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Variables that affect tracing time?

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JumpinKaren

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Hi,

I'm new to soap making, just finished my fourth batch. No real problems so far.

I tried to search for the answer to my question, but did not have any luck.

In all of my batches so far I've used a hand mixer with an immersion blender attachment. I've tried two batches of hot process and two of cold process, and have only made batches that are 1 to 2 pounds. The time that it has taken me to achieve a light trace in all of my batches has been between 40-80 minutes! The books that I've read and the recipes that I've used all indicate that using a mixer should reduce the amount of mixing time down to ten minutes or less. So what could be going on?

Any input as to what I can do differently to lessen the amount of mixing time needed?

Thanks,

Karen
 

IrishLass

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Hi JumpinKaren!

Stick blenders are wonderful things for soaping and can reduce tracing time significantly, but I've found that there are other variables at play sometimes that can slow trace down, stickblender or not.

One of those variables is whether you use a more concentrated lye solution for your recipe, or if you use the recommended full water amount. I soap with a 33% lye solution which is more concentrated than the normal full water amount, and so my batches usually trace within 5 to 10 minutes. I say 'usually' because even though I use a more concentrated lye solution and a stickblender as well, my 100% coconut oil soap recipe with the 15% to 20% superfat always takes longer- up to 40 minutes sometimes. I'm pretty sure it's the much higher superfat in that particular recipe.

Certain fragrances can also play a part in prolonging trace. I have 2 fragrances that do this to me no matter what my recipe is. My soap can be in a nice medium trace, and then right after I add either of those 2 particular fragrances, my soap batter thins right back out to pre-trace consistency, and it remains in that state for what seems like forever. I timed it once, and it took about 50 minutes to get it back up to a good pourable trace. Sheesh! :eek: Certain fragrances can also significantly speed up tracing time. The best thing you can do is keep a soaping journal with extensive notes in order to keep track of all your soaping results for future soaping sessions so that you'll know more of what to expect for the next time.

Certain oils/fats can also play a part. Oils/fats with a high percent of stearic acid trace faster for me than say olive oil, for instance.

Temperature of your oils/fats and lye can also play a part at times, as well.

What kind of oils/fats are you using, and what is the lye/water solution percent of your recipe?


IrishLass
 

JumpinKaren

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Here is one recipe that I've used in cold process and hot process (doubled for hot process):

4 oz coconut oil
4 oz palm oil
4 oz canola oil
4 oz water
1.7 oz lye
1 oz essential oil (juniper and lavender)

I combined the fats and lye when both mixtures were at 110 degrees. Then when I achieved a light trace, I added the essential oils. This didn't really seem to slow things down much and came after about 40-60 minutes of mixing with my hand mixer.

Here is the one that I used yesterday which took about 45 minutes to get to a medium trace:

8 oz almond oil
2 oz castor oil
8 oz coconut oil
8 oz palm oil
3.7 oz lye
8.6 oz goat's milk (frozen to a slush)
2 oz rosehips essential oil

Looks like my lye to liquid ratio is more than 33%. So shouldn't I be getting a faster trace? I've always combined fats with lye at about 110 degrees. Would a warmer or cooler temperature cause tracing to happen faster?

Thanks,

Karen
 

cdwinsby

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Grapefruit Seed Extract greatly speeds up saponification but it can be quite expensive. I use about 1/2 tsp per lb of oils and I mix with a stainless steel whisk...never have used a stick blender....and my traces are usually at around 5 - 10 minutes max.

I recently learned that higher percentages of cocoa butter can drastically speed up trace as well.... :oops:

Higher temperatures also prolong the trace time. I mix when lye and water are around 95 degrees F.

My experience with lavender eo is that it makes the batch quite liquidy and will require a little more time.....though 40-60 is way long!
 

JumpinKaren

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Tracing time - too long!

Ok..

Just finished my fourth batch of hot process.

Again, it turned out nicely, so no real complaints there...

But!

My tracing time was about an hour again!

I mixed the lye and fats together at about 95..

What else should I try manipulating to decrease the tracing time? I also used more saturated fat in the most recent recipe (coconut and palm oil).

Any advice would be fabulous! :D

Thanks,

Karen
 

cdwinsby

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Not sure what to say....your recipes look good. Ran them through SoapCalc and they are quite like mine. You said you use a hand mixer....I assume you mean a stick blender so its not that you hand stir.

I just did a Crisco, Lard and Olive without Grapefruit Seed Extract today and mixed with a whisk . It took 20 minutes to trace. Mixed at 85 - 90 degrees and I used the whisk quite forcefully.

Do you live in a really humid area? That can lengthen saponification time because the moisture in the air is drawn to your mix. Sorry but I can't think of any other reason for so long of a trace.....especially with you using the palm which really speads up trace time.
 

Lane

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From what I can tell, higher temps equal faster trace.

Have you tried working 110 TO 120 degrees? Be ready though, you don't want to end up with a soapsicle on a spoon! Once trace starts, it moves pretty fast, esp if you are used to a 80 min. trace time *yikes*

I do only two pound batches and I'm always at medium trace in under five minutes.
 

cdwinsby

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Its actually both ends of the temperature scale that can produce an extremely quick trace (sometimes seize).

All temperatures between 80 and 130 should trace fairly well if a vigorous stir is maintained and the soap batter is kept in constant motion. Especially with the recipes that you have posted.

Susan Millers book cites these reasons for a mix taking really long to trace:
1. Not enough lye. - you have enough
2. Too much water. - yours is good - unless you're absorbing from the humid air as I mentioned earlier though at 33% you should still be good.
3. Oustide the regular 80 - 130 degrees - you're good.
4. Stirring too slowly - ? - mix like your stirring cake batter and need to get those lumps out! (What do you mean by a hand mixer? Is it a stick blender or whisk? Or one of those non electric beaters?)
 
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JumpinKaren said:
Here is the one that I used yesterday which took about 45 minutes to get to a medium trace:

8 oz almond oil
2 oz castor oil
8 oz coconut oil
8 oz palm oil
3.7 oz lye
8.6 oz goat's milk (frozen to a slush)
2 oz rosehips essential oil

Looks like my lye to liquid ratio is more than 33%. So shouldn't I be getting a faster trace? I've always combined fats with lye at about 110 degrees. Would a warmer or cooler temperature cause tracing to happen faster?
You have 3.7 oz lye and 8.6 oz liquid. That's 3.7 oz lye in a total of 12.3 oz solution, or 30 percent concentration.

Actually that's my preferred lye concentration and I haven't seen any need to change it. Most of my recipes trace within 5-15 minutes when combined at 100-100 degrees F, including a few very similar to yours. I don't know why yours are taking so long.

By hand mixer do you mean a stick blender? Or egg beater? The SBs go a bunch faster than mixers. If you don't have one then that could be your problem right there.

Assuming that's the case, that you don't have a SB, I suggest the Hamilton Beach 2-speed available at Walmart for $20. My usual advice is to blast it for 30-45 seconds, then hand stir or let the batter rest for 2-3 minutes, and then another SB blast. And don't use the SB continuously or it will burn out. Always allow it to rest if it begins to feel hot in your hand.

Well maybe I'm wrong about the SB, but if you don't have one then that's why you're having such long mixing times.

Disclaimer: I haven't used an electric egg beater on soap. Maybe they're just as good as SBs, maybe not, but I suspect not.
 
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