Kamado 2006 Thailand Coconut Briquettes Charcoal
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Quick Stats


Date Of Review: December, 2007
Purchased From: Kamado
Date Purchased: July, 2006
Price: 7.99
Weight: 16.5 pounds
Burn Time:
Ash Production:
Type of Wood: Coconut
Strange Material?: None
Scrap Lumber Pieces?: None
Smell: Like coconut, but burning and stinging
Country of Origin: Thailand


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Commentary


Update (08/16/09): Kamado no longer sells this extruded coconut charcoal. They are now selling coconut charcoal from another supplier. We recently obtained two boxes of the current charcoal and you can read the review by clicking here.


A Little History
Before we get into this review, it might help readers to understand a little history of Kamado coconut charcoal briquettes. Kamado has, up until now, sold 4 different types of coconut charcoal briquettes. While Kamado claims to have obtained raw materials from different sources and charcoal product from different suppliers, nevertheless, the coconut charcoal briquettes sold by Kamado fall into 4 types.

The first type was sold in the 2002-2004 time frame and was labeled product of the Philippines. In the 2005-2006 time frame, they sold a second type of coconut charcoal briquettes which was labeled product of Thailand. In 2007 they sold a third type of coconut charcoal briquettes labeled product of Indonesia. Finally, in December of 2007 they started selling sample boxes of another charcoal on eBay in USPS flat rate boxes. It appears that each time the product changed, it took a turn for the worse. The Philippine charcoal was a great product (we gave it our highest rating), low on ash, long on burntime, hard durable briquettes that survived shipping abuse. The Thailand charcoal produced large volumes of ash, and much of it arrived at customers' doorsteps damp, moldy and crumbled. The Indonesian charcoal produced the largest volume of ash we had ever tested, burned for a very short time, and the briquettes were fragile and subject to shipping damage. Finally, the eBay "Try it Yourself" charcoal again produced volumes of ash and burned for a short period of time.


Why A Belated Review?
We have published reviews of the Philippine, Indonesian and eBay sample charcoals, but not of the Thailand version of the charcoal. Since we had a quantity of the Thailand charcoal in our posession, we thought we'd do a review in order to fill in the gaps so you can make informed comparisons between the various types. In addition, we continue to be baffled by statements made by Kamado customers that the Kamado coconut charcoal that has been sold since the supply of the 2003 Philippine charcoal dried up is "just as good as the original" and that all the Kamado coconut charcoal has been excellent. We feel consumers should have a source of information that is the result of objective and consistent testing on all types of charcoal so they can see if these different types of charcoal are truly all equally excellent.

Note that, to the best of our knowledge, this Thailand charcoal is no longer available and as we shall see, perhaps that is a good thing. But we don't want to give away the ending so let's start the review.


The Charcoal -- Packaging, Condition, Appearance
As we stated above, many customers who bought this charcoal were dismayed to find that the charcoal arrived moldy or crumbled to pieces. We found the following photos on the Kamado website as well as another barbecue discussion board:

Moldy Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
Moldy Kamado coconut briquettes
Moldy Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
Moldy Kamado coconut briquettes
Crushed Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
Crushed Kamado coconut briquettes
Crushed Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
Crushed Kamado coconut briquettes


Our samples arrived via UPS with the original boxes packed inside of another box, all padded with styrofoam peanuts. As you can see in our photos, it arrived in pretty good condition. We were relieved to find that we had a sample in reasonably good condition. As you can see, there is some crumbling, but most of the product arrived intact, and thankfully there was no mold:

Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
The box upon opening

Posts to the Kamado website by the owner indicate that at one time, some of these boxes were "slightly under" the advertised weight of 16.5 pounds. This was allegedly fixed so that subsequent shipments were "slightly over" 16.5 pounds. This sample came from "significantly under" 16.5 pounds group:

Whole/Broken Pieces 13.8 pounds 92.6%
Powder/Chips 1.1 pounds 7.4%



Total 14.9 pounds
Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
The contents of the box sorted into whole pieces, broken pieces and fines


As you can see, Kamado was once again shipping underweight boxes of charcoal (see our review of the Kamado 2007 Tamarind Lump Charcoal)! This is even more concerning considering (as we shall see in a bit) the charcoal is filled with moisture, meaning that you are getting quite a bit less product than you thought you were. The 7.4% fines is very good for a normal lump charcoal, but compared to the 2003 Philippine extruded coconut charcoal sold by Kamado, this is an enormous quantity of fines. Also, as we have seen before, the amount of "fines" you end up with is entirely dependant on the treatment your charcoal gets in shipping due to the fragility of the charcoal. It is possible that with some rough handling you could end up with a box of crumbled charcoal.

