For all three soaps I used my go-to soap recipe, by Anne Watson from Smart Soapmaking. It contains coconut oil, olive oil and shea butter in roughly equal amounts. I like to add shea butter because it makes for a soft conditioning soap that feels pleasant on the skin. I know how this soap behaves in the making process, which is useful because I wanted to try out new techniques.
|one day old coffee soap|
|one week old coffee soap|
|one month old coffee soap|
I had heard of fragrances that can accelerate the saponification process but I had never experienced it until the day I made coffee soap... do you remember the chemistry lesson about catalysts from your school days? Well, this soap was a great demonstration of an excellent catalyst. One moment I was whistling happily, stirring with my trusted old stick blender, the next moment I had soap with a consistency of thick and sticky mashed potato in my pan (when it normally remains liquid and pourable). I swore quite a lot when I tried to mix in the ground coffee evenly. There was no elegant pouring into the mould after that and smoothing the surface was almost impossible. At least with the second layer, I was prepared for the quick thickening.... When I first cut the soap two days later, it looked like the soap in the top photo. The soap smells like sweet black coffee with a hint of cream. Not quite how I like my coffee to smell but pleasant enough.
My next soap was a yuzu fragranced orange coloured version of the lemon poppy meringue soap I made earlier this year. Yuzu is not a fruit I was familiar with but its scent is definitely one to remember, lovely. It is somewhere between grapefruit and orange, sweet but not sickly sweet. Most citrus scents fade to nothing in a short time but this particular fragrance oil should last (if I am to believe the supplier). Alistair insisted to help but managed to get some fragrance oil in his eyes despite wearing goggles. He was not a happy boy but a bath sorted him out in no time. I didn't try to make a proper 'meringue' on top, just a plain layer, mostly because I thought it would be easier to just pour with Alistair. I like the crisp line of black pigment separating the white and orange layers. I can't wait to use it.
I received a flat soap mould with dividers for my birthday and wanted to use this rather than the loaf cake tins that I normally use. I chose to make a lily of the valley scented green and white swirly soap. I love this scent, it reminds me of spring and first perfumes. The swirls for this soap are not 'proper' swirls but were created by squirting different coloured soap mixtures first into a blob, then right in the middle of the first blob, changing colours as you squirt. The squirting was rather fun. I used condiment bottles, the ones one might find on a formica table in a diner somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The soap was stuck in the mould because I forgot to line it. I froze it for a bit remembering the materials shrink when they are cold. It did help. The scent is divine and it won't be easy to wait until the soap is hard enough to use.
I have learned a few things making these three soaps.
Things can go wrong when making soap and quick thinking is useful. I had to improvise with the coffee soap, which turned to mashed potato gloop and the swirly soap, which was stuck in the mould.
Fragrance oils contribute to the chemical process and influence how a soap turns out. I started to keep notes on the behaviour of fragrance oils in cold process soap making. Some suppliers mention how a fragrance will behave, which is handy.
I didn't know it was possible to use fragrance oils for colouring soaps, too. How cool is that?
On the topic of fragrances, finding really good fragrance oils in the UK seems difficult, the ones I have bought so far often smell nothing like the real thing, others have an unpleasant artificial after-scent. I had been looking across the big pond to Brambleberry, a really well known supplier for all things soap but some fragrance oils can't be shipped by air or the postage would be prohibitive. I found a European supplier in the Netherlands that stocks Brambleberry fragrances and I was delighted to find they ship by air. Funny, the same fragrances can be shipped by air within Europe but not from America.... it must be the legislation rather than an actual problem with shipping. Anyway, I now have small collection of fragrance oils that are ever so divine.
I have also a good collection of colourful pigments and look forward to make a bubblegum scented twelve colour super swirl soap. Just kidding :-)
There is only one problem: we now have more soap than we can possible use in a year. I need to start giving some away to justify making more. Keep your eyes peeled for a give-away later this summer. Wishing you a lovely day! xx