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Tips for Using Beer in Soap Making

I have an interest in handmade bath and body products, so I am continually experimenting with new soap-making recipes and techniques.

how-to-make-beer-soap

Beer soap is great. If you’ve never made it before (or used it on your skin), here are some reasons to try it:

  • The sugars in the beer give the soap a fantastic lather.
  • Beer soaps are a novelty that make a great gift. Plus if you have an bored man waiting for his significant other to sniff all the soaps at your market table, if you hand him a beer soap, he’ll probably become more interested! Beer drinkers are all about the beer soap!
  • Beer is actually good for your skin. Hops contain skin softening amino acids and are known to be antibacterial and soothing to irritated skin.
  • Once you are an expert at making beer soap, you can contact local breweries about private label soaps made with their beers – this can be a major source of revenue if breweries are plentiful in your area! The photo above is a private label soap I made for Lion Bridge Brewery, which is located in my town.

In the soap making world, beer is often considered an ingredient that you should leave alone until you’ve got some experience under your belt. This is true to a point, but if you know what to expect, it’s really not so hard.

First, let’s discuss a couple of myths that I see showing up in Facebook groups and forums on a regular basis.

Myths About Making Soap With Beer:

  • You have to let the beer go flat first
  • You have to cook off the alcohol
  • You have to freeze the beer first

I’ve tried the first two, but all of these things require an extra step and waiting time, and frankly – ain’t nobody got time for that. And really, none of this is necessary. At all. No, really. Keep reading and I’ll tell you why.

How to Add Beer to Soap

There are multiple ways you can incorporate beer into your soap recipe. You can use beer for all or a portion of your lye water. Or you can add the beer at trace, as long as you’ve used some other liquid at a 1:1 ratio (lye:liquid) when mixing your lye water. As long as you do that, you can add the remainder of your water portion at trace, no matter what the liquid is. With beer, I don’t like adding it at trace, because your soap will thicken up fast – I’m talking crazy fast! At first I thought it was because the beer wasn’t as warm as my soap batter, but after cooking the beer and adding it warm, I had the same results. If you want more time to work with your soap, just use the beer as your lye water and be done with it. But keep the following tips in mind.

Beer Soap Tips

When you add lye to beer, it can start to fizz up. So much so that it overflows out of the container and all over your countertop. As far as I know, this is the only reason people suggest following any of the mythical rules I mentioned earlier. Solution: use a larger container than necessary to mix your lye water. And maybe mix it in the sink instead of on a counter, just in case. And add your lye a little bit at a time, very slowly.

Also, lye water made with beer stinks to high Heaven. I highly recommend mixing it outside. If you mix it inside, do it in the basement or a room with plenty of ventilation and wear a respirator that protects you from breathing the fumes. I use this one and it works quite well.

Be prepared to work fast. Even when my ingredients are at room temperature, this soap thickens very quickly. Darker beers seem to increase the speed. It's not a bad idea to use a higher liquid amount than you would with your regular recipes, and possibly use half beer and half water to lessen this.

Lastly, darker, heavier beers can lend a bread-like smell to your soap. This smell does not fade with curing. Keep this in mind when choosing a fragrance. Dark beers will also turn your soap a light beige color.

Questions & Answers

Question: I have a few bottles of beer that are 6 months past the best by date. Are they still usable for soaps?

Answer: Probably, but just know that any time you use an ingredient that is expired, you run the risk of developing orange spots in your soap over time. If you don't intend to sell it, go for it.

Question: If reducing beer down to 25g and adding after trace like a super fat or essential oil, reduce the distinctive smell when using beer in soap making?

Answer: It stinks badly if you add lye to beer. Or coffee or tea, for that matter. Using less beer and adding at trace does eliminate that problem, but it also reduces the awesome benefits of the beer - it's good for your skin! Just make sure you have at least 1:1 water and lye if you choose to add some of the liquid at trace instead.

© 2018 Kat McAdams