15 Apr 2014

A New Way to Zoom

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The last year has been filled with meeting EcoZoom customers and learning more about why they think our rocket stoves are great and how we could improve upon them. Over this time we’ve looked for ways to make simple yet effective improvements to our rocket stoves for easier use and increased durability based on the feedback we have received. The upcoming changes to our line of EcoZoom rocket stoves incorporated feedback and testing of our stoves out in the field.

If you’ve ever used an EcoZoom rocket stove you understand the power behind a simple concept. Biomass fuel is fed into the stove, burned within a central combustion chamber, and as a result large amounts of heat are emitted through the top of the rocket stove. By their looks it is apparent that EcoZoom stoves haven’t been dolled up with extra design features to make them appear to be something they are not. They have been designed solely for cooking and as a result are efficient and durable outdoor cooking machines.

While our rocket stoves have stood the test of time when it comes to durability and efficiency we knew that there were improvements that could still be made to our design without drastically overhauling the product. It was imperative that our new design would not affect the performance of our product line. After many conversations and emails from customers along with countless hours of cooking out in the field it became apparent that we could make some simple yet effective changes to our stoves that would allow for increased durability and ease of use.

In the next two weeks EcoZoom will be unveiling its latest outdoor cooking stoves that feature more robust handles and an improved cast iron top. These changes will increase the durability of the stove, make transporting and using our stoves much easier, while inspiring confidence and safety when using the stove. The high performance and efficiency of our rocket stoves will remain unchanged, meaning our second generation of stoves will introduce a more cook-friendly design without having to sacrifice what is most important: Powerful and efficient portable biomass fueled-cooking. Stay on the lookout for our new stoves and new website that will accompany the launch of EcoZoom 2.0.

EcoZoom Versa

The first sneak peak of our new EcoZoom stoves which include an updated sturdy handle and new cast iron top design.

 

Cooking Traditional Foods on an Improved Cookstove

Hear the take of a new “Zoomer”, our intern Wangui Mungai, who last week used the Zoom Jet charcoal stove to cook ugali:

“I joined EcoZoom about two weeks ago, and on hearing all the benefits that the stoves had, I decided to use the stove and see just how well it worked.

I chose ugali a traditional Kenyan dish, which is fairly easy to cook as my test meal for the stove. To cook ugali, one simply adds maize (corn) flour to boiled water with continuous stirring until the mixture becomes firm. This is then traditionally eaten with hands as the staple to any meal.

Ugali even smaller

Traditional Kenyan foods like ugali are easy and tasty on the Zoom Jet charcoal stove

Using about three handfuls of charcoal, I had a fully lit Zoom Jet stove within ten minutes. The water took half of that time to boil, and it took about ten more minutes for the ugali to be ready. All this with no visible smoke, meaning the ugali didn’t smell of smoke as it does with the Jua Kali (traditional) stove we use sometimes at home.

I must say, I am pleased with the EcoZoom stove.  It is not only easy to use, but also very effective!”

Stay tuned as we cook more traditional foods with the stoves and give you cooks’ feedback from the field.

Transform with EcoZoom

Our aim is to feature more efficacy stories as we grow our market, in order to demonstrate how our products are adored and used in the field. We hope this is the first of many. We start with an end-user from Nairobi.

Jackie cooking

Cook Profile

Jackie K.

Aged 38

Mother of four

Lives in Rongai – Nairobi, Kenya

Purchase Date and Location

Jackie purchased her stove in November 2013 direct from EcoZoom. She uses it to cook for her household of 7; her husband, four children and younger brother, who stays with them in their Rongai home.

Reason for Purchase

What first drew her to the EcoZoom stoves, she says, was their beauty. She even wondered if it really used charcoal.

The she learned about the fuel savings and emissions reduction, which really compelled her to buy. Jackie and her son, Kevin, have had breathing difficulties all their lives, and had been greatly affected by the smoke that was produced by the charcoal-stoves they used to use. She would not risk cooking in the presence of Kevin in the fear that it would aggravate his breathing difficulties.

