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Adam retort biochar kiln community firing at biochar project

picture ontop of the fire box with the words biochar industries written in cement

Adam Retort community kiln firing 29th of Feb 2012 report.

Captured partly on video and temperatures were recorded so folks can see what was going on. I will try and be as neutral as possible in my critique of the days event. : )

An Introduction to the Adam retort.

The Adam retort community biochar kiln project idea was created from the wishes of the late Geoff Moxham (Australia’s Grand Daddy of Biochar). He once won a Grant to create such a project and you can view his grant here.

This is the second time this Adam retort biochar retort has been fired properly. See the first report here.

The Adam retort Biochar kiln is a technology better suited for the third world as it takes a lot of man hours to fill / Unload / maintain the fire / Build.

However it is a great tool to learn about retorts on.

Our goal at biochar project is to create biochar as friendly to the environment as we can get it. This includes using waste biomass instead of living trees and making sure it is atmosphere friendly in relation to emissions, and of course that we make sure the charcoal produced is destined for the earth and soils rather that as fuel.

Apparently the Adam retort biochar kiln we have is not created exactly to the plans that Adam released it has been modified somewhat by Paul Taylor a man who has edited a book on biochar who lives local to us. I have never seen the plans that Paul worked off in their entirety however I was shown glimpses of it during the construction period.

The kiln works by separating the wood to be charred from the wood that is burnt as fuel. The charbox sat on top of a maze like chamber who’s job is to distribute the heat evenly.
Sort of like having a pot of water sitting on top of a fire. However once the box of char starts releasing gas you can easily direct the gas into the fire to create a perpetual fire until the gas is all removed.

This is supposed to reduce emissions and lessen the amount of wood used as fuel.

Lets see how we went.

The day started at 9 am we erected a deflection device above the chimney.

The fire was lit and the paper work was readied.

We checked the temperatures at intervals to get an idea of what is going on.

We did not weigh the amount of wood inside the box nor did we weigh the amount of wood we burnt as fuel. Much to Uncle bucks Horror 🙁

Here are the Times and Temps from the Community Adam retort firing.

Looking inside the Adam retort firebox

Fire Box

Time /Temp

9.42 am 488
10.00 am 648
10.20 am 597
11.00 am 704
11.20 am 714
11.40 am 717
12.00 pm 709
12.20 pm 783
12.40 pm 748
1.00 pm 644
1.20 pm 773

picture ontop of the fire box with the words biochar industries written in cement

On top of the fire box

1.40 pm 822
2.00 pm 665
2.20 pm 637
3.00 pm 708
3.50 pm 681
4.49 pm 638.5
5.40 pm 656
9.00 pm 649
10.30 pm 828
2.00 am 736


Top of Box Time/ Temp .c

The face of biochar


9.42 am 76
10.00 am 75
10.20 am 73

showing the steel lid on the adam retort

Adam retort lid

11.00 am 95
11.20 am 98
11.40 am 127
12.00 pm 155
12.20 pm 166
12.40 pm 180
1.00 pm 187
1.20 pm 188
1.40 pm 207
2.00 pm 232
2.20 pm 231
3.00 pm 225
3.50 pm 190
4.49 pm 222
5.40 pm 220
9.00 pm 212
10.30 pm 204
2.00 am 200

LID Time / Temp .c

9.42 am 72
10.00 am 58
10.20 am 52
11.00 am 47
11.20 am 51

11.40 am 57
12.00 pm 62

the inspection hole of the community adam retort

Inspection hole looks inside the retort

12.20 pm 59

a pic of a brick chimney at biocharproject in kunghur

The 1st Chimney

12.40 pm 58
1.00 pm 62
1.20 pm 62
1.40 pm 65
2.00 pm 67
2.20 pm 70
3.00 pm 74
3.50 pm 64.5
4.49 pm 81.6
5.40 pm 65
9.00 pm 63
10.30 pm 74.9
2.00 am 84.7

1st Chimney
Time / Temp.c

9.42 am 34
10.00 am 34
10.20 am 33
11.00 am 36
11.20 am 38
11.40 am 42
12.00 pm 45
12.20 pm 39
12.40 pm 40
1.00 pm 45

a flue on the adam retort vent box

second chimney

1.20 pm 45
1.40 pm 44
2.00 pm 45
2.20 pm 51
3.00 pm 50
3.50 pm 49
4.49 pm 61.3
5.40 pm 43
9.00 pm 43.9

