Coffee Soap Tutorial



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.

011I 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!

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Stocking Stuffers – Homemade Lotion Bars


I love making gifts and putting together little bags to give away at the holidays. I have been experimenting with the different oils I have in my cupboard. It’s kind of sad: I hoard oils like I hoard fabric.

Recently I’ve been looking at different lotion bar recipes and they all seem fairly consistent. Most of them are equal parts of Beeswax, Coconut Oil and another oil like Olive Oil. Melt all these together and pour in to some kind of mold. Easy, and worth doing!!

My first batch, I made with leftover oils. I had a  lot of little clumps of oils – not really enough to do much in soap, but too much to throw away. So, I decided to use up my”Left-Over” oils. I weighed them all and made sure that I had equal parts of beeswax, coconut and the rest of the oils added up to an equal part as well.

I like those bars, but I think the ratio of beeswax is too high. I didn’t like the waxy feel on my hands. Today, I tweaked the recipe a little. I came up with:


wpid-2012-12-21_14-24-01_507.jpg6 oz. beeswax

 12 oz. coconut oil

 3 oz. shea butter

3 oz. avocado oil 

3 oz. aloe oil

I put  the beeswax on to melt, as it usually takes a while. You want to make sure you use a double boiler or some variation there of. I’ve never had a double boiler in my life so I get kind of creative when I do this. Basically, just put a smaller pot inside a larger pot. You just don’t want your oils to take the brunt of the direct flame.

Then once it was melted I added the other oils. When all of that melted I took it off the burner and added 1 TBLS of essential oil blend called Serenity (from Wellington Fragrance). I probably could have upped the essential oils a bit, but I don’t like things that smelly. I like a hint of fragrance.



Once all of that is melted and the essential oils stirred in well, pour carefully into prepared molds. Today I used a block mold from Mountain Majestic Sage and a little silicone mold. I can’t remember where I got that.

Some people use cupcake liners, some people use ice cube trays, some people use soap molds. Whatever you use, let it harden for a while. You want to make sure that the bars are hard and no longer warm before you rem

ove them from the molds. It’s worth the patience it takes.

Once the lotion has hardened and is no longer warm, remove from the molds carefully. I think it would be helpful to stick these in the fridge for a bit to get colder. It would make cutting the bars a lot easier.

I use wax paper to wrap these in. Add a label and a pretty ribbon and whallah! Christmas present!

I’ve already used some – just to see how I like it. I have no patience. I love it. I just have to wipe off the palms of my hands after applying the lotion. I’m a fan of the lesser amount of beeswax!!

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Snow Days! (Pudding, Bath Fizzies and Aromatherapy)


We live out in the county in the middle of Iowa. When there is a blizzard, we can be pretty sure that we will be snowed in for a little bit. I have always enjoyed the snow days. Back when we homeschooled, snow days were those that my husband would have to spend the evenings in town, since he is an emergency worker. On those days, the kids would play for hours outside, coming in for homemade hot cocoa, snow ice cream and homemade pudding! I loved them!!

Today, we’re in the middle of a blizzard. I’ve been busy. It’s just Abe and me at home, since the others are all grown up, but we are sticking to some traditions. He’s not going out to play in the snow today, but we did have some homemade chocolate pudding!! I came up with a great recipe today! Creamy, yummy goodness!!

Chocolate Pudding2012-12-20_11-51-48_425

4 cups of milk

2 eggs

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/4 cup corn starch

2 tbls butter

Add the 2 eggs to the milk and beat with a whisk until frothy and eggs completely whipped            into the milk. Set aside. In a sauce pan, add dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the milk and      egg mixture slowly, stirring carefully with a whisk. Turn the heat on to medium heat. Whisk the mixture continuously until it has thickened then add the butter and whisk until it has mixed through the pudding well. Pour in to bowls.

We like to eat it hot because it’s so yummy!!

