How to Make Charcoal Briquettes: Ingredients and Composition

Make Reasonable Income Selling Charcoal Briquettes

Making fuel briquettes is a tedious and messy work not suitable for everyone. If you are one of those people seeking high-paying dirty jobs, then, you may consider making charcoal briquettes to sell to your neighborhood. The demand for briquettes is there and there is money to be made. Once the charcoal briquettes have been made, they are cleaner and smokeless than the lump charcoal; - that is the reason many people like them. You will save a lot of your money by making fuel briquettes for use in your home and in addition you should be able to make a reasonable income by selling excess briquettes to other people in your city.

The messy part in making charcoal briquettes is in crushing and mixing charcoal dust as detailed in the article How to Make Fuel Briquettes – Charcoal Dust – Carbonization and Pyrolysis of Biomass.

Defining Briquettes

A briquette is a block of compressed coal dust, charcoal dust, sawdust, wood chips or biomass, and is used as a fuel in stoves and boilers. Charcoal is not like clay. Charcoal is a material without plasticity and can not be mold into shape without adding a binding material. To form charcoal dust into briquettes, an agglomerating material is added to the charcoal dust and then pressure is applied to the mixture to form a briquette.

How to Make Charcoal Briquettes - Charcoal Briquettes Burning. Image credit:DryPot, Wikimedia Commons.
How to Make Charcoal Briquettes - Charcoal Briquettes Burning. Image credit:DryPot, Wikimedia Commons. | Source

Charcoal Briquette Ingredients and Composition

The ingredients of charcoal briquettes will usually fall under the following:

  1. Heat fuel - wood charcoal, charcoal fines, mineral carbon, coal, biomass, etc.
  2. Burning speed – sodium nitrate and waxes. Sawdust can also be used.
  3. White Ash Color - Calcium carbonate, lime or limestone
  4. Binder – starch. Cement, kaolin, ball clay can also be used
  5. Press release – use borax
  6. Filler – for adulteration use silica, clay, soil, etc

Heat Fuel

This is what provides the energy. The higher the percentage of heat fuel materials, the better the briquette. Try to get about 90% of heat fuel material for good briquettes that will give you more fire. Get materials that will emit less ash – for example, very fine charcoal fines may have come from tree leaves and have a lot of dust and soil in them and will give more ashes. Larger fines are very good and you just need crush them to appropriate size. You can use wood charcoal, charcoal fines, mineral carbon, coal, biomass as heat fuel material.


The materials used are chemical nitrates especially sodium nitrate. Keep off potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate for they are dangerous. In fact, you should not use nitrates unless you are a professional. To start with, nitrates are used in making fertilizers and can be expensive in many countries. In India, a kilogram of sodium nitrate is currently costing US$1.00 ex-works and since you need about 3 – 4% in your briquettes, this will translate to a lot of money such that your briquettes may not be priced well to compete with lump charcoal. However, it’s important to note that the nitrates are fuel energy that will also provide heat. If you are targeting high end markets like USA, go ahead and use sodium nitrate as an accelerant in your briquettes for that market is willing to pay more for quality. If you are targeting low end markets in developing countries, forget about sodium nitrate. Instead, use sawdust as accelerant. Use about 10 – 20% of sawdust but remember that un-carbonized sawdust will make your briquettes emit a lot of smoke. To reduce the smoke from sawdust, just partly ferment your sawdust for about five days by just letting the sawdust stay in water for 5 days. Alternatively, you will need to carbonize your briquettes after you have made them.

Briquettes will need accelerants to burn faster unlike lump charcoal because there is a difference in the structure of briquettes from that of lump charcoal due to compaction. As a result, briquettes are not able to absorb sufficient oxygen for faster combustion. Nitrates are oxidants and when heated, they give out oxygen for accelerated combustion of briquettes.

White Ashes

White ash color is very appealing in briquettes. It’s like it stands for quality. When you lit your briquettes in a stove, you need to know when they are ready. This is done by observing that the burning briquettes have turned white. You can only see the white ashes if your briquettes contains sufficient calcium carbonate, lime or limestone. A 2 -3% whiting, lime, limestone or calcium carbonate is sufficient. Whiting, lime, limestone or calcium carbonate have in the past been very cheap products but with the rising fuel prices, the cost of transporting the products have become high. It is because of this that in developing countries they may have to do with charcoal briquettes of whatever ash color. Whiting, lime, limestone or calcium carbonate are not heat fuels but they can lower the burning rate such that the briquettes burns for a longer period but at a reduced fire.

