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Super Fatting comprehension!

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country gal

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I have heard different ideas on super fatting and after pondering it for several days, I am wondering if I understand it right. ( I have read a couple of books and I have done alot of reading on this forum.) I was told that adding at trace wasn't necessary, that all oils went through its chemical thing no matter when it is added (via a chemist). My understanding: when you discount you are pretty much super fatting all oils in your recipe. But when adding at trace, you are now getting a concentration of that oil super fatted. Is that right?
I am trying to keep shea and castor as part of my recipes, but want to make some bars with a little bit more benifits for different skin types and maturities. So I don't know whether to super fat them at trace or use them as part of the recipe and discount higher. I am discounting now at 6%.
Thanks in advance for your in put.
Jeanette
 
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Look to the saponification reaction to gain an understanding of superfatting. In this reaction the oils and lye combine to form soap. You calculate how much lye is needed to react with your oils by manually multiplying the individual oil weights by their SAP factors and summing up the products, or you do the same thing with a calculator. If you add too much lye your soap will burn people, not good. If you add too little lye you get superfatted soap, good! All the little lye molecules are gobbled up by all the oil molecules and there's still some oil left over when the reaction is finished. It's good for two reasons. First it's good because a little oil in the soap softens and moistens your skin. Second because if you measured your lye or oils and your scale is off slightly, you have a little margin for error. When you use a calculator and set it for 6% superfat it reduces the lye by 6% to give you your margin.

Superfatting is also added at trace, as you said. One benefit of adding fats or oils at trace is that a lot of the lye has already reacted with your base fats, so the lye concentration is a lot lower at trace and more of your trace added fats will remain unaltered in the final product.

If you add your shea or castor at the beginning most of it will get eaten up by lye. If you add it at trace most of the lye will be happily hooked up with your base oils and your superfats will be left alone, and this is what you are asking for. I think you would probably want to reserve your expensive shea butter for adding only at trace, although the castor is inexpensive enough to go both places.

You can of course add more of a base oil at trace to get more superfatting of that particular oil. For example if you add 16 oz of castor as a base oil and 6 percent superfat, then you will have about 6% of 16 oz remaining at trace, or about 1 oz of unreacted castor remaining as superfat. (You'll actually have more at trace because saponification isn't complete yet, but that will get eaten up later when the reaction is finished.) Now if you add more castor oil at this point, proportionally more of it will remain in the final product as superfatting.

Just so as to not be misunderstood, the saponification reaction is well under way at trace but continues for many hours afterwards at an ever reducing rate. Nevertheless the amount of lye concentration is less at trace than the initial concentration, so fats added at trace will be less eaten up by the lye. To what degree the lye concentration is reduced is a matter of conjecture left for the chemists and experienced soapmakers, of which I am neither.
 
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Hi -

Because there is no way to tell how much of which oil is actually superfatted when adding at trace - it is better to add your oils in your recipe and adjust your sf percentage then. I don't believe in the whole sf at trace thing because you just can't predict which oil is being superfatted and to what degree.

If you are using the HP process - adding oils at the end of the cook works well as the saponification process is nearly complete.
 

IrishLass

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What Marr said. I agree with her 100%.

The only way to make sure the oils/fats you add at trace will be the oils that will remain unsaponified is to HP the soap, as opposed to doing it CP.

At another soaping forum I belong to, there is a soaper there who is also a chemist, and she wrote that only a mere 5% to 10% of the oils/fats have actually been reacted with the lye at the point when the soap reaches trace, meaning the oils/fats that you add at trace will pretty much be eaten up by the lye just the same as the oils/fats you put in at the beginning (she has access to a chemical lab and has tested her soaps there). She also wrote that her experiments confirmed what was already written in her techical chemistry books. Because of that fact, one cannot really know which oils/fats remain unsaponified in their CP soap (unless they do a single oil soap or do their soap the HP way).


HTH!


