Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Newbie Tuesday: Recipe 101

I think the most frequently asked questions on this blog are about figuring out recipes, so let's take a look at these concepts briefly before I refer you off to the posts you can find in the FAQ that offer more detail.

Recipes should always be done in weight, and we represent this by a recipe done in percentages.

33% beeswax
33% liquid oil
33% butter
1% fragrance oil

This recipe totals 100%. There is a chance that it might not add up to 100% - for instance, when I suggest using 0.5% to 1% of a preservative - and it's okay if it's out by 1% or 2% in the grand scheme of things. The ideal is 100%.

In the recipe above, substitute the % symbol for the word grams, so it looks like this.

33 grams beeswax
33 grams liquid oil
33 grams butter
1 gram fragrance or essential oil

Related post:
How to convert from percentage to weight?

Yes, I know there are three countries in the world that still hold on to Imperial measures - America, Singapore, and Uganda - but grams are so much easier to use. If you convert the % symbol to ounces, you'll end up with 100 ounces of this product, more than you could use in a few years! Even converting 33% by 0.1 ounces will give you 3.3 of each ingredient for a total of 10 ounces, which is still too much for a first time recipe!

If, however, you convert it to grams, you get 100 grams, which is about 3.5 weighed ounces. Your scale will weigh grams - check the little button that says oz/pound/grams or something like that.

RECIPES ARE ALWAYS DONE BY WEIGHT. We don't do things by volume because that's not an accurate way to measure. Think about putting something like beans in a cup. You could have 250 ml of beans or 252 ml or 248 ml or even as low as 240 ml. 10 ml might not sound like a big deal, but it's two teaspoons, which is the kind of measurement you use for things like yeast or baking soda, and we know what happens when you leave those out of a baking recipe. Little variations can be enough to make a recipe fail in cooking and that's true for making bath and body products as well.

Ingredients aren't uniform. One tsp of olive oil doesn't weigh the same as a teaspoon of this Natrasorb bath you see in the picture. You'd get 5 ml of each, but you'd barely have any Natrasorb bath in your product by weight.

Scales aren't expensive. If you're planning to make more than the one product that caught your eye, you'll need one. I started with one - now I have three, plus a tiny one for smaller amounts. Check out your local kitchen store and get one that measures down to 1 gram to start or get something from your local supplier.

Related post:
Why we weigh our ingredients rather than using volume measurements.

Let's say you made a lotion bar in your workshop from scratch. How do we turn that into a recipe by percentage?

30 grams beeswax
33 grams liquid oil
30 grams butter
1 gram Vitamin E
1 gram fragrance oil

Total the recipe = 95 grams

Now divide the amount of the ingredient by the total recipe and multiply by 100 to get the percentage.

30/95 x 100 = 31.58%
33/95 x 100 = 34.74%
30/95 x 100 = 31.58%
1/95 x 100 = 1.05%
1/95 x 100 = 1.05%
Total = 100%

If you get a weird number like 31.57658, round up to the nearest 1/10th or 0.1. So you could have 31.6% beeswax, just remember to round down another ingredient at some point. And for things that should have 1%, like fragrance or essential oil, keep those at 1%. It's not like you can measure 1.05 grams anyway!

Related posts:
Calculating percentages in products
What happens if our recipe totals more than 100%?

Because the goal of making bath and body products is to make safe and effective products we can make again exactly the same. By using percentages, we can easily check if we're using our ingredients in safe and proper ways. We can make sure we have just enough emulsifier to make the lotion work and just the right amount of preservative to keep the product safe. We can make sure we aren't wasting supplies using far too much of something.

It also means we can make larger batches of our products without a ton of work. If you want 300 grams of a recipe, multiply everything by 3. If you want 1000 grams of something, multiply the numbers by 10. If you want 3500 grams of something, multiply by 35. And so on.

Related post:
Doubling, tripling, and dodecahexing our recipes. 

If you want more in depth information, check out the section on calculations in the frequently asked questions section of the blog. There's loads of information there! And check out the newbie links section of the blog as I'm updating it regularly!


Brandi Yates said...

What do you use to measure tiny amounts? weigh paper? medicine cups? There is always a bit left in the container for me. Ive just been using dixie cups.

Danica said...

I can't do anything without doing it in percentages. I think it makes life so much easier. It's also just engrained in my head because of soap.
Once you figure out how to calculate recipes by percentages, your golden and everything is so much easier. :)
Thanks for this blog Susan and all the time you have dedicated to it and us. :)

I use Dixie cups to measure as well.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Brandi. I use plastic shot glasses from the dollar store because the plastic helps things slip off the sides. I still get a little left in the container, though. Oftentimes I weigh small amounts directly into my container, especially things like preservatives, where losing a bit can be a big deal.

Dixie cups are waxed, right?

Danica said...

They used to be I think, I don't think so anymore. I use the generic ones from Aldi and they are all paper.
They make plastic dixie cups ones as well.
Plastic shot glasses are an awesome idea. :)