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Esbit Alcohol Stove and Cookset with Heat Exchanger (CS985H-EX)

Esbit Alcohol Cookset - Tea Time in Texas
Esbit Alcohol Cookset – Tea Time in Texas

At 13.1 ounces, the new Esbit Alcohol Cookset (CS985H-EX) is not the lightwest weight single pot cook system available, but I really like the fact that it’s a complete out-of-the-box cooking system and has a 1 quart / 1 liter anodized aluminum pot with a heat exchanger included.  I got hooked on pots with heat exchangers last year because they require 30-40% less fuel to cook with. That’s a huge benefit if you prefer using denatured alcohol as a fuel source and can really off-set the amount of fuel you need to carry on a multi-day trip.

Packs up real small - Top lid not shown
Packs up real small – Top lid not shown

The new Esbit Alcohol Cookset includes the following components:

  • Anodized aluminum cookpot with built in heat exchanger (6.7 ounces / 192 grams)
  • Pot lid (1.3 ounces / 38.9 grams)
  • Brass alcohol stove and screw-on cover (2.6 ounces / 74 grams)
  • Flame tamer for simmering (0.7 ounces / 20 grams)
  • Pot stand  (2.3 ounces / 64 grams)
  • Mesh bag (0.5 ounces / 15 grams)
Pot with Heat Exchanger Fins, Stove and Windscreen
Pot with Heat Exchanger Fins, Stove and Windscreen

The Cook Pot

At 33 ounces of capacity, the pot that comes with this cookset is large enough for cooking more complex meals or for 1-2 people. Made out of hard anodized aluminum, it is stronger than steel and easy to clean even though it lacks a Teflon or non-stick coating. Anodized aluminum pots also distribute heat very evenly helping to eliminate scorching hot spots and burnt-on food.

If there’s a downside to pots anodized aluminum pots, it’s that the pot takes a little longer to cool off if you want to drink out of it. But you can get around this easily enough by adding cold water to your coffee or tea if you’re in a rush in the morning.

Heat exchanger fins on the bottom of the pot help reduce the amount of fuel needed for cooking by retaining more of the heat produced by the stove. It’s a wonder that more backpacking pot manufacturers don’t incorporate heat exchanger fins into their products because they are so much more efficient with all fuel types.

Graduated Volume Marks
Graduated Volume Marks

The inside of the 33 ounce Esbit cook pot has graduated volume marks, both in ounces and millileters, making it possible to measure out quantities of liquid for cooking without the need for a separate measuring cup. With insulated folding butterfly handles, it’s also easy to pick up the pot and to tranfer hot liquid into other containers using the pouring spout.

Simple Pot Lid
Simple Pot Lid

The Pot Lid

The pot lid is just that, a very simple pot lid with a recessed handle. I’m a little disappointed by this because it would have been so easy to stamp tiny collander holes or a steam escape hole in the lid. That would make a already fine product, that much better.

Esbit alcohol stove and cap
Esbit alcohol stove and cap

The Stove

The brass stove included in the Esbit alcohol cookset is nearly identical to a Triangia alcohol stove, with a screw on cap that makes it possible to snuff out the flame and save any unused fuel for a future cooking session. The stove cap has a rubber gasket inside it that prevents remaining fuel from leaking when closed, a really handy feature if you’ve ever had extra fuel left over. Brass stoves are also more efficient in terms of heat transfer than say titanium or other materials, and are easier to light in colder temperatires.

The stove can hold up to 2.5 ounces of denatured alcohol which means you can fill it up at home if you only need to boil one or two pots of water on a short overnight trip. Burn time for 2.5 ounces of alcohol is about 30 minutes and it takes about 9-12  minutes to boil 2 cups of water (this varies depending on external temperature, water temperature and wind).

Flame Tamer for Simmering
Flame Tamer for Simmering

The Flame Tamer

The Esbit Alcohol Cookset includes a flame tamer than lets you regulate how much oxygen is getting to the stove and how hot the flame is. The flame tamer is a metal disk that covers the stove opening with a small metal handle that is cool enough to touch while the stove is burning. To turn up the heat, slide the disc to open the hole and let more oxygen in. To turn down the heat, shrink the size of the hole and reduce the amount of air it has available.

If your cooking style just requires the need to boil water, you probably don’t need the flame tamer. But if you like to cook more complex meals, bake hasty breads, or cook rice and pasta, having the ability to simmer is essential.

