Feedback for first batch of cold process

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I have two cold process batches of soap under my belt, and I must say, my processes have been much different than the people with experience that I've studied on Brambleberry and YouTube! I have spent way too much time the past few days reading through posts here, trying to learn answers to the million questions I have and wondering how I'm going to ask them all without making eyes roll. "Oh, it's HER again!"

My first batch was an apple sage kit from Brambleberry. I watched the tutorials, read the directions and followed them exactly with one exception. I substituted frozen goat milk cubes, ounce for ounce, instead of the water, again following Brambleberry's tutorial for mixing lye with milk. I spent a full 20 minutes mixing the lye and kept the milk under 85°F. The lye solution thickened considerably with the milk, which I was prepared for. The lye and oils were within 10 degrees of each other when I mixed them. Still, that soap batter thickened FAST! I suspect I stick blended it way too much. By the time I added the fragrance oil it was THICK, and it glopped into the mold instead of pouring nicely. I forgot to tap it on the counter and I forgot to spritz it with alcohol in my haste to get it in the refrigerator and stop it from gelling. Hokey smoke, I never want to put fresh goat milk soap in the refrigerator again. Everything in the fridge tasted like apple sage soap and it STUNK! I had to put it out in the shop to cure because it smelled so bad and gave everyone in the house a headache. 5 weeks later the stink is gone and it smells pleasant, thank goodness! However, the bars still appear a little darker in the middle than around the edges, and seem to be developing a flaky appearance. Did I still get a partial gel phase? Is any of this possibly from over mixing?

In this picture, the bar on the left is from the middle of the loaf and the one on the right is an end piece. Any comments or advice on how I can improve my next batch are much appreciated!
 

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It sounds like you did everything right. Regarding questions, ask away, I must have asked thousands when I first started. I think that if people here can help they are happy to do so because it's a way of paying back all the help most of us have received and also it's just fun talking about soap!

Yes, that is a classic partial gel ring. What I can think of regarding maybe slowing down trace (why you had to glop)/preventing overheating (the reason for the gel ring) next time are:

(a) making sure that the FO is not an accelerator (and if possible one known to be slow); and/or
(b) using a blend of oils that is slow to trace - I assume that BB tried to ensure that, but they probably would not have included lard in the mix, which is very slow to trace. A high olive oil recipe would be also, but that would require a longer cure and some people don't like the feel of high OO soaps; if I were you I would try a lard recipe; and/or
(c) lower the lye concentration if possible (more water will slow trace although it will also take a little longer to demold); and/or
(d) as you yourself noted, stick blend less; with a milk soap you could even just mix with a whisk or for a tiny while with a stick blender and then leave it alone (but watch it), it will probably come to trace by itself sooner than you think; and/or
(e) for the milk component use milk powders blended into the oils well (rather than fresh milk) although I think this would not work for you because you want to use your own fresh milk?

ETA: your soap looks great for a third batch, and one made with milks. Milks are one of the more difficult type of CP, though. It might be better to start with more basic recipes (and maybe fragrance free ones) and move on when you have a few more under your belt, just so you have a sense of how things work generally.
 
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It sounds like you did everything right. Regarding questions, ask away, I must have asked thousands when I first started. I think that if people here can help they are happy to do so because it's a way of paying back all the help most of us have received and also it's just fun talking about soap!

Yes, that is a classic partial gel ring. What I can think of regarding maybe slowing down trace (why you had to glop)/preventing overheating (the reason for the gel ring) next time are:

(a) making sure that the FO is not an accelerator (and if possible one known to be slow); and/or
(b) using a blend of oils that is slow to trace - I assume that BB tried to ensure that, but they probably would not have included lard in the mix, which is very slow to trace. A high olive oil recipe would be also, but that would require a longer cure and some people don't like the feel of high OO soaps; if I were you I would try a lard recipe; and/or
(c) lower the lye concentration if possible (more water will slow trace although it will also take a little longer to demold); and/or
(d) as you yourself noted, stick blend less; with a milk soap you could even just mix with a whisk or for a tiny while with a stick blender and then leave it alone (but watch it), it will probably come to trace by itself sooner than you think; and/or
(e) for the milk component use milk powders blended into the oils well (rather than fresh milk) although I think this would not work for you because you want to use your own fresh milk?

