Work Update

[JAN 19] [FUEL TIMOR] Work Update: From Coffee to Bamboo Briquettes

Hannah Moeda
Hannah Moeda | 2 months ago | in Sustainable Fuel Consulting

The Fuel Team in Timor Leste has been testing potential biomass options for briquettes following December’s decision to focus on coffee husk, coconut husk and bamboo sawdust waste. Recent events have made this decision significantly easy to understand, due to the difficulty of making coffee and coconut briquettes as well as a partnership that enables us to produce bamboo briquettes at a larger scale.


We began the month testing the capability of coffee husks by following a sawdust, carbonised coffee husk and cornstarch recipe as outlined from the December tea,. After making two batches of briquettes with differing corn starch quantities and consequently differing results, we proceeded with burning tests to compare ignition times, heat produced and total burn length. Both coffee husk briquettes failed to ignite or burn successfully and the carbonisation process took 20+ hours. Due to these unsatisfactory results, the decision was made not to pursue the coffee husk briquette despite the large amount of coffee husks available in Timor. If the coffee husk ingredient can be incorporated in to our bamboo briquette solution (outlined below) further experimentation is still viable.


The coconut biomass briquettes involved longer preparation time as we were required to collect coconuts and sun dry out the husks. After five days and once we had surmised them to be sufficiently dried, the husks were cut down, shredded and put through the carbonisation process. We found this drying process to be lengthy and reducing the husk waste by hand to be inefficient when considering the bulk quantity of briquettes required. Due to the high moisture content still remaining in the coconut waste, the carbonisation process failed and we did not reach the ignition stage of our testing. We concluded that this was due to the green coconut variety used instead of the less abundant, drier brown coconut variety. The decision was made not to proceed with the coconut husk option as sourcing and carbonising enough husks would be too time intensive.


A meeting with a government funded social enterprise called the Bamboo Institute which was created in collaboration with UNIDO to foster a bamboo industry in Timor Leste. Since two of their foundational beliefs are sustainability and environmentalism, the institute invested in a bamboo sawdust briquette product so they could create a closed loop in their supply chain and recycle their waste. In Dili, they present the only other briquette available on the market in the form of a compacted bamboo sawdust log distributed in bulk to restaurants and hotels for 20c per kilo. They manufacture them for only 12c per kilo using an industrial pressing machine. After going on a tour of the facility and understanding more about their goals as an organisation, it became clear that there was room for a mutually beneficial partnership. Since the briquette product is a side project of the Bamboo Institute’s work, they were very willing for us to test and improve their briquettes capabilities and then to expand their market to individual sales. With the addition of their industrial briquette press machine, the scope we have to produce quality briquettes in bulk significantly increases. The machine functions by compressing bamboo sawdust through an extruder and heat sealing in to logs, eliminating the need to add binder or accelerant ingredients. Further to this, the Institute has given us provisional access to their Timor wide regional network to potentially distribute our stoves in the future.  

Although the test briquettes took 7.5 minutes to ignite over constant direct flame, it maintained flames for over 20 minutes and reached temperatures of over 500 degrees celsius, enough to buckle average aluminium cooking pots. Due to the arrangement we have reached with the Institute as well as the full access we have to their briquette press, we have autonomy to improve these burning properties at little cost to ourselves.


Taking into account the ease of availability and assembly of the bamboo sawdust biomass option in Dili, the most logical direction for us to head in is to continue with the Bamboo Institute partnership. This arrangement provides the most efficient solution to mass producing briquettes for distribution, will ensure a near monopoly on briquettes in the Dili market and has the flexibility for us to improve the existing product by incorporating other ingredients like paper or coffee husks to improve ignition times and reduce the heat produced. The tests outlined in an earlier experiment ( will still be undertaken, however it will only be a comparison of various bamboo briquette recipes to firewood.

edited on 27th January 2019, 12:01 by Hannah Moeda

Fiona Aaron 2 months ago

Could you please expand on the network the Bamboo Institute has given you provisional access to? What does that look like and what are the benefits of it?

Also, what's the distribution plan for the briquettes? Selling them alongside the stoves?
For how much? Where will they be stored and how many can be made at once at the Bamboo Institute? What number of stove sales do you need to justify this process with the Bamboo Institute?

Or is the purpose of the partnership purely the network they have? Some clarity would be great, thanks!

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Andrew Vild 2 months ago

I have a basic understanding of this. It would be good to cement details or see a distribution plan/map of the spread of the farmer network.

I'll check back in a day or so and throw my thoughts down if nothing comes through.

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Hannah Moeda 2 months ago

Thanks Fiona! Whilst in the meeting our contact at the Bamboo Institute mentioned access to their cross-district network of bamboo farmers and furniture stockists in Timor in exchange for us improving the quality of their briquettes and helping to expand their market to individual sales. He also mentioned exploring the idea of cross promoting the PE Ventures brand once the stove was in production. I say provisional as these possibilities were suggested by one of their team when we brought up the partnership, but formalised terms are yet to be agreed on.

Your other questions are excellent and will need to be answered in full by the February teams but I can answer them in part.

The distribution plan for the briquettes is yet to be determined, but at this stage we were thinking of selling them alongside the stoves and then perhaps exploring subscription services for continued briquette supply as well as making them more readily available in 1 or 2 kilogram packs at supermarkets or hardware stores where the stoves may also be stocked.

We have positively price tested the briquettes at $1 per kilo. Further testing would be required to see how long/how many 'uses' a single briquette could provide since the current market is familiar with prices of 25c per bundle of wood which lasts one single 'use'.

Storage facilities (and transport) are also yet to be researched but I am assuming an arrangement could be made with the Bamboo Institute to expand their existing briquette storage at their facility in Tibar which is approx. 45 minutes away from the PE Ventures base when we are in country.

The industrial machine extrudes logs up to approximately 1 metre in length that can be cut in to differing sizes. Further information about the machine’s production capability will need to be gathered later.

Your question regarding quantities of stoves sold will require further research. From the market data we gathered and the knowledge that the Timorese government have recently banned the cutting down of trees for firewood fuel, we determined the briquettes are a viable solution in and of themselves so the purpose of the partnership would be access to their briquette product, briquette press as well as their network. Without purchasing an expensive machine, we would not be able to produce marketable quantities of briquettes ourselves.

I hope this has been able to address some of your queries. Let me know if I’ve missed anything. Thanks

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Rose Gooding 2 months ago

Status label added: Work Update

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