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Coffee Tips

How Long Will a Coffee Can Heater Last?

During the cold season, you may need heat in areas where there are no heaters or power. A coffee can heater or toilet paper heater works well, especially in emergencies, whereby you need heat to warm up your hands and to keep you comfortable. Furthermore, a coffee can heater is easy to carry (portable) and can be part of your car kit, if you are a traveler. This article will discuss everything you need to know about a coffee can heater. Read on.

burning can heater

How Long Will a Coffee Can Heater Last?

A coffee can heater is made with an empty metal coffee can, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, and a roll of tissue paper. Alcohol in this case is used for heating the coffee can and each bottle of it fuels the coffee can heater for 18 to 24 hours for intermittent use.

How to Make a Coffee Can Heater

As mentioned earlier, you’ll need three things to make a coffee can heater. These are:

  • An empty metallic coffee can (13-16 oz) with a replaceable plastic lid
  • At least two 16-ounce bottles of isopropyl-rubbing alcohol (ethylene glycol radiator fluid can be substituted in case of an emergency)
  • A roll of toilet paper – unscented

Step 1

Knead the toilet paper roll using your hands to loosen the cardboard, then remove the cardboard core by pressing it out with your thumbs.

Step 2

Place the toilet paper inside the empty metallic coffee can. The toilet paper should form a fairly snug fit.

Step 3

Pour the rubbing enough alcohol evenly over the toilet paper in the can. Ensure that the alcohol is enough to saturate the toilet paper but not so much to leave visible liquid at the bottom of the can. Allow the alcohol to soak, then cover the can with the lid until you need it. This will ensure that the alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Additionally, store your heater in an upright position.

Step 4

When you need the heater, remove the lid of the heater and drop in a lit match and your heater is set. In case you need to add more alcohol (fuel starts to run low when the toilet paper edges start to brown), extinguish the flame, add more alcohol as needed then re-light your heater. Because only the alcohol vapor burns, you can use the same toilet paper roll with several bottles of alcohol. And as mentioned earlier, each bottle of alcohol fuels the heater for 18 to 24 hours for intermittent use. The heater should burn with a clean and low flame.

Step 5

If you want to extinguish the heater, blow out the flame, wait for the coffee can heater rim to cool, then cover it with the plastic lid to prevent evaporation of the fuel.

Precautions to Take When Using a Coffee Can Heater

  • Set the coffee can heater in an area free of flammable materials.
  • Ensure there is enough ventilation since the heater will produce deadly carbon monoxide gas.
  • Don’t hold the coffee can heater on your lap or hands since the can gets hot and can burn you.
  • Instead of trying to set the fire straight on the toilet paper, just throw the lit match in to avoid burning yourself and causing a safety hazard.

Alternatives Heating Sources for Your Home

  1. Use of geothermal heat pumps
  2. Heating oil such as oil-fired boilers and furnaces
  3. Pellet stoves
  4. Solar heating
  5. Under-floor heating


If you’re planning to go hunting, ice fishing, hiking, or general travel, a coffee can heater is something you’ll need in your emergency package. The heater works really well and will help you keep warm. You can prepare everything beforehand (put the toilet paper in the can, and a couple of rubbing alcohol bottles) and keep them in your vehicle, just in case you need them. Also, ensure you take the necessary precautions while using the coffee can heater.


Also read: Can You Put a Metal Coffee Cup in the Microwave?