I love making soap. There. I said it.
I really do like making soap, and I enjoy learning how to do new things. So, years ago, when my friend Becky helped me learn this art form or science or craft…whatever you want to call it, I was opened to a world of new ideas! It has been very satisfying to me.
There are a couple of recipes I have developed that are mainstays in my home. Coffee soap is one that I have used for years. This soap is wonderful to have in the kitchen or the bathroom. When I first learned the recipe, the blogger touted that it would take smells out like magic. Smells like onion, gas, etc. Well, I believed her, but my husband didn’t, until the day he was changing the fuel filter on the car and ended up getting soaked with gas.
I asked him if he wanted the soap, and he scoffed politely and explained he had his favorite leprechaun soap and that would do.
Well, it didn’t do. He still reeked of gas.
He then asked me for my coffee soap, which I gladly shared, and we were both surprised at how well it worked. The gas smell vanished.
I tried not to gloat.
I always have a bar next to my sink. I love how it works for cleaning my hands from working in the garden to peeling onions. It’s easy on my skin, and the coffee grounds in the soap make a great exfoliate.
If you have never made cold process soaps before, you may want to read up on the process. I learned from sites like Kathy Miller’s Soap Making Site, Mountain Majestic Sage and Soapmaking Resource. These sites offer so much wisdom and many many tutorials that are far superior to mine.
But let’s get started, shall we?
- 18 oz. olive oil
- 1 cup coffee beans (broken up a bit)
- 6 oz. Soybean Oil (Crisco is mostly soybean oil!)
- 9 oz. coconut oil
- 4.5 oz. lye
- 12.3 oz very strong brewed coffee that is cold. Do not use hot coffee.
- 1/2 tsp. ground walnut hull (optional)
- 1 tbls. coffee grounds
Step One: Infuse Coffee into the Olive Oil
There are a couple ways of doing this. One is for people who live life without planning ahead a lot. Like, if you wake up on a Saturday and decide that you’re going to make coffee soap, then you’ll want to put about a cup of coffee beans that are broken up a bit into the olive oil you’ll use for your soap. Put the oil and coffee beans either in a crock pot or in a stainless steel pot on the stove. Make sure it’s on low heat. Let the oil heat and you’re done when it looks like your oils are the color of really really dark coffee.
Personally, I like to put the oil and coffee in a crock pot on a Friday night and let it heat through the night on low. Then I know most of the goody is out of the coffee beans by morning!
Sometimes people who are good at planning will decide that they are going to make coffee soap in a couple of weeks, and so they put the oil and coffee beans in a quart jar and let them sit covered for a couple of weeks. I’ve heard that works well, too.
When the oil appears dark, just strain the coffee beans out of the oil.
Step 2: Mix lye solution
Weigh out 12.3 oz of COLD strong coffee (I triple brew mine) into a mason jar or other strong glass jar.
Carefully and slowly pour the lye into the coffee. Remember to stir carefully. Many people wear goggles and plastic gloves. It’s a great idea to think of safety!!!
I usually leave the jar in the kitchen sink or at least in a bowl so that if the glass cracks or if there is a spill, no one will get injured. I always crack my kitchen window a bit as well. There is nothing good about breathing lye solution!
Lye is serious business, but with safety precautions, there is no need to be afraid to try your hand at making cold process soaps!
Step 3: Melt your oils!
Weigh out all of your oils. In a stainless steel pan, melt the oils on low heat. Some people use a double boiler. I do not have one, so I just use low heat. I’ve never had problems with this. Be sure that you use a nice stainless steel or enamel pan. Aluminum reacts with lye and you will have a mess on your hands if you use aluminum. Once your oils have melted, remove from heat.
Step 4: Wait
Now is the time you can do laundry, or vacuum the living room, or read to your children or watch a movie or weed flowers. This takes a while. The oils and the lye need to cool. There are some folk who believe that the oils and lye need to be at certain temperatures before you mix them.
Here’s what I do. When I am able to put my hand comfortably on the containers of the lye and oils, they are cool enough to mix. Give them a good hour or hour and a half, though before you do this, because the containers will be very hot right away.
Step 5: Mix the lye into the oil.
Pour the lye CAREFULLY into the oils. I use a stainless steel whisk to mix the oils and lye. Very carefully stir the mixture until the oil and lye are completely mixed. Please remember that this mixture is very caustic. You will want to protect your skin and your eyes. Many people wear rubber gloves and goggles during this step.
Once the oils and lye are well mixed, I usually switch to a stick blender. You don’t need a stick blender, of course, but it speeds up te process considerably.
Whether you use a stick blender or good old fashioned elbow grease, the mixture needs to be constantly stirred at this stage. You will see the amazing saponification process happening right before your very eyes! You will continue to stir until it gets thick. Kind of like when you know pudding is ready.
This is called “trace”.
Step 6: Add coffee grounds and black walnut powder.
Stir with your whisk to make sure the powder and the grounds are completely mixed throughout the soap. Your mixture should be a pretty dark color.
Step 7: Pour soap into prepared molds.
I bought this wooden mold from Soap Making Resource and my dear husband has also made some for me. This particular mold holds 2 pounds of oils. Some people use shoe boxes, Velveeta boxes, empty milk cartons, round pvc pipe, etc. Whatever you use, you will want to line your mold with either wax paper, freezer paper or plastic wrap. I personally like the papers because they don’t get as wrinkly, and you can cut them to size more easily. Whatever you choose, make sure that your mold is lined, or you will have difficulty getting the soap out of your mold.
To make the soaps all fancy schmancy, you can add some coffee beans to the top of the soaps if you want.
Step 8: Insulate your mold.
I simply put a lid on my mold and then wrap the mold in a towel. I put it on the counter where it shouldn’t be bothered.
Step 9: Wait. Again.
Usually, once the soap is wrapped up, it will go through another process of remelting. This is important in the chemical process of saponification, I think. If you keep it good and insulated, the curing process is much shorter I’ve found. It’s really hard for me to leave it be, but if you can do it, I think you’ll be happier with your soap.
After 12 hours or so, you will want to check on your soap. If it is hard, it’s time to remove it from the mold. If it is not, wrap it back up and wait some more. Some people are able to wait 24 hours to check on their soaps. I’ve never met someone like that, but I’ve heard they do exist.
Step 10: Cut the soap in to bars and then wait some more.
Once you remove the soap from the mold, carefully cut the soap into the size of bar you want. Put the bars in a place where they can cure. I usually have mine cure about 2 to 3 weeks. Some wait much longer than that. Curing the bars does a couple of things. 1. The longer the bars cure, the harder they usually become because the water evaporates, and 2. curing completes the saponification process, which is what chemically converts the lye and fats into soap!
You may want to read this page, Soap Testing for Safety. It’s a great resource. Basically, you want to make sure that there is no free lye in your soaps.
Lye will hurt you.
Some people do the ‘tongue test’. They put their tongue on the soap and if it ‘bites’ they know that it’s not ready. Others use Phenolphthalein. When I’ve used this, I usually scratch the surface of the soap and then place a drop of the phenolphthalein on that spot. If it is clear or a very light pink, the soap is okay for use. If it is a dark pink, there is still excess lye and should cure some more.
Step 11: Lather Up!!
Good luck with your soap making. Please let me know how it works for you!! Leave me a link in the comment section to your blog! I LOVE to see what others are up to!
I linked this post to the following blogs! Check them out!