9.1 tech score Anyone who is considering purchasing a well made lightweight alcohol stove that will last for many years has my recommendation to consider the Brasslite line.
The Brasslite Duo backpacking stove is a larger model from a family of stoves created by Aaron Rosenbloom. It uses commonly available methanol (also known as methyl alcohol or denatured alcohol).
As one might infer from the name, this lightweight stove is made from brass and intended to serve the needs of two diners. An integral stainless steel wire grid stand holds a cooking vessel an optimum 1 in (2.5 cm) above the flame. The bottom flares up to form a fluted preheating cup.
A brass thumb screw closes the center filling hole, allowing the sealed container to build some pressure as the alcohol heats to vaporize and burn above the 24 tiny holes precision drilled just within the top perimeter of the stove. Included with the Brasslite stove (test) is a self-measuring plastic fuel bottle with a filler spout. (This measure/flask is available as a separate purchase at the Brasslite website.) Also included are operating instructions, usage tips, instructions for making a pot cozy, a windscreen, and a reflector, a disclaimer, and warranty information. The slogan on the box reads, “Light as a feather, hot as a torch.”
- Manufacturer: Brasslite
- Manufacturer’s website:
- Year of manufacture: 2003
- Weight as delivered: just over 2 oz (57 gm) on my kitchen scale
- Specifications as listed on the product website (Note: I found no significant differences in home measurements or boil times. Any small discrepancies in boil times and fuel use at ambient summer temperatures can be related to variations in water temperature, fuel spillage, wind, and operator error. I found the manufacturer-stated data to be a good guide.)
- Width of chamber and stand: 2.4 in (60 mm)
- Width of preheat pan: 3.0 in (75 mm)
- Height of chamber: 1.38 in (35 mm)
- Overall height: 2.4 in (60 mm)
- Weight: 2.2 US oz (63 gm)
- Fuel capacity: 3 US fluid oz (90 ml)
- Total burn time using 3 US fluid oz (90 ml) of methanol is about 35 minutes
- Time to bring 16 US fluid oz 475 ml) water to boil: 6:00
- Time to bring 32 US fluid oz (946 ml) water to boil: 10:00
Review of Brasslite Duo Stove
I want to write this review a bit differently. Let me tell you my conclusions, and, then, if you readers wish to delve into how I arrived at these opinions, keep reading.
The Brasslite Duo works. It works very well, in fact. If you are looking for a quick, secure, and efficient way to boil water, consider the Brasslite line of stoves. Because of the Duo, as well as the other models, burns methanol, fuel is readily found in paint sections of hardware and discount department stores. With a bit of careful reading, one can also find methanol sold as a gasoline additive, HEET being one brand, at gas stations and convenience stores. Anyone who has had to search extensively for concrete canisters for a butane stove, a source of quarts rather than gallons of naphtha (Coleman fuel), or has had to lug large, heavy propane canisters can appreciate the convenience of quickly finding fuel in manageable amounts.
The Duo does burn very hot, so I often felt the need to wear leather gloves while cooking. When just boiling water, this was not necessary, but for cooking foods that needed pot stirring, food turning, etc., the gloves let me avoid singed wrists and hands. An experienced cook will find (s)he has the option not only for the “boil water and dump” cooking method, but also, with a bit of practice, will be able to produce freshly cooked quick bread, stews, grilled foods, etc.
One secret is to control the heat delivered to the foods being prepared, as there is no stove control. The stove is burning, or it is not burning. To reduce the heat provided one could, a) extinguish the flame and relight for intervals (quickly becomes tedious), b) raise the pot height with a second stand, or, c) put some water in the pan. (I have more on this at the end of the report under “Test Cooking Details.”) I did find the initial burn phase to be more intense than the later phases.
I am assuming it has to do with the amount of pressure from the heating alcohol while the stove has more fuel, diminishing as the quantity of alcohol decreases. I use this first phase to get the starchy entire to boiling and let that food “coast” in a cozy while the protein entire cooks. When circumstances allow such luxuries, I can recommend poaching salmon, steaming assorted quick bread including corn bread or fruited muffins, steam cooking eggs, stir frying chicken dishes, simmering stew (using ground beef), and grilling strips of meat with a Pac-Flat Backpackers Grill.
Most of my trailside cooking consists of little more than boiling water, but it was a pleasure to experiment with fresh foods for short trips or trailhead meals. I find that some freshly cooked foods can entice reluctant campers into backpacking and as well as lift drooping spirits.