ETA: your soap looks great for a third batch, and one made with milks. Milks are one of the more difficult type of CP, though. It might be better to start with more basic recipes (and maybe fragrance free ones) and move on when you have a few more under your belt, just so you have a sense of how things work generally.
It sounds like you did everything right. Regarding questions, ask away, I must have asked thousands when I first started. I think that if people here can help they are happy to do so because it's a way of paying back all the help most of us have received and also it's just fun talking about soap!

Yes, that is a classic partial gel ring. What I can think of regarding maybe slowing down trace (why you had to glop)/preventing overheating (the reason for the gel ring) next time are:

(a) making sure that the FO is not an accelerator (and if possible one known to be slow); and/or
(b) using a blend of oils that is slow to trace - I assume that BB tried to ensure that, but they probably would not have included lard in the mix, which is very slow to trace. A high olive oil recipe would be also, but that would require a longer cure and some people don't like the feel of high OO soaps; if I were you I would try a lard recipe; and/or
(c) lower the lye concentration if possible (more water will slow trace although it will also take a little longer to demold); and/or
(d) as you yourself noted, stick blend less; with a milk soap you could even just mix with a whisk or for a tiny while with a stick blender and then leave it alone (but watch it), it will probably come to trace by itself sooner than you think; and/or
(e) for the milk component use milk powders blended into the oils well (rather than fresh milk) although I think this would not work for you because you want to use your own fresh milk?

ETA: your soap looks great for a third batch, and one made with milks. Milks are one of the more difficult type of CP, though. It might be better to start with more basic recipes (and maybe fragrance free ones) and move on when you have a few more under your belt, just so you have a sense of how things work generally.
Thank you so much for your kind and detailed reply! You guessed right, my goal is to use fresh milk right out of my goats! I fought with myself for a long time whether to use water for my first batch like everything online said to, or not "waste" a $65 kit by using water. I figured since milk was my goal, I'd start there. What is it about the brand of human beings that I belong to, that makes us think advice must be for someone else?😄 It never occurred to me to make smaller batches, because the kit came with a 10" loaf mold and I didn't have the problem solving skills to work around that! I'm much happier to know I can make small batches for experiments and experience. After all, even with a large family, we can only use so much soap!

While I have used BB's lye calculator, I didn't know anything about lye concentration until I started reading posts here. Do you recommend a 33% lye concentration, or should I try for weaker than that? When substituting milk for water, is it proper to substitute ounce for ounce?

I must have an itchy trigger finger with the stick blender. I had just read about false trace and was afraid of not mixing it enough, because it thickened in close to one minute. All in all, I'm not unhappy with my first try (the pictures I posted are of my first try Brambleberry kit) and I feel like I learned a ton. It left me so excited to make another batch that, as soon as my mold was emptied, I dove right into attempt number two. But that'll be a separate post because - too many more questions!

Thank you so much!

It looks great - yes that's partial gel as not_ally has already said. And it is most likely you did stick blend too much - ask any of us when we started out. Everyone does it!
Thank you! Maybe I need to unplug the blender and just practice stirring with it. Gadgets with buttons just beg to be pushed!

Do you have any suggestions what I can do in the future about the partial gel phase? The Brambleberry milk soap tutorial warned against letting milk soaps go through gel phase because it would scorch the milk. Then I read here that many people intentionally gel phase their milk soaps without any problems. I felt like I did a good job keeping the lye solution temperature low and getting the soap in the fridge quickly. While it's not a big deal at this point that it has a circle in the middle, I'd like to know how to control gel phase.
 
