How to temper a butter?

Mar 8, 2022 | The basics

In one previous post I have shared the ways how to avoid graininess in balms, body butters. And I actually thought that it would be a good idea to show how to temper a butter.

how to temper a butter?

1. What is tempering?

Tempering is a way to avoid crystallization of fatty acids in a butter. You have to melt the butter higher than their melting point, but not overheat it. And then to cool it quickly. 

From time to time you can get grainy butter from a supplier – this means that the butter was in a hot environment and then cooled slowly.

However, when it is cooling on its own, without any stirring or slowly, some fatty acids solidify together and form clumps. These clumps then grow bigger and bigger and you can feel them when rubbing a butter between your fingers.

Sometimes they grow so massive that they can be seen with a naked eye and you can surely tell that the whole butter has these grains and is not uniform.


I recently got a shea butter which is grainy and this poses a problem for my future formulations, as my final product can also become grainy. If I wanted to use this grainy shea butter without heating it and make a body butter – I will definitely have grains in my final product.

So the only option to get rid of those grains is to temper my shea butter.


2. How to temper a butter?

1. Weight your butter and heat it higher than their melting point, so all fatty acids melt through. To erase crystal memory heat it at 80°C (176°F).

2. Heat the butter for 30 minutes. Then take the beaker out of the water bath and stir the butter until it reaches 30°C (86°F). Stirring is essential part when cooling down, don’t skip it!

3. Pour it into designated container where you will always keep it.

4. Transfer this container into fridge/freezer to cool it quickly and leave it for at least 1 hour or more until every bit of butter cools down.

5. Get it out of the fridge/freezer and leave it to get back to room temperature.



Here I have waited for at least several hours (actually forgot it) and put it again in the room temperature.


Now there is a big difference in the texture and feel of these two butters. The first one feels grainy, with a bit of sand and the second is smooth, glidey.

If you want to be on the safe side or live somewhere where are a lot of temperature fluctuations – keep you tempered butter in a cooler place such as fridge.

The whole process is more or less the same for each butter, however there could be more things to consider such as cooling rate (slow or fast), tempering temperature, agitation and time. If you still got a grainy butter after tempering – then you need to carefully assess what could have gone wrong during the tempering process. 

Also, depending on the minimal changes during the tempering can cause a lot of variation to your butter. For example hardness, melting point, viscosity.

P.S. If you are wondering why my shea butter looks so white – I think I got a refined version, though the supplier has written that it is unrefined. And this butter has no scent at all.

This is why it is very important to order the same ingredient from different suppliers, so you will know which supplier sells a more suitable product for you.

3. TESTING Tempering techniques

There are so many techniques on the internet that I wanted to test if something is actually true. I still have some techniques to test, but here are some that I have tried.

I had 3 beakers with 50g of grainy shear butter. All of them were heated at around ~80°C (176°F) for 30 minutes to erase crystal memory. After heating I had 3 different techniques:

1. Cool in a cold water bath, stirring all the time until 30°C (86°F). Pour into container and keep it the freezer for until solidified (I think it took about 10-30 minutes).

2. Cool in a cold water bath, stirring al the time until I start to see a trace (cloudiness). Then pour into a container and keep it in the freezer until solidifies (10-30 minutes).

3. While still hot, pour into a container and put the container in a freezer. Once have cooled to room temperature – get it out of the freezer.

I had waited 2-3 days after assessment of the butters. These are my results:

1. As I was cooling down two different beakers at the same time, I actually poured this shea butter when the temperature reached 27°C (80.6F). It was still liquid with no cloudiness. The tempered butter is kind of hard, there are no visible grains. There is no sandy feeling between the fingers.

2. The second one was also kind of hard butter, there are no visible grains. I don’t feel graininess on the skin as well. But, the texture looks kind of crumbly.

3. Very soft, pliable butter. A really strange texture as I am used to harder consistencies. The butter had a lot of small grains – most of them were in the middle. I think the butter should have stayed longer in the freezer, because I have gotten it out when the middle part still looked like it was not fully solidified.

From these three textures that I got I would say that I liked the first one the most. It was hard, not crumbly, had no grains. Hope it will stay like this at least for several months. 

4. References


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