How To Make a Coffee Can Heater

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As part of our Emergency Preparedness Plan we include a list of items to include in a “Car Kit”. This is a kit that you keep in your car with useful items in case you have a road-side emergency. One of the items we recommend is a “coffee can heater” and we have had quite a few people ask us for clarification on what that is, so here is the answer will full instructions of course 🙂

How to Make a Coffee Can Heater – Video

How to Make a Coffee Can Heater – Instructions

  • Step 1: Clean out an old coffee can (if you don’t drink coffee, any large can will do … just make sure it has a lid!)
  • Step 2: Remove the cardboard center from a roll of toilet paper
  • Step 3: Stuff the roll of toilet paper into the can and place the lid on
  • Step 4: Insert the can, one package of matches, and a bottle of rubbing alcohol into a larger container or bucket (extra rolls of toilet and bottles of alcohol can be handy as well)
  • Step 5: Place the larger container into the trunk of your car

How To Use Your Heater: If you need to use the heater to warm your hands or provide a little heat in the car, simply pour the alcohol over the toilet paper until it is well saturated (but not so there is alcohol sitting in the bottom of the can). Then light the toilet paper on fire. It will act as a wick and should provide heat for quite a while. You can also smother the fire and replace the lid when the can has cooled down and save it for later use


UPDATED TO ADD: To answer some of the comments below, I did some tests on actually USING the heater and here are my remarks. I thought that cocoa can WAS metal but apparently it’s just got a metal lining. Yes you should use a metal can! I tried this indoors and the fumes weren’t bad, I would probably crack a window or door in a car though. Also, this can gets HOT so you can’t just hold it on your lap or in your hands. Have something prepared to set it on. But it produced a great amount of heat. I could only hold my hands about a foot above the can without it being too hot. Also, when you go to light it, just throw the match in. I tried to set it straight on the toilet paper and burnt myself and screamed and threw the match, thus scaring my children and causing a safety hazard. Now you know everything I do 😉

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