At the Sweet Sixteen Alabama Soap & Candle Association meeting in June 2014, I’ll be talking about masterbatching (of course!) and cold process soapmaking gone wrong.
Two weeks ago, I asked for your help, to get photos together of all the lost batches behind us. And boy, did y’all deliver!
After shoving all the entries into a magic hat, and picking one random photo from the lot, I’d love to announce the $50 Gift Certificate winner to Brambleberry – one of my favorite soapy suppliers!
And the winner is…
Lisa is absolutely awe-inspiring, over the last several years, she’s dedicated time to new experiences and cataloging them via her website. Learning how to make soap was her 120th new experience on her list that spans all the way back to 2010!
What Lisa said about this batch
Lisa sent along the story behind this batch of soap, and I’m sharing it with you right here:
My attempt at your 100% Coconut soap recipe didn’t, er, go so well. It seemed like a great idea on paper because I had wanted to develop a new soap: Lemongrass Basil with a two-color design when I came across your recipe. The 100% coconut base – audacious and sassy – plus coconut – with a Thai-themed EO mix seemed like a perfect fit AND it featured two colors! Golden!
I followed the recipe EXCEPT for the following variations: I used EO’s (lemongrass and basil) instead of FO’s, and I used spirulina and safflower powders instead of the micas (same amounts specified in recipe). I did not use the optional embeds.
What went wrong? Was there a problem with the substitution of those few ingredients? Did I over-cool the lye (no specific temp was given in the recipe)? Did I over-mix at trace?
Whatever the mystery combination of elements at work, it culminated in soap that was the consistency of coagulated oatmeal that had to be scooped into the mold, with colors reminiscent of dull baby food. Sad.
Even sadder was the crumbly consistency upon its liberation from the mold – I had to carve about a third of the soap away to form bars, and most came out as “half” bars as the two colors were too hardened to adhere together when the soap was poured (or rather, shoveled and pressed) into the mold. Forget about adding in the swirl mantra – there was no time before it seized up. It didn’t come out anything like the lovely soap pictured in the recipe. I nicknamed it my “ugly soap.”
The aesthetic was so disappointing that I decided not to sell it – but interestingly enough, all of the testers I gave it to LIKED it. One felt that it made an excellent “workman’s clean-up soap” and many told me that they enjoyed the scent. A couple of those who tried it asked for more. One person wants to use it on her horses’ tails this summer (as lemongrass is supposed to be a natural insect repellent). So…go figure.
This experience made me realize that while this soap didn’t turn out how I would have liked, there were still redeeming qualities to it.
What the heck happened?
Without the full details of temperatures and process, I’m guessing here, but let’s give this a shot!
Since Lisa did mention she was concerned about overcooling her lye solution, I believe Lisa encountered false trace. False trace is actually extremely common with 100% coconut oil soap, as this formula is easier to work with (and more successful!) at higher temperatures.
False trace looks and acts like actual trace, however, it falls apart once in the mold (separating) or it can unevenly saponify, concentrating lye solution in particular areas of the soap. With her description of the soap’s texture and appearance (coagulated oatmeal, crumbly parts, etc.), that’s my best guess!
The softer areas would be soap that didn’t get enough lye during saponification, creating a higher than usual superfat, and the crumbly parts would have used up more lye solution.
Another option would be separation or seizing due to issues with the essential oils and the higher temperature recommended in the tutorial. High percentages of basil essential oil can mildly accelerate trace, and 100% coconut oil soap can be finicky.
What do you think happened with Lisa’s botched batch? Leave a comment and let’s talk shop!
Psssstttt…. Lisa, check your inbox! Enjoy your $50 shopping spree to Brambleberry!