Ricing and Acceleration? And Cocoa Butter?

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MrsZ

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Soaping this week is kinda frustrating. I'm still a newbie, but I've made 25 batches in the last 2 months learning and experimenting. I'd gotten to know my favorite recipe and how it behaved really well. (At least I thought I had!) It makes a slow, manageable trace that stays fluid for a long time.

I wanted to try something new, so I started using RBO in place of Sweet Almond Oil at the same time as I started using a new brand of cocoa butter. Everything I've done this week has accelerated badly. I soap warm, about 90 degrees because my oils get cloudy lower than that.

I thought it was the RBO, so I tried my usual recipe with SAO, exactly the same process as all my successful batches. The moment the lye solution hits the oils, it starts to thicken in the bottom. After a couple seconds stick blending, it is fully emulsified and reaching a medium trace. And it just continues to move fast from there. So I think not the RBO.

I noticed that as my new cocoa butter melts, it turns very dark compared to the last cocoa butter I bought. I don't overheat it, it is just really dark. Do you think that the new cocoa butter could be causing acceleration?

My recipe is 40% lard, 25% Sweet almond oil ( or olive, or RBO), 20% coconut oil, 10% cocoa butter, 5% castor oil. 35% lye concentration.

My other question is, I poured a soap with very mild ricing. My FO riced and the soap accelerated so bad I couldn't SB it out. What are the chances that it will be ok without rebatching?

Thanks for your help!

(Sorry, no pictures. I was trying to get it in the mold before it turned to soap on a stick)
 
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In my (limited, sample size 2 batches) experience, cocoa butter is rather on the leisurely side for its degree of saturation. But that doesn't have to mean anything. You might have got a batch that is quick-tracing for whatever reason (cocoa tree cultivar, weather, harvest season, storage, refinement…). On the other hand, 10% of cocoa butter aren't much.

Reading your story closely, allow me this stupid question: can you safely exclude false trace? I. e. your lye solution is at least as warm as your oils when adding. If it's too cold, the cocoa butter might decide to freeze quicker than your previous batch, and panicking (overdoing SB) might well worsen this and lead to proper ricing and weird acceleration issues.

My other question is, I poured a soap with very mild ricing. My FO riced and the soap accelerated so bad I couldn't SB it out. What are the chances that it will be ok without rebatching?
What are the chances that you include this batch into your confetti un-challenge submission?
 

MrsZ

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In my (limited, sample size 2 batches) experience, cocoa butter is rather on the leisurely side for its degree of saturation. But that doesn't have to mean anything. You might have got a batch that is quick-tracing for whatever reason (cocoa tree cultivar, weather, harvest season, storage, refinement…). On the other hand, 10% of cocoa butter aren't much.

Reading your story closely, allow me this stupid question: can you safely exclude false trace? I. e. your lye solution is at least as warm as your oils when adding. If it's too cold, the cocoa butter might decide to freeze quicker than your previous batch, and panicking (overdoing SB) might well worsen this and lead to proper ricing and weird acceleration issues.


What are the chances that you include this batch into your confetti un-challenge submission?
I thought I may have had false trace today, as I was trying to keep everything cool for my FO. The particular fragrance said it had slight acceleration below 90 degrees. So over blending it may certainly have been my issue today. :) I hadn't thought about that.

Every other time this week, I'm certain I've avoided false trace. The soap just moved too fast. I'm thinking maybe my next step is to buy another jar of my usual brand of cocoa butter, and see if I still this problem. I'm just a little confused. :)

Using this batch for the un-challenge may be a good idea...🤔

Does ricing cause problems other than cosmetic issues?
 
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This won’t be much comfort, but you are not alone. After two years, I still sometimes have very strange things happen when I make soap. Is the cocoa butter the same type you were using before, e.g. refined vs. unrefined? I noticed a side-by-side difference in time to trace between unrefined (faster) and refined (slower) shea when I first started soaping. I figured it had something to do with unsaponifiables.
 

