Today, we are going to talk about making soap using a popular alcoholic drink; beer! I used the hot process method, but these observations will apply to those of you that use the cold process method, too. Let’s get started!
Considerations for Beer Soap
When I first began doing research about beer soap, I found many conflicting articles and conflicting instructions. I was left confused; did I have to boil the alcohol out of the soap? Did the beer need to be frozen first? Was I going to blow up my kitchen? I'm happy to say that one of those things didn't happen. (I'll give you a hint; nothing exploded!) I did, however, finally narrow down my recipe and method through about three hours worth of online exploration; hopefully I can save you a bit of time with this article, but remember; besides the chemistry of soapmaking, creatively, make this yours! The sky is the limit and the creative potential for your product is exponential.
First, I decided how much beer I would be using in my soap. Because I wanted a lot of beer in my soap, I decided to completely replace all of my water with beer. This means, I added my lye to my beer; with a few steps in between, of course.
I also decided to boil my beer first. I understand that there are conflicting ideas of whether this is necessary, but, being that it was my first time making it, I didn't want to take any chances (again-I like my kitchen in one piece). I used a blonde beer to avoid the darkness of a stout; I needed around 18 ounces for my recipe, but started out boiling about 34 ounces because of the chance of it boiling off and leaving me with a lower amount of liquid at the end of the process. I brought the beer to a boil and let it cook at approximately 175 F for 15 minutes; I ended up with about 27 ounces of beer when I was done. Not bad! I had enough for this recipe, and subsequently made a batch using both beer and distilled water the next day.
In the final minutes of the beer boiling, which made my house smell pretty badly (I would definitely recommend having a fan on), I filled my sink with ice and then placed the pan I boiled the beer in on top of the ice, filling the sink with cold water around it. I cooled it quite a bit, and quickly with this method; when it was cool to the touch, I then put it in a quart freezer bag and laid it flat in my freezer for about an hour. After the hour, it was not frozen, but rather slushy; this is what I was looking for!
Once the beer was slushy, I slowly sprinkled the lye into the semi-frozen liquid, careful to do it slowly and make sure that the granules completely dissolved. This is important, because if you add the lye too quickly, there is a chance it may scorch the beer which will result in an very unpleasant lye-beer mixture that you may not want to use, depending on your desired finished product.
Because it was cold outside, I allowed the lye beer to sit outside and cool down. I like to combine my lye mixture and oils while they are around the same temperature, and usually at around 140-150 degrees. Once I had everything at the desired temperature, I combined the lye mixture and oils in my crock pot with an immersion blender; and it came to trace very quickly! Within 5-10 minutes, the mixture was at trace.
Now, at this point, the batter was quite dark; I'd say about the color of wheat bread. I had decided to do a pencil line in my bar, but had chosen a very light and pretty mica; unfortunately, I didn't anticipate the soap would lighten to the color of a cup of coffee with a half cup of creamer in it! Because of this, my pencil line is barely visible; keep in mind that, depending on the type of beer you use, this may happen to you as well.
The Cooking Process and Aftermath
Although there didn't seem to be much of a difference between my normal soapmaking and making soap with beer, what I noticed the most was the smell. Before I added my fragrances, the smell of the batter while cooking and even the next day when I cut it was very strong and honestly, unpleasant. But, don't worry! Once the bars sat for about 24 hours, that smell faded away and all that is left is the smell of my fragrances, and a very light, earthy smell that is actually quite pleasant.
Making soap with alcohol may seem like a strange extra step to take when you're making your soap, but people love it! Do you make soap using beer or wine? We want to see it! Show us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter so we can see your beautiful brew creations!