Cooking

Jackie says that the EcoZoom Jet is very effective. “It produces so much heat and if you are not careful, you could burn your food.”  She likes to make typical Kenyan dishes like ugali and sukuma wiki and uses the stove for making tea in the morning and cooking dinner in the evening.

The Transformation

Jackie’s daily expenditure on charcoal has dropped 48%, which, for Jackie, translates to savings of more than 350KSH a month ($4.11). This has reduced the financial strain of fending for her family. More so, Kevin can now cook with the stove without having breathing problems.

‘Kuundwa imeundwa’ – ‘It has truly been built’, are the words Jackie used to show the joy that came with purchasing the EcoZoom stove and the change its had in her life.

- Interview by Kui Mungai.

Out In All Weather with an EcoZoom Versa

EcoZoom Versa rocket stoves are designed to last for 13,000 hours of cooking time – over 2 years end to end cooking!  They resist cooking heat due to their superior refractory linings, construction and insulation. Built for cooking in simple conditions an EcoZoom Versa will last a lifetime and feed many mouths. For most people here in Europe and the US we’re not planning to use our EcoZoom rocket stoves this much. They will get used a lot during warmer months out on the patio, on camping and fishing trips or beachfront picnics – endless possibilities for outside cooking with abundant fuel (and savings on gas). During other times our stoves will be set aside in preparation for the good times – and perhaps ready for use in an emergency.

We recommend that you store your stove in a dry spot such as a shed or sealed in a weather tight container. Eventually metal always loses against moisture – ask anyone with an older car! Here at EcoZoom UK we’re keen to show how resilient our stoves are if left out for an extended period.

We’ve set up a ‘naturalistic’ study using a pristine EcoZoom Versa rocket stove. We will be leaving the Versa out, with basic protection for a whole year at a London roof top location. During the year our stove will be tested through all the seasons. In praise of Mary Poppins who also liked to hang out on London roofs (with the Chimney sweeps) we’ve named our EcoZoom Versa ‘Mary’.

 mary_poppins

Mary will be out in all weather for a whole year come rain or shine.

As you can see the location is exposed and will get blasted by south west winds, sun and frost. We have placed EcoZoom Mary on the upturned stick tray to allow rain to drip away and some air flow under. We’ve placed the pot skirt around the mid riff to protect the doors (and ensure modesty). Our main rain protection is the upturned garden bucket as a hat. A hat is essential when out and about, for a whole year!

We don’t recommend that you imitate this yourself, you should always store your precious stove in dry conditions to ensure it stays good. We are confident that the cooking performance of the EcoZoom Versa will not be affected by this test and we’re looking forward to reporting back in a year when Mary will be back at ground level and cooking up a storm.

versa_mary3

EcoZoom Versa Mary looking lonely on a rooftop in London. We’ll be checking in throughout the year to see how she holds up.

 EcoZoom provides outdoor stoves for outdoor people and this test will show our stoves keep going in the best and worst of conditions.

We’ll keep you posted through the year.

Looking to buy EcoZoom rocket stoves in the UK? Visit www.ecozoom-uk.com

During a recent trip out to visit a customer, we were witness to an outdoor kitchen that relies on wood fuel for the ages

If you head out in any given direction from the city center of our hometown of Portland, OR you will quickly find heavily wooded areas with tall firs looming over head. On recent rainy day we headed out west to the town of Forest Grove to explore a property out in the country set within the very forest of its namesake town.

When we arrived we were greeted by one of our EcoZoom Plancha customers to give us a tour of their property where they tried to live off the resources of their land as much as possible. The property included multiple gardens where they were growing wheat and beans in alternating years, an open area where ducks and chickens roamed, a solid wood bench where beekeeping units were going to be setup later in the year, a covered area where starter seeds were growing, a few buckets of marinating olives, and a yurt that was used as a retreat space. There was plenty more going on at the property but what captured our attention most was the outdoor wood-fueled kitchen.