So with full, warm tummies we go about our business, Abe and I.  He to work on his music and me to play with my crafts. I wanted to make some aromatherapy products for gifts this year, so I’ve been looking through the Internet and Pinning to my heart’s content! I found a Bath Fizzies recipe from Martha Stewart. So far, I have been very happy with them.

2012-12-20_11-10-51_360 Bath Fizzies (From Martha’s site)

 “1.Sift 1 3/4 cup baking soda, 1 cup citric acid, and 2 cups cornstarch through a sieve to remove chunks.    To make different tints, fill small spritzer bottles with water and add about 6 drops of food coloring to each.

2. Pour 1 cup of powdered mixture into a glass bowl. Lightly spritz, stirring after each spritz, until powder is desired color. Add water slowly, so mixture does not fizz. If mixing two tints, alternate colors as you spritz. Check the consistency of powder with your fingers; when it can be tightly packed or shaped, stop spritzing (this may take a little while).

3. Select an essential oil. Add 5 drops if it’s one of the stronger scents (peppermint, lavender), 6 if it’s a weaker one (lemon, grapefruit). Mix well. Firmly pack mixture into small baking molds. We used 1/4 cup for each fizzy, which is good for one bath. Allow mixture to set for 2 hours, then pop out carefully. Repeat with different tints for remaining powder.”

I read that some people were having difficulty getting their Fizzies from crumbling when they removed them from the molds. I found that the bigger molds worked the best (I used a bundt cup cake pan). The fizzies I made in smaller cutsie molds fell apart easily. Here’s what to keep in mind:

  1. Pack the mixture in tight. I used my hands, and then used a glass and pressed on the mixture even more.
  2. Use about 1/4 cup of mixture in each bundt cupcake hole. Perfect size for one bath.
  3. I think the 6 drops of essential oil per one cup of mixture works great.
  4. I found that the mixture that stayed in the molds longer had more trouble coming out of the molds.

Another aromatherapy project I worked on today is roll on massage oil. I have been reading a lot about aromatherapy. There are tons of websites available that talk about how to blend essential oils. One book I particularly like is500 Formulas for Aromatherapy: Mixing Essential Oils for Every Use by Carol Schiller and David Schiller. I borrowed it from my sister. I should buy my own so she can have hers back!

I purchased some glass roll-on 1/3 oz empty fragrance perfume essential oil bottles from eBay, and filled them with a carrier oil mixed2012-12-20_09-55-57_669 with an essential oil blend. Life Thyme Botanicals is a great place to buy your essential oils. The owner is knowledgeable and will be able to assist you in your quest for great essential oils! (She’s also my sister!)

I mixed up 120 ml of sunflower oil and 120 drops of an essential oil blend that contains Lavender, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang, Orange, Lemon, and Lime essential oils. This particular blend I bought from Wellington Fragrance is called Serenity. The good thing is that my house smells lovely, and the beautiful calming fragrance of this is wafting through my home.


The bad thing is that AFTER I did all the mixing and pouring into the tiny little vials and cleaning up all the spilled oils…I learned that sunflower oil isn’t probably the best carrier oil to use. It doesn’t soak in to the skin as easily as other oils…but it still has some good properties to the skin, so I’m not going to do a redo.

It will still be lovely. Just oily.

As I sit here writing, the wind is howling and while I’m nice and cozy in my home, I hope that those who must be out today are safe. I am thankful for the men and women who are bound to be out in the middle of these kinds of storms so that we have emergency services, electricity and heat and other essential services. May you be blessed with a warm bed tonight.

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Pine Tar Soap


If you’ve read my blog very much, you know that I love making soap. I love the cold process method the most and once I learned (thanks to my friend Becky) how to do basic soap, I’ve had a blast thinking about oil and herb combinations. It’s been fun to learn how wonderful nature is to provide us with ingredients to help our bodies heal!

