2013-10(Oct.)-01: Updates, Odds & Ends

Let me start by saying that although I have not been updating this blog often enough, I do post regularly on Twitter, and also on Instagram (though that's not all soap-related).

My Instagram account: http://instagram.com/opensourcesoap

My Twitter account: https://twitter.com/opensourcesoap

Here's a sketch of the CO2 phase diagram that I posted recently:

I also posted some photos from my frankincense extraction--but more on that later. Since it is getting close to the holidays, and soap takes several weeks to cure, now is the time to place orders for holiday gifts. Gingersnaps is a seasonal favorite. Or, if you want to go with a nativity-themed soap, there is the the simple but elegant frankincense and honey soap I've been making recently. Another nice addition is labdanum. This is the fragrance that goes by so many names, including cistus, rockrose, and Rose-of-Sharon. It contains ambreine, which is ambery smelling, as you might guess from the name. The first five people to place orders for the holiday season get a 20% discount for their orders. But you have to ask for the discount (i.e., must have read this).

About that frankincense extraction. It went so-so. I got some good material, but I also made a bit of a mess in the extraction vessel, which was a pain to cleanup. Here's the problem: frankincense is not a fibrous material. It is not like a spice or herb, in which the plant material (what is technically called the "matrix") makes up a large part of the mass. Frankincense is dried sap. It's a resin, not an herb or a spice. By the way, herbs come from leaves, while spices come from seeds, roots, or bark. Frankincense is a gummy material, and in fact, you can chew it like gum as a breath freshener. I've tried it, but the resin droplets ("tears") are less like gum than they are like gumdrops. That is, they disintegrate into a goo that does not adhere to itself the way chewing gum does.

After eating a frankincense tear, I began to worry that at higher temperatures I might accidentally melt the tears in the extraction vessel and gum up the works. That's sort of what happened. Below are some photos of the nylon sample sack.

These photos don't fully convey what a weird mess this was. The light yellow stuff was a chalky, brittle foam. Much like polyurethane foam, if you're familiar with that. The nylon sack was totally embedded with frankincense resin, so that water would not penetrate it. I had to use IPA (isopropyl alcohol; aka 2-propanol) to dissolve the resin so I could use the sack again. Luckily that did the trick, and the sack is like new. The foam also clogged up one of the lines upon depressurizing the system; I had to repressurize using the CO2 pump to bust through (or possibly dissolve) the clog. Definitely had me worried.

What happened? I have some educated guesses. In short, I over-extracted the frankincense. This stuff might be 100% soluble in CO2 if I cranked up the pressure high enough. But I don't want to dissolve everything, just the good-smelling stuff. The foam was stuff that I dissolved even though I didn't want to. When the CO2 was rapidly removed, the dissolved material became suddenly insoluble, forming the foam. The result is not unlike lyophilized (freeze-dried) ice cream.

Next time, I'll try to use a lower temperature and lower solvent density to only extract the good stuff from the frankincense tears, and not the glue-like matrix material. So that's one lesson learned. Another lesson was simple yet with vast implications: by inserting the outlet needle into the vial at an angle, I create a cyclone in the vial which greatly improves collection efficiency. Aerosolized liquid extract has a better chance of staying in the vial rather than being blown out the exhaust. Another benefit is that the flow of outlet gas is not directly blowing on the liquid, which can cause a mess if the flow increases unexpectedly. Below is a photo of the vial in its improved orientation.

And here's a before/after photo of frankincense tears, for visual comparison.

That's about it for today's update. I do want to mention the latest fragrance I've been developing, which is a mimic ("homage" if you want to be euphemistic) to a fragrance from a house I like very much, Bois 1920. I have three of their scents, and they only make about ten in total. Here's the website for the designer, though it isn't very informative: http://www.enzogalardi.it/ I have 1920 Extreme (geranium, vetiver, tonka) and 1920 Classic (ginger, bergamot, vetiver, tonka), but the one I like best, the most striking one, is a special release called "Come La Luna" (like the moon). Looks like Basenotes finally got around to creating a page for this lovely perfume. Ingredients are bitter orange, pink pepper, frankincense, coriander, cardamom, patchouli, and cistus. That may not be the final formulation, but I'm pretty happy with this first attempt. Might want less bitter orange, and add rosewood. When I'm happy with the formula, I'll post the recipe.

Last Modified:
10 November 2013

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