We’ve all seen different setups for outdoor cooking, most of which involve a barbeque and maybe a few tables for eating. This kitchen was truly unique. It included a homemade charcoal barbeque that was constructed out of a barrel split in half with steel grates installed on the bottom half. There were multiple buckets that had been designed to make their own biochar for their gardens or to make charcoal for cooking. Making us proud, we were happy to see both an EcoZoom Dura rocket stove as well as an EcoZoom Plancha stove. Lastly, the eye catcher of the entire kitchen was a beautiful earth oven that had a dome shaped like a seashell. What all these cooking devices have in common is that they are all fueled by wood and use fuel efficiently.

Earth_Oven_1

The amazing property and outdoor kitchen including marinating olives, garden starters, and the outdoor kitchen

This particular day was a typical soggy spring day in western Oregon, but the entire area was covered so that it could still be used any time of year. The owners of the property spoke of gathering sticks and wood from their property to fuel all of their cooking needs. We knew that the EcoZoom Plancha and EcoZoom Dura use very little wood to cook a lot of food but what was most interesting to us was learning more about the wood-fired earth oven. After a few uses they quickly learned how much wood was needed for baking different recipes and how they could then use the residual heat in the oven for other uses. Just like an EcoZoom rocket stove, the earth oven is an incredibly versatile outdoor cooking machine.

Once a nice fire is built within the earth oven and brought to temperature, any sort of baking can take place: bread, pizzas, or pies. Due to the sturdy cob construction the earth oven retains heat very well and can emit residual heat for a day later. With proper planning, what starts with cooking a pizza, can then lead to baking bread, warming a casserole, and heating up soup – all using heat from the same fire. Even a day or so later the residual heat can be used as a way to dry out vegetables or anything else. The overall efficiency of the earth oven rivals that of our EcoZoom stove and makes for a great centerpiece of any outdoor kitchen…of course with an EcoZoom rocket stove sitting right next to it.

 

Gender inclusion is an EcoZoom priority. Today, we feature one of our female entrepreneurs in honor of International Women’s Day.

Meet Scolastica, a 34-year-old independent sales agent of EcoZoom energy-saving products. Scolastica is a mother of two and lives in Embakasi, Nairobi.

IMG_1743

Scolastica became a “zoomer” in Fall 2013. Previously, she was a cereal vendor, a job which was physically demanding and time consuming. When her 7-month old son mysteriously fell ill, she needed something that would allow her more flexibility to take him to his many doctors’ appointments. Enter EcoZoom.

As a sales agent, Scolastica can speak from experience about the benefits of the Zoom Jet charcoal stove. She personally uses the Jet at home, and has seen fuel savings of 66%. With those savings and the money she earns as an independent entrepreneur, she was able to purchase a microwave and rely less on her husband for expenses. Additionally, Scolastica suffers from asthma, which was aggravated from cooking out in the cold on a stove that wasn’t clean-burning. Despite owning a gas cooker, she prefers using the Jet in order to produce the sought-after traditional flavor of cooking with charcoal.

Scolastica loves the freedom and confidence that comes from successful sales. She is gradually building her business by relentlessly pursuing her goals and talking to everyone she knows about the stoves.

Thanks Scolastica for sharing your story with us and Happy International Women’s Day!

-Photo credit and story assistance from Wangui Mungai.

Camping stoves have long employed the assistance of propane canisters to fuel their fire. While propane stoves do have their benefits, the simplicity of EcoZoom stoves make outdoor cooking a no-brainer.