A year or so ago, my son was having some skin issues that were kind of embarrassing to him and uncomfortable. On one of his fingers, he had a rash that just kept getting worse. It looked a lot like an eczema-type rash, and I learned that a lot of doctors recommend pine tar soap for eczema and psoriasis. Of course, I started looking for recipes for this pine tar soap! A lot of people use their favorite soap recipes and just add the pine tar in with the fats. Almost everything I read said that in order  to be effective, pine tar should be 20 to 25% of the ingredients. There were a lot of posts reporting that people shy away from making pine tar because it’s kind of hard to make. (I didn’t read those posts until after I had already made my batch! Go me!)

Whenever my son’s finger flares up, he uses my Pine Tar Soap. It’s been helpful to him. He told me that after a couple of days, his finger usually is back to normal.  Personally, I’ve used this soap when I’ve had allergic reactions. (You may remember that post some time ago when I reacted to the kitties I fostered?) My soap felt wonderful on those pesky rashes!!

There are a few things to keep in mind when making Pine Tar Soap:

  • in order to be helpful to the skin, pine tar should be 20-25% of the oils
  • do NOT use a stick blender
  • using essential oils for fragrance is kind of wasted…pine tar is a very strong and pretty overpowering scent
  • do NOT use a stick blender
  • even though the soap has a very strong scent, it’s not so bad when you use it…it kind of smells fresh and clean with a hint of pine
  • do NOT use a stick blender
  • it sets up really fast
  • do NOT use a stick blender

Here is my Pine Tar Soap Recipe. Remember: Do NOT use a stick blender! You will be sorry! If you don’t want to make your own, you can email me at, or you can go to Life Thyme Botanicals and order from them. (They carry my soaps.)

For a 4 pound batch:

9.14 oz. coconut oil

27.4 oz. olive oil

9.14 oz. pine tar

10 oz. distilled water

5.1 oz lye

1 tbls castor oil

If you’ve never made homemade soap before, here are some great resources for you.

  • Soap Making Resource: He has GREAT tutorials that are very basic and easy to follow. You can also buy a lot of oils, botanical colorants and essential oils from him. He’s fairly new on the scene, but I like doing business with him. He has some GREAT molds!
  • Mountain Majestic Sage: This is one of the sites that I stumbled upon years ago. They have tons of resources, supplies at great prices and a lot of information. There is a lye calculator on this site that I use to make sure I have a good lye to fat ratio, because while I love chemistry, I really hate math and don’t want to have to figure the calculations out myself.
  • Miller Soap: Kathy Miller (no relation) devoted a lot of time to teaching people like me how to make homemade soap. She also has wonderful soaps for sale. She is so creative and her soaps are just plain beautiful! Lots of recipes and lots of advice.

Certainly let me know if you make the soap or if you use the soap. I’d love to know what you all think! Enjoy!!


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Frugal by choice

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle: Homemade household cleaners!


When my son, Ross, was little, he struggled with a constantly runny nose and allergy like symptoms. I did quite a bit of research and found out some interesting little tidbits of knowledge. Not only did I find out that you should never store your household cleaners under the kitchen sink because their fumes could speed up the corrosion of plumbing (this was back when everyone had metal plumbing pipes), but I also learned that many of the fumes from the cleaners would hover right around ground level, which is where Ross and the other little people in my home stayed most of the time. (Go here to read about household cleaning chemicals.)

Scary stuff.

I was also on a tight budget back then, and tried to find alternative ways to save money. What I found is that homemade cleaners could actually work better than their more expensive counter parts, and the health benefits to using them outweighed any inconvenience. There are lots of different recipes, but here’s what I do.

Basically, what I do is use about 1 part water to 1 part vinegar in a spray bottle. I like to add about a tablespoon or so of tea tree oil (which you can buy at Walmart) and some nice essential oil. I use however much smells good. 😉 Last time I mixed up a bottle, I used about 1 tablespoon of Lemongrass, and I didn’t use tea tree oil.

Some people put borax in the mixture, which might be helpful, and I think I’ll try it. I have been very happy with the cleaners! Vinegar is a great sanitizer and the lemon grass fragrance hangs around a while. Sometimes I’ll put a drop or two of Dawn dish soap, sometimes I don’t. It just depends.

