5 Different Methods of Extracting Coconut Oil
There are 5 different method of extracting coconut oil. Let us look at these methods and see how different types of coconut oils are prepared.
Coconut oil is derived from mature coconuts or copra, which is the dried meat or kernel of a coconut. Coconut oil is usually referred to as copra oil, as it is the main source or extracting coconut oil. There are different types of coconut oil available in the market, ranging from virgin coconut oil, refined coconut oil to RBD coconut oil. All these types of coconut oils have their own extraction process. And the extraction procedure is the primary factor behind their distinct taste, appearance, and Benefits of Coconut Oil. Many people select coconut oil on the basis of their extraction process, as different methods have different effects on the oil.
- The dry process
In this method of extracting coconut oil, the flesh of a coconut is taken out and dried in sunlight, fire or kilns. This gives birth to dried copra. The copra is then dissolved or pressed using solvents, in turn producing coconut oil and a high fiber and high protein mash. This mash is not meant for human consumption and thus is fed to ruminants. Although, the mash contains a lot of fibers and proteins, there is no procedure to take out proteins from the mash. Additionally, some portion of oil is lost during the extraction process.
- The wet process
This extraction method uses raw coconuts instead of dried copra. The proteins in coconut are a mixture of water and oil. The main step is to break the mixture and remove the oil from the water. This can be done by boiling the mixture over a long period of time. However, boiling causes oil discoloration and is not an economical option. So, in order to produce the right kind of coconut oil, modern extraction methods were introduced, using pre-treatments and centrifuges. These techniques include heat, cold, salts, acids, electrolysis, shock waves, enzymes,or some other combination to extract the coconut oil.
But, despite of multiple technologies and variations,wet processing of coconut oil is less feasible than dry processing. This is because wet procedure produces almost 10 to 15 percent less yield as compared to dry procedure, which produces more yields, even after losses due to pests or spoilage. Moreover, the wet process involves more equipment and energy, with high capital investment and operating costs.
The wet process is also affected by the age of the coconut. Generally, a 2 to 20 years old coconut is picked to extract oil through wet processing. If the copra is made from immature nuts, then the overall extraction procedure becomes difficult, while producing inferior quality product and low yield. The shelf life of coconut oil can be increased by using copra that carries the moisture content of less than 6 percent and by maintaining the moisture content of the coconut oil till lessthan 0.2 percent. The shelf life of coconut oil can also be improved by heating it till 130 to 150°C (266–302°F) or by adding citric acid or salt.
Wet processing is also known for extracting Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO). It is produced from fresh coconut flesh, milk, or residue. In case of producing oil from the flesh of a coconut, the shell is removed and washed and the residue is either dried or wet-milled. Then, a screw press is used to extract the oil. It can also be done by grating and drying the coconut meat till it achieves a moisture content of 10 to 12 percent, following a screw press to remove the oil. In case of producing oil from coconut milk, the coconut is grated and mixed with water, and eventually the oil is squeezed out. The other method of retrieving oil from coconut milk is by fermenting the milk for 36 to 48 hours, removing the oil, and heating the cream to extract the remaining oil.
Additionally, coconut oil can be produced with the help of a centrifuge, in order to segregate the oil from other fluids. It can also be extracted from the dry residue of coconut milk.
RBD refers to Refined, Bleached, and Deodorized coconut oil. It is produced from dried copra. In this procedure, dried copra is put in the hydraulic press with additional heat. And eventually, coconut oil is extracted, which amounts to over 60 percent of the total dry weight of the coconut. The resultant coconut oil is crude and is not fit for human consumption, as it contains several contaminants. It can be further cleaned by heating and filtering.
High quality coconut oil can be extracted using enzymatic action on the diluted coconut paste, including proteases, polygalacturonases, and alpha-amylase. Refined coconut oil is different from virgin coconut oil,as it has a bland coconut taste and aroma. It is used for various purposes like home cooking, cosmetics, commercial food processing, pharmaceuticals, and industry.
Refined coconut oil can be further processed, in order to raise its melting point. This can be done either through partial or full hydrogenation. Both virgin as well as RBD coconut oils have a melting point of 24°C (76°F). Due to this, in warmer climates, they tend to melt. In such climate conditions, a higher melting point is required, due to which coconut oil is hydrogenated. Hydrogenated coconut oil has a melting point of 36 to 40°C (97 to 104°F).
In the fully hydrogenation extraction process, hydrogen and unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids) are mixed through a catalytic process, so that they can become saturated. Coconut oil consists of only 2 percent polyunsaturated and 6 percent monounsaturated fatty acids. In the semi hydrogenation process, some of the fats are transformed into trans-fatty acids.
In this extraction procedure, the whole coconut oil is segregated into fractions of different fatty acids, so that they can be used for specific purposes. For examples, lauric acid, the 12-carbon chain fatty acid, is removed for various medical and industrial purposes. Fractionation is also done to separate capric and caprylic acid, the medium chain triglycerides, for special diets, medical applications, cosmetics, and fragrances.
In this article, we have seen 5 different methods of extracting coconut oil. You can use any of these methods and enjoy the benefits of coconut oil.
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