IrishLass :)
 
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IrishLass said:
... she wrote that only a mere 5% to 10% of the oils/fats have actually been reacted with the lye at the point when the soap reaches trace, meaning the oils/fats that you add at trace will pretty much be eaten up by the lye just the same as the oils/fats you put in at the beginning ...
Well there you have it, the degree I was talking about. Nevertheless the literature says that the reason to add ingredients at trace is because the lye is less harsh then. Who ya gonna believe? Don't believe me, I'm just repeating what I've read. It makes a good story though, doesn't it? :)
 
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You're correct on what the literature says Lovehound. I believe that much of what we read today are theories developed before we had more sophisticated tools to use like soapcalc.com. Many of these truths have been passed down unchallenged until recently. It's a great time to be a soapmaker!
 

Soapmaker Man

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I also disagree with the term "super fatting." A much more accurate word for what you are trying to accomplish is "lye discount." If you want more free oils in your finished bar, increase your lye discount to 6 to 8% even up to 10%. Too much free oils can lead to dos though. If you take a larger lye discount, be sure to add T-50 (natural vitamin E) or GSE (Grape Seed Extract) or ROE (Rosemary Oleoresin Extract) as a anti oxidant.

Paul :wink:
 
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Marr said:
You're correct on what the literature says Lovehound. I believe that much of what we read today are theories developed before we had more sophisticated tools to use like soapcalc.com. Many of these truths have been passed down unchallenged until recently. It's a great time to be a soapmaker!
Thanks. At least I don't feel like I read the books and then explained it wrong do to lack of comprehension.

Hey, one of my books says to add the water to the lye! :) (I understand a later edition corrects this.)

Soapmaker Man said:
I also disagree with the term "super fatting." A much more accurate word for what you are trying to accomplish is "lye discount." If you want more free oils in your finished bar, increase your lye discount to 6 to 8% even up to 10%. Too much free oils can lead to dos though. If you take a larger lye discount, be sure to add T-50 (natural vitamin E) or GSE (Grape Seed Extract) or ROE (Rosemary Oleoresin Extract) as a anti oxidant.
As an applied mathematician (engineer) I feel that "super fatting" and "lye discount" are merely different ways of referring to the same thing, although I can appreciate that the soap industry may have a preferred term.

I've seen GSE at the health food store, rather expensive! I've tried to find vitamin E but the health food store no got. Suggestions on where to get? I prefer if I can to go to local stores because of my insatiable need for instant gratification. ;) Same questions for ROE although I didn't check the health food store.


Please explain then why we add some of the superfat at trace, and also why we add colorants and scents at trace? I can appreciate that some of the volatiles in scents benefit from the reduced time of exposure to heat, but why not add all of that stuff just after the lye hits the oil?
 

IrishLass

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Lovehound said:
Please explain then why we add some of the superfat at trace, and also why we add colorants and scents at trace? I can appreciate that some of the volatiles in scents benefit from the reduced time of exposure to heat, but why not add all of that stuff just after the lye hits the oil?

Based on the info I receieved from the chemist over at the other soaping forum that I mentioned, I personally don't add any of my 'superfat' at trace. All my oils/fats go into my soap pot before the lye even hits them.

What I do is plug my soap recipe in over at the SoapCalc, being sure to specify the superfat percent I would like my soap to have by typing it in the 'Superfat/Discount' box near the upper right corner of the page, and then the SoapCalc figures for me how much lye I'll need in my recipe to saponify my soap at the level of superfat that I specified.

I figure that since only 5% to 10% of the oils/fats have actually reacted with the lye at trace, it's virtually impossible to have any control over which oil/fat will remain unsaponified, and so it just makes better sense to me to me to add everything up front and adjust the lye amount so it will leave a certain percent of unsaponified oils/fats, whatever those oils/fats may end up being.