It works great on stainless steel, in the kitchen and in the bathroom. I recently had to scrub my tub (using homemade soap sometimes will leave some wonderful soap rings that are a bit hard to get rid of. I simply sprayed the tub down with my mixture, put some baking soda on my cloth and scrubbed happily away. End result: Shiny tub.

If you really need specific measurements go here or here  for some great recipes!

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Homemade Laundry Soap


My Grandmother used to say, “Use it up, Wear it Out, Make it Do, or Do without!” But I suppose Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is a much more sophisticated sentiment.  Whatever saying you use, they are both good to live by. Recently I became aware of the amount of plastic we were putting in the garbage and realized that laundry detergent bottles were some of the biggest culprits. We go through a lot of laundry soap.

When my kids were little, I made laundry soap to save money. It saved us tons! But when I started working full time outside of our home, convenience kind of took over. Being convicted of all those plastic bottles going in the garbage, I decided to put together some laundry detergent again. Right now, I’m using the powdered form, but there are ways to make this liquid. I’ll post some of my recipes next week.

What I do:

1 Bar Fels Naptha Soap (you get this in the laundry section of the store)

1 Cup Borax

1 Cup Washing Soda

You will need to grate the bar of soap, then add the borax and soda and mix. Sometimes I add some Oxiclean (or generic equivalent) and I always make this in 3 bar batches. (3 bars, 3 cups each of borax and soda)

Then you’re left with what to put your new laundry detergent in! I’ve always used an old coffee  can (the plastic variety), and decided to spiff it up a bit to match my new laundry room. I started with the Folgers Can and some of my Mod Podge stash.

I had some fabric left over from the curtains in my laundry room, so I sewed a quick rectangle of fabric, big enough to cover the middle portion of the coffee can. On the Folgers cans, there are little “handle” in the back of the can. I didn’t cover that part.

The next step was to put some Mod Podge on the coffee can and then center the fabric onto the can. Then brush the Mod Podge on the fabric. I think I put a couple of coats of Mod Podge on the fabric.

 And, it’s pretty! I left the coffee can red, because it went well with the fabric I used.

You could also spray paint it. I may add some vinyl letters later, but today, this is done.

Lovely Lavendar


For some reason, I didn’t think Lavender Soap should be a square bar.  I didn’t have a round mold, so decided to make one out of PVC pipe. It worked GREAT! I don’t think the picture does it justice!

 I used 3″ PVC pipe purchased at Menards. (I love that store.) I cut it to 20″ lengths. That size seemed reasonable, and it holds four pounds of soap.

I really don’t know what these things are, but I found them in the plumbing section. The pipe sits in it nicely!  I just put a piece of wax paper over the bottom before I inserted into the holder, and it worked great! I also lined the inside with freezer paper. I have heard some people say that getting soap out of the pvc pipe molds is hard. It was not hard at all with the freezer paper lining. Really.

Lavender Bay Soap

Fat                                   Amount

Aloe Extract                        4 oz.

Castor Oil                              4 oz

Coconut Oil                        16 oz

Olive Oil                               48 oz

Palm Oil                                  8 oz

Shea Butter                            4 oz

Soybean Oil                         32 oz

Lye Table (NaOH) 15.8 oz. in 35 oz. of Soy Milk

4 TBLS French Green Clay in to the fats.

lavender and Bay Essential Oils at trace. I used 2 parts lavender to one part bay.

After I took the bars out of the mold and cut them, I decided they needed a bit more fancy edging. My husband’s gramma gave us a biscuit cutter. It’s not perfectly round, but it’s a vintage thing, I suppose. I used it anyway. I love the outcome.

If you don’t want to make your own, I have a few bars available. I charge $1.00/ounce, and the bar will come wrapped in tissue paper and decorated nicely. Hit me up at Happy Soaping!

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