10.30 pm 53.2

2.00 am 56.9

Inside the box

Time Temp
9.42 am 45
10.00 am 48

Inside the box afterwards

10.20 am 50
11.00 am 65
11.20 am 70
11.40 am 87
12.00 pm 78
12.20 pm 101
12.40 pm 101
1.00 pm 110
1.20 pm 110
1.40 pm 111
2.00 pm 118
2.20 pm 122
3.00 pm 151
3.50 pm 151
4.49 pm 171
5.40 pm 169
7.00 pm 165
8.00 pm 212
9.00 pm 220
10.30 pm 230
2.00 am 239
4.00 am 253

2nd Chimney Time / Temp .c

9.42 am 35
10.00 am 37
10.20 am 36
11.00 am 37

the end wall on the retort

Stone Wall

11.20 am 39
11.40 am 41
12.00 pm 55
12.20 pm 53
12.40 pm 57
1.00 pm 61
1.20 pm 56
1.40 pm 56
2.00 pm 60
2.20 pm 68
3.00 pm 66.1
3.50 pm 61
4.49 pm 3.3
5.40 pm 61
9.00 pm 63.3
10.30 pm 75.3
2.00 am 66.5


Time  / Temp .c

9.42 am 28
10.00 am 30
10.20 am 29
11.00 am 31
11.20 am 33
11.40 am 36
12.00 pm 36
12.20 pm 30
12.40 pm 36
1.00 pm 36
1.20 pm 35
1.40 pm 37
2.00 pm 40
2.20 pm 42.7
3.00 pm 42
3.50 pm 35
4.49 pm 49.8
5.40 pm 52
9.00 pm 39.2
10.30 pm 53.3
2.00 am 49.7

Sorry for the crazy formatting you get that 🙂


It took over 19 hours to reach the hottest temp 253c which is far to cold for good biochar and far to long to be manning a kiln for any country.

The kiln did not enter exothermic condition and consumed a lot of heating wood.
The kiln did not cool down overnight as suggested and took 4 days until we finally put it out with water.

In my honest opinion I feel that this kiln in its current state is not suited to making biochar.

On the upside it was a great learning exercise and it brings the community together for like minded fun. Feel free to ask questions.

Charmaster Dolph Cooke

P.s A few good comment recieved have shown us some problem area with our version of the kiln Mainly sealing the retort from sucking air
we will try again on Thursday (Community Kiln Day) keeping this advice in mind. Thankyou Charfolks : )

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Retort owner March 9, 2012, 12:55 am

    We’re not entirely sure why you post pictures and videos of the Adam Retort when the legal agreement between Chris Adam is non-disclosure. It works just fine for producing biochar. You are doing a disservice to the technology for what appears to be inadequate unskilled operation.

  • Charmaster March 9, 2012, 7:47 am

    Ok Mr. Retort Owner firstly to answer your questions I must ask you some.
    1. You say in your comment “We’re not entirely sure why you post pictures and videos of the Adam Retort” who is WE ?

    2. you say “when the legal agreement between Chris Adam is non-disclosure” Their is no legal agreement between Chris Adams and my Self. so my question to you is why would you push such an agenda ?

    3. You say ” It works just fine for producing biochar” I ask you are you a scientist ? does the documentation of evidence I provide not help you to see that your statement in fact is a lie ?

    4. You say “You are doing a disservice to the technology ” I ask if I offered you technology that performed like the retort I have would you not speak out to stop other people falling into the same trap ?

    5. You say “for what appears to be inadequate unskilled operation.” I ask you did training come part of the package you bought ?

    Once you can answer my questions I will reveal to you and the world exactly what is going on.
    However your attempt to be anonymous shows me you have little to no INTEGRITY so I guess I will never see a response from you.

    For now I and the community who are working with this project will keep on announcing our Opinions of this technology until such time as we are proven wrong. So our scientific endeavors will not be silenced by needs for commercial gains.

    I hope this helps you in someway.

    Thank you for giving me your feedback.

    Charmaster Dolph Cooke

  • Ian McChesney March 12, 2012, 1:56 am

    We have run a number of Adam Retorts ……….. this one never really got going, you need to be at 300+’C on the back chimney after 6-8 hours to successfully ‘switch’ over in exothermic mode.

    You need to stick closely to Chris’s dimensions and instructions. Unplug the tubes and get some draught on the front chimney – light a fire in the bottom to warm the chimney – and make sure that you can seal the kiln properly before you start, otherwise you will never stop it …………. it is a good kiln, don’t run it down.

  • Charmaster March 13, 2012, 12:12 pm

    Hello Ian,

    Thanks for your input mate I am sure it will help us to figure this out.
    FYI we were never given Plans / Dimentions / Training etc.

    We have the fire in the bottom of the main chimney.
    I think the sealing of the kiln might be our bigest problem so on thursday we will try that.