I must have an itchy trigger finger with the stick blender. I had just read about false trace and was afraid of not mixing it enough, because it thickened in close to one minute. All in all, I'm not unhappy with my first try (the pictures I posted are of my first try Brambleberry kit) and I feel like I learned a ton. It left me so excited to make another batch that, as soon as my mold was emptied, I dove right into attempt number two.
I, too, had an itchy trigger finger on the stick blender my first batch for fear of false trace! It takes a lot less blending than some of us think the first time haha. My first batch was a thick disaster that I had to scoop instead of pour, and my second... was better but still too thick lol. So you're definitely not alone in that! Your end result looks great though, nice work :)

A 33% lye concentration is very common. I actually found I prefer soaping with a touch less water/liquid, I think I'm at roughly a 35.7% concentration (I use a ratio measurement instead of concentration so my usual number is 1.8:1 liquid to lye).
 
I, too, had an itchy trigger finger on the stick blender my first batch for fear of false trace! It takes a lot less blending than some of us think the first time haha. My first batch was a thick disaster that I had to scoop instead of pour, and my second... was better but still too thick lol. So you're definitely not alone in that! Your end result looks great though, nice work :)

A 33% lye concentration is very common. I actually found I prefer soaping with a touch less water/liquid, I think I'm at roughly a 35.7% concentration (I use a ratio measurement instead of concentration so my usual number is 1.8:1 liquid to lye).
Thank you, I'm glad I'm not alone! It'll take some time for me to fully comprehend what the lye concentration and ratio measurements mean in real life, but that's where the fun of learning lies, and that's what online calculators are for! This old dog is excited to learn new tricks!
 
I have two cold process batches of soap under my belt, and I must say, my processes have been much different than the people with experience that I've studied on Brambleberry and YouTube! I have spent way too much time the past few days reading through posts here, trying to learn answers to the million questions I have and wondering how I'm going to ask them all without making eyes roll. "Oh, it's HER again!"

My first batch was an apple sage kit from Brambleberry. I watched the tutorials, read the directions and followed them exactly with one exception. I substituted frozen goat milk cubes, ounce for ounce, instead of the water, again following Brambleberry's tutorial for mixing lye with milk. I spent a full 20 minutes mixing the lye and kept the milk under 85°F. The lye solution thickened considerably with the milk, which I was prepared for. The lye and oils were within 10 degrees of each other when I mixed them. Still, that soap batter thickened FAST! I suspect I stick blended it way too much. By the time I added the fragrance oil it was THICK, and it glopped into the mold instead of pouring nicely. I forgot to tap it on the counter and I forgot to spritz it with alcohol in my haste to get it in the refrigerator and stop it from gelling. Hokey smoke, I never want to put fresh goat milk soap in the refrigerator again. Everything in the fridge tasted like apple sage soap and it STUNK! I had to put it out in the shop to cure because it smelled so bad and gave everyone in the house a headache. 5 weeks later the stink is gone and it smells pleasant, thank goodness! However, the bars still appear a little darker in the middle than around the edges, and seem to be developing a flaky appearance. Did I still get a partial gel phase? Is any of this possibly from over mixing?

In this picture, the bar on the left is from the middle of the loaf and the one on the right is an end piece. Any comments or advice on how I can improve my next batch are much appreciated!
Hello ~ I'd say it looks like a success for your first batch (unfortunate that the family got fumigated, but live & learn!).
I do make goat's milk soaps and freeze the milk as you did and put it in the fridge as you did, however, I don't add scents, rarely even EOs, just because of sensitivities, so I haven't had that "fumigation" experience. So, if you try another goat's milk recipe, maybe try an unscented one and follow the same procedure and see how that goes, it shouldn't smell up your fridge.
Also, my soaps usually have a higher percentage of olive oil so they are a slow moving batter, takes a while to reach trace depending on what other ingredients are in the recipe. So, as you experiment with different ingredients you will find the ones you like to work with and at what percentages. I have been reducing my olive oil percentages and adding more of other ingredients and I'm finding a better balance in my recipes ~ I'm sure you will do the same.
Happy soaping!
 
Although you are trying not to gel your soap, you might consider covering it with plastic wrap when putting it into the freezer. Although this will hold in a little bit of heat, it’s worth saving your freezer food from being doused in the scent. I’ve found that scents do transfer to the food and the freezer (or fridge, or oven). They are very difficult to remove once that happens.
 