Esbit Pot Stand
Esbit Pot Stand

The Pot Stand

The alcohol stove rests in the middle of a pot stand and provides stable flat surface for the stove to rest on. Also made out of anodized aluminum with big side holes, the pot stand doesn’t provide an very effective wind screen but you can augment it easily enough by blocking the wind using a backpack, sleeping pad, or simply piling rocks around the side openings.

Highly compact
Highly compact

Packing

One of the great things about this stove set is it’s packability. All of components fit together like a Russian doll set and are completely self contained in the cook pot. A small mesh bag is convenienty provided to carry the cookset which simply disappears, even into a small backpack.

Conclusion

Aesthetically, this is a really nice cookset that’s high on function and fairly complete.  Before you buy this cookset  be sure to study the entire Esbit cookset product line. They manufacture quite a few alcohol and solid fuel cookset variants that may be a better fit for your needs. Amazon has a great selection of these, steeply discounted, including the Esbit Alcohol and Cookset reviewed here.

Manufacturer Specs

  • 950 ml pot with heat exchanger provides higher cooking efficiency by improving boil times by 30% thereby reducing fuel usage. Includes volume indicator in ml / oz.
  • Pot includes 2 hinged, stainless steel grips.
  • Includes pot stand, 950 ml pot with heat exchanger, lid, and alcohol burner.
  • Pot stand and alcohol burner nest inside big pot.
  • Constructed from extremely light, hard-anodized aluminum.
  • Alcohol burner constructed from brass with a screw top and rubber gasket.
  • Alcohol burner has variable temperature control with a fold-away handle that helps to regulate or extinguish flame.
  • Stores in included mesh bag.
  • Dimensions-packed: 4.9″ x 4.9″ (12.5 cm x 12.5 cm)
  • Weight: 10.9 oz. (310 g)

Disclosure: Industrial Revolution (Esbit) provided Philip Werner with a sample cookset for review. 

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25 comments

  1. Interesting. Not seen a heat exchanger pot on a non gas stove before. Looks a robust simple kit .

    One error- don’t use the stove lid as a snuffer – you’ll possibly melt the o ring! (Also,wait till the stove is cool to put cap on or the o-ring will melt/soften/seal and may ‘glue’ it on…) Use the flame tamer fully closed to snuff.

  2. Phil, I would point out some rather important concerns, just to prevent confusion…

    The first is:
    Using the new Heat Exchanger pots, you do NOT want to use the esbit fuel. Esbit tablets release some soot when burning. After a weekend out and using the stove 4-5 times, this soot will coat the heat exchanger and supply some insulation, hindering performance. After 50 uses, I would guess that most of the fins would be coated quite heavily, reducing their performance a LOT. Stick to alcohol. Getting a small brush in the fins to clean it would be a real chore.

    Second:
    You mention that the pot stays hotter for longer. I would point out that the HE has nothing to do with this. Indeed, an HE pot will cool somewhat FASTER. Since the fins will disipate heat from a hot pot when not being activly heated as well as absorb it when you are applying heat. It stays hotter probably due to the anodization, lid fitting and shape of the pot.

    It looks like a nice piece of kit, overall. The Caldera cone allows heat to be channeled up the sides and used for heating the water, also. With a HE, these run very efficiently, around .45oz SLX to heat 2 cups to 200F from 40F (cold)…about a half ounce. Without the HE, it was .63oz…about 5/8oz. (About 24 test runs in that series.) So, it saves ~1/4oz per liter even in a ‘cone.

    Rand did not capitilize on my testing/results after I sent them to him. Basically, I was looking into ways to transfer heat more efficiently from camp stoves to a pot. Heat exchangers help a LOT. Edge turbulence accounts for a lot of heat loss, too. So, the slight setback and rounding of the pot also helps to maintain heat flow around the pot, unlike the Fire Maple/Olicamp HE pots. IR radiation from the heat source can be faciliated by painting the bottom red or black. Other exhast gasses can be trapped along the sides…

    • Excellent points Jim. I haven’t had enough experience with solid fuel and should have just kept my mouth shut. I may modify the post to remove the suggestions. Also, you are absolutely right about the heat retention of anodized aluminum, duh!

      When sending technical stove info to Trail Designs, I’d recommend you send it to Russ. He’s the engineer in that partnership. Regarding the Cone, while probably more efficient than this Esbit cookset, I like the still like the pack ability of this cookset better than the Caldera sidewinder or the plastic tubes.

