A Drop of the Black Stuff

A Drop of the Black Stuff.

I live in the West of Ireland in a gorgeous seaside village called Kinvara. It’s beautiful here…not only do we have the Wild Atlantic Way on our doorstep but we have the dramatic backdrop of the Burren too. That mysterious slab of limestone provides a lot of inspiration for me as a creative person.

Of course visitors from around the world arrive here to enjoy the delights of our surroundings and they all have one thing in common. They are all excited to try a drop of the Black Stuff here in Ireland.

Many people find it very strange that I would use something like a pint of stout in my soap making but actually it is very common to use liquids other than water. Milk, beer, tea and coffee are common as well as an endless variety of herbal infusions.  Each of these liquids adds something to the soap. Milks and beers are full of conditioning proteins. Herbal infusions carry the properties of the herbs used. Some extracts may add colour to the soap.  But Guinness is one of my favourite. Of course any brand of stout will do.

If you haven’t made soap before please check out the soaping 101 or Soap Queen  youtube sites for all the instructions you need. This recipe is a little more advanced and I recommend you try a few simpler recipes before you attempt this one.

You will need

  • An assortment of plastic jugs and bowls
  • A stick blender
  • A thermometer
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • A lined soap mould
  • An ice bath

The recipe

  • 500g of stout frozen into ice cubes
  • 500g Olive Oil
  • 450g Coconut Oil
  • 400g Palm Oil
  • 100g Cocoa Butter
  • 50g Shea Butter
  • 100g Canola Oil
  • 226g Sodium Hydroxide
  • Cocoa Powder dissolved in water or glycerine.
  • Lemongrass, cedarwood and Patchouli

The first thing you need to do is put on your safety goggles and gloves. Always. Every time. Even keep them on until the washing up is done. It’s just not worth it. Keep children, pets and any other distractions out of the way.

Start by melting your solid oils in the microwave or on the stove and leave to cool. Add your liquid oils to this.



Place your ice cubes in a plastic container and put this container into and ice/water bath. Slowly and gradually add your sodium hydroxide whilst stirring. The reaction of the sodium hydroxide with the water is exothermic…It releases heat. We don’t want our stout to heat up too much or it will denature the delicate proteins contained within. Too much heat and the stout will scorch resulting in a very smelly liquid. Don’t worry too much if this does happen as the smell will reduce during the cure time. It is best to try and avoid it though.



Once all the ice cubes are melted and the sodium hydroxide is dissolved, it is time to combine our liquids. For those new to soap making this is the crucial moment when the magic begins. The chemical reaction of the oils and the sodium hydroxide is what creates the soap. More about chemistry in another post.


Add the sodium hydroxide solution to the oil. Stick blend until trace happens. Add the fragrance blend and stir well.




Separate one quarter of the mixture into a separate jug. To the larger portion add the cocoa powder mixture and blend well. Pour into the mould.



To the smaller portion add the titanium dioxide and blend well. Carefully layer this on top of the brown soap in the mould. You don’t want the layers to incorporate. It sometimes helps to pour slowly onto the back of a spoon to slow the mixture down.



Wait until the soap has firmed up a little and then form peaks on the top.  I use a chopstick to make this look.



Spritz with alcohol and cover with cling film (Saran wrap). Leave for 24 to 48 hours before unmoulding. One the soap is out of the mould you can cut into slices and place on a shelf and leave to cure for 4-6 weeks.



So there you have it. A little slice of the Black Stuff from the Wild Atlantic way.

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