I agree that your soap looks great for a 3rd batch. The actual making of soap from the lye/milk/water going into the oils until the time the batter goes into the mold isn't very long. Forgetting something is very common when you are working quickly and it hasn't become rote. Consider a checklist or other reminder. Some soapers put the fragrance bottle sitting in the mold so they won't forget it. Putting ingredients not yet used on the left and moving to the right after use helps.

Soap batters vary a lot in how long they need to be stick blended based on temps but also recipes. Videos usually have a slow tracing recipe because the person is focusing on design. My formulations have a lot of hard butters/fats and come together quickly. I SB to the count of 4 then stop and finish by stirring.

Have fun; it will get easier.
 
Hello ~ I'd say it looks like a success for your first batch (unfortunate that the family got fumigated, but live & learn!).
I do make goat's milk soaps and freeze the milk as you did and put it in the fridge as you did, however, I don't add scents, rarely even EOs, just because of sensitivities, so I haven't had that "fumigation" experience. So, if you try another goat's milk recipe, maybe try an unscented one and follow the same procedure and see how that goes, it shouldn't smell up your fridge.
Also, my soaps usually have a higher percentage of olive oil so they are a slow moving batter, takes a while to reach trace depending on what other ingredients are in the recipe. So, as you experiment with different ingredients you will find the ones you like to work with and at what percentages. I have been reducing my olive oil percentages and adding more of other ingredients and I'm finding a better balance in my recipes ~ I'm sure you will do the same.
Happy soaping!
Thank you so much for the helpful advice! I plan to try a higher olive oil recipe next time. I also ordered a 4" square mold so I can make small test batches. I'm so excited to keep learning!
 
Although you are trying not to gel your soap, you might consider covering it with plastic wrap when putting it into the freezer. Although this will hold in a little bit of heat, it’s worth saving your freezer food from being doused in the scent. I’ve found that scents do transfer to the food and the freezer (or fridge, or oven). They are very difficult to remove once that happens.
Thank you for that suggestion. I'll definitely try that, and I'll also try gelling a batch to see if it works for me. I feel like I would gel my soaps on purpose if I wasn't using milk, so if gelling doesn't ruin the soap I think that sounds like the easier route to go, and I bet they'll look amazing! Eventually I want to be able to control gel/no gel, but for now I'm just excited to be making usable soap!

I agree that your soap looks great for a 3rd batch. The actual making of soap from the lye/milk/water going into the oils until the time the batter goes into the mold isn't very long. Forgetting something is very common when you are working quickly and it hasn't become rote. Consider a checklist or other reminder. Some soapers put the fragrance bottle sitting in the mold so they won't forget it. Putting ingredients not yet used on the left and moving to the right after use helps.

Soap batters vary a lot in how long they need to be stick blended based on temps but also recipes. Videos usually have a slow tracing recipe because the person is focusing on design. My formulations have a lot of hard butters/fats and come together quickly. I SB to the count of 4 then stop and finish by stirring.

Have fun; it will get easier.
Oh my, so many helpful suggestions! Thank you! I am definitely the one who will forget stuff. I often do left/right organization when I'm baking, and I love the idea of putting last minute ingredients in the mold. I definitely struggled with when to add what, being afraid of forgetting something.

I will be starting another thread about using tallow and milk. (Might take me a few days to find time for that.) I already conducted my initial experiment with that. While it did turn out WAY better than I expected, I have a ton of questions on how I can make it better. All about hard/soft oils, milk and temps. I hope you can help me with that, too!
 
Although you are trying not to gel your soap, you might consider covering it with plastic wrap when putting it into the freezer. Although this will hold in a little bit of heat, it’s worth saving your freezer food from being doused in the scent. I’ve found that scents do transfer to the food and the freezer (or fridge, or oven). They are very difficult to remove once that happens.
And I've just been stuffing my soap in fridge all willy nilly without covering 😆 ~ I wonder if it will help with the soda ash I get on occasion 🤔
 
I bet your fridge smells divine when you open it.... but the transfer of the smell to the food... 🤮

Covering my soap definitely helps with reducing or preventing soda ash. But I get that's not always the best option if your goal is to keep it cool and prevent it from gelling.
 