The only reason I know of that people would add oils/fats at trace is because of the outdated info in most soaping books that unfortunately gets passed down unquestioned and/or unchallenged. Like Marr said, our soaping tools have grown more sophisticated and this is a great time to be a soapmaker. :)

As for colorants being added at trace instead of right after the lye hits the oils/fats: I have no idea why people would do that, for it's perfectly fine to add the colorants right after the lye hits the oils/fats- and even before if you are doing a one-colored soap. When I do a one-colored soap, for instance, I mix my colorant right in with my oils before the lye- except for ultramarine violet, that is. I learned through trial and error that my um violet will stay true and not go gray on me if it's added after the lye instead of before. To me, as a general rule, the earlier you add the colors and the thinner that your soap batter is, all the better.

Regarding fragrance being added at trace- this is one of those 'hot potato' subjects. I know of soapers who add their fragrance to the oils/fats before the lye and swear that it is perfectly fine and works great for them, while others say the opposite. I suppose it's just one of those things that depends on a lot of variables, not the least of which is using a 'prone-to-siezing' fragrance oil. With fragrance, I guess it's just one of those things that can only be found out by personal trial and error when best to add it.

HTH! :)


IrishLass
 
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IrishLass said:
I figure that since only 5% to 10% of the oils/fats have actually reacted with the lye at trace, it's virtually impossible to have any control over which oil/fat will remain unsaponified, and so it just makes better sense to me to me to add everything up front and adjust the lye amount so it will leave a certain percent of unsaponified oils/fats, whatever those oils/fats may end up being.
Thanks for the explanation Lassie! :)

Based on that one statement, "only 5% to 10% of the oils/fats have actually reacted with the lye at trace," all the rest is perfectly logical. It couldn't possibly have any major effect whether you add your stuff right after the lye or at trace if most of the saponification is still yet to occur. Perhaps you might alter your superfatting components by a few percents but I don't see how you could tell in the final product except by laboratory analysis. (Note that I mean alter the percents by only a few percents, like 6 percent to 6.06 percent.)

I think I'm going to bet my next batch that you're right, and I'm doing that batch today, an avocado soap. One of my problems is that I dilly dally around too much after first trace, getting my colorant and scents in and possibly additional superfats. By the time I've mucked around and got that stuff right the batter is lumpy and my molded soap turns out rippled on top. If I dispense with all that garbage and just put it in while I'm stirring for trace I can get that stuff out of the way and then when it traces I'll just pour it right in the mold and be done with it! :)

If most of the lye is still not reacted at trace then it makes no sense at all to be adding ingredients at that time, with the possible exception of EOs that catalyze and speed up the reaction, and you might even want those added right after lye too and you'd just waste less time stirring the batch to trace.

I'll give it a go and let you know how it works for me.
 

country gal

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Well with all that said, I won't be wasting my time trying to superfat at trace!! I would much rather have it all measured out and dealt with at one time.
I liked the input on color and frangrance too. I will try that in the beginning (color) instead of trace time. Today I was messing with a mica (not having a clue how much to use but was mixing with a little oil held back) not getting the color of the mica so I kept adding and stirring, I looked over at my soap bucket and WHAAAA, it had finished without me!! So I remembered what Paul said and added a tbsp of liquid at a time to get it back to an easy stir and threw the color in figuring that was a flop and will just focus on the soap properties instead of the pretties :?
*after adding some mica I put about half a cup of light traced soap in to see what the color would do, thinking it would be really intense and then thin out once added to the rest. It was given to me so I thought I would give it a try, it was a purple with an irredesences (sp)*
I now have a nice pale pinky color :)
I did change my lye discount to see what this batch is like compared to the last one I made.

Thanks Soapers!!!
 
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CG I'm glad you're having fun. Me too! I just did a batch of avocado today, "fire in the hole!!!" :)

I added my mica shortly after the lye, as soon as the mix had stabilized, and I added my EO as soon as I had the first glimmering of any trace. When I had a very mild trace I poured. As near as I can tell it all worked out fine.

