I bought a huge tub of coconut oil. It’s popular in soap recipes and, if you read the hype, just about everything else. Cooking, hair care, skin care – and those are just the recommended uses on the tub. Ask the right people online and it also cures sunburn, yeast infections, arthritis, and cold sores. I rubbed some on my hands and hated it. It felt like I’d just covered myself in Crisco. So much for beauty.
That’s alright – I really bought it for its soapiness. I wanted to make coffee soap following a recipe in my book. There’s a strange phenomenon in this book – the more advanced recipes (like coffee) tell you to start with any basic batch (of which there are many). This leads to a dangerous mixing of scents for the uninitiated…
For my base recipe I chose a simple one from the front of the book that contains 1 lb 5 oz olive oil, 10.5 oz coconut oil, and 1 oz castor oil. Why so little castor oil? What’s it doing there? No idea.
To get the coffee scent, I replaced the water in the water lye mixture with strong brewed coffee (10 oz to 4.8 oz lye). It did not smell good.
While I let the lye fumes blow out the window, I heated my oils in the crock pot. When they finally liquefied (I’m lookin’ at you, coconut oil) I added the lye and coffee mixture and went at it with the immersion blender until it traced.
My previous batch of Castile soap came out with a bunch of light-colored chunks that I thought may have come from too much stirring. I’d since read that you really shouldn’t stir unless the soap starts to bubble up, so I made a pact with myself to leave it alone. About twenty minutes in, however, a big eruption came up the side and had to be dealt with. Maybe stirring isn’t such a bad thing.
This is how it looked after the first stirring. It smelled very strange, but it looked beautiful.
A while later I gave it another stir and discovered that the soap on the bottom was a completely different color. I imagine it was getting a lot more heat.
After two hours of cooking, I dropped in some Phenolphthalein and it tested neutral. I ground up two tablespoons of coffee beans for grit. God, I love grit in soap.
After my super ugly Castile soap bars, I splurged and got myself a silicone loaf mold. I spooned the soap in and tried my best to get it down into all the corners. I put it on the kitchen table, squeezed between a box of beer bottles and the wall to keep the sides from bowing out. I left it for a few hours to cool and garner confusion and suspicion among my housemates.
Once it was cool, I turned it out of the mold. The silicone was perfectly flexible and I was able to more or less peel it back from the soap.
The loaf mold came with a handy wavy soap cutter. The soap was totally hard, but still just soft enough to slice through cleanly and easily. It makes for a rough top, smooth sides and bottom, and a front and back cross section that looks great with the coffee grounds and those lighter colored globs I thought I could get rid of.
So is this method better than the individual molds? Absolutely. Does that mean I’m happy with this soap? It does not. It smells weird. It smells really weird, and not especially like coffee. Everyone agrees that it smells kind of like bread dough. Or banana bread batter. Not bananas, mind, but banana bread. A few smellers, including me, came up with that one separately. I don’t know if it’s the mixture of the oils (olive and coffee is not a combination I’d necessarily cook with), or the coffee I used (it had been sitting for a few hours after breakfast – maybe it needed to be fresher). It may have been something else. Or maybe, just maybe, this is what it’s supposed to smell like.
But I have a hard time believing that.