Making coconut oil

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Coconut oil is a tropical oil with myriad uses and proposed health benefits from improving cardiovascular health to repairing tooth cavities [1,2]. It is a highly stable oil with antifungal and antimicrobial properties and is suitable for frying. Coconut oil is highly saturated with a large proportion of medium-chain fatty acids. Of particular interest is lauric acid, found in high amounts in both coconut oil and breast milk (and is essential for growth and particularly brain development in babies and children) [3]. 

Most modern cooking oils (such as sunflower, soy, and cottonseed oils) are highly reactive, degrading fast and producing unhealthy substances when heated. These oils also have very high omega-6 levels and very little omega-3. Excessive omega-6 consumption (or more particularly an imbalance in the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio) in the modern diet has been attributed to a large number of diseases including cancers, heart disease, immune system and digestive disorders.

As we are always looking for healthier food alternatives at Kadagaya and fresh coconuts can be sourced relatively easily, we decided to experiment making our own coconut oil. There are several coconut carts in the local town of Pichanaki, where the vendors expertly decapitate juicy young drinking coconuts with a screwdriver. Generally, the coconut water is quickly drunk on the spot and the empty coconut returned to the vendor. We can usually get these leftovers for free and if we are lucky they have a good amount of meat for making oil.

After cracking the coconut in half, we started the tedious task of scooping out the meat. By scoring the meat with a knife and levering it out with a knife or spoon, we managed to cleanly extract most of the meat. Next, the meat was shredded finely in a manual food processor before drying.
We built a drying frame with wood and fly screen, which was hung close to the ceiling to capture the midday heat. After about two days, the coconut meat had darkened and dried completely. To extract the oil we used a small manual oil press. The “cold-pressing” was undertaken at 50 °C, controlled by a heating tape wrapped around the press body and a small circuit board displaying and measuring the temperature. The dried coconut meat was loaded into the hopper at the top of the press and forced through a very small hole by a screw extruder to extract the oil, which drips into a jar below. From eight coconuts (1.6 kg of dried meat), we obtained around 650 g of oil (around 80 g per coconut).

[1] Society for General Microbiology. “Coconut oil could combat tooth decay.” ScienceDaily, 2 September 2012. <>
[2] Prior, I.A., Davidson, F., Salmond, C., and Czochanska Z. “Cholesterol, coconuts, and diet on Polynesian atolls: A natural experiment: The Pukapuka and Tokelau Island studies”, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1981, (34) 1552-61. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/34.8.1552
[3] Alfin-Slater, R.B. and Aftergood, L. “Lipids”. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 6th ed, Goodhart, R.S. and Shils, M.E. eds, Lea and Febiger, Philadelphia, 1980, 131.
[4] See full citation list in: Pinckney, E.R. and Pinckney, C. “The Cholesterol Controversy”, 1973, Sherbourne Press, Los Angeles, pp. 127-131.