Each year, 20 million pounds of coffee grounds are deposited into landfills. But the Jarden Corp. has found a way to keep grounds out of trash mounds and put them to good use. The Java-Log combines recycled coffee grounds and natural wax in a fire log designed to not only reduce landfill waste, but also serve as an eco-friendly alternative to real wood.
Jarden claims that the Java-Log produces 70 percent to 80 percent fewer emissions than a real wood log, and it has other ecological benefits as well. When people bring real wood into a campsite, they can introduce harmful insects, such as the emerald ash borer. According to a Jarden press release: "The U.S. Forest Service says transporting firewood lets tree-killing insects hitch a ride into the woods. These insects cause about $120 million in damage, lost revenue and prevention expenses each year."
About the size of a Duraflame log, the 5-pound Java Log we tested did an OK job, burning about three and a half hours, and eventually producing a good flame. But there were challenges. We had to re-light the log once, and it took some time for the log to create sufficient heat to warm our legs when we sat close. Plus, we had to deviate from the manufacturer's instructions to keep it fired up.
The log is packaged in paper that has printed instructions, words of caution and the seal of approval from the Chimney Safety Institute of America. (Who knew such an organization existed? Learn something new every day.) The packaging also claimed that the Java-Log produces "Crackling Sound! Illustrious Flame!"
While Java-Log press materials suggest that it's a substitute for other campfire wood, the instructions only described how to use the log in a fireplace, noting that it should never be used without a grate. The instructions also said that you should never add anything to the Java-Log (we assume this means paper, wood or other fuel), and you should never use more than one log at a time. Of course, this does not match up well with the conditions you'll face when using a campsite fire ring. For example, there is often no grate available. And, if you have a group that wants to sit around a roaring fire, well one Java-Log won't do the job.
Nevertheless, we wanted to test the Java-Log in real-world camping conditions, so we placed a single log directly on the ground in a shallow fire ring pit.
The paper covering the log had a long, wide flap with red arrows printed on each end and the center of the flap. We followed the instructions, putting a flame to each arrow. The paper burned quickly, though it only ignited one end of the log. Within seven minutes, that end was burning well, and we got our promised crackling sounds. After 30 minutes, one half of the log had bright yellow flames at one end and covering half of the top of the log. Because most people will go ahead and light the opposite end to speed things along, we did the same.
Our initial concern was that the log would smell like burned coffee. However, that wasn't the case at all. It put off a non-offensive, earthy odor, and one tester even commented that it smelled sort of like ham. (This opinion was not unanimous, and noses vary. But the general consensus was that the log didn't stink at all.)
Unfortunately, after about an hour and half, the log's flames died out. Granted, we had done nothing during this time period to stoke the fire. To get the log going again, we first put a match to it, but no dice. OK, so now it was time to break the rules. We used some newspaper to re-light the log, which almost worked, but did not cause the log to completely catch fire again. Next, we cut into the log with a knife, crumbling portions of the surface, and added more paper, which did the trick. Also, we used a stick to lift the log off the ground a bit to allow air to flow around it.
For the next hour and 20 minutes the log burned well, growing progressively hotter as it broke down into a crumbled mass. As we sat near the fire ring, we could feel a good amount of heat on our legs.
At the three-hour mark, the log's flames and heat began to decrease, and 40 minutes later, we declared the log dead. What remained was a slightly smoldering mound of coffee grounds, which seemed like pretty clean leftovers for a campfire. We did notice that little "embers" popped out of the mass and hit the surrounding ground, so it's important to treat this like any fire source, never leaving it untended, and thoroughly extinguishing it before going to sleep.
We were bummed that we had to re-light the log, and it did take quite a while to produce significant warmth. Plus, you are resigned to having a small or modest fire if you follow the instructions and use only one log at a time. The main issue was that we had to break a couple of rules -- adding other fuel and breaking up the log's surface -- to keep it going. Jarden needs to focus some attention on improving the Java-Log's performance in the field and providing instructions on using the product beyond a fireplace. Still, it's a good concept. We like its clever use of coffee grounds and appreciate that it diverts waste from landfills.
SNEWS® Rating: 3 hands clapping (1 to 5 hands clapping possible, with 5 clapping hands representing functional and design perfection)
Suggested Retail: 5-pound log $3.49 ($18.99 for a case of six); 3-pound log $1.99 ($11.20 for a case of six)
For more information: www.java-log.com