I bet your fridge smells divine when you open it.... but the transfer of the smell to the food... 🤮

Covering my soap definitely helps with reducing or preventing soda ash. But I get that's not always the best option if your goal is to keep it cool and prevent it from gelling.
Honestly, since I don't add scents, my soaps barely have any smell, just have a natural soap smell when you put it to your nose, and I mean right up to your nose. The few I added scent to, I didn't refigerate for no particular reason (probably my fridge was full or the batter didn't get very warm in the mold 🤷🏼‍♀️), but the recipes I've been doing more recently with less olive oil and more other ingredients have been feeling warmer when I pour into the molds so into the fridge they go, but no scents added so no smells in the fridge ~ and believe me, the hubby would let me know if it smelled up the fridge 🙄
But I will try covering the next one just for curiosity sake

Edit to add an after thought: maybe since I soap at such cool temps and most of time my batters stay on the cool side, they aren't gelling/cooking so they don't get strong smells? 🤷🏼‍♀️
 
The Brambleberry milk soap tutorial said that milk soaps have an ammonia smell for a good week or so after they're made. I assume that's why mine stunk so bad. It smells nice now, but it sure didn't at first! I made a different recipe a couple weeks ago with less milk, and essential oil instead of fragrance oil. That one never smelled bad like the first one with fragrance oil did.
 
The Brambleberry milk soap tutorial said that milk soaps have an ammonia smell for a good week or so after they're made. I assume that's why mine stunk so bad. It smells nice now, but it sure didn't at first! I made a different recipe a couple weeks ago with less milk, and essential oil instead of fragrance oil. That one never smelled bad like the first one with fragrance oil did.
I have not yet experienced that and I have no idea why. All I can guess, and I stress GUESS, is maybe that would happen if the soap were to get too hot (?), like scorch the milk hot. When I was researching milk soap recipes I read a lot about the possibility of scorching and how best to prevent it so I took all the precautions: freeze the milk, soap at cool temps, and I opt to not gel or in other words, chill my soap while in the mold. I don't know if all that also happens to help reduce the chance of ammonia smell or not, but maybe it's possible 🤷🏼‍♀️
I do know that using frozen liquid to make the lye solution greatly reduces the lye fumes (and smell) so that may also factor into the reduced overall ammonia smell of milk soap also ~ just another guess
 
The Brambleberry milk soap tutorial said that milk soaps have an ammonia smell for a good week or so after they're made. I assume that's why mine stunk so bad. It smells nice now, but it sure didn't at first! I made a different recipe a couple weeks ago with less milk, and essential oil instead of fragrance oil. That one never smelled bad like the first one with fragrance oil did.
Yes - I have definitely had the ammonia smell on several occasions when using coconut cream. It's awful. I call it 'perm-solution' smell. I remember it well from the 80s. It definitely settles to a normal fragrance after a few days.
 
Yes - I have definitely had the ammonia smell on several occasions when using coconut cream. It's awful. I call it 'perm-solution' smell. I remember it well from the 80s. It definitely settles to a normal fragrance after a few days.
😲 I used to get perms twice a year from the time I was 13 until I was well into my 20's ~ I haven't smelled anything that bad while making soap yet . . . Yet! Thank goodness! That would be like a traumatic flashback! 🤣
Is it supposed to happen with all milk soaps? Or maybe it's more likely with milk soap recipes that have certain other ingredients as well? Because come to think of it, when I made my oatmilk soap, I made my oatmilk with almond milk and soaked it in the fridge for several days, then blended the oats into the milk for more of a milky slurry, added a little more almond milk and froze it, then made my lye solution, then then made the soap, and that soap got real hot and did have a bit of an odor when I poured it into the mold, but I slid it into the fridge real quick. I never noticed any strong fumes in the fridge though and it didn't scorch so it ended well, thank goodness!
 
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