Monday, August 8, 2011

A thought on small batch product making

If you're just starting out or trying a new recipe, consider making small batches of products, maybe 100 to 300 grams to start. (And yes, I recommend using metric because there's nothing more frustrating than having to figure out what 40% x 8 ounces is when you're in the middle of measuring in the workshop!) I realize this isn't a lot - sometimes a 100 gram bottle makes as little as 2 ounces/60 ml if you're using a lot of butters and oils - but it means you aren't wasting supplies on things you might hate!

There is a down side to using small amounts - it's really easy to mis-measure. For instance, let's say you're making a 200 gram batch of lotion and require 2% hydrolyzed oat protein (so a total of 4 grams of hydrolyzed oat protein in the product). All it takes is a little hand slip and you have 5 or 6 grams instead of 4. Not a huge deal - maybe you wanted a little extra? - but make sure you write it down in your trusty workshop notebook!

Where it does become a big deal is when you have a situation like this: If you have 10 ingredients and you end up with 0.1 gram extra for each ingredient, that's now an extra gram you have in your product. Again, not a huge issue (for the most part), but if you add 0.5 grams of each ingredient, then you have 5 grams extra, and that is a big deal for 200 grams of product (2.5% more than you expected).

This might mess up the emulsification or it might mess up the preservatives, which is one of the reasons I suggest using the maximum allowable preservative in our products. Or you might be making a product you love but can't recreate because of that tiny difference, so make sure you check your measurements twice and write everything down!

If you are going to be a small batch maker, consider getting a scale that weighs down to the 0.1 gram, like this one. This is an epoxy scale I bought from a hardware store for about $30. This is a great way to weigh your smaller things like preservatives, Vitamin E, and additives that might go into the cool down phase. It's also fantastic for mineral make-up.

For more information on how we measure in bath and body products, click here! And for more information on why we use percentages, click here


Annette said...

Hiya Susan,
Great post! I love experimenting with small batches. The problem I have is with the mixing - The oil phase is so small, it starts to re-solidify really fast! Also, what do you use to mix the small batches? I have tried just about everything but a hand whisk! Any tips for the mixing phase?

chibilightangel said...

Hi Susan,
Love the post, and I love that you posted a picture of your small epoxy scale. What hardware store did you find it in in Canada? I'm in quebec and would prefer buying at a local store if I could find it.
I've been making lotions and experimenting since reading your blog and having a great time doing so. I've learned so much reading through the archives (have started reading through 2010 by now, started right at the beginning). Thanks for having all this great info avaiblible!

Madeaj said...

Great post. Small batches are my friend. Because ingredients can get expensive, I test my recipes in small amounts before going for large batches.

melian1 said...

i use tkb's "awesome" scale which measures to .01 grams.

i also have always wondered how to use high shear to mix a 100 or 200 gram batch. too big for the sb. a whisk just doesn't do high shear. so i end up making 16 oz of everything so there is enough for the sb to do the job. i'd sure like to be able to make 100 or 200 grams of an experimental emulsion!

also, i write down the exact grams that get added always. a couple of times i've over-poured and ended up with something i like so much better, so i plug it into my lotion making excel sheet and take that new percentage and have the next version, lol.

Anne-Marie said...

I totally agree that starting with small batches is the way to go. Using grams and an accurate scale are great and save you from a headache!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
I have the same problem as Annette. It is very difficult to mix small batches. I have been searching for a stick blender with a disk-like attachment like one of those milk frother things but with more power. So far I find the easiest way is to use a milkshake mixer because you can lift the cup up high so the mixer reaches the very bottom. I bought one from Walmart for $20. I also was having the problem of the oil phase solidifying so I heat the stainless steel cup with oil phase in it and pour the water phase into the oil. I know lots of people say you are supposed to add the oil phase to the water phase but so far I have not had any problems. Do you think it matters which way you put the phases together?

Thanks for all of your great info. Hope you are having a great summer!