What about the physical appearance of the briquettes? These briquettes are straighter than the Indonesian and "Try it Yourself" briquettes as you can see in the photos below, but many of them suffered mild to moderate crumbling:

Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
Many of the briquettes are misshapen due to the crumbling
Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
An end view of the briquettes

You will also notice that the length of the briquettes has increased from about 1.5 inches to about 3.0 inches. According to a post on the Kamado website:

"We have increased the length of the briquettes to (1) allow for more weight in the boxes and (2) to make a longer briquette for longer burning."
We frankly don't know how increasing the length of the briquette allows one to get more weight into the box. And while a longer briquette will burn longer than a shorter briquette, it probably won't burn any longer than 2 shorter briquettes when used in a ceramic charcoal cooker with a controlled airflow. Which is precisely what this charcoal is intended for.

Calculating Density of a Hexagonal Cylinder

The density of any solid is given by mass divided by volume. We can weigh the solid. The volume of a hexagonal cylinder is found by multiplying the area of the cross-section by the height of the cylinder. It can be shown that the area of a hexagon is equal to 3/2 times the square root of 3 times S squared, where S is the length of one side of the hexagon. So the volume is given by 2.598 x S**2 x H, where H is the height of the cylinder.

To then calculate the volume of a hexagonal cylinder with a hole down the middle, you subtract the volume of the hole which is given by the area of the circle times the height of the solid, or 3.14 x R**2 x H, where R is the radius of the hole.

Next, what about the fragility of this charcoal? Both of the latest versions of the Kamado coconut briquettes could easily be broken in half with your bare hands. Our improvised "hammer" test shattered a briquette with almost no effort. We can report that this charcoal from Thailand is no different. The briquettes failed the "hammer" test and they are easily broken in half with bare hands. They can, with a little more effort, be broken into quarters. By contrast, the Phillipine extruded coconut charcoal could not be broken in half with bare hands, and it took significant force to break one with a hammer.

Also, if you take two of the Philippine briquettes and grind the ends against each other, the ends don't crumble all that quickly. If you do that with this Thailand charcoal, it quickly and easily crumbles.

We also calculated the density of this new charcoal and it is quite a bit more dense than any of the other coconut briquettes sold by Kamado. We attribute this to the moisture content of these briquettes, as well as the quantity and weight of binder contained in these briquettes, which we will address later in this review. (To calculate the density of the briquettes, you merely need to calculate the volume of a hexagonal cylinder with a hole down the center, which we explain in the table to the right. Then you divide by the weight of the briquette and you have the density.)


Burntime
The box advertises "Burns 50% longer." In actuality, this Thailand charcoal burned for an amazingly short length of time, shorter than anything we have ever seen. Shorter, even, than the "Try it Yourself" samples that Kamado is selling on eBay. In fact, it burned only about half as long as the worst lump charcoal we have ever tested.

A few other observations about burning. This charcoal was the most difficult charcoal to start we have ever seen, taking 10 sheets of newpaper to get a fire started in the chimney starter test. Again, we will attribute this poor performance to the moisture content of the charcoal. More on this later.

The fire is extremely slow to spread and the charcoal cannot burn hot for very long due to the ash buildup on the briquettes. (More on ash in the next section.) In our burntime test, we essentially use a BBQ Guru set on 400 degrees and then burn a fixed weight of charcoal. This charcoal could not get the fire up to 400 degrees! Even with a BBQ Guru 10CFM blower going full time in a small Big Green Egg cooker! Also, as the ash built up on the briquettes, the temperature would drop, requiring constant fiddling with the fire to keep the temperature up. We have never seen anything like this before.