      • Phil, what about the packability do you prefer, if the Sidewinder packs into the wide lower height pots it was meant for?

        I like hard anodized aluminum pots over Ti for their better heat transfer and resistance to sticking food. I’ve been looking into the best 1 and 2P sets, both HE and non-HE, in terms of weight. For 1P pots, I prefer an integrated handle.

        I find this Esbit pot set as is VERY heavy for the size and could be significantly lightened by replacing the lid with MYOG Ti or foil, replacing the stove with a lighter tin can stove, as well as replacing the the pot stand with a wire pot stand or Ti wing stove (and using a proper Ti or aluminum windscreen).

        Also think the windscreen would be inadequate without rocks around it – a pack wouldn’t be enough in a good wind as the wind would wrap around the pack. Having to set up the rocks adds a fuss factor.

        I’m looking into the Optimus Terra Weekend HE, which also has a .95L pot (the lid is a small fry pan and could be replaced with a Ti or foil lid). An online retailer said the .95L pot only weighs only 4.1-2 ounces. With a light lid, that’d be a very light HE pot which still has good capacity.

        For esbit tablet fuel I think it’s best to use a flat bottomed pot with a Caldera Cone or Ti or aluminum windscreen for ease of cleaning.

        I’m hoping Hiking Jim or someone else will do a comparison test of a Caldera Cone setup with flat bottomed non-HE hard anodized aluminum pot and a hard anodized aluminum HE pot of equal volume with equal volume water with a regular close-fitting Ti or Al windscreen, both burning alcohol (or wood with a Ti windscreen). The results could be pretty close.

  3. I’m a big fan of alcohol stoves. We were dismayed to find alcohol fuel not as readily available on trail route supply stores as we would have thought. We’re rethinking stoves.

  4. Kind of a cool little experiment, though a bit heavy. I guess you could get rid of lid and replace w/ foil and then get a properly light alcohol stove. I would love to see a comparison between this set-up and a Caldera Cone. Any thoughts on its performance? How much fuel to boil a few cups of water?

    • But the cone isn’t compatible with this pot which kind of makes it a moot point.

      Frankly, I’m not that obsessed with a few extra ounces anymore and like the packability of this system more than the Cone.

  5. How does this compare with the Olicamp heat exchanger pot? I bought one of those a couple weeks ago and used it with a White Box stove, however, the flame spread on the White Box was a little wide for it. I did use the White Box to fry a whole bunch of eggs for the grandkiddos and it did a nice job on that.

    Have you seen anyone making a small fry pan with heat exchanger? I’d like one for car camping. I used the GSI Pinnacle Camper set on the last trip and it worked pretty well but a slightly larger fry pan would be ideal for car camping trips.

    • That’s the problem with the Olicamp pot – it works best with a directed canister stove flame but not with a alcohol stove or a wood stove where the flames come up around the sides. No such problems with the Esbit pot and pot stand which aim the alcohol stove fame into the center of the Esbit pot.

      I’ve never seen a frying pan with a heat exchanger on it, but check out those other esbit stove kits I link to above. Esbit sels a heat exchanger that is separate from the pot that sits on top of it.

  6. Does anyone know if the Optimus Weekend HE will fit into the Esbit stand like the Esbit HE pot does?

    Thanks
    -b

  7. Works a bit better than my ” Fancy Feast ” model and looks a lot better too !Thanks !

  8. I just got back from an 83.5 mile kayak trip on the Lower Canyons of the Rio Grande National Wild and Scenic River with my brothers in law. One had this set up. I was so impressed, I ordered one today. I had my Olicamp pot and an alcohol stove that directs a swirl of flame upward, which worked pretty nicely, however, the Esbit was better and everything fit together so well. I also have a Caldera Cone but the cone is hard to slide together and has a couple of crinkles that make it nearly impossible to assemble.