Briquette Binders

Charcoal is a material without plasticity and charcoal dust can not hold into shape without adding a binding material. The best bidder of all times has been proven to be starch. Any starch will do but preferably from cassava. Cassava starch is preferred because cassava tuber and chips are very cheap, the tubers are as good as starch due to high starch content, cassava is easily available to the low income societies, and that the societies still consider cassava as a poor man’s food only lying idle in farms waiting to be used just incase there is drought and food shortage. Corn starch (maize starch), wheat starch, maize flour, wheat flour and potatoes starch can also be used. These are foods and it can be difficult to make sense to a poor man that what he may consider as a delicacy should be used by him to make charcoal briquettes. In any case, the world does not want us to ‘destroy’ our foods in make charcoal briquettes, but then on the other hand, a packet of maize flour is of little value if you can not have fire to prepare the meal.

To use the starch as a bidder, you need to gelatinize the starch. Starch gelatinization is just breaking down the intermolecular bonds of starch molecules in hot water to form a thick paste that will stick the charcoal dust together. In simpler language: just use your starch or flour to make porridge and then use the sticky porridge to stick the charcoal dust or fines together.

A bidder has to be used – there is no shortcut unless you wish to use lignin from biomass material by pressing your briquette material using a high pressure briquette pressing machine.

Starch can be expensive. It can cost a dollar per kilogram. You will need about 5 – 7% starch to make briquettes. A 45 kilogram bag of charcoal fines will need 2 – 3 kilograms of starch which will cost you 2 to 3 dollars. 2 to 3 dollars is a lot of money when you reflect on the fact that a 45 kilograms bag of charcoal in developing countries costs about 10 dollars.

Another good bidder is gum Arabic or acacia gum which is harvested from acacia tree. Acacia tree is very common in semi arid areas especially in Africa Sahel and in particular Senegal, Sudan, Somalia, etc. A kilogram of high quality gum Arabic is costing $2 ex-works in Kenya. If you are to use 5% gum Arabic for your charcoal briquettes, then, this is not cheap either.

Mashed newsprint/waste paper pulp is also a good binder. Other bidders such molasses, cement, clay and tar can be used but the resulting briquettes are not the best.

Press Release

Borax or sodium borate is the chemical to use so that when your charcoal paste is pressed to form a block of briquette, the briquette releases itself from the press. This is only necessary if you are using a high speed and high pressure briquette making machine. If you are using simple press/manual press, this is not necessary. Sodium borate is that chemical that is used in making detergents, cosmetics, buffer solutions, fire retardants, anti-fungal compounds, insecticide, as a flux in metallurgy, as texturing agent in cooking, as well as in enamel glazes. Since borax is used as a texturing agent in cooking, it is assumed to be safe for your barbecue BBQ briquettes?


Fillers are substances added to briquettes which add no energy value. Fillers’ value is just to increase the weight, density or volume of the briquettes so that the users/buyers may think they are getting a good value for their money. It is a form of adulteration and only adds ash content. If you feel that lump charcoal is a big challenge in terms of price to your charcoal briquettes, just add some filler to your charcoal briquettes and then lower your prices. Fillers must be cheaper than the charcoal fines/dust you are using. Unfortunately there are very few materials that are cheaper than charcoal or charcoal fines. Cement can be used as filler but it is now expensive than charcoal, clay is cheap but if there is huge transport cost involved to transport it to the site where you are manufacturing your briquettes, then you can rule it out. Sandy soil can be ideal as filler since it’s very common in most places. It is said fillers can prolong the burning period of briquettes but then briquettes with too much filler will be of poor quality.

1. Recipes for Making Charcoal Briquettes

i) 10 kg charcoal dust/fines

ii) 0.3 kg cassava starch

2. Recipes for Making Charcoal Briquettes

i) 40 kg charcoal dust/fines

ii) 4 kg sawdust

iii) 2.5 starch

iv) 1 kg calcium carbonate

3. Recipes for Making Charcoal Briquettes

i) 100 kg charcoal dust/fines

ii) 3 kg sodium nitrate

iii) 3 kg sodium borate

iv) 2 kg calcium carbonate/whiting

v) 7 kg wheat starch

4. Recipes for Making Charcoal Briquettes

i) 10 kg charcoal dust/fines

ii) 5 kg saw dust

iii) 1 kg cassava starch

iv) 0.5 kg limestone

5. Recipes for Making Charcoal Briquettes

i) 10 kg charcoal dust/fines

ii) 5 kg saw dust

iii) 0.5 kg cassava starch

iv) 0.5 kg limestone

v) 5 kg sandy soil

6. Recipes for Making Charcoal Briquettes

i) 10 kg charcoal dust/fines

ii) 5 kg saw dust

iii) 1 kg mashed newsprint/pulp

The best recipe for making charcoal briquettes is the one that work for you. Test different recipes again and again, and when you get the one that work for you, don’t let it go.

