Gel refers to neat soap, which is the term for soap that is melted. The melting point of soap depends mainly on the water content. Microscopically, soap that has melted has a different crystal structure so it looks a little different.I've seen these rings in pictures of homemade soaps online. But what exactly do these rings mean? I read somewhere about gel phase but don't quite understand it...?
Speaking very generally, both are straightforward and avoiding gel might even be the easiest thing because all you ordinarily have to do is increase the lye concentration. It's just that people often try to do it the hard way.Based on experience, is it easier to promote or to prevent gel? To be honest...anything but seeing the rings would be nicer! Haha
And based off of Topofmurrayhill's post it may seem easier to promote the gel phase?
The fridge is what I meant by the hard way. It's a lot easier than that.I personally find it a LOT easier to ensure full gel (wood molds, insulation, heating pad in winter) than to prevent gel - I don't have room in my fridge or freezer
You are probably right about the cracking and such, though most soaps don't heat up quickly enough to cause such problems even with partial gel, which is usually just an aesthetic issue. Either way, I don't care for partial gel and I am sympathetic to anyone wanting to avoid it. Personally I do CPOP, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that full gel is a must. If you can ensure no gel at all, that is also fine.After personal experience and various readings from books and other soapers, I think that cracks on top of soap paste in the mold is taking place also because of the partial gel phenomenon.
I always CPOP all my soaps, even those with milk and beer in which I always add table sugar, without having any problems.
So my theory is that at partial gel, only the inner side of soap melts and becomes soft while the outer side is still hard without elasticity, and that difference makes the cracking on top, even the volcano if the heat is more intense in the inside.
So I think forcing full gel is a must besides the aesthetic (coloring) issues.