Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tempering Butter 101(shea, mango, and cocoa)

Although I am in love with lotion bars and lip balm, I felt that mine were turning out slightly grainy.  It isn't something that completely ruins the products, for as soon as they warm up the graininess goes away and it melts into your skin, but I have not been entirely happy with them. I learned that the culprit is my butters. This has nothing to do with the quality of the butters, but more that the fluctuation in temperature causes the butters to crystallize.  The best way to get rid of the graininess is to temper the butters. Maintaining a high heat for a prolonged amount of time causes the crystals to melt completely, resulting in smooth butter (hopefully).  Each butter has a slightly different process, so I will share a little on each one.

Shea Butter: Heat to 170 - 185 degrees. Maintain this temperature for approximately 15-30 minutes.
Mango Butter:  Heat slowly to 100 degrees. Maintain this temperature for 45-60 minutes.
Cocoa Butter:  Heat slowly to 100 degrees.  Maintain this temperature for 45-60 minutes.

Slowly melt the butter, lifting the thermometer 
out and away from the pot occasionally to 
get an accurate temperature.

The most difficult part of this process is maintaining the temperature.  I heated my butters in a pot on my gas stove on low and stirred and watched until it was melted, all the while constantly watching the temperature.  With the shea butter, I slowly raised the temperature until I reached the desired 175, then eased it back down.  The mango and cocoa butter, in order to maintain 100 degrees, I had to alternately turn the burner on and off as the temperature climbed and decreased (usually in about 10 minute intervals).  It was kind of a long, tedious process, but I hope it will be worth it when I have nice, smooth lotion bars.

I have also reformulated my lotion bars, adding mango and vitamin E to create a more moisturizing bar that has more "slip" on the skin.  


  1. It seems like a lot of people don't realize how sensitive butters can be when melted. Great post and I'm so glad that you have learned about tempering. I hope this batch of lotion bars turns out as smooth as a baby's you know what!

  2. Ugh. Tempering is so time consuming!! I finally turned to MMS's high melt point shea for my whipped shea butter, and it seems to be working well. I melt it, then cool and whip at the same time.

  3. I am very glad I discovered tempering as well. I thought I should share this. I am pretty new to the lotion bar/lip balm thing myself, and I wish I had known this sooner! I didn't think I could love lotion bars any more than I did, but I am so pleased with the result. :)

  4. I know alot of people use the heat and hold method(ie tempering) the butters, but I've not done that when making body butters. I usually heat my other oils/butters, then use that heat from those to melt the shea, then whip, and whip, and whip....if I were making lotion bars though I think I'd have to temper the butters first.

  5. If you do make solid bars, I highly recommend doing it. It has made a huge difference. My bars are so smooth now! I haven't done any whipped butters, but I can see how the "whipping" would take care of the grainy texture as well.

  6. Once the butters are tempered, should they be cooled down in any particular fashion as other ingredients are added to make the lotion bars or what have you? I have read here and there that for the shea butter it should be cooled down fairly rapidly to avoid graininess.

    Any tips are much appreciated. Thanks for this great article!

  7. Yes. Pour into your container and then straight into the refrigerator. Works like a charm.:)

  8. Hi,

    i know this post was written a while back but i introduced to tempering a couple weeks back.

    I'm interested in tempering various butters - apricot, avocado, kokum.

    Also, I'm interested in knowing why different butters require different temperatures.

  9. my yogurt maker is excellent for tempering oils. I use it all the time. Has become a tool in my craft more than I use it for the actual thing..