Coconut oil has been around for generations. Serving as a primary source of fat in the diet of millions of people, the oil is also used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Apart from that, it also finds an important place in the culture and traditions of many countries. Extracted from the kernel or meat of a matured coconut, the oil can be divided into four types - refined coconut oil, virgin coconut oil, hydrogenated coconut oil, and fractionated coconut oil. In this article, we will tell you the process of making each of the four oils. In case you want to know how to make coconut oil at home, the methods of making virgin coconut oil will prove to be useful.
Ways Of Making Coconut Oil
Refined Coconut Oil
For the purpose of making refined coconut oil, the meat of a coconut is dried by using smoke, placing it in a kiln or keeping it in the sun. The dried meat, known as copra, is then crushed to produce the crude oil. Thereafter, the oil undergoes a sanitizing process, which helps in removing all the impurities as well as its unpleasant odor. The sanitization process involves refining, bleaching, and deodorizing and is known as RBD, in short. Following this process, coconut oil becomes tasteless, odorless, and colorless.
Virgin Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil, also known as unrefined coconut oil and raw coconut oil, is derived from premium grade coco oil, which in turn is extracted from the meat of a fresh coconut. Though the oil is unrefined, it is preferred by many people, since no mechanical processes are involved in its extraction. There are two basic ways in which virgin coconut oil is made, from coconut milk. They are:
- Fermentation: In this method, coconut meat is grated with the help of a grating machine or a grating bench. The grated meat is, then, put in a net bag, which is squeezed by hand or by a presser, to extract milk. Following this, the milk is combined with coconut water and then set aside, at room temperature, allowing it to settle. By the end of 20 hours, the protein, oil, and water get separated from one another. Finally, the oil is harvested and filtered, until it turns into pure and colorless (or pale yellow) oil.
- Heating: Yet another method of making virgin coconut oil comprises of applying heat. Just like the previous method, here also, the coconut meat is first grated and then pressed, to form coconut milk. Thereafter, the milk is poured in a pan and placed on flame. It is heated till the time all the water present in it evaporates and only the oil is left.
Hydrogenated Coconut Oil
Hydrogenated coconut oil, as its very name suggests, is made through the chemical process known as hydrogenation. First, the raw oil is extracted and then hydrogen gas is forced through it, with the use of high pressure. This makes the good fatty acids of the coconut oil covert into trans-fatty acids (just like other hydrogenated oils). These trans-fats are not good for health and have been associated with increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Thus, as far as possible, you should avoid hydrogenated oils, whether coconut or others.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
The most stable of all coconut oils, fractionated oil boasts of a very long shelf life. To make it, raw coconut oil is made to go through the process of hydrolysis. Following this, it has to be passed through steam distillation, which results in the formation of fractionated coconut oil, which is full of medium chain triglycerides and completely devoid of the long chain fatty acids. This oil is good for cooking and to be used as shortening. It is also used as an ingredient in beauty soaps, facial creams, lotions, shampoos, and conditioner formulations.