Briquette Ash Content

Ash content is the percentage of the ratio of weight of ashes after the briquette has burnt completely to weight of briquette before they are burnt.

Example No 1:

1. Weight of lump charcoal in a 2 liters can = 600 grams

2. Weight of ashes from 1 above after complete burn = 15 grams

Ash content of the lump charcoal = 15/600 X 100% = 2.5%

Example No 2:

1. Weight of lump charcoal in a 2 liters can = 1.5 kilograms

2. Weight of ashes from 1 above after a complete burn = 37.5 grams

Ash content of the Charcoal briquettes = 37.5/1500 X 100% = 2.5%

A two liters can of lump charcoal produces 15 grams of ashes and the same can of charcoal briquettes produces 37.5 grams of ashes and we say the ash content is the same. Why? This is because charcoal briquettes are more compact and has a higher density. The average density of lump charcoal is about 0.4 g/cm³ whilst the average density of quality briquettes is about 1 g/cm³.

Ashes - Charcoal Briquettes and Lump Charcoal

Many people believe charcoal briquettes have more ashes than lump charcoal. This is mostly due to the fact that the weight of charcoal briquettes your stove can hold can be as much as three times the weight of lump charcoal the same stove can hold.

If we can have extra ashes to quantify for the briquettes, this should come from the dirt that is contained in charcoal fines used in making the briquettes, the amount of incombustible fillers added to briquettes, and the fact that most of charcoal dust/fines comes from the weak charcoal (from leaves).

Charcoal Briquettes Burn Slowly

Many people believe that charcoal briquettes burn slowly and are less hot than lump charcoal. This is due to the fact that lump charcoal has a bigger surface area than briquettes and therefore has a bigger ability to provide more oxygen for faster combustion. Making briquettes is labor intensive and due to this most briquettes are made of blocks with bigger sizes than lump charcoal. If you find your briquettes are not burning as fast as you would want them, try breaking them into smaller sizes. Sizes of briquettes in the range of 1”x1”x1” will burn faster but whom do you think will have the time to make such small sizes of briquettes? Fortunately, there are briquettes making machines that can make briquettes of any size. A good briquette making machines can cost $6000 ex-works in China.

In the next article, we shall discuss how to make charcoal briquettes from 100% sawdust without using/adding a binder.

If you would like to learn How to Make a Simple Briquette Press, you can check it here.

More by this Author

Comments 35 comments

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

A very interesting and comprehensive hub. Well written.

Srihari Ratnam 4 years ago

Very interesting and informative. Good job

alex 4 years ago

thanks very interesting, anyway

Mir Alex 4 years ago

Its very informative topic. I wonder if you can guide me about how to use the wood crush (which we can find on carpenter shop floor) for burning in fireplace.Can we make small biscuits or small cylinderical shape which we could use in fireplace. Plz reply me to my email address

ngureco profile image

ngureco 4 years ago Author

Hi Alex,

You will need to read the article:

V.Bala 4 years ago

Tks for the comprehensive information.I would like to know at what temperature charcoal briquettes has to be heated to reduce the moisture to less than 14%. What kind of heating equipment is preferred to manufacture 15Mt of Charcoal briquette per day.

Anil K. Pareek 3 years ago

I am working on this project from last 6 months here in India. Thanks to you , today I got lot of informations.

But my problem is I am using 6% starch even then while burning the briquettes turn in to powder when the user shake it to remove upper layer of ash.

charbel 3 years ago

Its very informative topic . I have a question : how much borax should I use? Thank you.

havdrup 3 years ago

Nice job,

Could the binder starch be mixed in dry, and then just add hot water to the dry mix of charcoal filler and starch?

ngureco profile image

ngureco 3 years ago Author


The answer is, "No". Cold water does not affect starch. Boiling water (at plus 80˚C) is absorbed by the starch grains, causing the starch to swell and burst, and form a thick, sticky mass, which when cold is glue (as in Porridge).

andre 2 years ago

Wonderful info. So informative and detailed to the required point. Am so grateful.

