Java Log: The greener fireplace Jason 28 Nov 2005

31 comments Latest by Paul M. Ritchie

I love fireplaces, but I don’t like the idea of burning firewood. Sometimes I’ll light up some firewood for the real experience, but burning logs has always bothered me. We’re cutting down trees that have been growing for years so we can have some fire for a few hours. Seems like a pretty bad deal (for the trees). At least wood furniture, wood floors, or houses can last for decades or centuries. Fire, well it’s gone in a few hours.

I’ve tried those fake logs (which are pretty much still made of wood and a bunch of chemicals). They don’t do it for me either.

Recently I stumbled across a killer product: the Java Log. It’s a fire “log” made of spent coffee grounds. It turns out that coffee is a significantly more efficient burner than wood too: coffee has about 25% more energy than wood and triple the flame per unit of energy. Futher, Java Logs produce 96% less residue after combustion, 85% less carbon monoxide, 86% less creosote deposits, 31% less particulate matter. Great numbers.

And this product comes with a cool inventor story too:

It was invented in 1998 by Rod Sprules, when one evening at his home, he conducted an experiment where he used dried coffee grounds from his coffee maker filter, combined it with candle wax and then compressed it with a pen into an old cigar tube. It burned so well that he then made prototypes in a loaf pan and gave it to some friends to try … the rest is history! Java-Log was recently awarded patents in North-America and Europe for the invention of clean-burning, high-energy, fuel products comprised of recycled coffee.

So, this product 1, recycles spent coffee grounds and keeps them from ending up in landfills 2, produces far fewer emissions than wood or artificial logs, and 3, saves trees from being cut down for fuel. Great combination.

31 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Dandy 28 Nov 05

Properly managed forestry resources are a valuable, renewable resource that we should not be afraid of using. Net CO2 emissions from firewood are near zero (just cutting and transportation fossil fuel use), as compared to natural gas in-home heating or coal or natural gas fueled power plants.

The soot produced typical home fireplaces can reduce local air quality, making them poor choices for in-city heating, but in rural areas this is not an issue. Rural areas are also where there tends to be plentiful firewood anyway, so it makes sense to use it as a local heating source.

Eventually most wood products will have a finite life, after which is should be burned anyway to get some useful energy out of it instead of just rotting away.

Lanny Heidbreder 28 Nov 05

How do they smell? Do they put a hint of coffee in the air, or are they manipulated to smell like firewood?

Justin Reese 28 Nov 05

How do they smell?

FAQ: Java-Logs have a faint sweet scent arising from the mixture of molasses and coffee. Most people don’t smell anything while others smell a faint sweet coffee aroma - no chemical scent.

Rabbit 28 Nov 05

That’s pretty sweet. And yes, the numbers are *very*nice.

Now all I need is a fireplace. =(

Anonymous Coward 28 Nov 05

I heard this exact same thing was recently patented by Starbucks. Hmm …

Brian 28 Nov 05

Neat idea, but at US$3.50 a pop, I don’t think it’s practical for much more than the occasional decorative fire. I just bought a face-cord of oak and apple, delivered to Lincoln Park for US$179, about a quarter of the cost of Java-Logs. Also, I’m a little skeptical of their claim that it has “about 25% more energy than wood.” What kind of wood? BTU’s/cord vary anywhere from 12.2 to 27.7 depending on the species.

But regardless, my Peoples Energy bills are going to suck this winter.

Lau T. 29 Nov 05

When I grew up, we would always have some wood from the garden. From a tree or a big branch that had to be cut down or fell in a storm or something. And an entire tree equals many hours of fire in a normal fireplace.

Burning a tree that was “dead” anyway might be “greener” than those coffee-branches.

A bad deal for the individual tree? It doesn’t have feelings, let it burn if you like the sound and smell. When I mow a lawn, I cut down small selfplanted spiring trees.

Spending a lot of time in the city people might not think about it, but there are a lot of trees some places. A lot. And in privately owned woods that are used for logging, the owners probably want to plant new trees, that can be sold in the future. And if they don’t plant them, the trees plant themselves.

In school I was told about evil loggers turning rainforrest into desert. I don’t know about that, but in colder climates such as northern europe or northern america, I would ague that cutting down a tree in a forest just makes room for new trees.

Alex Ravenel 29 Nov 05

Neat idea. When they burn, what do they look like? What I mean is, do they burn like a real log, or is it more like a chemical log, in that you can very quickly tell by the way it’s burning that it’s not a real log?

Anyways, we get all our firewood from one of two sources. One, every couple of years we get a nasty ice storm that downs one or two of the many oak trees around. Go cut one up and split it, and you have enough firewood for a couple of years. Or two, the oak dunnage that is used to ship pipes. Untreated white oak, 4”x4”, and it gets thrown out after being used. We have a friend that works at a pipe shipping depot, and we can just show up there with a chainsaw and cut off as many sections of the stuff as we can fit in the car.

Michael Moncur 29 Nov 05

Oddly enough, my wife and I burned one in the fireplace last night.

Smell: None we could detect. It all goes up the chimney of course.

Burn: They burn like a chemical log. Very full flames, lasting longer than a real log would. Few crackles and pops. On the plus side, no sparks.

Price: Ridiculous by firewood standards. You can spend some of your disposable income on being green, but you won’t save money by doing it.

Heat: Low. Definitely not as hot as a wood (or compressed wood) log.

As rarely as we burn wood, though, I’d buy another one. I like the idea of all those coffee grounds doing something useful.

Jesper Rønn-Jensen 29 Nov 05

It’s pretty ironic that when Java finally shows up in this blog, it’s seems very useful. And what’s more: It’s burning Java!

