Probably anyone reading this blog must know by know at least a little about the wonders of hops, those resinous flowers we’ve been using for hundreds of years to bitter, and sometimes to flavor and aromatize, our beer. Well, a few weeks ago Miss Jiwaku and I made an unusual use of hops: we made some hand soap with some old hops.
I had a few grams of some old Willamette hops, and some very old Cascade leaf hops — though the later, I discovered, is old enough that it has no more Cascade aroma left. (Sour beers will be fine with them, as I can still get some bitterness and antibacterial properties, but we’ll also use them from another purpose, which will be obvious later on in this post.) In any case, we decided to make a hoppy hand soap in past after reading that beer soap is “not good for men.” I’m not sure in exactly which way it’s “not good” for men, and I plan to read up a bit more, but in any case, I reflected on the claim and said, “Well, it’s just the hop aroma we want anyway, not the beer itself!”
The soap we made was gylcerine soap, which Miss Jiwaku tells me makes it more smooth and less harsh on the skin. Still, it’s a hand soap, not a body soap — the body soaps take more time and preparation, different ingredients, and they need to be cured for a month and a half.
We started out with 600 grams of the soap base, which had to be cubed, like so: Then we melted it down in a big metal measuring cup, and ground up the pellet hops that were supposed to be mixed with the glycerine. Originally, I tried to extract some aromatic properties from an ounce of really old Cascade hops, but discovered that it smelled, basically, like tea.
Therefore, we decided to go with a smaller amount of water, and some Cascade pellet hops that were less old. In the end, we mixed some of the powdered Willamette in with the glycerine and 30 grams of the hop extract water: And then we blended it all together, stirring slowly to avoid the formation of bubbles on the surface. Some bubbles formed, so Miss Jiwaku skimmed them off the top, and then we poured the soap into two molds — a small round one, and a big baking-pan mold. (The same one I occasionally us to make banana bread.)
Then we crumbled some of the Cascade leaf hops onto the top, purely for appearance… and that’s it.
I was briefly thinking maybe making hand soap with hops is better than making body soap: I’m not sure I’d want to walk around all day smelling like a noseful of Cascade, and besides I don’t know how well the alpha acids will interact with the other oils and stuff in the soap formula. Hands are less sensitive if a mild harshness develops, after all… but on second thought, I think a hoppy-smelling soap could sell too.
(But we also plan on developing a soap, called “True Grist,” that uses oats, spent grain, and other beer stuff. Environmentally friendly, a byproduct of beer production, and good for your skin… who could want more?)
The result, of course, was wonderful in one way — because the soaps are quite beautiful in their way, and the color results wholly from hops — but also disappointing, because there is absolutely no hop aroma.
Still, we’re going to work on this a bit and see if we can’t sort out how to get some hop aroma into the soap. We used the MP soap process — melt-and-pour — for this batch, but I think a CP or HP soap (cold process, or hot process) would extract more hop aroma, since those kinds of soaps go through an exothermic reaction, meaning they generate heat through chemical processes. We’ll give it a try and see what happens, I guess.
If you’d like to see some more pics, the full set on Flickr is here.