In self defense, let me point out that all the books are so definitive about "add this and add that but not until trace." Okay, with all and I mean ALL the authors saying, "Add this at trace," you'd assume that something happens at trace.

Why are they saying "add at trace." Well most of them say or imply that the lye level is lower. After all, why would it matter otherwise? Why not even add it right after the lye?

Well I stupidly assumed that it was only logical. "You added it at trace because the lye is lower." It doesn't make any sense otherwise. It is illogical otherwise. There are few or no reasons otherwise.

Well otherwise is here, now. The lye concentration is only mildly lower at trace. All the books are wrong. Superfatting makes no sense except in the context of lye discount. Doesn't matter if you add more fats at trace, might as well add them at the beginning.

Well my fire is in the hole (my avocado). As far as I can tell now it didn't make any difference that I didn't wait to trace.
 

Soapmaker Man

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:wink: :lol: Books are OK, even appreciated, but trial and error, writing down your positive as well as negative experiences, that is what we call learning in this craft we call soap making. Talking with experienced saponifiers is one of the best teachers you can get. After 3+ years doing this, I still take notes. I learn every time I make a batch of soap. I, nobody, will ever have that "perfect" recipe that pleases everyone...impossible. In the altered words of Wolfgang Puck; Live, love, make soap! :lol:

Paul :wink:
 
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What really gets me is that every book I read talks about putting in superfats at trace. Every last one of them! But as we have concluded above there is no rational reason to put that stuff in at trace. The only way what the books said made any sense was if the lye concentration was substantially lower at trace than at the beginning. It surely is lower to a degree, but apparently it isn't lower by much.

Well I did my avocado soap yesterday afternoon and as soon as I had my lye reasonably mixed in I went right ahead and colored my batch, put just enough green to make the batter look like guacamole. I stirred and stick blended a bit and then I dumped in my EO, and then I just kept whacking at it with the stick blender until I got light trace, and then I poured. Well, the batch came out fine. I didn't have much scent but I wasn't expecting much scent anyway since I was pretty sure that I had too little and I wasn't willing to throw more money in getting more EO. It was like 1/2 oz. ppo.

Well anyway I'm going to advance coloring to putting it in just after I've got the lye mixed in, and probably advance the scenting too. Might as well get as much as possible done before trace so that you don't have any impediments to getting it in the mold.

Next time I'll try adding avocado pulp. :)
 

IrishLass

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Lovehound said:
What really gets me is that every book I read talks about putting in superfats at trace. Every last one of them!

That's exactly why I don't waste my money buying soaping books anymore. :lol: While there is still some good info to glean from certain soaping books, I must say that the best, most helpful, and 'real-time' or 'up-to-date' information I've learned about soap making is right here on the net at all the different soaping forums. And the best thing of all- it is free! :)

With a book, you are usually getting only one or a handful of people's perspective of his or her or their 'frozen-in-time' info, and unfortunately, that perspective is only as good as the source, whether it be good or bad or incomplete. But on a forum, you can get a more full, rounded, 'real-time' and 'up-to-date' perspective. There is much, much wisdom to be found in the counsel of so many experienced soapers, especially the 'rebel' soapers who draw outside the lines and test the boundaries (wink, wink, say no more). :mrgreen: Through them, I've learned that many of the 'tried and true' soaping 'rules' are not rules at all and can be broken quite successfully with/or even without a few tricks. I've probably learned the most from them. 8)



IrishLass
 
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Actually I've been an expert in other fields and I can assure you the rules were meant to be broken, BUT newbies need to learn the rules first and then gain the experience to understand which rules can be broken, and when.

By the way my total expenditure for soaping books to date: zero. I visited four branches of our excellent Los Angeles Public Library and checked out about 20 soaping books, then returned all but the best ones. Even if some of the info is obsolete I did get a pretty good start in a short period of time.

I started out soaping way back at the beginning of May 2008, oh about less than three weeks ago and things are going fairly well! :)
 
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