Any commercial soapers around here? Or those who are thinking about taking the dive?

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Sapo

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If there are any would-be or fully fledged commercial soapers around here, I'd like to discuss equipment and production procedures.

The following are my thoughts and findings, feel free to share your own or have a read!

I will focus mainly on liquid soap, so there will be some similarities to HP soap making in this comment, a bit less with CP soap making - which is generally less demanding in terms of production equipment anyway. The biggest investment there would be a soap log cutter that can handle large blocks.

Equipment:

The ideal:

A double-jacketed heated tank coupled with a batch homogenizer.


The mixer:


As you can see on the second picture, this particular design has interior heating elements and doesn't use a double-layered jacket of enclosed water/oil for double boiler-like heating. This is quite likely not appropriate for soap, as it may burn. A possibility exists that it may work, if LS paste stage is skipped and the final dilution water amount is used from the get go. Such a thing would normally drastically slow down the reaction, but the homogenizer (stick blender on more steroids than you can imagine) may or may not take care of that and speed up the reaction so much that no paste stage is even necessary. I took these pictures at work, which isn't a soaping lab.

The homogenizer in full glory:


Another example of a suitable soap production line:

But as far as I can see, there are no heating elements of any sort here, so this one would be limited to cold process.

I imagine this device would bring us to trace/paste stage in the blink of an eye, which doesn't usually take long in the first place. So we are, indeed, talking OVERKILL here. Unless, as stated before, soaping with large amounts of water is desired. A simpler and cheaper, albeit more time consuming option has to exist.

End of part 1.

Part 2, more equipment talk

This is what I was thinking as far as less overkill and more budget-friendly approaches would look like:

To simulate a large double boiler one could insert a 18.5 gallon brew pot inside a 26 gallon brew pot and heat the entire thing on a (suitably protected from the immense weight) portable electric stove



For mixing, a paint mixer could be used


In this case, paste stage absolutely cannot be skipped, as the mixer's capabilities simply don't allow for it. Unless you want to mix and heat a batch for 3 days straight.

Inside the 18.5 gal pot, about 10.5 gallons of paste could be made, which could then be transfered to the 26gal pot for dilution (the smaller pot taken out, of course). In a 50% dilution scenario we could then produce 21 gallons of diluted LS per batch. Once it has finished diluting and we've added EOs and such, the soap could be drained through the pipe seen at the base of the pot


End of Part 2, end of equipment talk.
 

Sapo

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Part 3: measuring, master batching.

It is immediatly evident to me that producing a known-purity diluted KOH/NAOH master batch is indeed a very SAFE as well as time-saving procedure:
1. the less times you weigh something, the less chance of failure
2. less fume inhalation
3. Making 5 gallons of lye doesn't take more time than making 200ml

Same goes for oil blends; lets assume you only manufacture one recipe (60% coconut, 30% olive oil, 5% hemp, 5% jojoba). It seems prudent to spend a day preparing 10 batches of premixed oils that will last for a month, ready to be dumped into the pot on "production day" along with the pre-made lye, rather than to do it right before soaping (as we do in small scale production).

Saponification rates:
While knowing the exact purity of your lye (wouldn't want to throw away $300 of materials due to a failed batch, would we?) is of utmost importance, knowing the actual saponification rates of your oils isn't necessarily...necessary. While possible to figure out, it isnt a smart time investment in my opinion as you are likely going to apply a superfat on it in any case and end up with the exact same soap in the long run.

The goal:we don't want to end up with lye heavy soap. What can we do? Usually, we slap a % superfat on top of the recipe and call it quits, not really knowing what we end up with.

The safe bet: use the lowest sap. value of an oil.

Take coconut oil for example:
Coconut Oil 76 degree 250 - 264 0.183 0.257 Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil

If we were to used the proposed average (0,257), we don't really know what we end up with. But if we use the low end, we know for a fact that it is impossible (barring user error) for us to end up with a lye heavy soap. We also know that we are going to get a superfat of "exactly" 0% to 5.45%, the likeliest being around 2.75%.