Going on camping trips requires some methodical planning and packing of gear. If you are going to be cooking while camping, a camp stove and fuel will be needed to keep you fueled for fun out in the great outdoors. Over the past few decades propane stoves have become the de facto type of stoves used in campgrounds, probably because they act like an indoor gas stove which makes them approachable to campers of all types. While propane stoves do offer a familiarity and ease of use for camping, they do have their drawbacks. We might be biased…ok we’re really biased, but here are 5 reasons why our EcoZoom stoves make for a better camping stove than propane stoves:

Propane Burner

  1. The Hiss – If you’ve ever used a propane stove while camping you know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe it’s the end of the day and you are tired, or maybe it’s the crack of dawn and you trying to wake up nice and slow. Either way, you value the peace and quiet of the outdoors…but don’t get used to it. As soon as you fire up your propane stove out comes the loud hissing noise while you cook. Not exactly the peace and quiet you were looking for. EcoZoom stoves aren’t silent, but they do offer a naturally quiet and comforting crackle of burning wood and a light whisp of air flowing through rocket stove.
  2. The Hose – Cooking with a propane stove means you need to connect the propane canister to the stove before using. This doesn’t mean you can just give it a few twists and call it good. An insecure connection isn’t safe and can result in a fire. You also need to ensure that all hoses and connector points are in good working conditions and not leaking. EcoZoom stoves have no connectors or hoses to care for. There is no need to worry about unsafe leaks or explosions, just get your fire started in the combustion chamber and watch it burn slowly and safely.
  3. The Ignitor – Click. Click. Click. Turn off the gas. Click. Click. Click. Sounds like the ignitor switch isn’t doing the job that it was doing on day one. In fact there are multiple components that may be showing wear and tear. Check ‘em all before you use your stove to make sure everything is working properly. The EcoZoom Dura has no moving parts while the EcoZoom Versa just has two doors. EcoZoom stoves are simple products with limited components, but don’t be fooled by this. The simple design leads to big and efficient cooking power.
  4. The Transport – Carrying propane canisters isn’t difficult, but they do need to be protected so they don’t jostle around or come into contact with heat. EcoZoom stoves use wood or charcoal for fuel. Transport as you please!
  5. The Last Gasp - Running out of propane in the middle of cooking is awful. It brings back some funny family memories of Dad realizing that he was out of propane in the middle of burger night. Don’t get caught in this situation, go buy and bring an extra propane canister. EcoZoom stoves use wood, leaves, dried corncobs…or any other type of biomass. Just look around and it’s likely you will never run out of fuel.

 

About the Author:
is an EcoZoom employee and likes to cook outdoors with his EcoZoom rocket stove on camping trips or sunny days. You can email him directly at tom@ecozoomstove.com.

The concept of the rocket stove has been around for decades and the wealth of online information surrounding do-it-yourself designs are vast. Just do a quick Google Image search for “rocket stove plans” and you will have more options than you can shake a stick at. In this blog post we tip our cap to the do-it-yourself rocket stove builders out there.

DIY are three letters that many people live by. When faced with the option of purchasing a new product that is fully built or making it themselves, they almost always choose the latter. Regardless of the reason for doing so, DIY’ers are making a comeback here in the US and around the world. More and more people are choosing to learn skills that provide self-sufficiency around gardening, permaculture, clothing, and construction. With a DIY mentality comes a opportunity to learn new trades, assess what goes into making different products, and measure what you need to survive.

Like other products, rocket stoves can be made at home and can be made in a variety of different designs with a plethora of materials. Here are a few that caught our eye while browsing #rocketstove on Instagram:

Rocket Stove Plans

Mishmash Stove: This type of stove is fairly typical. It doesn’t use just one type of input to build a stove but rather pieces together a variety of things to make a rocket stove. In the example from stumpmeister13 we can see a large tin can used for the body of the stove, a smaller tin can used as the fuel shelf, and a gas range stovetop burner placed on the top of the stove to hold any type of pot or pan.

Barrel Stove: Looking to cook for large groups or even thinking about building a rocket stove mass heater? Then a barrel might be your best friend in constructing a rocket stove. The barrel can allow for a larger central combustion chamber diameter and while also successfully radiating heat through large metal surface area encompassing the heat source. southerntextiles built a fabulous barrel rocket stove that fit a large pot for cooking.

