Things I learned From My First Batch

So the numbers… they are easier to understand with an overview than trying to delve right into out to establish them.

Before doing anything, we need to establish two things: what units we want to measure in and just how much soap we want to make. To address the former, I use grams because I prefer metric and weight rather than volume gives us precision and accuracy – two things you want when working with chemical reactions. This is the same debate many have when baking; one cup can fluctuate, but 120 grams is always 120 grams. To address the later, however damn much you want. Since that is a very Microsoft answer, I’ll go into a little more detail. Typically with practice or test batches, we don’t want to waste a bunch of supplies on something that may or may not take. (Keeping in mind there will be times when even the best soaper will royally screw the pooch on a recipe they’ve used for years) I use 600 grams because it’s a nice even number, makes about eight 3oz bars for testing and doesn’t take a lot of resources to produce (and it obviously fits into a bread loaf pan…).

Now we need to establish the kinds of oils we want in our soap. Like I said in the last post, I was looking for fairly basic oils, that could be found easily and (relatively) cheaply and that would create a balanced soap with leather and some moisturising. I chose coconut oil [76°] for its ability to lather well, cleanse and bar hardening. Olive and grapeseed for moisture. Castor for its stabilising and soybean oil because it’s a general vegetable oil that I had on hand.

I found the percentages using the multiple charts you can find on popular soap making websites that give appropriate amounts to use in soap making, i.e., don’t use 100% emu oil… You can find them [here] [here] [here] You’ll notice the amounts vary and, again, it is really up to you to play around and see what works.

Once you get the percentage that you want, it’s simple math- dividing the total batch size by the decimal percentage.

600g/.25 = 150g

When you get the weight measurements, use a lye calculator [here] [here] which will either give you a lye value for each oil, or a total value with a value for the amount of water with which to dissolve the lye. I thank my stars for Google every day.

Now, for what I learning making my very first batch of soap:
1. Temperatures matter! The lye and water mixture and the oil mixture should be within 10 degrees of one another and less than 130. All of my oils were liquid at room temperature, so I didn’t even think to heat them up. (seriously)
2. Emulsify (blending the water/lye and oil mixture until homogeneous) well, like, better than well. But overdoing it without paying attention will make pudding glop.
3. When measuring out your oils, double check! I wasn’t paying enough attention and switched two of the oils, rather important ones in the whole mess.
4. Have everything ready, out, measured, prepared, etc., rushing around trying to get things out or get another something is a seriously frustrating pain in the ass and easily remedied.
5. Stir the water while pouring the lye into it. If you don’t it will harden to the bottom of the bowl and take FOREVER to dissolve. Took one for the team for ya on that learning lesson…
6. Make sure your work area is clear of crap BEFORE playing with lye.
7. Leave the soap alone for 2 days in the mold, it wants to be left alone, it has a headache, maybe tomorrow…

But though all that I was not disheartened and I understood its a process not a magical osmosis of knowledge.  Keep trucking no matter how much you fuck up. Only way you learn.

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