First, you have to get a beer! When making beer soap it's better to use a darker beer rather than a lighter variety. I think it makes a richer, more creamy soap. I chose Hardywood Park Craft Brewery's Sidamo Coffee Stout. This beer is brewed with local (Richmond) coffee beans from Lamplighter Coffee. I like to use local brews because I want to support local!
Next, you have to boil the beer! Boiling actually flattens the beer. You can't use fuzzy beer or it will react with the lye and you'll have a mini explosion. I don't need a mess in my kitchen! Beer is tricky because it cooks way down. So, I have to buy twice as much as I need in order to have enough liquid to use after it's "cooked." Normally, when making soap you use a water and lye mixture, but in the case of beer soap, you use real beer in place of the water.
For the next step, I have to wait for the flat beer to come to room temperature before mixing it slowly with the lye. I really mean slowly mix! The lye is poured into the beer and can overflow if combined too quickly.
In this step, I weigh the oils out. In my soap recipe I use coconut, sunflower, palm, olive, and unrefined shea butter. All oils must be melted down and combined, which is the next step!
The oils and lye/beer mixture must reach the same temperature before combining. Sometimes this happens quickly and other times not. Patience is key! While waiting I usually line the molds...
Dynamo made me a couple of soap molds that are super awesome (better than anything you can buy!)!! Every time I make soap I make about 8 pounds and fill 2 molds.
Also, while waiting I get my add-ins ready to go!
For this batch of soap I grind up whole grain oats really fine, get my fragrance oil measured out, mix my colorants(I use oxides, micas, pigments, and clays), and make my soap curls and sticks!
Once the temperatures match, I pour slowly the beer/lye mixture into the oil mixture! I have to stir continuously and slowly. I use a hand mixer to "beat" the mixture until it comes to what we call "trace." According to About.com "Trace is basically the point at which the soap has thickened and blended enough to have formed a stable emulsion. It's a "point of no return" where the oils and lye are no longer at any risk of separation." The soap is basically thick.
At trace, the add-ins are added in. Fragrance, exfoliants, colorants, etc. You must work fast as sometimes the soap can set up quickly on you. It all depends on the recipe/mix.
Lastly, the soap is poured in liquid form into the mold. The extras (oats, curls, and sticks) are added last.
I place a lid on the mold and drape a towel over the top to keep the heat in. I let it set in the mold for 8 to 10 hours and then pull it out, turn the loaf on its side, and it sets for another 8 hours before Dynamo cuts it. The bars cure from 3 to 8 weeks depending on the ingredients before being sold. The longer the bars cure, the harder the bars will be!
That was a quick version of how it happens. Some recipes and batches are more involved, but that's the general idea. While making soap I have to have an uninterrupted space to work safely as lye is a very dangerous substance in its raw form. Safety precautions are always taken to protect my eyes especially. The process is very neat and every batch is unique. I love being creative and exploring the possibilities out there.
I hope you've enjoyed this step-by-step outline of this very handmade process!