End of part 3

Part 4: packaging
This is where my research gets stopped dead in it's tracks.
1. I am unwilling to support the trend of one-time use plastics which usually end up in land fills and/or everywhere else.
2. I am unable to find a source of compostable plastic
3. The infrastructure doesnt support the recycling of plastic all that well.
4. I am unable to find a source of suitable glass containers that will get recycled, they may also be cost-prohibitive
5. The installation of refill stations, where the user re-uses his existing soap bottle is a logistical nightmare, which likely results in sales drop by 80% (yeah, the percentage is pulled straight outa my arse, but you gotta admit its probably true). Unless you manage to REALLY spread those refill stations, but for a beginner that isnt likely.

A small sample market research pointed most users desire glass containers. A cheaper move could be to use good 'ole mason/canning jars for distribution, and then the user can transfer the soap to whatever soap dispenser he wishes. Not the most appealing of sights off the bat, on a store shelf, but with some creativity it can be made to look decent and marketable, i suppose.

Anyways, thats all I got for the moment. Feel free to pitch in your approaches.
 
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BrewerGeorge

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Heating 26 gallons is going to be essentially impossible with a portable electric burner. I don't have time to do the calculations now, but off the top of my head (having designed a couple electric breweries already) I'd expect you to need at least 20,000 Watts of heating capacity to achieve a bearable heat up rate. That much power is all-but impossible in a residential environment. (It would be four dedicated 30 Amp circuits running four 5000 W water heater elements.)

Honestly, heating anything more than about 10 gallons isn't really feasible. For amounts that large you need fire, or steam.
 

Sapo

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An interesting point about bearable heat up times, one which I hadn't considered. A 55 gallon steam sterilizer at full capacity (I grow mushrooms) takes like 12 hours to reach 205F with a single 1500W water heating element. It does indeed raise the question how long it would take for the double boiler (26gal+18.5gal pots, with 10-11 gallons of paste) to reach 205f/95C on a stove. It isn't quite the same as a full 26 gallons of mass, it's half that, but still, good point. The dilution process need not be that hot.
 
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Susie

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1. You have a portable propane burner pictured in the first (ish) post. Not electric. If you want to heat that much liquid, it better be propane or some other flame type heating mechanism unless you want to go really large scale and get something that will hold more like 100 gallons. I would look at brewer supply houses for such.

2. Jojoba is going to yield cloudy soap. Every time. No matter what you do. Cloudy soap will be hard to market.

3. Why not skip paste stage by stopping at emulsion, and let time do the rest? Seems easier, by far, to me. You would also save wear and tear on equipment by not making it deal with paste.

4. How are you going to break up the paste lumps?

5. Going from oils/lye stage to dilution in one step does not offer consistent results. Something you must have in a commercial operation so as not to waste large amounts of supplies.
 

BrewerGeorge

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I remembered that there are widgets published to do these calculations:

So assuming reasonable insulation of the vessel, 20k Watts of heating power into 26 gallons will enable a rise of about 4º F/min (without a phase change). That would mean roughly half an hour to heat from "room temp" to near boiling. If you need to boil, you can roughly double that time to get to a bulk boil.

If you're willing to double that time, you can halve the elements, but realize still what a logistical challenge you're talking about. You would basically need to have two new 240V electric stove outlets installed somewhere in your house, then deal with (read: try not to trip over) two dryer/stove cords plugged into your device.
 

Sapo

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I remembered that there are widgets published to do these calculations:

So assuming reasonable insulation of the vessel, 20k Watts of heating power into 26 gallons will enable a rise of about 4º F/min (without a phase change). That would mean roughly half an hour to heat from "room temp" to near boiling. If you need to boil, you can roughly double that time to get to a bulk boil.

