Copper Bottom vs Aluminum vs Titanium Pot Boil Times

I read a statement recently that copper bottom/S/S has something like 12 times the heat absorption that Anodized aluminum pots have, which I found hard to believe. Having some pots with copper bottom and S/S, aluminum, and titanium, I decided to do some informal boil tests to see how much difference the different pot metals really make.

Pot # 1 - Copper/S/S, DIA - 5 1/4” W X 3 1/2” T, Boil Time: 5:00

Pot # 2 - Anodized Aluminum, DIA - 6” W X 2.2” T, Boil Time: 4:30

Pot # 3 - Titanium, DIA - 6 1/4” W X 3 3/4 T, Boil Time: 4:20

This was for 2 cups of water @ 65 degrees, heated on an electric kitchen range with a glass top, on a 6 1/2 wide filament set on Hi, always starting the test from room temperature - 70 degrees.

I have done similar tests before in the same place and conditions with my best Alcohol Burner and gotten sub 4 minute boil times, using a 1” pot lift pot stand and a MSR Aluminum wind screen. It was for convince that I did the electric stove test. I always assumed that a kitchen range would out perform an Alcohol Stove, which did not prove to be the case. I have always assumed that most of the extra heat produced by White Gas stoves and LP Cartridge stoves is just passing on to the atmosphere with only a fraction of the heat being produced by those stoves being absorbed by the cooking pot.

More recently, Heat Exchanger Pots have become popular because they produce faster boil times and use less fuel to do it. Such pots are expensive, heavier and bulkier. They work best in cooking for large gropes and it would take 40 to 50 stove uses to save enough fuel weight to equal the additional weight of carrying a Heat Exchanger Pot - 2 to 3 ounces, and the heat exchanger lift may interfere with the Magic 1” Lift flame height built into some alcohol stoves and pot stands for alcohol burners.

To fuel my Alcohol Burner, I fill a 1 Oz. squeeze bottle from a bigger fuel bottle and squirt it in the stove. That’s enough fuel to boil 30 Oz. Of water, make a cup of hot chocolate and two 8 Oz., just add hot water type meals, with water left over for clean up set back on a still burning stove to be heated for a little while longer. One Oz. Is not much fuel, but it is all I need. And as you can see from the above boil times, an aluminum pot will do a more than adequate job of heating all the water you need without a heat exchanger pot…Karl.

1 Like

Aluminum has a high thermal conductivity of 1460 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°F (210 W/m-K) compared to titanium 118 BTU-in/hr-ft²-°Fm (17.0 W/m-K) so titanium’s lower thermal conductivity would take longer to boil than aluminum if the pots were the same diameter, height (area), and thickness.

Even without considering the pots total capacity and bottom and sides thickness measurements, a pattern I see in your test examples is smaller to larger pot diameters in contact with the electric range heating element that has a greater diameter than the pots, match respectively longer to shorter boil times.

Regardless I believe the strength and weight advantages of my Titanium pots and cups were worth the extra cost and fuel consumption.

1 Like

Regarding stoves, my alcohol stoves are good for 1-2 night trips.
As for fuels “Denatured” alcohol which should consist primarily of ethanol often doesn’t. The nasty stuff used to denature the alcohol (render it undrinkable) has fumes I don’t really want to breathe. Plus since I nest my stove(s) in my cooking (& eating) kit I don’t want it possibly tainting my food and drink. So I use ethanol (180 proof Everclear) in spite of the cost. It has a higher heat content and can also be used as a first aid disinfectant. Oh, and I would never drink it.

And though Isopropanol has the highest heat content per gram*, it is not a good stove fuel because it’s such a mess to burn. Plus Isopropanol is toxic in terms of both fumes and in skin absorption.

But the weight vs the energy output of alcohol vs canister fuel when the air temp is above freezing means my cannister stove kit will weigh less and take up less space than an alcohol stove kit for trips of 3 nights or longer, and save time in camp. There is also a greater hazard with alcohol stoves leaking and a nearly invisible flame - don’t ask me how I know, so in hot-dry conditions with a high wildfire risk I would always choose a canister (or even white gas) stove.

