Shea Butter Revisited

Just when I thought I had the shea butter all figured out, I read this on a trusted supplier’s website:

Please note: Recently we have become aware that other vendors are suggesting you heat shea butter to 170 degrees F for a period of 45 minutes to prevent graininess. This can be very damaging to the shea butter and will drastically reduce the shelf life as well. Worst of all, it will not work! Shea butter will become grainy, or fractionate, with the addition of heat. Body temperature alone will start this reaction.

Yes, that’s exactly what I had heard would work, and exactly what I had tried last time I made Lip Butter, as well as the last batch of Whipped Shea Butter. And it worked! No more grainy Lip Butter! However, it appears that I have “drastically reduced the shelf life.” *sigh* I’m not sure how drastically it’s been reduced. I do add vitamin E to both the Lip Butter and Whipped Shea Butter products. Vitamin E is not a preservative, but it is an antioxidant known to extend the shelf life of oils and butters.

Now you are wondering – if the “heat and hold method” isn’t the answer, what is? Well, let me just tell you! This particular supplier offers a nice, refined “high melt point” shea butter. It costs exactly three times as much as the unrefined shea butter I’ve been using. Did I buy it? You bet I did!

Unfortunately, there will be some price raising on the Whipped Shea Butters since they are made with a little more than 80% shea butter. But I’ve heard my prices are too low anyway, so hopefully it won’t affect sales too much. Especially once my customers get a chance to try it!

The refined shea butter has no odor whatsoever. I can add scent to it without trying to mask the scent of the natural shea (which I think smells rather pleasant, but others may disagree!). And an added bonus is that the texture is even fluffier than before!

It took a couple of tries to get it this way, but it did finally work! The supplier’s website threw me off a bit because they suggested that one method for quick cooling the shea butter was to use the refrigerator. Wrong! After my ingredients were just melted, I put them in the refrigerator. After it had set up, I pulled it out and let it get back to room temperature, but it was grainy. So I re-melted the whole business and then put my KitchenAid bowl in an ice bath like I did last time, using short bursts with my hand-held mixer until it was thick enough to put on the KitchenAid stand and whip it good.

Here’s my pyrex cup full of unscented Whipped Shea Butter. I’ll try to get this packaged and make more soon (since I’m down to ONE last jar of Vanilla Hazelnut made from the unrefined shea!):

Refined Whipped Shea Butter

It’s very white and creamy like vanilla icing, only without the vanilla scent. Same color and texture – exactly.

So is this new information to anyone else, or just me? Anyone else having issues with their shea butter?

4 thoughts on “Shea Butter Revisited

  1. says:

    It looks wonderful, Amy. I also use the refined shea butter and I never have graininess in my whipped butter, lip balms, etc. Glad you found something that works for you.

  2. SheaLover says:

    Sadly, refined shea butter has had all it’s goodness destroyed and removed for the sake of aesthetics.

    I love unrefined shea butter, but yes, there are as many different ‘suggestions’ on the internet about how to avoid graininess than there are trees on the planet!

    What works for me – although it may seem a bit fussy for some – is to melt it in short bursts in the microwave until just melted (not allowing it to get any hotter than say 80F).

    Then I whip the living daylights out of it for 5 minutes, freeze it for 5 minutes, whip it again for 5 minutes, freeze it for 5 minutes….etc, etc, etc, for anything up to an hour.

    The end result is thick, white, and oh-so-fluffy. Even more beneficial, is that none of it’s natural goodness has been destroyed in the process. I live in a hot climate and have never had a problem doing it this way.

    Another (simpler) way is to simply mash the unrefined shea with a fork, then whip it to your heart’s content until it’s the consistency you like. I’ve done it this way, but found it still contained grainy crystals which customers don’t like – perhaps I just didn’t whip it long enough. Will have to try it again for longer next time.

    As for the smell of unrefined shea butter – I don’t know why people behave as though their delicate sense of smell has been so mortally offended. To me, it smells like liquorice or aniseed – and in any event, the smell dissipates as soon as its applied to skin.

    Hope this helps!

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