Coffee Soap Went A Little Odd

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Hi friends! I made a coffee soap and got some unexpected results, I wondered if anyone had any thoughts about what might have happened.

I used a recipe from Ellie's Everyday with a couple small modifications, mostly adjusting the liquid:lye ratio and scaling it up a touch. This is what I used, with a full water replacement using brewed coffee:
30% coconut oil
20% rice bran oil
20% olive oil
20% shea butter
10% cocoa butter
6% superfat
1.8:1 liquid/lye ratio

The other additives were FO at 3% of oil weight, 1/2 Tbsp sodium lactate, 1/2 Tbsp kaolin clay, and some coffee grounds added at trace.

Everything went fine while I was soaping, which I did at about 90 degrees, and I'm pretty sure the soap went through full gel (I covered it and wrapped it in towels in a warm-ish room). My question is about some weird discoloring I got... I don't think it's soda ash? Unless it is lol but it didn't respond at all to being hit with some steam and 99% alcohol. It's mostly on the top and, strangely, the end pieces of the loaf, but not at all on the sides.

IMG_6488 (Medium).jpeg
 
Are you sure it gelled? That looks like a classic partial gel ring; also you are more likely to get soda ash without gel. I have gotten soda ash which is pretty intractable/resistant to steaming ....

ETA: I do really like the way this soap looks anyway, it looks like you could have designed it that way.
 
Are you sure it gelled? That looks like a classic partial gel ring; also you are more likely to get soda ash without gel. I have gotten soda ash which is pretty intractable/resistant to steaming ....

ETA: I do really like the way this soap looks anyway, it looks like you could have designed it that way.
It's just the outside piece that did that, the middle bars are perfect aside from the top. I suppose it's possible it didn't gel at all? But it doesn't look like the pictures of partial gel I've seen before, I think it's still discoloring from the FO. Here's another angle of a couple middle bars.

IMG_6489 (Medium).jpeg


I also like how it looks, I've had coffee drinks that look like this with the lighter color on the surface :D I just want to understand what caused it so I can avoid or replicate in the future hehe.
 
I'm not sure if this will help, but the tops of your soap are reminding me of an unusual kind of ash I've seen a few times over the years. These flower soaps are the best example I can find. They were completely covered in a hard, smooth lacquer-like coating/ash that was extremely difficult to remove. For example, compare the top left soap, which has the white coating intact, with the bottom left (yellow) soap. It took surprisingly vigorous scrubbing with a wet toothbrush to remove the coating. The recipe was ZNSC with 100% OO, so quite different from your recipe. Judging by how smooth the tops of your soap are, I'm guessing that your trace was very light, which likely increased the potential for this kind of ash. It does look like you were right on the edge of full gel that didn't quite make it all the way to the end and into the corners of the mold. If you decide to make the soap again, try starting with the batter a little warmer or adding more towels.
 
Ok, thanks everyone! Some kind of weird, resilient soda ash makes sense, then. I haven't seen one quite so stubborn and almost solid, I think this probably would take a good amount of scrub to get off. Luckily it looks like crema on espresso, so I won't bother ;)
 
What you've got is from the cocoa butter cream, and I get it every time I make my coffee soap & I add anything above 10% cocoa butter to them. I tell my son it's like the crema in the top of a really good coffee brew or just enough milk cream that it floats on top.
In any case, they love it because when I make my coffee soaps they're usually really dark brown, & have that creamy top.
It's NOT ash.
You'll see some that are a solid brown, no creamy top. Those didn't contain cocoa butter because I had run out. My younger son was the big fan of it until he just got bored of it. But I made a really large batch that lasted him well over a year. The last remnants were sent just this past months to his older brother in TX. 🤭 Hand-me-ups? I added just a smidge of ground Saigon cinnamon to those batches, & between the strong breed coffee replacing the water @ 100%, the cinny, the cocoa butter, etc., those bars of soap smelled like the BEST chocolates EVER. And my son loved the way they made his skin feel, & smell. So did his dates! 🥰
 

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Ok, thanks everyone! Some kind of weird, resilient soda ash makes sense, then. I haven't seen one quite so stubborn and almost solid, I think this probably would take a good amount of scrub to get off. Luckily it looks like crema on espresso, so I won't bother ;)
Will it come off when you plane your soap?
 
What you've got is from the cocoa butter cream, and I get it every time I make my coffee soap & I add anything above 10% cocoa butter to them. I tell my son it's like the crema in the top of a really good coffee brew or just enough milk cream that it floats on top.
In any case, they love it because when I make my coffee soaps they're usually really dark brown, & have that creamy top.
It's NOT ash.
You'll see some that are a solid brown, no creamy top. Those didn't contain cocoa butter because I had run out. My younger son was the big fan of it until he just got bored of it. But I made a really large batch that lasted him well over a year. The last remnants were sent just this past months to his older brother in TX. 🤭 Hand-me-ups? I added just a smidge of ground Saigon cinnamon to those batches, & between the strong breed coffee replacing the water @ 100%, the cinny, the cocoa butter, etc., those bars of soap smelled like the BEST chocolates EVER. And my son loved the way they made his skin feel, & smell. So did his dates! 🥰
Oh look at that! Thank you for the explanation, that does make a lot of sense. I don't use cocoa butter very often so that explains why I hadn't really seen this before. Your bars are such a gorgeous brown, I expected mine to come out a little darker than they did.

Will it come off when you plane your soap?
I don't plane mine, all the ones I've tried take off too much for my liking
 
Sometimes a batch of soap does something like yours -- all of the soap goes into gel, except for a thin layer on the outside faces of both outer bars. This ungelled soap can sometimes also extend along the upper corners of the loaf for an inch or two from the ends.

If I think this is happening to a loaf of soap, I'll sometimes cover just the ends of the mold with small towels to keep just those ends a bit warmer.

Ash can be flecks and spots of sodium carbonate (soda ash, washing soda), often on the top and sides of the bars. Or it can be a thin layer of waxy pale-colored soap usually on the top of the soap. Sometimes a bit on the outside ends of the loaf. I can't say "soap ash" ever coats the cut surface of the bar like "soda ash" sometimes does.

Soda ash can be rubbed off with a dry finger tip and feels "dry" and powdery. It will rinse off easily the first time a bar is used.

If the "ash" is actual soap, the layer will remain for the first use or two -- however long it takes for the soap to dissolve during bathing.
 
Sometimes a batch of soap does something like yours -- all of the soap goes into gel, except for a thin layer on the outside faces of both outer bars. This ungelled soap can sometimes also extend along the upper corners of the loaf for an inch or two from the ends.

If I think this is happening to a loaf of soap, I'll sometimes cover just the ends of the mold with small towels to keep just those ends a bit warmer.

Ash can be flecks and spots of sodium carbonate (soda ash, washing soda), often on the top and sides of the bars. Or it can be a thin layer of waxy pale-colored soap usually on the top of the soap. Sometimes a bit on the outside ends of the loaf. I can't say "soap ash" ever coats the cut surface of the bar like "soda ash" sometimes does.

Soda ash can be rubbed off with a dry finger tip and feels "dry" and powdery. It will rinse off easily the first time a bar is used.

If the "ash" is actual soap, the layer will remain for the first use or two -- however long it takes for the soap to dissolve during bathing.
Thank you, this is very helpful! I had another soap that wound up with more like that 'soap ash' you describe and I didn't know what it was... it certainly took a few uses before that went away!
 
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