Ash Production, Ash and Moisture Content
Ash production continues to be one of the biggest shockers coming out of these reviews. The Indonesian Kamado coconut charcoal briquettes produced more ash than any other charcoal we had ever tested. This included even Kingsford briquettes! The "Try it Yourself" charcoal produced 11% more ash per pound of charcoal than even the Indonesian charcoal! This Thailand charcoal again produces more ash than Kingsford briquettes but not quite as much as the Indonesian and the "Try it Yourself" charcoals.

An Explanation For Those Readers With Eagle Eyes

You may have noticed that the volume of ash produced by this Thailand charcoal was not the highest we have ever measured, yet the ash content we measured was a staggering 35.7%.

The explanation is simple. We normally measure ash by volume since volume is what can clog the air vents on your cooker and snuff your fire. Ash content, on the other hand, is measured by weighing the ash after the charcoal is completely consumed.

Since the ash produced by some of these Kamado coconut charcoal briquettes is so staggering, we thought we would measure the ash content in addition to volume. So, while the volume of ash produced by this charcoal didn't set a new record, the weight of the ash was staggering!

However, another way to look at the ash production problem is the volume of ash produced per hour of burntime. Because of the double whammy of high ash production and ultra-low burn time, this new charcoal produces more ash per hour than any charcoal we have ever tested, including the Indonesian and "Try it Yourself" charcoals. Period. The ash production per hour of burn is truly staggering. The following photo shows the enormous amount of ash produced by only 5 of these new charcoal briquettes:

Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
The ash produced by only 5 briquettes! The foil pan is 9" x 5.5" x 1.5".

Now try to imagine the quantity of ash that would be produced by a cooker filled with these briquettes for an overnight cook. Truly staggering. We were barely able to keep our large Big Green Egg cooker going for an overnight cook with the 2007 Indonesian charcoal before the ash completely blocked the airflow. With this charcoal producing huge volumes of charcoal per hour of burntime, we feel it is not be usable for long overnight cooks except in cookers capable of dealing with unusually large volumes of ash.

One final test we conducted was to determine the ash and moisture content of the charcoal. To calculate the moisture content, we heat the charcoal in an oven at 300 degrees until the weight of the charcoal no longer decreases. The weight loss as a percentage of the initial weight is the moisture content. We measured the moisture content of this charcoal at about 8.1%.

Then to determine the ash content we burn the now dry sample in a closed cooker with adequate airflow and measure the final weight of the ash left over after burning. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report on charcoal indicates that pure coconut charcoal contains about 1.5% ash. A survey of several coconut charcoal manufacturers reveals claims of ash content in the 1.8-5.0% range for their products. The ash content of this charcoal was a staggering 35.7%.

Our original tests indicated that the ash content of the Indonesian Kamado coconut charcoal briquettes was 18.2%. This is not surprising in view of the tremendous amount of ash it produces. The ash content of the original Philippine extruded coconut charcoal sold by Kamado was about 3.0%. Again, this is not surprising in view of the very small amount of ash produced by the Philippine charcoal. So to summarize:

2003 Philippine Extruded Coconut 3.0%
2007 Indonesian Coconut Briquettes 18.2%
2007 Try It Yourself Coconut Briquettes 26.2%
2006 Thailand Coconut Briquettes 35.7%

So this charcoal is 43.8% moisture and ash! Think about that for a second. Nearly half the weight of this charcoal is water and ash.


Maximum Temperature
The box advertises "Burns 50% hotter" This claim could be interpreted in at least two different ways. First, you might be talking about the temperature that you can measure in the cooking area of your charcoal cooker. Essentially this is what we measure in our maximum temperature test that we perform for all our charcoal reviews. Or, you might be talking about the actual temperature of combustion as measured right down in the burning charcoal.

For this Thailand charcoal we measured 750 degrees with a Tel-Tru thermometer inserted into the dome of a medium Big Green Egg ceramic charcoal cooker. We have run this test on dozens of brands of lump and extruded coconut charcoals, and 750 degrees only ranks as "below average" on the range of temperatures that we have measured. Obviously, this is not "50% hotter" than other brands of charcoal. Also, this Kamado Thailand coconut charcoal does not burn "50% hotter" than the lowest maximums we have ever measured.