I must say the Duo is a remarkable and well-crafted stove. In experimenting at home, at my parents’ home, and in the field, this stove has seen more use than I would be likely to heap on it in a solid month of backpacking. I see color changes indicating use, but no real wear on the stove or the steel stand. The oven and steel mesh stand no longer have their bright shiny new color, but look used and a bit burned. p
My family raved about the marinated pork strips grilled on the Pac-Flat Backpackers Grill. My other attempts to use this grill with alcohol stoves were unsatisfactory, but the Brasslite Duo burns hot enough to make this practical, allowing that this method uses a lot of fuel. Of my standard backpacking/camping cookware, I used pots including an MSR Titan Kettle, an Evernew titanium 1-liter pot, a Teflon coated Evernew frying pan, and the famous “Wal-Mart grease pot.”
The Titan kettle has the smallest diameter, so there seemed to be a less efficient heat transfer than when using the larger containers. The grease pot is the one I used the most, as it is the lightest of this group and the one of these that I use most often in the field for this stove. Using a rack made from a recycled aluminum foil pie tin in the bottom of the grease pot, I could steam muffins and eggs very nicely in foil baking cups (also known as cupcake and muffin liners). Informational note: I have also used the Duo successfully with a small pressure cooker, just to try it out.
Fuel Bottle Accessory
Mr. Rosenbloom provided the testers with the particular fuel bottle that he sells as an option to stove buyers. I recommend that customers do purchase the fuel bottle The fuel bottles come in two sizes: 8 oz (237 ml) capacity with a .5 oz (15 ml) dispensing reservoir, weight: 1.5 oz (43 gm), and 16 oz (473 ml) capacity with a 1 oz (30 ml) dispensing reservoir, weight: 2.5 oz (71 gm). I admit to still uttering “unrepeatable words” of frustration as I spill fuel while using this bottle, but it is the best that I’ve found.
Select the one that will hold the amount of fuel you anticipate using between resupply points. To use, fill the bottle through a port on one side, close the filler port with the screw on cap, then, holding the flask upright, squeeze the bottle as the alcohol flows up a side tube into a measuring chamber. Invert the stove over the (removable) spout, turn over the stove and fuel bottle as one, and dispense the alcohol. Practice this in the daytime, as it was difficult to see the alcohol filling the chamber in low light conditions.
My frustrated words usually were the result of squeezing the bottle too hard, as my spout connection leaks with pressure. Filling the stove with the 3 oz (90 ml) needed for extended cooking times necessitates more than one measuring chamber full of alcohol, so tip the fuel bottle directly into the filler hole and expect a bit of spillage. I did experiment with other filling options.
A used hair color applicator bottle or a syringe for refilling printer ink tanks can be made to work, but the hair color bottle is a bit awkward to judge fuel amounts and sloppy to use, while the syringe, holding maybe a teaspoon (5 ml), can be very tedious to use. So, although I am not fond of the filler bottle sold at the Brasslite site, it works and is the best option I tried.
Testing Locations and Conditions
I used the Duo in my kitchen, backyard, on my deck, and on two backpacking trips along the Midstate Trail, all in Eastern and Central Massachusetts. At home, the food was prepared for three adults, on the trail, two adults, or one adult and a child. Elevation was not much of a factor, as we are close to sea level in this part of the state.
I also used the stove to prepare meals for my parents and myself in Florida, as I unexpectedly extended my short visit to 6 weeks due to a family member’s illness. In addition to cooking in and around my parent’s home, I prepared hamburger stew on a stone picnic table in front of a hospital. The east coast of the USA has had a hot (and wet) summer, as I have experienced it.
Most of my outdoor experiences seem to be in 80 to 90 degree F (27-32 C) weather. I have no complaints about the portability, ease of set up, and consistency of use for the Duo. As a summer stove, it has performed admirably. I expect similar results in winter conditions at the altitudes that I usually encounter. (Again, the location would be east coast, mostly close to sea level.)
I have a side comment, related to traveling, not to the stove performance. With air travel security issues, I’ve read a good bit in discussion groups about going with stoves and fuel. As best I can tell, transporting fuel on airplanes is not allowed, but an empty stove SHOULD be all right.
Then we hear stories about over eager security people confiscating stoves and other items that MAY have contained fuel. I had no problem with my homemade soda can stove in my checked luggage on my way to Florida in June of 2003. When we extended my stay, my husband emailed the Duo, some pots, and some extra clothing to me.
