bruce Fine wrote:is bio char and charcoal the same?
bruce Fine wrote:just wondering what is the difference between biochar and charcoal?
I saw one video where biochar was made in a sealed barrel with very small hole in the top, this seal barrel filled with pieces of wood was placed in a larger barrel and the space between them was filled with pieces of dry wood and set on fire to cook the wood in the sealed barrel.
is bio char and charcoal the same?
It depends on who you are talking to. Technically no, they are not the same. For one, as mentioned, bio-char is char that is inoculated with biology or nutrients of some type. For another, Biochar is made in a low to no oxygen environment with controlled heat, the same is generally not true with charcoal made in a forest fire, fire pit, or wood stove.
is biochar and charcoal the same?
Unlike the making of char for biochar, the making of charcoal, as in making it for industrial use or for home heating was designed to trap the volatile oils in a lower temperature process and it is a smoky process and this was common in the past, but a good retort or any other properly designed 'machine' meant for the production of biochar will not be smoky or stinky much at all. The one I have made smokes very little, the fire burns hot and clean and as the process goes through its cycle the volatile gasses within the chambered wood are released to the outer fire to increase its efficiency and even the trench fires that I make it in create very little smoke considering the amount of wood burned, and the amount of charcoal made.
The slower, more oxygen-deprived, and smokier the better; but it's a rather nasty and stinky process. Everybody downwind knows you're doing it; but if you can recirculate the stinky gases into the fire for heat, it's a lot cleaner.
But I would amend the last statement by saying possibly not, and further amend it by saying that activated charcoal is an industrial process involving steam after the wood is preheated to the point of char. This type of process is 'similar' to what many backyard people do if and when they quench their char making process, but the industrial process is with extremely high temperature, oxygen-deprived steam, instead of water. The water that I use in my trench fire, for instance, will cause some of the same effects as it turns to steam causing the exploding of the carbon matrix, but mostly the water is just putting the fire out and eliminating oxygen so that the char does not keep burning and turning to ash. I will add that I say possibly not, because there is a limit to what types of char can actually be infused with carbon. Certainly the more activated the carbon matrix is, the more pore space is available to the incoming inoculation of biology, and this should be as much a focus as your time and energy allow, as it does indeed increase the quality of the end result. The video I posted earlier is one in which char from a forest fire is collected for use in a garden. This guy piles heaps of food waste he gets from restaurants on top of his char in pits, or just mixes it into the soil and anticipates and allows for the initial nutrient drain that it causes in the soil. The char he collects in the video is in various levels of being like good biochar material, in that much of it is likely to have not had it's volatile oils burned out of it, or offgassed from heating, and thus there is a lot less pore space available for biology. Is that bad? Nobody can say to what degree, as the studies are not done, but i think the more habitat space that is in our char the better, and the more the wood is heated to just the carbon matrix, the less wood that can break down in the soil (robbing the soil of nitrogen in the process), and the longer lasting the carbon is in the sequestered system.
There is some serious science that can go into making charcoal. The temperature, time, moisture content during the retort process can affect how thoroughly the wood is reduced to its carbon lattice structure. Other aspects of the retort process can capture wood vinegars that are useful for many things. The fancier the process - think "Activated Charcoal" - the greater the surface area and, essentially, the effectiveness of the charcoal. Do you need Activated Charcoal to make BioChar? Nope, but it would be better. Should you care? Probably not.
In my understanding, there is really no correlation or comparison of coffee grounds to biochar. Coffee grounds do indeed add nitrogen and other nutrients, are they are 'black' (well dark brown) and do have a bunch of carbon to add to your soil, but they do not take on nutrients or create habitat for beneficial microbes in anywhere near the same capacity that would make this idea of substitution accurate in my understanding. Charcoal can last hundreds of years if not millennia, whereas coffee grounds are unlikely to last more than a year. One thing that should be considered about coffee grounds is their high acid content, which can significantly alter your soil PH. Coffee grounds are best, in my opinion, added to compost as an additional source of nitrogen. They are indeed often freely available in quanity, but unless they are organic, they are one of the most chemically saturated substances that exist in the human food chain, and i thus avoid them unless I can find a quality organic source.