On the other hand, what if you interpret this statement to mean that the temperature of combustion measured right down in the burning charcoal is "50% hotter" than other charcoals? Although it is hard to imagine a charcoal that can't produce top temperatures in the cooking chamber could be actually burning at a higher temperature than other charcoals, we have the ability so let's look. Whereas this is not a test that we routinely run, we have run it against Kingsford briquettes and Royal Oak American hardwood charcoal.

So, how did we measure the temperature of burning charcoal down in the actual region of combustion? We simply piled up some charcoal in our medium Big Green Egg ceramic charcoal cooker, got it burning as hot as it can with the vents wide open, and then used a Thermoworks WD-08467-64 High Temperature Ceramic Fiber Insulated Probe inserted into the burning charcoal in the heart of the fire. This probe is capable of measuring temperatures up to 2500 degrees F. Here are the results we obtained:

Royal Oak American hardwood lump charcoal 2041 degrees
Kingsford standard charcoal briquettes 1912 degrees
Kamado Thailand coconut charcoal briquettes 1854 degrees

So once again, Kamado coconut charcoal does not burn "50% hotter" than other charcoals, whichever definition of "burns hotter" you wish to use.

One observation we had made about the Indonesian coconut charcoal was it became very fragile after burning. After our maximum temperature test, we allowed the charcoal to cool and then we tried to stir the charcoal to knock the ash off for the next burn. What we found was that most of the charcoal briquettes crumbled to powder and thus were unusable. This new charcoal appears not to suffer as much from this fault. After our maximum temperature test was run and the charcoal cooled, we were able to stir it up and knock off the ash without destroying all the remaining charcoal. You need to be somewhat gentle with the charcoal, but careful stirring doesn't destroy the charcoal.

And finally, one last observation we made during the maximum temperature testing was something we have never seen before. When we completed the test by placing the ceramic top on the cooker and closing the lower vent, steam started to pour from the lower vent and between the lid and dome. We took the ceramic lid off and discovered it was dripping with water! We placed the lid back on the coooker and we could actually hear water hissing with steam as it dripped onto the fire. The moisture content of this charcoal is truly stunning, perhaps explaining the very poor performance on maximum temperature testing and burntime testing. You can't burn water!


Smoke and Odor
The box claims that this charcoal is "Smokeless." The smokeless claim is again subject to interpretation. As we have observed many times before, all lump charcoal smokes while it is igniting and then burns "virtually smokeless" once it is completely ignited. Kamado has often referred to a photograph they took of one of their briquettes burning on an electric stove burner with no smoke. We reproduced this photo with a Kamado extruded coconut briquette, a Kingsford briquette and a piece of Royal Oak lump charcoal and we also found no smoke. So, this is not unique to Kamado extruded coconut charcoal:

Kamado Coconut Charcoal Briquettes
A Kingsford briquette, a lump of Royal Oak and a Philippine briquette all burning smokeless

One additional observation we made regarding the smell of the smoke was again something we have never seen (smelled) before in a wood or coconut charcoal. The smoke coming off this charcoal as it burns stings the eyes and burns the throat. It is truly unpleasant and calls into question what might be in this charcoal. The only other charcoal that has ever produced this kind of unpleasant smoke is the new Kingsford with its Sure-Fire grooves. Truly an unpleasant experience.


Additives and/or Fillers
The box claims that this charcoal contains no "chemical, (sic) additives, or fillers." In light of the incredible ash content of this charcoal, this claim simply cannot be true. Pure coconut charcoal should have an ash content in the very low single digits, as we have already observed. This charcoal has an ash content of 35.7%. The only explanation would be either the addition of tremendous amounts of binder or some sort of massive contamination of the raw carbonized charcoal.

06/11/08
An Update Regarding Coconut Charcoal And Variations in Ash Production And Burn Time:

We recently obtained a new bit of information regarding the manufacturing of coconut charcoal briquettes which we thought readers might find interesting. We have reviewed the four different types of coconut charcoal briquettes sold by Kamado, documenting the wide variation in ash production and burn times between the four types. In the three reviews of the coconut briquettes sold by Kamado since they stopped selling the original Philippine charcoal, we observed a dramatic increase in ash and decrease in burn time compared to the original Philippine charcoal. We speculated that the reason for the high ash content/low burn time was simply due to the briquettes being molded vs. extruded. We had been provided information by a distributor in Indonesia indicating that the molding process required more binder than the extruding process and thus more ash was the result. While we don't have confirmation that these later briquettes were actually molded or extruded, we have since received information about a common practice in the coconut charcoal industry in Southeast Asia. A coconut charcoal manufacturer recently explained that if the customer wants a lower priced product, manufacturers will simply add filler to the coconut charcoal before molding/extruding. This filler, of course, replaces the carbon content of the carbonized coconut shells and results in a cheaper product with higher ash content and reduced burn times. See the following table that contains results of our testing from the four reviews. More ash equals less burn time:

2003 Philippine Extruded Coconut 3.0%14.7 hours
2007 Indonesian Coconut Briquettes 18.2%10.0 hours
2007 Try It Yourself Coconut Briquettes 26.2%6.2 hours
2006 Thailand Coconut Briquettes 35.7%4.7 hours

This explains the wide variation in ash production and burn times between the different types of coconut briquettes that Kamado has sold. The different manufacturers who have been supplying Kamado with coconut briquettes have apparently been adding various amounts of filler to their products, despite Kamado's claims that their coconut briquettes contain no filler. It also explains how Kamado was able to reduce the price of their charcoal from $11.99 in 2003 for the high-quality Philippine charcoal to $7.99 in 2008 for their current low-quality charcoal.


Conclusion
As we stated at the beginning of this review, although this charcoal is not currently available from Kamado, we did this review in order to fill in the gap of information between the 2003 Philippine charcoal and the 2007 Indonesian charcoal. It appears that the decline in quality of Kamado coconut charcoal briquettes began with this Thailand coconut charcoal:

  • Burntime: Worst ever and by a considerable margin.
  • Ash Production: Volume of ash produced per hour of burntime was the worst ever. Truly staggering amounts of ash.
  • Maximum Temperature: Below average despite "50% hotter" claims.
  • Smoke Smell: Unpleasant smoke that burns and stings.
  • Charcoal Weight: Box was significantly underweight.
  • Burning Characteristics: Ash buildup was so rapid that maintaining a constant temperature was difficult.
So, what rating for the Kamado Thailand coconut charcoal briquettes? We stated in our review of the Kamado "Try it Yourself" charcoal that it was probably the worst we had ever seen. That was before we saw this charcoal. In light of the many severe problems we have noted, it gets our lowest rating, Not Recommended.

To the left is the rating that our readers have
given this charcoal. Now that you have read our
review, if you have used this charcoal and would
like to rate it and leave your comments, Click Here

To view reader ratings of all brands, Click Here.


Other Information

None.


Unusual or Unique Statements

None.


Statements From The Bag

"Tropical Charcoal", "Coconut Charcoal", "Smokeless", "Ashless", "50% Hotter", "50% Longer Burn", "100% Natural (No chemical (sic), additives or fillers)", "100% Pure Charcoal", "100% Satisfaction", "Guarantee"


Lighting Instructions

None.


Photos Of Contents

See Review.


Other Photos

None.


Photo of UPC Code

None.


Contact Information

J5 Designs / Kamado Co.
9711 S. Eastern
Suite H-96
Las Vegas, NV 89183
877-257-6871

www.kamado.com
www.tropicalcharcoal.com


About This Review

If you are unfamiliar with our testing procedures, you may wish to read How We Review Lump Charcoal before reading this review. Also, you can read How We Score Lump Charcoal to learn about our scoring system.

Prices listed in our reviews are current as of the date of the review. We do not attempt to keep these prices current.

The conclusions and final rating given any charcoal are based upon the opinion of the author. We recommend that you use our rating only as a guide. You should read the entire review and decide what is important to you in making any buying decision.

Performance ratings are designated with stars, 1 star being the worst and 5 stars being the best:

= Performance is Far Below Average
= Performance is Below Average
= Performance is Average
= Performance is Above Average
= Performance is Far Above Average

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon at the bottom right corner. Click on the icon to display the image in a new larger window. If you wish to ensure that you are seeing photographs the same way that we are seeing them, we recommend that you calibrate your monitor to a PC-normal gamma of 2.2. You should be able to see the difference between blocks A, B and C below, as well as the difference between blocks 3, 4 and 5.

  

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