Dear Shea Butter: What did I do to deserve this?

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dibbles

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I normally soap between 90-100. 110 also seems to be a good temp that a lot of people aim for. I did - and will again - soap warmer when I used beeswax.
 

DeeAnna

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Most of the time, the temp of my soap batter is initially in the range of 95 to 105 F. I don't use shea so YMMV from mine since you're using so much shea.

I use a lot of lard in my recipes. I will melt my lard and other solid fats until they are warm enough to be completely melted and transparent. I'll add room temperature liquid fats after the solid fats are fully melted. And my lye solutions and other water-based liquids are also at room temp. These cooler liquids help to cool the overall mixture a bit.

In the 95-105 range, I don't get false trace and I have only a few stearic spots in the finished soap. I wouldn't soap any cooler to minimize both of these issues.

I think @Mobjack Bay has experimented with the temps needed to fully melt fats to avoid stearic spots and other issues that come from not fully melting the solid fats. Maybe MB will chime in here and provide some sage advice?

edit: I'm another one who doesn't think Brambleberry always has it right. Their designs and ideas can be fun, but they've presented some bad chemistry info in the past. It makes me skeptical of anything they say that's on a science vein.
 
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KiwiMoose

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I soap around 40 - 45 celsius. I use soy wax in my recipes and it does have a higher melting point so after many batches I decided it was best kept at that temperature. However, I only recently discovered that was the temperature I was using - my first year of soaping was done entirely by touch ( ie if the oils and lye solution were slightly warm but not hot when touching the container). My step-son has a temperature gauge so I recently started using that purely out of interest to see exactly what 'warm to the touch' actually measured in degrees.
 

szaza

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I did use the exact same shea butter and it's refined...
Did you use exactly the same batch of shea butter as you used one year ago or did you order new? I ask because old fats may start to break down creating free fatty acids which like @DeeAnna said will saponify quicker. I'm thinking that might be the difference that made it saponify so much quicker this time, with everything else being the same. (How were your temperatures last time?)
 

IrishLass

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My normal soaping temps are between 110 - 120F, and I've even soaped at 160F once (not intentionally). The only time I get those kind of lumps is when I soap below 110F with a goodly amount of hydrogentated palm kernel oil flakes along with either kokum butter or mango butter in the same formula......or with certain ornery FOs. I could be wrong, but I'm leaning heavily towards the free fatty acids theory.


IrishLass :)
 

Mobjack Bay

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I have been able to mostly avoid stearic spots in my soap by melting my hard fats until they are crystal clear and by adjusting my working temperature to match the hard fat I’m using (see below). I’ve gone so far as to check the clarity of my melted fats with a magnifying lens. The sweet spot is usually around 135 and 145 F for lard, tallow, palm and Shea. Below that I can sometimes see little crystals or flakes floating in the oil through a magnifying lens even if the fats look clear to my eye. Soy wax (GW 415) is the exception. It melts crystal clear at right around 125 F.

I also adjust my soaping temperature by hard fat type. The starting batter temperatures I aim for are as follows: lard - 85 to 95 F; palm, Shea, or tallow/lard blend - 105 to 115 F; and soy wax - 120 to 125 F. I can get away with a lower starting temperature if I’m adding sugar or another additive that causes heating, if the batch size is big (> 2 lbs oil), or if I take the batter to a good solid trace (past light, but not medium). For smaller batches and slab molds, I need to stay on the warmer side of a range. For emulsion stage pours, I also need to stay on the warmer side of the range. I can start at a lower temperature if my recipe has a high percentage of soft oils. This is all for lye concentrations in the range of 33% to 40%. I MB my lye, so I SB the liquid into the oils first (it’s temp adjusted to be close to oil temp) and then pour my RT lye in slowly.
 

penelopejane

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Thank you for this. But now I'm really confused... I've read in lots of places that 120-130F is the ideal range for soaping... (source: Brambleberry, etc.) Is that incorrect? I soaped once around 90F as I was using goat's milk and that batch went all wrong, didn't go through gel phase etc and people told me I soaped too cold. Your thoughts?



This actually sounds like the closest answer so far... I've read that 120-130F is ideal for soaping. Am I wrong? What temps do you soap at?



I did use the exact same shea butter and it's refined... but now you've put a new wrinkle in my brain: unsaponifiables in oils? Is that a thing? (I have SO much still to learn!) :D



No coconut in my recipe. It's shea butter, olive oil, rapeseed and a little cocoa butter and castor oil. (You made me look up the term "non-newtonian" - thank you!) :)



Same reply as I put for cmzaha: Thank you but now I'm really confused... I've read in lots of places that 120-130F is the ideal range for soaping... (source: Brambleberry, etc.) Is that incorrect? I soaped once around 90F as I was using goat's milk and that batch went all wrong, didn't go through gel phase etc and people told me I soaped too cold. Your thoughts? What temps do you soap at?

My shea butter and oils were actually hotter than my lye... 130ish oils and 120ish lye solution... but I do like your non-scientific explanation. It seemed like the lye hit the oils and made a thick layer in the bottom of the pot instantly. As I stirred I was kicking up this muck and trying to blend it with the top layer of oils.

If I add sugar to my lye solution then, I should soap at lower temps to compensate..?
I wouldn’t go by brambleberry advice.
I make a lot of soap with Shea butter and I soap at 110* F. I don’t like stearic spots or swirls.
 

TheGecko

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Hi all, I'm wondering if I can get some advice. I've been soaping for about 2 years and it's been a long time since I had a batch run wild on me without knowing what I did wrong. About 1 year ago, I made a batch of shea butter soap that worked wonderfully. My friends have been begging for more. So I made it again today, the only difference being that I doubled the size of the batch. I ran it through soap calculator, melted my oils, made my lye solution and all was going well until that fateful moment I mixed. The oils and solution didn't seem to mix at all and when they finally did, it turned immediately into nasty white chunks. It didn't trace as much as it just sort of congealed. I'm not sure what went wrong.

The ONLY thing that I did differently was I adding 2 teaspoons of sugar to my lye solution. But I can't see how that would affect anything.

Anybody seen this before? Can anyone tell me what happened?
Different brand or supplier of your butter? I have gotten Shea Butter from a few different sources based on how much I am ordering from that supplier...it’s not the same from supplier to supplier.
 

soapythekid

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@szaza There might be something to that. It's the same batch of shea. I bought it in bulk over a year ago.
@IrishLass Thank you, yes fatty acids and high temps seem to be the culprit...
@Mobjack Bay This is beautiful info! I'm writing all your words down, thank you!
@penelopejane The consensus seems to be Brambleberry = BAD :D They helped me a lot in my starter days learning soap but I guess it's time to let them go :D
@TheGecko Same supplier, same batch actually. It might have more to do with fatty acid breakdown as mentioned by szaza...
 

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