Turneffe Coconut - Quality Cold Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil
Turneffe Coconut - Quality Cold Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil
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How We Make Virgin coconut oil in Xaibe Village, Belize, Central America


Peeling Coconuts at Xaibe We start with "peeling" coconuts from our storage pile. This pile is kept replenished with coconuts brought in from the Turneffes -- roughly 100 miles away -- by the small sail boat towing an even smaller work boat. Both loaded full. The coconuts are searched for, collected, then loaded onto the boats. In complete form. That is still in the "husk". Normal procedure is to "peel" (de-husk) coconuts where found. But they stay "live" much better when kept in husk. This greatly reduces the amount of coconuts that can be hauled any one trip. With our two boats we bring in around 2000 coconuts per trip. Rather than 4000 peeled coconuts. Coconuts are peeled of their husks by pressing down on a hard wood stick with one end deeply embedded in ground and the high end being carved into a wedge shape. The "base" end of the coconut is pressed down onto this wedge and twisted. It takes practice. After "peeling", the naked coconuts are moved into the processing shed where they are swiftly broken into two halves.

chopping coconuts The coconut is held in one hand and sharply struck with the back of a machete as rotated in the hand. This eventually causes the coconut to break into two halves. The coconut water falls out into the container. The two halves move up the "line" to the grating station. Again -- it takes some acquired skill to perform this function. During this part of the process many coconuts are rejected. It is only once the coconut is opened that we know if it meets our requirements. A careful inspection by a knowledgably person is required with each breaking.

grating Grating can be technically described as "wet milling". It involves moving the coconut up against a rotating grating head. This grinds out fine/thin shreds of coconut meat which is a very wet/soggy mass. The grater head has very sharp serrated edges and rotates at 500 RPM with great force. The coconut half is held with both hands firmly and moved against the head causing grated coconut to fly out in all directions. Again -- it is a skilled job requiring much practice to perform efficiently. The coconut must be pressed into the powerful rotating milling head while held firmly. It is then "wobbled" against the head so at to grate/wet-mill out all the meat. But not scrape out coconut shell in to the gratings. Following is an over all view of grater station and process.

grating station

grating From the wet milling station the fresh gratings are moved to the surface of the large hot plate drier. Here two woman continuously keep turning it so as not to burn. The following picture shows the grater station in relationship to drier. The fresh "wet" gratings are moved from the hottest part to the cooler part exactly in progression with the drying process. The large hole in the side of this drier furnace holds a large wash pan which is for hot storage of dried gratings. The smaller wash pan holds fresh gratings ready to dry. It takes 30 minutes to move wet gratings at one end to dry gratings coming off the other end. The two woman "turn" the gratings continuously. For a normal run of 20 liters yield of finest virgin oil this takes 9 hours or more.

drier This view of the drying operation is from the hot end. Note the large fan which operates continuously to present fresh air to carry off water humidity from heated gratings. One can also see the fire door to the stove. The stove is a small unit built into one end. The fire box only extends 20 inches into the body of the drier -- before the flue gasses are directed beneath the steel plates on which the gratings rest -- to the far end where they rise up the 18 foot tall chimney. This drier plate is 32 inches wide by 12 feet long. The last four feet of which is stabilized to 150 F for fine drying of residual humidity in the gratings. The stove is fueled using the cleaned coconut shells. This is a continuous process of adding just the right amount of shell so the fire is never to hot or to cold. The hottest part of the plate is directly over the firebox. This is where the fresh wet gratings are placed in a thick layer. As the gratings dry they are continuously moved towards the end with plate temperature descending accordingly. The last four feet of plate has a thin layer of gratings we call the "sprinkle" where final drying is done. They are them collected in the small pan shown and put in the holding pan in the oven.


The "Expressing" of Oil from the dried gratings


After nine hours of grating and drying the batch is ready for "oil-expressing". This is accomplished in our Sri Lanka made screw press specially designed for this process. Below is a picture of the screw extracted after a pressing. The machine is striped down and cleaned after each "run".


The large hopper is where the dried gratings are dropped in and fed to the screw expresser. The hanging sheet of metal separates the prime drive from the expresser. The two are connected by 10 foot long drive belts. The primer mover is Lister Diesel "copy" made in India. They first built these style engines in England in the late 1800's and stopped making them in England in 1948. Various 3rd world countries continue production of these extremely hardy diesels as they are sturdy design, very reliable, often operate for 50 years or more and very low maintenance. Below is a picture of the Lister "copy" used as prime mover for this expresser -- along with a few of our younger "helpers".


This Stationary Power Plant weighs 1340 lbs and develops all of 12 HP of power at a very slow 650 RPM. I like to call it my "Forever-Machine" It has no electric starter -- rather one gets some good exercise hand crank starting. It has no water pump, fan or belt drives for such. Rather a 45 gallon drum on a stand, off to the right of this picture (the hoses lead to it) and the engine cools by convection through this water "reservoir". It has no "electrics" so no generator or battery. After 9 hours or so of processing coconuts to dry gratings this engine is started, drive belts dropped in place and then the expresser is slid forward by a leaver to tighten belts and engage machine. It takes 45 minutes to one hour to process the gratings to oil with a 20 liter yield. That period is very intensive!! It takes 3 people to operate this process and the screw expresser must be kept in perfect adjustment always. Or else much oil is lost. The gratings are passed through three times to progressively squeeze the oil out. This also keeps operating temperatures low as friction from a high pressure extraction can quickly increase temperatures of oil to over 200 F. This is what the expresser looks like when in operation. This is a first pass. Two more to go. The coconut "press-meal" to the right, the oil to the left. The coconut meal is almost completed extracted of oil by the 3rd pass and is very dry. It is a very nutritious high protein food and we use it here for feeding all our animals. That is Pigs, chickens, turkeys and yes, even the dogs. I have purchased an old style grinding mill to also run from this same prime mover and eventually will be grinding the meal to a flour for making high energy bread, cookies and other products. This is done at present in India and Sri Lanka and has found to be of great nutritional supplement for young children in villages.


Purifying and clarifying the oil


The raw oil as it comes from the expresser is full of fine particles of coconut gratings. Yet the product we ship is crystal clear. Purifying oils can destroy them. As you might have read in the links supplied in regards to health benefits of virgin cold pressed coconut oil. We use a very "gentle" process for purifying our oil. It is not normal procedure as it is slow and labor intensive. The process I use is called "racking" and is the same used for making fine wines. The oil pan that collects the day's run is covered and the oil is allowed to settle for 18 hours before being transferred to the next container. All large particles have collected to the bottom during this period and just the oil on top is decanted off. The container with this first "rack" sits for one week and then is siphoned off (decanted) to the next container where it is then stored for 3 weeks. Finally that container is decanted into the one liter bottles the oil is shipped in.

drier

This final product is of exceptional quality with rich odors and flavors locked in place. Has a shelf life of years rather than weeks it is still a "living" oil. And is of exceptional medicinal properties due to the extreme care in manufacturing. This quality of medicinal virgin coconut oil can not be made by automation processing. It must be slow and labor intensive. And the results are well worth the effort.