Brick Stove: This is a classic design that can be found across the web and is popular based on its simplicity. All one needs to do is round up a few bricks, assemble them so that there is a way for fuel to be fed into a central combustion chamber and voila! grivs photo on Instagram shows this classic design while cooking with a cast iron pan.

Popcorn Tin Stove: Reusing things you might otherwise throw out is a great way to lessen our impact on landfills and natural resources. cheyannapeterson re-used an empty popcorn tin to build a rocket stove. Much like our EcoZoom stoves, it features a number of prongs for setting your pot or pan on the stove while still allowing airflow through the combustion chamber. It even appears that there may be a layer of insulation between the combustion chamber and outer body of the stove.

In our book, any type of rocket stove is a good rocket stove. As mentioned earlier, we tip our cap to all those DIY’ers out there making things happen by rolling up their sleeves and doing what it takes to make what they need. Of course, we here at EcoZoom are a slightly biased towards our stoves. The value built into our EcoZoom commercially fabricated rocket stoves is durability and efficiency. The fully insulated body and cast iron top mean that your EcoZoom will continue to hold up over thousands of hours of use, and the highly tested dimensions and specifications mean ultimate efficiency.

 

About the Author:
is an EcoZoom employee and likes to cook outdoors with his EcoZoom rocket stove on camping trips or sunny days. You can email him directly at tom@ecozoomstove.com.

08 Feb 2014

Cooking Outside in Winter

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It doesn’t happen very often, but every few years a real winter mix hits the streets of Portland, Oregon. This is one of those years. Lucky for us, it gave us a chance to test our EcoZoom Versa Lite rocket stove in a few inches of snow.

A good outdoor stove should be able to be used in a variety of situations while still performing well. Not having to worry about whether your stove will work in a given situation removes a lot of stress from any preparedness scenario. With a rare blanket of snow on the ground, we decided to take our EcoZoom Versa Lite outside to see how it performs in inclement conditions.

We started by placing our stove in roughly 2-3 inches of snow and decided to cook with wood. First we opened both the top and the bottom door and dug away the snow a bit from the bottom door so that we could maximize airflow that might otherwise be blocked by snow. Next we placed half of an EcoZoom Ignite Disc in the stove and lit it. The starter disc ignited quickly and soon was providing a strong flame. This is where things became interesting.

We purposely didn’t bring out any dry wood but instead gathered a few pieces of wood that had been used as stakes in the ground for a nearby garden. The stakes had been out in the elements for months and were firmly rooted in a snow covered ground. We pulled out two of them, shook off the snow and placed the most dry end in the stove on top of the burning Ignite Disc. Like any wet wood, there was some crackling and popping with some extra smoke but before long the wood was burning nicely. As it burned we continued to push in the sticks where more wet wood entered the combustion chamber. The wet wood still burned but again with some crackling.

Winter Versa

Even some damp wood eventually heated up and burned nicely after using an EcoZoom Ignite Disc to start our fire.

As the Versa Lite continued to burn our sticks we couldn’t help but notice that the snow around the base of the stove was not melting away. When we touched the sides of the stove, it was cold to the touch. The outside temperatures were around 25 degrees and the insulation of the stove was helping keep the combustion chamber hot while allowing the stove to not lose excess heat through its body. As any good insulation, what we wanted to stay warm was warm and what we wanted to keep cool remained cool.

While our sticks continued to burn in the combustion chamber a light amount of snow was falling. Each flake that came into contact with the cast iron top immediately melted, but those flakes that made their way into the combustion chamber did weaken the flames a bit. This problem was easily solved once we put our pot on top of the stove which stymied snowflakes from falling directly into the combustion chamber. Once we did place our pot on the stove, the strength of the flames given our level of fuel was up to normal standards.

One thing worth noting is that if you are going to be cooking outside during the winter months with your EcoZoom or taking your EcoZoom on winter camping trips, it will take longer to boil water or heat up pots or pans simply due to the outside air temperatures. This is an element of cooking outside in the cold that is inevitable no matter what type of stove you are using. This means that you will likely need a little more fuel than normal compared to cooking on a sunny day.

