What is the Difference Between Various Types of Coconut Oils?
There are many different words used to describe coconut oil such as "refined", "virgin", and "cold pressed". These terms are used to classify distinct aspects of the manufacturing process. When one of these names is used to define a coconut oil product, it can lead to confusion as it only represents one characteristic of the coconut oil. In this blog post, I will explain the different parts of how coconut oil is made and how that relates to the terminology used to categorize it.
There are many different kinds of coconut oil, but there are two main types: "dry milled" and "wet milled". While wet mill has some of its own benefits, in this blog post we will be focusing on the more popular "dry milled" coconut oil. Within that category, there are two main types of coconut oil:
- Refined: Expeller Pressed
- Unrefined (Virgin): Cold Pressed
Refined vs Unrefined Coconut Oil
"Refined" means the coconut oil has first been hot processed via cookers that add heat to dry the coconut meat and then "expeller pressed" via a high-pressure, high-heat, continuous feed press. It is then bleached via clays and sodium hydroxide is added as a preservative. It does not smell or taste like coconuts and has a higher smoke point than unrefined coconut oil, which makes it more suitable for deep frying.
"Unrefined" is another word for "Virgin" and it means that the coconut oil has not been processed with heat over 120° F (during the "cold pressed" extraction process). It smells and tastes like coconuts, but has a lower smoke point than refined coconut oil, which makes it less suitable for deep frying. Unrefined coconut oil retains more of the nutrients such as polyphenols, a flavonoids, which is a type of antioxidant.
Virgin vs Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Unlike with olive oils, there is no official delineation between "virgin" and "extra virgin" coconut oil as long as they are chemical-free and are "cold pressed". However, one could argue that a "cold processed" (oil extracted under 100° F) could be considered"extra virgin". In both cases, the extraction process is "cold pressed", but some manufacturers use heat above 120° F during the conditioning process to dry the coconut meat. To keep the coconut oil "extra virgin", Skinny & Co., uses patented technology to dehydrate the coconut meat using cool air. Screw presses operated by hand are used to extract the oil from the dried coconut meat (copra) because it creates less heat than extraction via a hydraulic press.
"Virgin" coconut oils must also taste and smell like fresh coconuts, which is why we also use proprietary micro-filtration technology to remove any hint of a smoky taste or burnt flavor to leave a fresh, light coconut oil smell and a slightly sweet and nutty coconut taste. Taste and smell the difference with Skinny Coconut Oil.
Hot Processed vs Cold Processed Coconut Oil
"Hot processed" is the traditional method of conditioning coconut oil before it is ground up for extraction. It uses dyers or cookers that heat the coconut meat (copra) well over 120° F. Ironically, this process of drying the copra with heat can be used in conjunction with a "cold press" extraction method and can still be considered "virgin coconut oil".
"Cold processed" is the conditioning process Skinny & Co.'s Nutralock™ technology uses where cool, dry air is passed over the ground copra to dehumidify the water out of it. It is then cold pressed using hand-powered screw presses and then micro-filtered to remove any impurities that may have made their way into the process.
Expeller Pressed vs Cold Pressed Coconut Oil
"Expeller pressed" extraction is when a machine continuously feeds dried copra into a high-pressure, high-heat press to extract the oil. Sometimes chemical solvents like hexane are used to increase the yield of coconut oil. This process can dramatically change the color and taste of the oil so it is often bleached and deodorized to make it white and odorless, respectively.
"Cold pressed" extraction is when a hydraulic or hand-screw press is used to press the oil out of the copra in batches, rather than a continual feed. Cold press is like taking a round cake of flour and oil and pressing it until only the flour is left. The coconut oil is then screened to remove particles from the oil and in the case of Skinny Coconut Oil, it is also micro-filtered.
Virgin vs Raw Coconut Oil
"Virgin coconut oil" is unrefined, cold pressed oil that still smells and tastes like coconut. It need not be cold processed, but it can be. "Virgin" oil can be heated up to 120° F and still be considered "virgin".
"Raw coconut oil" is virgin coconut oil that has been cold processed in addition to being cold pressed. Another word for "raw" is "extra virgin". It cannot be heated over 100° F and is considered truly "raw".
Certified Organic vs Wild-Harvested Coconut Oil
"Certified organic" coconut oil means that the coconuts that were grown to produce the oil did not have any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers applied to them. These products are inspected, certified, and bear the “USDA Organic” emblem, but according to Mark's Daily Apple, it doesn't make a difference.
"Wild-harvested" coconut oil is derived from coconuts grown wild instead of on a farm or plantation. By default, they do not use any pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, but the USDA does not certify "the jungle". At Skinny & Co., we are redefining natural. We believe that naturally grown food is better than organic.
Dry Milled vs Wet Milled Coconut Oil
After the coconut oil is cleaned and ground up, there are two main ways to make coconut oil: wet milled and dry milled. "Wet milled" is when the coconut meat, called "coconut milk", is not dried before attempting to extract the oil. "Dry milled" is when the coconut meat is first dried before attempting to extract the oil. This drying process is called "conditioning".
There are two ways to condition the coconut meat into copra: heat processed and cold processed.
- "Heat processed" is the use of heat to dry the coconut meat into copra.
- "Cold processed" is the use of cool air to dehumidify the coconut meat into copra.
Because of the different moisture contents, different extraction methods are needed. For "wet milled" coconut milk, prolonged boiling, fermentation, or a centrifuge can be used to extract the oil. For dry milled copra, an expeller press (a high pressure, high heat, continuous feed press) or a cold press (hydraulic or hand-powered, screw press) is used, however a hydraulic press creates more heat so to keep it raw (or "extra virgin") hand-powered screw press is used.