Johan 2 years ago

Can I make briquette out of pine shavings .


victor 23 months ago

dear sir / madam

good day to you

i am looking for a formula booklet on how to manufacture white coal / briqettes


Johan 21 months ago

Can I make briquette out of pine chavings , if I can what is the formulae , can sombody help.



magdaline mwangi 21 months ago

The product is very good I need more information on how to make them using wood husk and sawdust here in Kenya.

zainal 10 months ago

nice information, the quantity of whitening and binder causing more ash, how to solve that, i try few time and i got more than 4% of ashes, i am using coconut charcoal



Morgan 5 months ago

Hi there,

First thank you so much for the information its very useful.

I want to ask plz what is the percentage of Borax if i want to add it to the mix for press release ?

ngureco profile image

ngureco 5 months ago Author

Hi Morgan,

2 - 3 percent. But you have to test as the best mixture is the one that works well for you.

Morgan 5 months ago

Thank you so much for your soonest reply ngureco :)

I want to ask you another question please all the recipes you wrote here u didnt say how many litres of water should we add to the mix and which is better boiling, warm or room temp water ? for example if im sticking to recipe no. 3

ngureco profile image

ngureco 5 months ago Author

Thank you Morgan for your good question. The water to be added is through starch. Sources of starch can be corn starch/flour, wheat starch/flour, rice flour, cassava flour, potato starch. Let’s say you have computed your briquettes’ ingredients to include 5kg of corn starch. Get cold water and add the maize flour as you stir just as you would if you were making porridge (1 kg of maize flour may need 20/30 litres of water to make porridge). To gelatinize the starch, heat this mixture of flour and water while you stir until it form a sticky consistency. This is at the point the mixture is about to boil where the solution swells and expand forming a ‘porridge’ of sticky consistency. Now, this hot solution is what you will use to mix the other dry ingredients of your briquettes. Remember that if you make your solution very dilute then you will need a lot of energy to dry your finished briquettes.

Morgan 5 months ago

Thank you so much ngureco for your valuable info,

But again I do all the things you say in the article and i still get briquettes with cracks all over and not very rigid after its dried I can break it easily with my hand taken in consideration a have a hydrolic press machine to compress the briquettes.

Also I would be grateful if you send me your email for better and faster communication.

Kindest regards,


ngureco profile image

ngureco 5 months ago Author

Hi Morgan,

First I would like to congratulate you for making briquettes that can stand solid and can burn and cook something no matter how many cracks they have. If your briquettes have cracks and weak, try increasing the percentage of the binder. Briquettes making is an art in itself - you just need to keep on experimenting until when you get the right combination of ingredients, and once you get to know the right combination that works for you, do not let it go. Remember you are making briquettes from materials that would otherwise have been a waste, and that in itself is a great achievement.

Morgan 5 months ago

Hi ngureco,

First thank you for your nice words and support.

Ill keep experimenting untill i find the best combination.

But another question please I use Cassava Starch, sodium nitrate, Calcium Carbonate and borax and water ofcourse I put all this mix together while I stir them to dilute all the mix is that right or I should add only the binder (Starch) to the water and the rest I should add them dry when mixing the mixture with powder charcoal ?

Also you didnt provide your mail if possible :)

Thanks again

ngureco profile image

ngureco 5 months ago Author

Hi Morgan,

The most important step is first to mix cassava starch with water and gelatinize the starch by heating the solution to about 80 degrees Celsius until the solution is of sticky consistency. It is this solution (gelatinized starch) that you will add to the mixture of the other ingredients - charcoal dust, sodium nitrate, Calcium Carbonate and borax. As for the email, you get that from contact the author at author's profile/fan mail.

Morgan7 5 months ago

Ok Thanks alot you really helped me much on my project :)

Morgan 4 months ago

Hi There,

I got some remarks concerning my briquette and I dunno how to solve this issues if you can help:

1. Ashes content is high... how to decrease Ash content.

2. Briquette solidity is weak

3. Heat coming out of it not enough (more heat is better)

4. It not odorless it emits smell

What do think ? how to solve all these issues.