  9. My brothers in law nominated me as captain of the Boquillas Swim Team for the two wipeouts I accomplished in the kayak. I’ve got hundreds of miles of whitewater canoeing experience but haven’t been in a kayak since 1978, and then for only 11 miles. The water in the Rio Grande is olive drab from the top–it’s also olive drab underneath… and extremely cold! In some respects, I’m glad I took the dives I did because I learned a bunch from them and the motivation to keep “This End Up!” after my impromptu polar bear club swims kept me in the upright position the last three days when we had much bigger and more difficult rapids. I was the largest person in the smallest kayak and the leaky spray cover was merely a glorified coffee filter so I spent five days sitting in icy water. I couldn’t get much of my gear in dry bags so I had to try to dry my tent over the campfire each night before I retired. My hiking shoes were soaked also and my freeze dried food container leaked, however, most of the food was in Ziploc bags that kept it dry. My beloved ExOfficio Bugsaway Cape Hat got snatched off my head on the first wipeout even though it was buttoned under my chin. Somehow, my glasses stayed on and I was very grateful for that because my spare glasses got left behind.

    I purchased a DeLorme InReach to communicate with the wives so they wouldn’t make a fruitless 400 mile round trip to the takeout. I had it, my arthritis medicine, spare glasses, First Aid kit, headlights, waterproof camera, and all my snacks in a Ribz vest. I had everything packed in the kayak and then took the vest out to add something to it and forgot it when my brothers in law picked me up. I also forgot my helmet and wetsuit so I kayaked each day in a thin pair of polypro under a pair RailRiders Ecomesh pants–not adequate in the least. One of my brothers in law hung a pair of his polypro on a reed over a campfire to dry them out and they slid off into the fire. I started to fish them out and he told me to leave them there. After a few minutes of watching them burn and sizzle, he mentioned he had another pair. I grabbed them out of the fire, stomped them out, and used the scissors on my Leatherman to cut off all the sharp melted edges to all the holes. I wore them on top of my polypro and the last two days, my legs were much warmer. I’m keeping them–they’re a badge of honor! I did have sufficient top layers to sort of manage my upper body, except when everything was wet from the large standing waves, which was often. I used pogies on my paddle for my hands–they kept my hands at the perfect temperature the whole time.

    We got to the takeout an hour before the wives and quickly changed into more presentable clothing and cleaned up as best as possible. We figured if they didn’t drive off at first sight of us, they’d surely do so at first whiff.

    I’ve never been so cold, wet, and miserable for five days in my life. It was awesome!

  10. I have this Esbit CS985H-EX cookset but use a Trangia burner (with the Esbit simmer ring, because of it’s folding handle). The boil time is faster for the Trangia burner over the Esbit, because the Esbit burner has alternating (small/larger/small/larger) size of burner holes for some reason. I already had the Trangia burner, but I suppose you could use a drill bit to enlarge the smaller holes in the Esbit burner to increase efficiency.
    I also carry a very light rolled aluminum windscreen that covers about 80% of the circumference of the pot stand that also increases efficiency and decreases boil time. When I am backpacking and know I will be cooking meals (rather than just boiling), I use the same burner but with a ClikStand® S-1 stove and Evernew 1.3l Ti pot.
    If you want to use Esbit solid fuel (and I have never experienced a noticeable buildup of soot) with this cookset, Esbit makes a solid fuel base (actually from a CS985HA cookset) that raises the solid fuel tablet to the correct height for maximum efficiency, and I suspect will limit the amount of sooting caused by having the flame too far from the base of the pot.

  11. I have the Esbit stove with heat exchanger and it is a dream. You can carryall of the alcohol in the burner container for using for a number of days, or just put in a little bit of the alcohol and carry an alcohol squeeze bottle that can be closed off at the folding spout. It adds to your carry weight, but certainly not as much as a heavier stove alone would. I carry some foil and solid fuel tabs too as a back up, along with a little roll up windscreen. Have tried the Trangia and Esbit and the Alocs burners and they seem pretty much alike, except for the little close-off folding handle for the Esbit and Alocs. They all seemed to boil the pot of water in less than 5 minutes, possible 4. But it is the heat exchanger that does the trick.

  12. RockyTrails, I agree about alcohol stoves. There is little that effects the burning. Most of the heat transfers are a product of the HE/size of the burner/wind resistance/pot diameter & material, etc…not the fuel. Alky burns very clean normally, just enough oxygen in the air for the size of the molecule. Though, ethanol is slightly harder to burn than methanol.

    Heat Exchangers are only a cheat. They increase the area of the pot that can absorb heat. In a well tuned system, they may not help at all. They generally only capture excess heat that would otherwise be lost.

  13. The Esbit and Terra Weekend are identical. The Terra will fit in the Esbit pot stand, and the small pot/lids are interchangeable. I’m planning on using the large Terra pot for its heat exhanger with the small esbit pot because it has the ridge to fit in the stand.

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