Behind the scenes at Amani Soaps + a lesson in physics February 08, 2016 11:50

My soap is made with a combination of liquid oils (olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil) as well as solid oils/butters (coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter). I buy huge 25# blocks of organic cocoa butter and when I get it out, my house smells like chocolate! One day recently, my 11th grader came home from school while I was mixing up a large batch of soap making oils. He arrived right when I was starting to measure out the cocoa butter (50 oz). My son looks at my soap pot and tells me I should use a different one to melt the cocoa butter. He says, "that pot is so narrow and the sides are so high. It will melt faster is you use something else". 

Let me preface the rest of this story by fessing up to the fact that the only class I ever failed was Physics. 

Clearly my son did not get his Physics gene from me because, in 15 years of soap making, I have never thought about this. I did have another pot but it was made of aluminum and not stainless steel which I usually use. It seemed logical that the wider pot would melt things because of the increased surface area but would it really make that much of a difference? Plus I thought aluminum doesn't conduct heat as well as stainless steel which could temper (get it? baking joke) the benefits of using a wider pot to melt the cocoa butter. 

We decided to conduct a little experiment to see if this was indeed true.  I measured out half the cocoa butter into the shallow aluminium pot and the other half into my standard 6.5-quart stainless steel pot. I tried to make sure the cocoa butter chunks were close to the same size (which I independently verified with a highly skilled expert: my 12-year-old daughter).

Cocoa butter in shallow pot Cocoa butter for soap melting in a stainless steel pot 

I put one pot on the stove and timed exactly how long it took to fully melt the oils. I didn't stir or change the temperature. Then I repeated the exact same procedure (same burner) with the other pot.

And, he was right. The wide aluminum pot did melt the cocoa butter faster, by nearly 20%. Of course, that translated into just under one minute...but it's still different.

He takes Statistics next year so I'll update y'all then if the difference is statistically significant. LOL