    You say its a good kiln. Looking at our kiln is it the same or is it different from the Adam retort ?

    I have asked for help from many so called folks associated with this retort and I get no input.
    I find when I publish this stuff I get more help from others so this is why I do it.

    I will take your advice and won’t run it down instead I will try and publish just facts and work towards
    having it run as good as you say yours do.

    Once again Thanks a lot for your tips.

    Charmaster Dolph Cooke

  • Ian McChesney March 24, 2012, 4:17 pm

    Hi Dolph,

    You should pay your $1,000 to Chris Adam ……………

    Only use the chimney fire to get the thing started. Once the chimney is drawing, then brick it up and pull the main fire through – you need to have smoke on the front chimney.

    Use a paint mixer in a drill and make the mud slightly wetter. Throw it onto the gaps to keep the lid and block seals intact. Use a little sand in the mud, and recycle by soaking again.

    You might want to try a grate for your main fire, and a cover. The heat needs to go under the kiln floor plate…………. front chimney should be hot.

    To dry the wood you can leave the lid open – get the documentation from Chris , it’ll save you hours of learning/frustration …………………, Ian

  • Charmaster March 26, 2012, 8:46 am

    Hello Ian,
    I am pretty sure the man who created this has already paid chris. From memory I think it was $3,000 for 6 copies.

    Thank you for the tips we will try them out this thursday.
    the last lot of tips worked well and we were able for the first time to put out the kiln.

    But it was only at 100 degrees so perhaps the coolness of the kiln also helped in putting it out.

    However we will know more this week.

    Charmaster Dolph Cooke

  • Ian McChesney March 28, 2012, 6:14 am

    Good luck !

    Most of the air gets in around the metal plate – you can’t stop this – so you need to make sure that everything else – chimneys, tubes etc, as well as the lid – are tight ………………………….

  • Mathuranatha Das April 21, 2012, 10:55 pm

    Well I have tried a few different ways of making char over the last 5or 6 years . A pit , besser block kiln , steel box with a gass outlet underneath . now i just light a fire in a 4 cubic meter steel box and keep adding wood pretty much as fast as i can throw it in until i have gone through about 6-8-10 cubic meters of split wood and the box is 1/2-3/4 full of charcoal and then put it out with water , tip it out and rake it out with heaps of water . all over in 4 or 5 or 6 hours and one and a half – 2 cubic meters of char including about 10% half burned wood .

    raised beds –25%char ,25%cow dung , 50% alluvial to soil some lime and softrock and things grow like in the dinosaur age


  • Charmaster April 22, 2012, 5:52 am

    Wow mat sounds great
    can i come have a look ?


  • chris adam June 28, 2012, 2:34 am

    adam is a douchebag for the way he handles his business and is self-entitled arrogant and put-upon for his selfish, academic, jealously secretive manner in which he purports to help the world. there are far better methods to produce charcoal. use them.

  • Charmaster June 28, 2012, 8:44 am

    Hello, I like to publish everyone’s comments so I do not get considered somewhat of a free speech blocker.
    My suggestions to make your obvious gripes more credible would be to sign your gripe with your real name so people can enquire with you for why you feel this way.

    Also as adults we should really not personally attack people we should send them Love. (My perfect world)

    I am a big believer in if someone is corrupt they should be routed out and I my self have routed out people without integrity in this so called race for biochar cash. The Adam retort seems to be one of those projects that attract people with no integrity.

    Speaking from experience as you can see with my 18 month old broken Adam retort I can not blame the retort designer for it. The so called Dr of No integrity who physically made it did not follow the instructions.

    However I can fairly lay the blame on the retort designer for his lack of participation in the project and I do concur with your statement about secretive manner as he has had a video I made and placed on Utube removed for copy right infringements.

    I will leave this comment up as a timely reminder for people who want to work without Integrity and who want to do Biochar for dollars. WAKE UP and care for your environment.

    Charmaster Dolph Cooke

  • j broberg September 28, 2014, 2:40 pm

    Hi Dolph,
    The last post seems to be in 2012 on this, hope you got it worked out. We have a lot acres of dead trees to take out and want to make biochar on a medium sort of scale maybe the size of an adam retort. Not wanting to re invent the wheel I am wondering what you have found that really works well. Hoping we can get some tested plans for something.


  • Charmaster September 28, 2014, 2:55 pm

    Hello John

    I diod work out weather the Adam retort was any good and I am afraid it was a Hugh Flop.
    See this you tube for the final straw on this chapter.
    Please see my most successful farm scale unit to date.


    Charmaster Dolph Cooke

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