In Minecraft, charcoal and coal are similar items that can be used as fuel for torches, campfires, furnaces, and more. However, there are some key differences between the two.
Unlike coal, charcoal is a renewable resource that smelting logs can produce in a furnace. This makes charcoal more readily available, especially early in survival mode when coal is scarce.
In this beginner’s guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about making and using charcoal efficiently in Minecraft. We’ll explain how to produce charcoal through smelting, compare charcoal to regular coal, share tips for mass-producing charcoal with automatic farms, and highlight the many uses for having large charcoal reserves.
Table of Contents
Why Make Charcoal?
Charcoal is incredibly useful to have in Minecraft for a variety of purposes. Here are some of the main reasons you’ll want to produce charcoal rather than relying solely on coal:
Charcoal can be used to fuel furnaces for smelting and cooking just like regular coal. Having a renewable source of fuel is extremely helpful. Charcoal can also be used to craft torches, which are essential light sources, as well as campfires for cooking food, smoke signals, and atmosphere.
Unlike coal, charcoal is a renewable resource since it’s produced by smelting wood blocks and logs. This makes charcoal very sustainable and easy to mass produce. By creating an automated tree farm using pistons and sticky pistons, you can farm endless logs to turn into charcoal.
Since charcoal can be farmed and produced on demand, it’s great to have massive stockpiles for large projects like fueling super smelters or trading with villagers. Overall, charcoal is an incredibly useful renewable fuel source in Minecraft.
How to Make Charcoal
The basic way to produce charcoal in Minecraft is by smelting wooden logs in a furnace. Putting any type of log such as oak, birch, spruce etc. into a furnace as the smelting ingredient will produce 1 charcoal for every log smelted. Smelting planks and other wooden blocks is much less efficient, requiring multiple wood blocks to produce just 1 charcoal.
To mass produce charcoal, it’s best to use an automatic tree farm. Tree farms using pistons or fungi can rapidly grow and harvest logs automatically. Feeding the logs from an automated tree farm into furnace arrays with lots of furnaces smelting in parallel enables you to smelt logs en masse into charcoal at a very fast rate. An efficient tree farm powering furnace arrays is hands down the best method for mass producing renewable charcoal as a replacement for non-renewable coal in Minecraft.
Charcoal vs. Coal Comparison
One key difference between charcoal and regular coal is that coal is a finite resource in Minecraft worlds, whereas charcoal is renewable. Coal ore blocks are found in specific locations underground and once mined, do not regenerate over time. However, charcoal can be continuously produced by smelting wood blocks like logs or planks in a furnace.
In terms of burning efficiency, charcoal and coal are very similar. They both smelt items at the same rate, lasting 80 seconds when used as fuel in a furnace. However, charcoal is slightly less efficient in that it only smelt one item per charcoal, whereas coal can smelt up to 8 items. Charcoal also burns faster than coal as a fuel source for campfires and torches.
Despite being less efficient, charcoal can be useful when you need large amounts of fuel and have an abundant wood supply. An automatic tree farm makes mass producing charcoal simple. Coal is better when you need a longer lasting fuel source and have limited supply. For example, use charcoal when fueling up mass furnace arrays, but save that rare coal for your best pickaxe or for trading.
Efficient Charcoal Production Tips
If your goal is to produce charcoal efficiently in large quantities, there are some useful methods and setups to employ. Here are some effective tips for rapid charcoal production in Minecraft:
Tree Farms with Sticky Pistons
Constructing an automated tree farm using sticky pistons can exponentially increase your charcoal production speed. Sticky pistons quickly break full-grown trees and a sapling is automatically replanted. This allows you to farm logs in mass amounts with little effort once setup. Designs like the Tango Tek tree farm produce entire chests of logs in minutes, which can be converted to charcoal (source).
A furnace array allows you to smelt logs into charcoal at scale. By building multiple furnaces together, you can process many logs simultaneously rather than one at a time. Construct furnace arrays near your tree farm’s output chests to rapidly convert logs into charcoal. A basic 9×3 furnace array with hoppers and chests can smelt over 5,000 items per hour (source).
Chest Storage Near Smelting
Placing chests near your furnace arrays lets you easily store mass amounts of charcoal. Hoppers pull charcoal from the furnaces into adjacent chests automatically. You can then conveniently access the charcoal when crafting or fueling other contraptions. Aim to build furnaces and chests together in one seamless production line from tree farm to charcoal output.