MrsZ

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This won’t be much comfort, but you are not alone. After two years, I still sometimes have very strange things happen when I make soap. Is the cocoa butter the same type you were using before, e.g. refined vs. unrefined? I noticed a side-by-side difference in time to trace between unrefined (faster) and refined (slower) shea when I first started soaping. I figured it had something to do with unsaponifiables.
This is exactly what I was wondering, if there were more unsaponifiables in this newer batch. Both types are unrefined, but I feel this newer one is even less refined. The cocoa smell is stronger, and the color is even a little darker.
 

Todd Ziegler

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One thing I didn't notice in the previous responses was your FO. FO's can often be the sole culprit in fast trace/acceleration and ricing. Have you checked the testing information from the seller you bought your FO from?

I buy most of my FO's from NG or NS and I always read their testing results before I purchase a new FO. I usually don't buy any FO that acceleration or ricing appears in the testing description. Not always though, because sometimes I will use the bad behaving FO mixed in with another, to help mitigate the acceleration. However I don't buy any that includes ricing in the description.
 

MrsZ

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One thing I didn't notice in the previous responses was your FO. FO's can often be the sole culprit in fast trace/acceleration and ricing. Have you checked the testing information from the seller you bought your FO from?

I buy most of my FO's from NG or NS and I always read their testing results before I purchase a new FO. I usually don't buy any FO that acceleration or ricing appears in the testing description. Not always though, because sometimes I will use the bad behaving FO mixed in with another, to help mitigate the acceleration. However I don't buy any that includes ricing in the description.
I definitely did have some acceleration from my FO yesterday that riced. I bought it from NS, and it did say it had mild acceleration. Nothing about ricing though.

The other times, it has accelerated before I've added any FO. I definitely thought it may be contributing, so I tried the recipe with a FO that has behaved perfectly for me before. But the acceleration has been before fragrance. :)
 

TheGecko

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Until I settled on a couple of local suppliers, I bought my base oils (Olive, Palm, Coconut, Castor) and butters (Cocoa and Shea) from many different companies: BrambleBerry, Rustic Escentuals, BeSented, Elements Bath & Body, Nurture Soap...never had any issues. I do know that there is a difference between Olive Oil and Olive Oil Pomace with the latter causing acceleration. And I know that there is a difference between using 'natural/organic' Cocoa and Shea Butters and said butters that have been bleached and deodorized, but it's generally limited to color and smell. And depending on where you get your 'natural/organic' Cocoa Butter, some can be darker in color than others.

The only way to be absolutely sure on what is causing the problem is to start by making small, uncolored, unscented test batches. You will want to start with a control batch...your usual recipe with ingredients from your usual suppliers. Then you make a batch with only the Cocoa Butter as the new ingredient and batch with only the RBO as the new ingredient. You'll also want to check the dates of your ingredients, including your Sodium Hydroxide.

Acceleration can be caused by a lot of different things...from stick blending too much, temperature of oils, butters and lye solution, additives and/or fragrance oils. From lessons learned, I always buy a Sample or 1 oz bottle and then make a test batch of any new FO. It's a PITA because they you have to wait for a larger size to be delivered, but on the flip side, you don't end up with an unusable FO....like Katie at Royalty Soaps did back in May. She bought two FOs...one 10lbs, the other 25lbs without testing. MAJOR problems with both.

Ricing generally occurs when your FO starts to immediately bind with your hard oils. Stick Blending will break it up, but then you run the risk of ending up with pudding. Lisa at I Dream in Soap recommends stirring your FO in immediately as opposed to pouring it it and then blending later.
 
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I also find that ricing can be minimised by adding the FO to the warmed oils before the lye. Not always, but it can work. Some of the problem I reckon is when your FO is cold and the oils/soap batter are warm - the FO hits the mixture and instantly cools the hard oils into little bits of 'rice'. I'm not a chemist, but that's my two bob's worth.
 