Bringing our EcoZoom Versa Lite out into the snow was a really fun experience. One of the biggest takeaways from the experiment was that the EcoZoom Ignite Discs are very valuable to have. They are water resistant and can be stored for years without having their performance affected. It makes lighting your EcoZoom stove a breeze and they provide a strong burn for up to 20 minutes. What is even better is that they proved to be able to ignite wood and sticks that were somewhat wet by providing a consistent burn that eventually dries out wet wood enough to ignite itself.

Once again the EcoZoom rocket stove proved its versatility in any condition. They make for great stoves for camping, emergency preparedness, winter or summer cabins, or just for some fun cooking on your patio.

 

About the Author:
is an EcoZoom employee and likes to cook outdoors with his EcoZoom rocket stove on camping trips or sunny days. You can email him directly at tom@ecozoomstove.com.

We’ve tried a lot of different methods of cooking on EcoZoom rocket stoves: Searing, boiling, frying, grilling, roasting, and stewing to name just a few. If you have a favorite way of cooking, chances are you can do it on an EcoZoom stove. Most recently we tried steam cooking on a SteamVita.

Eating steamed food was not one of my favorite foods as a kid. Most of the time eating something steamed meant that it was vegetables and the vegetables of choice were usually broccoli, spinach, or asparagus. It’s not that they disgusted me, I would just rather just fill up more on grilled cheese or popcorn. Nowadays I’m a bit more concerned with my health and actually like the taste of fresh vegetables so steaming up some vegetables on my EcoZoom rocket stove on a new cooking apparatus was exciting. For the record, I still really like grilled cheese and popcorn.

I recently learned of the SteamVita and had a chance to try out the smallest version that they sell. It is a simple yet effective little unit for steaming foods of all different types. Vegetables are the obvious choice, but with a little research I quickly learned that all types of dishes can be cooked up using a steamer. The SteamVita has a bottom pan that you put a little water in while nesting a second pot that has a perforated bottom to allow steam to pass through. Finally a lid is securely fasted on top of the unit.

SteamVita_EcoZoom

The EcoZoom rocket stove and SteamVita steamer prior to cooking. Water pot for boiling and brussel sprouts in the steamer pot.

First things first, we lit a few briquettes of charcoal in our EcoZoom Versa Lite rocket stove and allowed them to burn hot until we had a nice set of coals in the combustion chamber. Next we placed a few brussel sprouts in the steamer along with some onions, fastened the top, and placed the unit on top of our EcoZoom. The unit fit perfectly on the stove and had the small amount of water boiling within minutes. After roughly 15 minutes we removed the lid to find perfectly steamed brussel sprouts.

The SteamVita was easy to use and makes for a great cooking companion with an EcoZoom rocket stove. It’s stainless steel and built to last, fits perfectly on an EcoZoom stove, is lightweight and compact while still offering plenty of cooking room, and comes with a handy set of tongs for picking up the different pans you are cooking with so you don’t burn your digits. It would make for a really nice camping stove companion so that you can still eat like a king while sleeping under the stars, yet not take up a lot of space in your camping kit. Lastly, the SteamVita not only works as a steamer, but the steaming pan can be placed directly on top of our EcoZoom stove and be used for cooking over an open flame. More to come on that with a future blog post…

SteamVita_EcoZoom_2The SteamVita fully fastened and placed on our EcoZoom stove resulted in some nicely steamed brussel sprouts in 15 minutes.

If you haven’t tried steaming food recently, give it a try on an EcoZoom rocket stove. It’s an easy way to cook and helps retain the nutrients in the food that you eat. Try adding different spices and or fruit juices to add zest and flavor to your favorite foods.

 

About the Author:
is an EcoZoom employee and likes to cook outdoors with his EcoZoom rocket stove on camping trips or sunny days. You can email him directly at tom@ecozoomstove.com.


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