If you're willing to double that time, you can halve the elements, but realize still what a logistical challenge you're talking about. You would basically need to have two new 240V electric stove outlets installed somewhere in your house, then deal with (read: try not to trip over) two dryer/stove cords plugged into your device.
Volume of fluid to heat in litres:
50

Temperature rise required in degrees C:
75

Power of heating element in kW:
1.5
Calculate time required to heat up to temperature:
174.82517 minutes

According to this (http://processheatingservices.com/water-heating-time-calculator/) random calculator I found in 2 minutes, the heat up time for the first phase of LS production (paste stage, about 40 liters of fluid (circa. 50% oil, 50% water) +the mass of the pots...lets assume the thermal mass equals 50 liters total) is 3 hours on a standard 1500W heater, to reach 95C. Adding more time to it due to losses is probably a safe bet. Not ideal, but survivable, given that theres always other stuff to do in the meanwhile. Still, very valid concerns - the thread is already achieving it's intended purpose and my tunnel vision is getting expanded :D. Thank you. I shall perform a test with my 23QT pot, fully loaded, shortly, to see how accurate these calculators are.
 
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BrewerGeorge

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Don't forget about the mass of the water used for the bath; it needs to be heated too.

Also, your calculation neglects loss. Adding a reasonable loss rate knocks that 3 hours to 4 hours.

Both of us are also treating this like water, which might be a significant simplification. I think oil heats faster, but I don't know how much off the top of my head.

I'm just saying that I've built two electric breweries from scratch and been involved in designing around a dozen more via an online electric brewing club. 1500W is simply not big enough for 50 liters. Home brewery standards for that amount is 4500W. Since you don't need to actually boil (and provide heat of evaporation) you could probably drop that by a third - so 3000W is the lowest I'd try in this situation.
 

Catastrophe

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90% of this conversation is over my head, but why wouldn't you use a high BTU propane burner instead of dealing with the electric?
 

Sapo

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The general directions from manufacturers of those high BTU burners are: not for indoor use!

I imagine the pesky people who come and inspect the place every now and then to make sure everything is running by the "Good Manufacturing Practices" (ISO 22716:2007) would have a problem with that :D.

And to be honest, I'm a bit twitchy regarding that as well, I like oxygen. That said, it may be safe and it may be legal, I'm not 100%.
 

Catastrophe

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The general directions from manufacturers of those high BTU burners are: not for indoor use!

I imagine the pesky people who come and inspect the place every now and then to make sure everything is running by the "Good Manufacturing Practices" (ISO 22716:2007) would have a problem with that :D.

And to be honest, I'm a bit twitchy regarding that as well, I like oxygen. That said, it may be safe and it may be legal, I'm not 100%.
Ohhhhh, sorry I think your pic led me to believe you were going to do it outside. As someone who has TWICE caught a turkey fryer (in my garage...) on fire...I definitely do NOT recommend high BTU burners indoors unless you have a commercial kitchen!
 

DeeAnna

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"... I think oil heats faster, but I don't know how much off the top of my head...."

Liquid oils warm up much faster than water -- the info below says liquid oils will take less than half of the heat energy needed for water to warm from a given starting temp to a given ending temp.

As Brewer George points out, the heat loss from the equipment needs to also be factored into the heat input requirements. Heat loss can be fairly large when you're talking about small-scale processing equipment like this, since surface area of small-scale equipment can be relatively large in proportion to the volume.

If you are also going to be melting solid fats, you have to consider the enthalpy of the phase change -- in other words, the heat required to melt the fat -- as well as the "sensible" heat which is the energy required to heat the melted fat to the required temperature.

Specific heat of water: 4.19 kJ/kg-degC or 1 BTU/lb-degF

Specific heat of castor oil or olive oil: 1.97 kJ/kg-degC or 0.47 BTU/lb-degF

Specific heat of unspecified vegetable oil: 1.67 kJ/kg-degC or 0.4 BTU/lb-degF

Source: http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/specific-heat-fluids-d_151.html
 

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