I wonder when Java will show up again in this blog? Burning Java developers;-)

Just kidding. Needed to share this idea in your forum…

RichB 29 Nov 05

Firewood is a renewable resource, unlike natural gas, oil or petroleum.

If you are getting smoke (creosote) off your firewood, then you are burning them very inefficiently - open fires are only 20% efficient (max) and can be negatively efficient!!! Buy a good quality woodburning stove. They are around 80% efficient and shouldn’t produce any smoke once up to temperature (if they do, your wood isn’t seasoned enough).

Stoves with catalytic converters can eliminate the smoke altogether by providing a secondary “burn”.

In addition to the inefficient combustion that smoke is evidence of, you are making yourself more susceptible to chimney fires. The creosote will line the chimney and even soak into the bricks of a brick fireplace. If enough deposits build up and the temperature of the chimney is high enough then a chimney fire will ensue.

As I live in a thatched house I’m very aware of anything which can cause an unexpected fire ;-)

Mark 29 Nov 05

There was an item in the latest issue of DWELL along the same lines. They don’t put the content online, and I don’t have the issue at hand, but it highlighted a few alternatives to consuming fuel or producing carbons.

Damon Clinkscales 29 Nov 05

Jesper: Yeah, I thought that for sure this post was by David.

Darrel 29 Nov 05

Nice Idea. though, as mentioned, trees are a fine fuel if managed properly. Granted, a fireplace isn’t the most efficient heating device.

andrew kueneman 29 Nov 05

i’d like to know how much energy and other resources go into producing one of these logs. if each one is 3.50, then there must be a significant reason to justify that cost. there is no coffee ground recycling program in effect anywhere that I know of. what kind of fuel and electricity costs go into collecting and transporting the grounds? what about the other machinery used in this whole process? Is this just a great busininess idea that attracts energy-conscious individuals with plenty of spare income? Does it really have a net effect on anything? Just questions, not assumptions…

JF 29 Nov 05

Andrew, you may want to ask the company that makes the logs. I’m sure they’d be happy to answer your questions.

brad 29 Nov 05

Pretty significant resources can go into conventional firewood too: it is typically cut down with chainsaws, transported from the woods by tractors, hauled to a storage area by truck, then hauled by truck again to the purchaser.

The air emissions differences between conventional firewood and this “java log” are pretty compelling; burning wood in a fireplace is polluting and some cities have bans against it as it contributes to poor winter air quality. Modern wood stoves with catalytic converters are cleaner of course.

There are ways to get firewood without killing trees: in England there was a longstanding tradition of “coppicing,” where branches of trees were cut off for firewood but the tree was left alive. I’ve always thought there would be a good market for coppiced firewood in the US and Europe, where people could buy firewood without feeling bad about cutting down the trees.

It’s true that forests can be harvested sustainably; what people overlook is that when you cut down a tree you aren’t just killing the tree but also the creatures that called that tree home. I personally have no qualms about burning firewood but I think I’d prefer to harvest the wood myself so I can minimize the collateral damage, as it were.

andrew k 29 Nov 05

Right, I was just posing the kinds of questions that I thought should get asked when considering design solutions like this. I think it’s actually a good idea, and i don’t really need these numbers to support such a well-intentioned product. nor do I think the company would(or should even) be able to calculate them on the spot if I were to ask for them.

shankfactory 29 Nov 05

Wow, when I first read the post, I though you were recommending a log applet. Like the lake applet of old. But a log.

Anonymous Coward 29 Nov 05

Mark, how are “spent coffee grounds” wasted? They are already spent and headed to the landfill.

Mark 29 Nov 05

Coward -

Recycle spent coffee grounds - google it.

andrew 29 Nov 05

Coward -

Coffee grounds go in the compost. Or mulch the garden with them directly. Easy.

mary 01 Dec 05

who wrote these comments

Anonymous Coward 09 Dec 05

me. i did.

G. Bush 09 Dec 05

roses love coffee grounds. Just throw all of your gounds on your rose bushes and they’ll put forth beautiful blooms. If you don’t have a rose bush, get one! If it dies, burn it in your fire place.

kwatson 15 Dec 05

HAVE THE COMPANIES PRODUCING THE JAVA LOGS THOUGHT ABOUT TAKING THIS TECHNOLOGY TO COUNTRIES LIKE KENYA WHERE FUEL IS NEEDED FOR COOKING AND HEATING? THE COFFEE PROCESSING COMPANIES HAVE PILES AND PILES OF LEFT OVER COFFEE BEAN SHELLS AND IF THIS COULD BE USED AS AN ALTERNATE FUEL SOURCE, IT WOULD GREATLY HELP THE ENVIRONMENT.

kwatson 15 Dec 05

HAVE THE COMPANIES PRODUCING THE JAVA LOGS THOUGHT ABOUT TAKING THIS TECHNOLOGY TO COUNTRIES LIKE KENYA WHERE FUEL IS NEEDED FOR COOKING AND HEATING? THE COFFEE PROCESSING COMPANIES HAVE PILES AND PILES OF LEFT OVER COFFEE BEAN SHELLS AND IF THIS COULD BE USED AS AN ALTERNATE FUEL SOURCE, IT WOULD GREATLY HELP THE ENVIRONMENT.

Hershel T. Russell 22 Dec 05

Where can I buy it in Toronto??I’ve used them they rock

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Paul M. Ritchie 28 Apr 06

I have an endless supply of coffee groungs (tonnes) Intrested in talking with you about it Phone # (506) 328-1813 Woodstock New Brunswick, Canada Tx.

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