1 Like

I also use alcohol stoves (double wall soda can style) for up to 2-3 days. For longer trips or when with a buddy, I’ll got with the jet boil…one will carry the stove and the other packs the fuel can. Sometimes we will go with a pocket rocket in lieu of the jet boil to save weight/space. Also use titanium cookware.


Here are some visuals to give a better idea about what heat-exchanger pots look like:

Denatured alcohol is not worth trying as a stove fuel because it contains 30% water, causing poor heat output, sputtering and flame failure as all the alcohol burns away.

Building supply stores sell fuel grade alcohol in their Paint Departments as do Marine Supply Business. Yellow Bottle Heet anti freeze is readily available from auto supply business and some gas stations. The Swedish Army has been issuing Trangia Alcohol Burners to its troops for close to a hundred years. Zip-Lock bags will allow alcohol stoves to be carried in cooking pots safely.

My “cooking pots” are wide mouth plastic jars insulated with can caddies, and a Rubber-made Juce Box carries my hot drinks in another foam beer can insulator. The hot drink is made first so it will cool down enough so that you do not scald yourself by the time the meal has re-hydrated and been eaten. Being able to have hot food and drink at the same time is really nice in the cold part of the year.

The canisters are dead weight on the way out, and can not be reused, and are expensive. And you never know, for sure, how much gas is left in a used canister.

I have nearly every model of the MSR stoves that have been made and I have also used a number of different canister stoves, and still do when convient.

The Fancy Feast type alcohol stoves made with Ceramic Fiber Wicks require no priming, no waiting for a Bloom and give a blue flame almost immediately. I use a Pot Stand made out of 3 S/S bicycle spokes and brass tubing that folds flat and holds the stove/burner in place as well as the pot on top, with the Magic 1" Lift.

My Wind Screen is the MSR Heavy aluminum foil type that folds up to hold the pot stand, a cut down handle spoon and a butane lighter. I have used this kit deer hunting for deer in the snow, at better than 10,000 feet at the end of October and into early November for week long hunts. It works for me, as I’m sure your cook kit also works for you, Brian. It is kind of like Tenkara fly fishing: it is more about the style and the experience, the techniques you develop to handle what you encounter than it is about the equipment you use. To each, his own. Good camping and fishing, tight lines…Karl.

Kris, you may find the following video to be an interesting alternative to the double wall soda can alcohol stoves:

I do not use the steel tomato paste can on my version because I wanted a burner that would fit inside of my Priimus .9L Litech Kettle, which is 2,2" high and the fancy feast stove is too tall. to fit in that pot. On the fancy feast stove, the tomato paste can is your pot stand @ only 2 1/16th inches wide. The galvanized can coating also burns off of the steel can over time, so I went an aluminum inner can and a 4 3/4" wide pot stand, which is much more stable with wide pots. The shorter burner height changed the flame pattern from a cylinder to a cone shaped one, which has to travel farther on the bottom of the pot before the heat goes up the pot’s sides, increasing heating efficiency even more. Again, it was not much of a change but every little bit of added heating efficiency helps.

I also bought the 1/8" thickness of the Ceramic Fiber Paper/Board but used aluminum cans that would handle that width better. The Ceramic fiber is also available in 1/4" widths, or the 1/8 th can be folded or doubled for proper space filling fitt. And the shrinkage rate for the Ceramic Fiber is 2%. The carbon felt will need to be added to to fill the 1/2" wide or so gap that will develop over time.

Brian, for sure wider pots will absorb more heat. In effect the heat exchange pots increase the surface area of the pot bottoms and are probably more practical with the narrow burner/pot configurations used on most of the cartridge stoves. Too wide a pot can cause the LP cartridge to over heat and that becomes dangerous and can cause a blow up in extreme cases.

In my test above, the Ti Pot had the widest DIA and the fastest boil time but, the difference was not all that much. All the pots seemed to be more than adequate for boiling water.

1 Like

I have several of those fancy feast stoves as well….I prefer the size/weight/efficiency (despite bloom time) of the soda can stove…and they’re fun to make.