Sunday, 16 December 2012

Beer Soap

Apparently beer has uses other than just drinking it, some people bathe in it and some even make soap from it ... something I thought I'd try.

A few weeks ago I had never tried making soap at home, nor did I know much about it, so I'm far from an expert and I'm not going to try to teach anyone how to make soap.  I've only made three batches now, but the process is not really that difficult.  However, soap making does involve dangerous ingredients (Caustic Soda) and if it's not done right it can be very harmful - so understanding the procedures and processes is very important you are thinking of trying something this yourself.

There are a range of useful soap making guides online (use Google) but I found the Soap Making Using the Cold Process Method guide on one of the more useful.  When making soap, getting the recipe right is essential, so that you ensure there is the correct balance of fat/oil and caustic.  For that reason, I'm not going to give an exact recipe here, since that will ensure that anyone who tries to make it must first understand the basics.  A Soap Calculator is often used to develop and check soap recopies  and I found the SoapCalc website useful for this part of the process.

The first step in making soap usually involves mixing Caustic Soda (Sodium hydroxide, NaOH) with water, however since I'm making Beer Soap, I replaced the water in my recipe with beer - a nice Black IPA.  The beer needs to be uncarbonated, so I took the beer directly from the fermentor, otherwise you can open a bottle and leave it out a while.  I also froze the beer until it was a beer-slushy, since this should help keep the temperature down when it's mixed with the caustic.  Caustic mixed with water (or beer) can get very warm/hot, it also tends to smell a bit - a not very nice smell.

Next the oils are weighed out (all quantities, even liquids, are weighed when making soap, since it's a more accurate measure), all the oils I used are available in the supermarket.

I've been making 'vegetarian' soap, the recipe I my Beer Soap from included about 30% Olive Oil, 30% Coconut Oil (aka Copha in Australian supermarkets), 30% Palm Oil (aka FryMaster in Australian supermarkets) and small amounts of Caster and Soy oils.  The solid oils (Palm and Coconut) need to be melted, on a gentle heat before they are mixed with the other oils:

Next the stinky caustic beer solution is added to the oil in a large pot:

After a short time of stirring with the stick mixer the soap starts to thicken (this is called 'trace'):

This is usually when you add colours and fragrances, since I was making Beer Soap, I added some whole Pride of Ringwood hop flowers that I crushed coarsely in the spice blender:

Soap makers most often use large square or rectangle molds and cut the soap up into bars later.  However I found some nice silicon 'gift molds' at KMart - that I sprayed with oil to ensure the soap did not stick  Th excess soap went into cling-wrap lined cake tins, don't use cake-tins you ever want to cook with again, and it's not a good idea to use non-stick, because the soap will remove the non-stick surface (I did say I was new at this):

Once the molds are filled, the soap should be starting to solidify.  The soap then needs about 24 hours to 'cure', during this time it is wrapped up to keep warm (and it does get noticeably warm):

After a day or two the soap is hard enough to slide out of the molds.

Now it needs a few weeks to fully dry and harden before it should be ready to use.  According to online-sellers of Beer Soap, its good for dry skin, dandruff and all sorts of things like that.


  1. How did it turn out? I am a newbie soap maker and my brother brews beer-so naturally I want to try!

  2. yeah, do tell... Looks like shit, hopefully smells like hops :)