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I just received a Hario Coffee Syphon TCA/50A as a birthday gift which makes use of an alcohol-fuel powered wick/lamp to heat the water.

However, I'm a bit confused which fuel I should be using exactly? The manual states:

Use only fuel-type alcohol. Never use gasoline, benzene or kerosene. Purchase fuel-type alcohol from a pharmacy, etc.

However, what exactly should I be asking for? I live in Germany and none of the Apothek/Pharmacies said they had what I was looking for. I feel like there should be a more common name for the exact fuel I need to use! (eg: Should I be looking for Butane or Ethanol?)

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Ask them for Brennspiritus. You can get it in bigger drugstores like DM or Rossmann, I don't know who else will have it, but maybe home maintenance (?) stores (Baumärkte).

You can't use butane, that's a different fuel and obviously not suitable for your case. You should be able to use pure ethanol, but due to alcohol import laws, medicinal ethanol without dilutants is extremely expensive, and medicinal ethanol with dilutants might have dilutants which create something bad when burned. Brennspiritus is ethanol with dilutants which can be burned safely, while still making it undrinkable.

If everything else fails, you can start burning high-percentage drinking alcohol, my grandpa uses it sometimes on Spiritus burners. The problem (besides being more expensive) is that you need both a high ABV (something around 70% will be good) and a pure alcohol (vodka or obstwasser); alcohol types which you are likely to find at these percentages (such as rum) can leave layers of badly combusted gunk inside the burner.

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Perfect - A search for brennspiritus led me to some bio-ethanol which works perfectly and is made for burning with low-soot etc. Made my first coffees and it's working great. Thank you very much! (FYI I ended up opting for Blomus Bioethanol – waffl Aug 16 '12 at 10:43

Alcohol stoves use either methanol or denatured alcohol, which is ethanol mixed with about 10% methanol. Either should work for your burner.

Alcohol stoves are often used on small boats or for camping, so an outdoors store or a boating supply store are possible sources.

Methanol is also used as a thinner/sovent, and can be found at many automotive or home repair stores. In North America, it's usually labelled methyl hydrate, but that's just another name for methanol.

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