MrsZ

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Until I settled on a couple of local suppliers, I bought my base oils (Olive, Palm, Coconut, Castor) and butters (Cocoa and Shea) from many different companies: BrambleBerry, Rustic Escentuals, BeSented, Elements Bath & Body, Nurture Soap...never had any issues. I do know that there is a difference between Olive Oil and Olive Oil Pomace with the latter causing acceleration. And I know that there is a difference between using 'natural/organic' Cocoa and Shea Butters and said butters that have been bleached and deodorized, but it's generally limited to color and smell. And depending on where you get your 'natural/organic' Cocoa Butter, some can be darker in color than others.

The only way to be absolutely sure on what is causing the problem is to start by making small, uncolored, unscented test batches. You will want to start with a control batch...your usual recipe with ingredients from your usual suppliers. Then you make a batch with only the Cocoa Butter as the new ingredient and batch with only the RBO as the new ingredient. You'll also want to check the dates of your ingredients, including your Sodium Hydroxide.

Acceleration can be caused by a lot of different things...from stick blending too much, temperature of oils, butters and lye solution, additives and/or fragrance oils. From lessons learned, I always buy a Sample or 1 oz bottle and then make a test batch of any new FO. It's a PITA because they you have to wait for a larger size to be delivered, but on the flip side, you don't end up with an unusable FO....like Katie at Royalty Soaps did back in May. She bought two FOs...one 10lbs, the other 25lbs without testing. MAJOR problems with both.

Ricing generally occurs when your FO starts to immediately bind with your hard oils. Stick Blending will break it up, but then you run the risk of ending up with pudding. Lisa at I Dream in Soap recommends stirring your FO in immediately as opposed to pouring it it and then blending later.
Thank you for all of your advice. I have been only making 1 pound batches. And I also only buy trial size fragrance oils. :) Today I bought my normal cocoa butter, hopefully tomorrow I can try my normal recipe again with it and no other changes. My dates are all good, on my oils. How do I know if the lye is still in date? I only opened it last week.
 

MrsZ

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I also find that ricing can be minimised by adding the FO to the warmed oils before the lye. Not always, but it can work. Some of the problem I reckon is when your FO is cold and the oils/soap batter are warm - the FO hits the mixture and instantly cools the hard oils into little bits of 'rice'. I'm not a chemist, but that's my two bob's worth.
That makes sense. When I go to use the last bit of the ricing FO, I will try adding to my oils. :)
 
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@KiwiMoose that also sounds like a good trick to try on some of my florals; they don't rice but they do tend to be speedy.

Do you separate out some of the warmed oils for SB'ing with the naughty FO before stirring it in by hand the remaining oil/FO mixture? That seems like it would accomplish two things:

a) allow time to SB the lye solution and main pot of oil to emulsion without worrying about acceleration or ricing, and

b) ensure that the FO is at least somewhat dispersed before going into the mix.



.
 

MrsZ

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Update:
I bought my normal brand of cocoa butter, and followed my usual recipe exactly today. The batter stayed fluid just as long as I expected, and was a pleasure to work with.

I'm going to do a few more experiments over the next week or so before I decide for sure if it was the cocoa butter or not.
 
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Hard clumps, whitish crusts, shiny/wet surface, less heat released during dissolution, saturated solution not totally clear but turbid or with whitish flakes, are signs of “old” lye that has pulled water and/or carbon dioxide. None of these signs, however, is no guarantee that the lye is absolutely pure. Neither is a recent opening date.
The one thing that rescues us in most cases is that 1 or 2% of whatever impurity the lye holds or pulls out of the air, will only increase superfat by 1 or 2%, which won't ruin the soap.
 

MrsZ

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Just an update. I tried the cocoa butter that I thought was suspect again yesterday, and had absolutely no problems. I'm now thinking that I was soaping too hot, and over using the SB.
 
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