Trace Issues w/ Beef Tallow Recipe

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New Member
Feb 2, 2022
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Hello all! I've been soaping for about a year. So far I have almost exclusively worked with a pomace / coconut / palm / castor blend that reaches trace fairly quickly. Recently I switched over to some new recipes with beef tallow to phase out palm use. I have a small business where I sell online and at farmer's markets. Then I white label for one large client.

Early in the switch I noticed the tallow recipe was extremely slow to trace, but ultimately this was not an issue for my brand since I use silicone molds and can pour at emulsion. I experimented through several tallow batches and discovered mixing at higher temp + longer stick blending helped reach a light trace sooner though still way slower than my old recipe.

The problem now is with my tallow recipe for larger bars in which I use a collapsible wooden mold and typically line it with freezer paper. This one is tallow, almond & coconut. I have the same issue where batter doesn't reach trace, but if I pour at emulsion, the batter leaks out of the mold, ruins the bar size and makes a huge mess. I have tried several "leak proof" freezer paper folds that did not work. I did have success with multiple layers of freezer paper and taping the holes / angles / corners, but this is time consuming and not ideal.

Pouring at trace is a solution, BUT I cannot get this recipe to reach trace. I stick blended for 45 minutes on my most recent batch, short pulses and minimal breaks to hand stir, to no avail. The batter stays at emulsion consistency and I poured before the hour mark out of impatience.

I guess my questions are:

1) Any ideas why this recipe won't reach trace? Do I need to stick blend past an hour? Is that normal for tallow or this fatty acid profile (pic embedded)?

I have tried higher temps (mixing at 135 F +) and I don't think my lye is an issue. My lye does not appear to be bad or saturated with moisture. It's not clumpy. It dissolves well, heats up normally in distilled water, and my batter poured at emulsion still saponifies.


2) Can I bypass any further experiments by making my wooden molds actually leak proof so I can just pour at emulsion? Again, no luck with freezer paper, but I'm open to new techniques or resources for DIY silicone liners.

#2 gives a practical solution at least. That said, I would love answers for both so I know what is happening with my batter and why. I feel like a beginner again with this one simple trick!


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Notorious Lyear
Jan 14, 2021
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45 minutes of SBing sounds crazy. It might be the nature of your oils that they give you so much working time. But if you don't need working time (for intricate swirls etc.) this is just wasted time indeed.
I myself would deem anything beyond 2 minutes of SBing reason excessive, and enough to vary the recipe/instructions out of mere laziness.

The FA profile does look unsuspicious. With the same FAs but from things like low-quality palm/coconut oil and pomace OO, it might well be even an annoying quick-tracer.

We haven't talked about a few turning knobs, though. What is your lye concentration? This isn't a settled topic and by far not as easy as it sounds. Very high concentrations (40% and more) are accelerating, and can help with very slow oils like pure olive oil. There is also a window of quick-moving in the low 30s of NaOH percentage, and in between the batter behaves quite slow. But boundaries vary with recipe, and not everyone witnesses this. I for myself find, somewhat counterintuitively, that a low-water batter that starts thickening, starts accelerating when water is added. It is well-known that clove essential oil helps.

A propos EOs: Are you working with fragrances? Some (especially citrusy ones, but others too) are known for thinning, decelerating (or even reversing trace). Known decelerators are best kept out of the equation until the last opportunity (thick trace).

Some other additives (sugar, titanium dioxide) are known to accelerate things too. Maybe give some of these a try?

Higher temperatures do help. 135°F is high but not very high. If there are no other reasons speaking against it, you might go up to 200°F (hot process) and be through complete saponification within little more than an hour.

What were your reasons to leave pomace OO and castor?
Oct 30, 2018
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Agreed with @ResolvableOwl
I use beef tallow in my main recipe (at 35%, of total recipe, with about 30% olive oil and the rest are mostly solid fats, coconut oil and Shea) I use a 40% lye to water concentration. Oils are at 105 F usually and lye water at room temperature. I have not had that issue.
I normally stick blend sporadically for less than a minute to reach emulsion, by the time I add fragrance and mix any colorants and additives, it reaches light trace. If I want more working time I choose a decelerating fragrance or I add more water. A lower superfat % also reaches trace faster.
That being said, when I had cardboard molds and I used freezer paper as a liner, I used a silicone hot glue gun to seal all the corners after covering the cardboard with clear tape, and that prevented leaks
Dec 24, 2017
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Strange. I have never even heard of SBing for that long. I use tallow regularly as well. Not sure if you saw this method, but this is a “never leak” method for my wooden molds. It took me a minute to get it down, but we’ll worth it.


Well-Known Member
Oct 20, 2021
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The posted video is what I followed and it helped me. I use high lard mostly and add tallow (beef or deer) when I have it and have noticed no difference. One time I timed getting to pretty thick trace and with walking away and no stirring for part of the time and it took 11 minutes to trace and has been consistent regardless of oils I have used but I don't use many soft oils with maybe chicken fat or crisco type being the softest oils not counting 5% castor in all.
I am rather a new soap maker though.

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