Introduction: Fire Starter From Used Coffee Grounds

Nothing’s a bigger bummer on a camping trip than to run out of kindling and still have no fire. Let’s face it, if you’re camping anywhere they’ll let you have a fire, chances are the wood you’ll find is so wet you’ll need magic fire starting skills, gasoline, or a little help from ingenuity to get things going. Fire skills take a long time to learn and aren’t particularly reliable. Gasoline is dangerous. Let’s focus on ingenuity.

This fire starter uses old egg cartons, used coffee grounds, used coffee filters, matches, and paraffin wax to make some long burning, energy dense fire starters sure to get any fire going without the fear of singing eyebrows. I suppose any sort of biomass would work in place of the coffee grounds so long as it's flammable. Dryer lint is a great option. I suppose one could try old tea leaves or even old tea bags, but I can't imagine those would smell as good on fire as coffee grounds.

When you want to use these, you just cut off as many as you think you'll need, light them up under your wood pile, and you'll be well upon your way to roasting marshmallows. 

These burn for about 15 minutes. Below is a video I took of one burning, but I cut it down to about 2 minutes for the sake of sanity.

Step 1: Collect and Dry Your Material

Coffee Grounds, as you’re probably well aware, come out of the coffee maker sopping wet, so obviously they’re not flammable quite yet. But you may not be aware that they are quite flammable when dry. Simply collect them on a piece of newspaper and lay them out to dry. Make sure you don’t store wet grounds in a clump somewhere as they will mold quite quickly if left moist.

After collecting a few days’ worth of grounds, spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake them either in full sunlight, an oven set for 250 degrees, or a food dehydrator. If you use an oven, make sure you open the door periodically to let moisture out. If you use sun, don’t do it on a humid day. The point is to get as much moisture out of the grounds as possible.

Make sure you save the filters and dry those out as well, you'll be using them later.

Step 2: Place Grounds in Egg Carton

After making sure the grounds are as dry as possible, roll op the newspaper and funnel the grounds into the egg carton. Pretty straightforward.

Step 3: Add Matches and Coffee Filters

You'll need a wicking surface to catch the flame and get the fire starter going, and that's where the coffee filters come in handy. Tear them into little pieces, twist, and stick 'em in the egg cups. I also put matches in just for good measure and added assurance.

Step 4: Melt the Wax, Pour It On

Be very, very careful when melting wax not to overheat the wax. Also, don't do this inside without a double boiler. I have seen what happens when paraffin boils, and it is not pretty! Suffice it to say that once boiling, the gaseous paraffin is quite flammable, and flames go spurting in all directions and you'll be too busy running away to figure out how to manage the conflagration. 

So, carefully melt the wax, making sure it doesn't smoke or boil! Small flames.

Next, pour the wax as evenly as possible into the egg cups. Try to focus on one at a time. Also, I discovered that coffee grounds soak up A LOT more wax than you'd think. It took three of those little rectangular blocks before those grounds got their fill. This is a good thing, it means these fire starters are storing a lot of BTU's in those grounds. This will ensure that fire gets going!

Step 5: Let It Cool, Cut One Out, Light on Fire

Let it cool down. If there are loose grounds after it cools, melt some more wax and pour it on to hold them in place. When you need to start a fire, cut these apart one egg cup at a time and use them as you see fit.