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Does quenching matter?  RSS feed

 
Todd Parr
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I watched a video recently that said that quenching biochar imparts some advantage to it.  The video wasn't very clear on exactly how it improves it, it just alluded to quenching somehow opening the pores in the charcoal better or something.  Anyone know if there is really an advantage to quenching?  I have done it, but normally don't because I use it mixed in with my chicken bedding first and I don't want to introduce moisture into the coop.  If it is going straight into the compost pile or the chicken yard, quenching isn't a problem.  Any thoughts?
 
Craig Dobbson
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can you post a link to the video?   How are you stopping the burn when you make biochar? 

When I make it, I use the trench method and usually just cover it with soil once it's reached char level.  That smothers the fire and leaves me with dry, clean biochar.  I just leave it buried for a couple of weeks and then carefully remove the top layer of soil so I don't get too much soil in my char.  Then I empty the trench with a spade, into old feed sacks.  I use the stuff, in worm bins, garden beds, houseplants and in the chicken coop.   

Quenching is usually how people put out their biochar fires.  I guess it would help to provide moisture to the colonies of microorganisms that we're trying to harbor in the pores of the char.  I don't know if the rapid cooling addds any other benefit.  Maybe.

 
Todd Parr
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Craig, I'll see if I can find the video again.  I stop the burn on mine two different ways depending on the method I'm using.  If I'm using the barrel-in-a-barrel method, when the inner barrel stops producing wood gas, I pull it out and put it into another 55 gal barrel that has no openings and put the lid on it.  I leave it overnight and by then it's cool.  If I use the 55gal barrel full of wood with another barrel on top as a chimney, when the wood burns down to the bottom vents, I cover them with dirt, pull the top barrel off and put a lid on the barrel with the charcoal in it.  Once again, leave it overnight to cool.  I haven't dug a pit yet to try that method, but may this weekend, depending on weather.  If I do, I'll use your method of covering it with dirt unless I can find some compelling reason to quench it.
 
Genevieve Higgs
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Could it have to do with steam?  Like a popcorn type expansion
 
Todd Parr
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Genevieve Higgs wrote:Could it have to do with steam?  Like a popcorn type expansion


That's exactly what the guy in the video made it sound like.  I just hadn't heard it before, so I'm not sure if it is valid and I don't know of any way to test it short of maybe with a microscope.
 
Casie Becker
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You could probably test it by comparing weight by volume. That is of course assuming that it expands like vermiculite or perlite.
 
Todd Parr
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Casie, that's a good point that I hadn't thought of.

Here is a study that points to the importance of quenching, although not for the reasons given in the video I watched.

Quenching biochar
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