Coconut is high in fat, with a fine, edible oil that is used in cooking, cosmetics and other products. There are several methods of extracting coconut oil from the meat of the nut, known as copra. One method of extracting coconut oil is the expeller technique, in which the dried copra passes through a special screw press that compresses the coconut copra, squeezing about 75 percent of the oil from the coconut meat. Small, hand-operated or motor driven presses are relatively affordable and available online. For smaller amounts, a hand method using cheese cloth will also work.
To prepare for extraction, first crack open fresh coconuts and remove the copra by carefully prying the meat away from the shell with a knife. Cut the copra into 1/4 inch pieces. There is no need to remove the brown outer lining, called the testa, on the coconut meat. Allow the copra to dry thoroughly to remove all moisture from the meat.
Before you extract any coconut oil, clean the oil press thoroughly to ensure there is no residue remaining from the previous pressing. Assemble the press according to manufacturer's specifications. Install a plastic container under the press to catch the extracted oil. Place another container at the end of the press to catch the spent coconut meat.
Now that the press in clean and ready to operate, insert the dried copra into the hopper in the top of the oil press. Turn the press handle or start the motor that runs the press. As the impeller within the press turns, it will compress the copra to extract the oil. Push the copra into the press with a wooden plunger. Check the hopper regularly and add more copra as needed to keep the press full. Examine the containers: when full, replace them and continue to extract the oil until all of the copra is pressed.
Place the lid on the newly extracted coconut oil and put it in a warm place to settle for 24 hours. Once the oil has separated from any solids, pour the oil off into a bottle for storage and place a cap on it--tightly--to seal it. Keep the oil away from light and in a cool place to prevent it from becoming rancid.
Alternative to Mechanical Pressing
As an alternative to mechanical pressing in an expeller press, you can first shred fresh coconut copra straight from the shell with the testa removed. While this is not a very efficient method of extraction, it is simple. Place the shredded coconut into a large piece of cheese cloth. Twist the cheese cloth to press the shredded coconut. Gather the liquid in a clean bowl. Pour the liquid into a jar and allow the oil to separate from the coconut milk. Place the jar in the freezer and allow the milk to freeze completely. Then, simply pour the coconut oil off into a bottle for storage.
Coconut Oil Extraction Methods
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In Jacksonville, Fla., Frank Whittemore is a content strategist with over a decade of experience as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy and a licensed paramedic. He has over 15 years experience writing for several Fortune 500 companies. Whittemore writes on topics in medicine, nature, science, technology, the arts, cuisine, travel and sports.