Uses for Massive Amounts of Charcoal
With a large and automated charcoal production system, you can stockpile massive quantities of charcoal to fuel various large-scale activities in Minecraft:
Fuel super smelters to process ores – Charcoal burns just as long as coal in furnaces, so you can use charcoal to smelt massive amounts of ores and ingots with super smelters. Setting up rows of furnaces fed with charcoal from chests allows you to process ores from mining trips extremely quickly.
Running automatic crop farms – Crop farms with pistons, dispensers, and collection systems require a lot of fuel to keep running. Having a steady charcoal supply allows them to farm crops like wheat and potatoes automatically around the clock.
Trading with villagers – When trading with farmer villagers in bulk, supplies of coal can run out quickly. Renewable charcoal let’s you keep trading crops for emeralds indefinitely. You can also trade charcoal itself to some villagers.
Charcoal can be used to craft campfires in Minecraft. Campfires provide a nice source of light and are great for cooking food or adding ambiance to a build.
Charcoal campfires burn longer and brighter than torch light. The campfire flame gives off smoke particles that provide a cozy, camp-like feel. Campfires can be placed in villages to make them look more lived-in.
To craft a campfire, arrange 3 sticks, 1 coal/charcoal and 3 wooden planks in a T shape. Campfires can be mined faster using an axe. When mined, campfires will drop 2-4 charcoal.
Campfires can cook up to 4 food items at a time by right clicking the food onto the flames. This autosmelts and cooks the food without need for fuel. Campfires will also scare away phantoms and mobs like zombies.
For lighting up builds, charcoal campfires provide a warm alternative to harsh torchlight. The crackling fire and smoke particles create ambiance. Just be careful placing flammable blocks like wood too close to campfires!
Charcoal as Decor
Charcoal can be used decoratively in Minecraft builds and designs in a couple unique ways. One way is by crafting charcoal blocks, which provide a black volcanic rock-like block that can add nice texture and color to builds.
To make charcoal blocks, simply arrange 9 charcoal in a crafting grid, which makes 1 charcoal block. These can then be used as building blocks, for paths, roofs, detailing, etc. They have a more natural, rustic texture compared to black concrete or wool blocks.
Another decorative use is with firework rockets. Any dye can be used as a firework star ingredient to produce colored explosions and effects. Since charcoal can substitute for black dye in crafting, it can provide black colored bursts in fireworks.
So when charcoaling large amounts of wood, remember to save some extra charcoal for crafting into these decorative options rather than just using it all for fuel!
Smelting with Charcoal
Charcoal can be used as a fuel source for furnaces and blast furnaces to smelt and cook various items in Minecraft. When used as furnace fuel, one piece of charcoal smelts 8 items, which is the same as coal.
However, charcoal has a shorter burn time than coal, meaning it smelts fewer items per fuel source consumed. Coal smelts 80 items per piece, while charcoal only smelts 8 items. So charcoal is less efficient if counting the number of smelted items per fuel source.
But charcoal can be easily renewable from wood farms, while coal is limited. This makes charcoal more sustainable for large scale smelting operations like running blast furnaces. With an automated tree farm, you can mass produce charcoal to smelt unlimited items in blast furnaces.
In summary, charcoal has several benefits over regular coal in Minecraft. Charcoal is a renewable resource that can be easily mass produced using tree farms and furnace arrays. It has the same smelting ability as coal, while also being used to craft torches, campfires, and more. Charcoal burns faster than coal, but is much quicker to obtain in bulk.
You’ll generally want to use charcoal for your main fuel needs like smelting and crafting. Save regular coal for cases where burn time matters, like powering minecarts. Optimize charcoal yields by building efficient tree and furnace farms.
Some of the most effective methods for charcoal production are using sticky pistons to rapidly farm oak logs, constructing long rows of furnaces to smelt logs in parallel, and storing charcoal in chests near your crafting and smelting setups. With the right tree and furnace farms, you can generate charcoal by the thousands of pieces per hour.
I’m a writer, artist, and designer working in the gaming and tech industries. I have held staff and freelance positions at large publications including Digital Trends, Lifehacker, Popular Science Magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly, IGN, The Xplore Tech, and others, primarily covering gaming criticism, A/V and mobile tech reviews, and data security advocacy.