily packable
What's bad about it:
  • At $27.50, maybe it's a little bit pricey, but it is of course titanium, and Ti is not cheap.  But there's no other ESBIT stove that I know of that offers this kind of flame control.
The Epicurean Ti ESBIT stove from Flat Cat Gear.:  Highly recommended.

Thanks for joining me on another Adventure in Stoving,



  1. Thanks Jim! I love my esbit stove but have never tried baking on it.Challenge gratefully accepted. ;)

    1. Cool! I'd actually be curious as to how it turns out. Happy baking!


  2. Jim, great report but one question: can you tell me if the stove, burning on 'simmer' will burn the residue left after using on the 'high' setting off the bottom of the pot? I ask because the biggest bugbear of Esbit stoves for me is that residue - if there is away of 'cooking' it off the bottom of the pot then I may be willing to give this stove a try! Rgds, Andy

    1. That's a great question. I don't know the answer for sure. I would think that it would, but I haven't tried it.

      I do know that when using the Epicurean Ti stove on simmer that there is no residue.

      I do know that the residue left from regular ESBIT type stoves comes off pretty easily with water -- at least in my experience.

      I do agree that the residue is annoying.


    2. I'll have to try burning off the residue some time.


  3. Hi, thanks for providing all this great information. I have just received an Epicurean Titanium UL15 DIY stove from flatcatgear. This is one that you have to debur and bend, which was pretty trival. Tried by first bake tonight, which was a steamed cake. I found that 2 Coughlans fuel tabs were mostly gone 15 minutes into the steam part of the bake. I put one more in and some older crumbs and that got me well beyond the 35 minutes I was looking for. I was thinking I should have been able to get 35 minutes + off two tabs, but I wonder if the time the stove was in "high" mode to get the water boiling used most of the fuel? Unfortunately I did not time that. Also, there as lots of ash left over, and a fair amount of unburned fuel under the ash. Since you use the same fuel tabs I wondered if you had experienced either of these issues.

    thanks, Matt

    1. Hi, Matt,

      You might try ESBIT brand fuel. I've found that it has less leftover unburnt fuel. That said, it still seems unusual that your fuel would only last 15 minutes. You should get at least twice that. I haven't tried any steam baking (just dry baking), so I can't comment on what's going on with steam baking.


  4. I will add, two years later, that my use of this stove has improved greatly. The Coghlans fuel works just fine, I can bake with it just as well as with Esbit. Maybe even better, as the round tablets are easy to cut in half,and this helps to conserve fuel as well as lower the burn temp a bit, and hence reduce the chance of burning the baked goods.

    From bacon cheese bread to cookies, I love baking with my epicurean stove.


My apologies to real people, but due to Spammers I have to moderate comments. I'll get to this as rapidly as possible but do understand that I like to hike and there's no internet in the wilderness. Take care and stove on!