The package took at least a week in transit and cost about $12 to send. I was unwilling to risk having the Duo confiscated in a luggage search, so I chose to mail my Duo and my favorite knife/tool for the return trip home. For this mailing, I taped the filler screw and the knife to the underside of the stove, wrapped the combination in bubble wrap and mailed the items inside a 2-liter soda bottle. (Cut a flap on the side of the bottle, then tape it closed.) I couldn’t insure the package sent this way, but asked for a delivery confirmation, for an extra fee. I was shocked to receive the stove package two days after mailing it from Florida to Massachusetts.
The stove was in fine condition. So, my thought about transporting a stove when next I fly somewhere, mails it, again in a soda bottle “package,” with delivery confirmation. The fee was about $2.50 this time. I consider that a small price to pay for the safe passage of an item which could be easily lost, stolen, or confiscated.
Test Cooking Details (for those who wish more information)
With preparing many meals for my family and extended family, I had the opportunity to learn some techniques for using the Duo. Preferring to use the attached stand, rather than making a taller one, I found that I could control the heat in the pan by adding water. So, many foods were better prepared boiled or “poached.” Water boils at about 212 degrees F (100 C). More heat applied only makes it boil more furiously, and water evaporates faster, but the water temperature does not significantly increase.
If I did wish to fry, I would first boil any water that the meal needed and have the food “coast” in its pot inside a cozy (pot insulator). By the time I had the intimate part of the meal set, the flame would be less intense. If I needed to turn away from the stove to accomplish the cozy set up, I found that I could easily blow out the stove, then reprime, relight, and continue with my next step. So, for making a stir fry, I would first boil some water for rice or noodles and blow out the stove as I set the pot into the cozy then relight the stove and continue with the meat and vegetables. Sometimes the pan still seemed too hot, so I’d add a few tablespoons of water. This worked for braising hamburgers and bacon strips. I will have to try this with “fried” eggs during the long term phase of the test.
A ground beef and vegetable stew worked very well over the Duo, as previously mentioned. I cooked this at a picnic table in front of a hospital in Florida. (Yes, I received a few “looks.”) By having all the ingredients pre washed, measured, cut, etc., the stew went together very well. I started with 3 ounces (90 ml) of alcohol, and when it was used up, cooled the stove by placing a wet paper towel on the side, then refilled, relit, and continued. With using 6 ounces (180 ml) of alcohol, I cooked a quart of fresh stew, from scratch. The temperature was in the low 90’s F (~32 C), and there was a good breeze.
I found that the windscreen was essential, especially in windy conditions. I have deviated a bit from Aaron Rosenbloom’s suggested heat reflector and wind screen set up. He recommends a piece of foil to match the pan bottom be placed under the stove as a reflector and a display of folded aluminum foil or a cut up aluminum foil pan. I cut corrugated cardboard to a bit larger than my pan and cover it with aluminum foil.
This picnic table I cooked on was stone. Even with the (approximate) 90 degree F (~32 C) temperature, I think the stone top would have been a significant heat sink and kept the stove from functioning. (My tile counter top was able to put the flame out when it was first lit.) The insulated reflector also protects the cooking surface from being damaged. Also, I have been making my windscreens from walls of aluminum soda cans. I find that they hold up longer than aluminum foil and are lighter than foil pans or oven liners. I just staple as many together as I need to encircle the pot.
Once I returned home (eastern Massachusetts), I had more tools (read toys) available and tried different pots and accessories. In Florida, I had tried corn bread batter, thin, cooked rather like a pancake and then, thicker, setting the pot with batter into the frying pan containing some water. The “corn pancake” scorched, in spite of my efforts to hold the frying pan above the flame, but the steamed cornbread (whole pot set up covered with aluminum foil) fared reasonably well.
At home, I also got my “Wal-Mart grease pot” into the mix. By cutting down a disposable pie pan, I was able to fashion a fair rack that could sit in the bottom of the “grease pot.” Foil cupcake liners work quite well to hold small amounts of muffing batter or eggs for steaming. So, poached eggs and fresh muffins were on the first day’s menu on a little backpack with my husband. I found that I could make more at one time by setting the eggs on foil in the strainer that comes with the “grease pot.” To make the various muffins, I used mixes that I expect to be able to find in trail towns.