Although its not technically charcoal, I consider coffee grounds to be proto-charcoal or lazy bio-char. Sure, its not the real thing but a) its carbon b) its got nitrogen in it. One of the big fears of non-inoculated charcoal is that it will suck the nitrogren out of your soil -not so with coffee grounds! Will it last as long as genuine charcoal? Meh, probably not. But its free, widely available and easy to to disperse.
So yeah, just add black stuff.
Thanks, Philip Small for entering the conversation and sharing this. I remember those days now but had forgotten that I had used the term myself, as it has been quite a while.
Before there was "Biochar" there was "Agrichar".
Yes the white coats have been unjustly annointed the gift of sole proprietary use of the term science. Experimentation and observation-without strict controls, but repeated for clarification-are what brought humanity through far greater advancements in improving us culturally over the millenia in my opinion.
Biochar, like the term scientist, can cover a wide range of qualities and qualifications. If my life hinges on understanding soil science, and I seek out the knowledge, and achieve soil success, am I not an accomplished soil scientist regardless of whether I paid for a degree or not? Maybe even more so? Yet some (me 15 years ago) would say, if you don't have formal qualifications you can't honestly present yourself as a soil scientist in formal contexts (teaching, public testimony, client reports) at least not without speaking to that detail. Does the term scientist become meaningless if we can't agree on one shared definition?
Interesting. Do you put it into the soil without inoculating it, or do you simply call your char product biochar before inoculation?
I feel perfectly fine using the term biochar regardless of feedstock, ash content, volatiles content, resulting molecular state (torrefied/amorphous/graphene), process (hydrothermal-carbonization/pyrolysis/gasification/combustion), or post process treatment (seasoning, amending, activating, charging, washing, acidifying, rinsing, crushing). However what I use as biochar often will not meet the definition of biochar established by the International Biochar Initiative, nor will it meet the definition we use among ourselves locally a tribal understanding that without inoculation, biochar is just charcoal.
I found this "Cody's Lab" video to be informative on the differences between normal charcoal and activated charcoal, especially the resulting difference in absorption: https://youtu.be/GNKeps6pIao Embed this video
We are in agreeance here, Eliot, if by what you mean is spending the time to make biochar, rather than charcoal, or in activating it, even slightly, rather than leaving it unactivated or simply using charcoal from a fire pit, as activating it (or even going through a more advanced process of creating a higher burn off of volatiles) clearly increases the surface area significantly.
As to the "probably not vs possibly not" caring about activated vs normal charcoal- If making charcoal, trying to "activate" it seems totally worthwhile.
But if someone gave me some plain charcoal I wouldn't turn my nose up at it.
As Trace points out,Terra Preta happened without any such concerns.
I'll start by saying that chemicals are not limited to herbicides. Coffee is a substantial perennial shrub and thus would not require a lot or any herbicides in production. The primary toxins are pesticides. Many pesticides are neurotoxins, and or have been proven carcinogenic, or have shown other detrimental effects on human health. I won't elaborate beyond giving an article that details the chemical situation in coffee: Tox Free Family; Coffee and Pesticides There are other resources available in a google search for: coffee pesticides
As to the biological and chemical characteristics of coffee grounds, I'll cite a Redhawk thread: https://permies.com/t/45126/Coffee-Grounds and suggest that a) I probably should have left this topic there and b) further conversation of coffee grounds belongs there (but I'd really like to resolve the difference between Redhawks statement "There are no Herbicides used in coffee growing" vs Roberto's assertion of "chemically saturated").
Jen Fulkerson wrote:Thank you everyone for all your thoughts, information, and scientific knowledge. I may actually make biochar in the future, I would use the pit method so I don't have to buy anything. For now I will inoculate what I have and call it good. I will inoculate it with compost tea, because I do that anyway. My question is, is 48 to 36 hours long enough? Can I use the liquid in my garden, or will that be a bad idea? How about in my compost? Would that be a better option?
Trace I like your saying. Perfection can get in the way of production. Thanks all.