Thanks in advance.

elham 4 months ago


thank you for usefull info.i have 2 question much i should mix charcoal dust and starch?

2.if i want to use arabic gum,how much?and how?

ngureco profile image

ngureco 4 months ago Author

Hi Morgan,

First I must apologise for not getting back to you due to various travelling I had in the last two weeks.

Obviously there is a difference between briquettes and lump charcoal in that briquettes do not burn as hot as charcoal because briquettes are not able to facilitate as much oxygen for combustion as lump charcoal can. It is the same reason why sodium nitrate is added as an oxidizer in briquettes. Please note that Sodium nitrate is expensive and can be very dangerous, so, avoid it, if you can. As you may know lump charcoal has an irregular shape whilst briquettes have a regular shape which is defined by the die or the press. This in itself makes a lot of difference for the two in terms of surface area. If you want to make your briquettes burn faster and with much fire, you would need to make or break your briquettes into smaller pieces of about 1 - 2 inches in diameter before putting them into the stove. How you arrange your briquettes in the stove will also make a lot of difference because if there are no enough spaces for sufficient circulation of air (oxygen) then they will burn slowly. Finally, ensure that the briquettes have dried enough to a moisture content of under 10 percent so that they burn faster and cleanly.

When you say your briquettes are producing a lot of ash probably this means you are comparing the ash being produced by briquettes and that being produced by lump charcoal in a single stove. Look at it this way: lump charcoal has a density of about 0.4 grams/cc and your briquettes maybe having a density of 1.2 grams/cc. This means a 4-liter stove of briquettes will produce thrice as much ash as lump charcoal in the same stove. This is because the briquette in that same stove weighs three times as much as lump charcoal.

The logic is, if there is complete combustion, then, there would be no difference in the ash-content between lump charcoal and briquettes made from charcoal fines of the same wood. But then there can be a difference in ash content because of this: The fine charcoal dust that you may be using have very low purity compared to lump charcoal. The charcoal dust contains, in addition to charcoal, fragments, mineral sand, soil and dirt picked up from the earth and the surface of the wood and its bark. The mere fact that the charcoal is breaking into fine dust before reaching the buyer can only means that either the charcoal layer was over-burnt into almost ash, or the charcoal was produced from bark, twigs and leaves which have higher ash content than normal “solid wood” charcoal that did not break into dust. That fine dust you find in charcoal stores and charcoal bags may contain less than 45 percent charcoal. The other 55% is fragments, mineral sand, soil and dirt that may have been deliberately added by charcoal vendors to improve on the weight of a bag of charcoal in a bid to improve their profit margin. This is likely to be what is making your briquettes have more ashes than expected. It may sound tedious but these undesired high ash materials can be separated by screening the charcoal fines and rejecting undersize (extra fine) material by passing them through a 2 - 4 mm screen. The materials that will remain on the screen are the fragments of good charcoal and should be hammer-milled to fine pieces to make good briquettes with less ash content of roughly 2 percent.

The strength of your briquettes will improve on the strength of the binder used and the pressing pressure of your press. You will just need to keep on experimenting until when you get the right method that works best for you, and once you get it, do not let it go.

I hope and pray that after reading this you will not start thinking that the economics of briquetting charcoal ‘dust’ into briquettes is not workable. Unfortunately, it may not work in poor economies because the prices of charcoal is very low!

Manda R. Paul 4 months ago

Good info.

How much of soil in the fine char dust will lead to 2% ash?


Omar 3 months ago

Hello dear

How can mix the borax and Sodium to make press coal

And it need to mix in water?

This is my mail if u can answer me

rohit kumar 2 months ago

it becomes the burning topic for today's world by this method we use natural resoureces in a useful way

Khalid 8 weeks ago

Thank you so much for the useful information. I have a question: What is the percentage or ratio or amount of the filler to be added to briquettes?

mohamad 7 weeks ago

Hello, my charcoal briquettes are producing a lot of ashes, comparing with Indonesia product, this makes a problem with my customers,

how can i keep the ashes adhesion together and do not drop out.

i m using charcoal made of Nigeria and Oaks and sometime from egypt.

thank you


abigaba daniel 3 weeks ago


Jst want to find out what unique advantages the sun drying mechanism of charcoal briquettes has over the other alternative modern mechanisms of charcoal briquettes like using hot air.

ngureco profile image

ngureco 3 weeks ago Author

Sun's energy is 'cleaner and free'.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.

    Click to Rate This Article