One brand of corn bread I tried may be a standard Southern name, as I have not seen it elsewhere. For that test, at my parents’ home, I did use the oil, egg, etc. At my home, and on the trail, I just used water, no egg or oil. Try filling a foil cupcake liner about full with dry mix, then add water in small amounts, stirring just to blend to a thick batter. I can get four regular size muffins steam cooked, on a rack in a grease pot, with oz (15 ml) of alcohol, at summer temperatures. This is using Jiffy muffin, Betty Crocker small bag mixes, or Pillsbury quick bread mixes.
I also used a Pac-Flat Backpacker’s Grill with the Duo stove. My homemade alcohol stove and an open stainless steel alcohol stove didn’t seem to throw enough heat to make grilling worth while. The Duo burns so hot; I figured I’d try this combination. Using the knowledge gained in early phases of this test, I planned to start the summer part of the meal first and be sure the grilled items would be in tiny pieces.
I prepared four servings of a wild rice pilaf mix and let the prepared pot come to a boil for a few minutes before slipping the pot into a cozy. Then I grilled about a half pound (~230 g) of marinated pork strips using the Pac Flat with the Duo stove. Here was another instance I needed leather gloves. The pot stand is a bit undersized for the grill, and I needed to hold the side post of the rack to move and turn the meat.
To cook this much pork and rice, I did need to refill the stove, so this meal cost me 6 oz (180 ml) in fuel. I brought the rice mixture back to boiling and held it there for another 2 or 3 minutes before cooking the second half of the meat, and as the last batch finished cooking, I piled all the cooked meat on the rack to get all of it reheated before serving dinner. Also, I hooked the food on the grill with aluminum foil to hold in some heat. The Wind can carry away too much heat and slow down the cooking process. Save heat by loading the grill rack before firing the stove. That burn time may be just the amount needed to finish cooking your food and spare the need to refill and relight.
This fresh food cookery takes extra time as well as fuel. The egg and muffin breakfast with coffee water boiled first and took about an hour to complete. Most meals that needed 6 ounces of fuel ran about an hour in cooking time. I was and pleasantly surprised to get the poached salmon on the table in about a half hour, though.
For this meal, I had the salmon pre-cut into serving pieces; some cut up cooked potatoes, fresh green beans, and partially cooked bacon. First, I got the beans, potatoes (pre-cooked), and the bacon (precooked) into a pot with about a half inch of water. With the vegetable pot on the stove, I started the burn and allowed the pot to reach and maintain boiling for about 3 minutes, then set the whole pot into a cozy. While the vegetables “coasted,” I put the pan containing fillets of salmon, a bit of butter and a small amount of water on the now calmer fire, covering the pan with a piece of aluminum foil. After about 6 minutes, I turned the fish and replaced the foil cover.
When the flame went out, I served the completed meal. Checking the clock, I realized the actual cooking time ran under 35 minutes, and I had done all this with only about 3 ounces (90 ml) of fuel.
Food List of Successfully Prepared Meals/Accompaniments
- Corn bread/muffins, cranberry muffins, garlic cheese biscuits (as muffins): one pot
- Rice pudding, bread pudding: one pot
- Poached and scrambled eggs in foil liners, (reheated) bacon: one pot
- Poached salmon with bacon seasoned potatoes and green beans: two pots
- Hamburgers: one pot
- Cheeseburger macaroni: one pot
- Mac and cheese with tuna and broccoli: one pot
- Hamburger stew: one pot
- Asian stir fry chicken and vegetables with rice: two pots
- Thai style chicken and vegetables with noodles: two pots
- Italian braised steak cubes with zucchini and potatoes: two pots
- Teriyaki braised steak cubes with vegetables and noodles: two pots
- Grilled ginger-honey-lime pork strips with rice: two pots
- Boil water and add: oatmeal, home dehydrated cooked meals, ramen with dehydrated add-ins, etc.: one pot
- Barbequed pork ribs: one pot, a small pressure cooker, two fillings of alcohol fuel
- Well crafted and pleasing in appearance
- Well designed built-in primer cup
- Small fill hole can be awkward for filling
- Heavier than my homemade aluminum stoves (Inherent in the materials that give it durability)
The Duo is a lightweight, sturdy, workhorse of a stove that is great for boiling water for two (or three) backpackers in the field. It can also be utilized for more exotic cooking. It has the potential for use with accessories for the right user. For myself, I see using this stove more often for a leisurely trek with companions, but I will probably go “Gram Weenie” if hiking alone. For those times during warm months, wishing to move faster, I will likely be back to using a smaller homemade aluminum stove and smaller, lighter pots.