Monday, July 18, 2011

How to bust and milk a coconut

We're talking about making fresh, "raw" coconut milk out of a whole, mature coconut in the hard, brown, hairy shell. What took hours of grating yesteryear is now done in a minute in a blender. But there's still that nasty part about getting the "meat" out of that hard brown shell... Well, I do have a few tricks to make that part easier.

Materials and ingredients: a coconut, water, a blender, a cloth (a 20-inch square cut out of an old pillow is just right), a small pointy knife like the one in the picture, a large drinking glass, a large mixing bowl, a colander that fits in the bowl but with some clearance underneath, a mesh like the ones they sell fruit in, a twist-tie, a clear plastic bag, and a concrete sidewalk or other concrete slab (in my house it's in the garage).

Note: When choosing coconuts at the grocer's, pick the heaviest ones, and shake to make sure each has water.  A dry mature coconut is a spoiled coconut.  The flesh comes out more easily if you let the coconut sit for 24 hours in the fridge after removing the water.  You can also freeze it after removing the water; freezing doesn't affect the taste or nutritional value.  Even the fragile enzyme lipase retains its effectiveness after 6 months at -20 C! (

See me opening a coconut on YouTube!

Step 1: Draining the coconut. The coconut has three "eyes" and there's always one that's soft enough to be opened with a short pointed knife. It's the one that looks the most different from the other two.  Dig the point of the knife in with a twisting motion, go around a couple of times.  Then poke in a chopstick until it pops through to the center. Shake some of the water into a tall glass, then rest the coconut on top of the glass until all the water has dripped out. This water is excellent and nutritious, and you can drink it right away.  In my household it is shared like precious liquor.

Step 2: Shell-busting - this is the fun part (caveat: take care the coconut doesn't land on anyone's head). Place the coconut in the mesh, close the mesh with a twist-tie, then place all this in a plastic bag, tie the bag closed loosely, and take it to your concrete slab. Throw the coconut down with some force onto the slab. It will break, and the pieces will stay inside the net and bag. Repeat until all the pieces are of manageable size -- 2 to 4 times. Don't overdo it. You don't want lots of little pieces, they're harder to hold when prying the flesh out. When you're satisfied with the busting, return to your kitchen, take the coconut pieces out of the net and bag, and pry the flesh out of the shell with the same short knife. Or, leave it out on the counter or fridge to dry overnight, and the flesh will come out more easily. This won't alter the taste.  Do taste a piece of the flesh, because occasionally, you may find that your coconut just isn't fresh.  When in doubt, throw it out.  If you have hens, feed the meat to them.  Otherwise, throw it in your compost bucket.  BTW, the shell burns nicely in your fireplace or BBQ.  No waste!

Step 3: Blending. Rinse the meat in a bowl of filtered water, and transfer to a blender. Check the back of each piece to make sure there aren't any pieces of hard shell attached. They could damage your blender.  Cut the meat into large pieces so your blender doesn't get stuck. Add 2 to 3 cups warm filtered water. Blend on high until smooth. If you have a Vitamix, start the usual way and then keep it on High for 1 minute. Some recipes use hot or even boiling water, but I believe in handling delicately anything containing fragile vitamins and enzymes.  Heat destroys lipase, which is a real pity, because lipase digests fats, including the ones in the coconut milk. Like other enzymes, it is destroyed by temperatures above 120 F.  On the other hand, coconut oil hardens at 73 F, so your water needs to be warmer than that.  

Step 4: Milking the coconut! Wash your hands thoroughly (and rinse well). This is literally a "hands-on" method, and, again, kids love to help with this. Wet your cloth with filtered water, and then wring it out so it doesn't soak up your coconut milk (you may also sterilize by stuffing the wet cloth in a mug, covering with a saucer, and microwaving for 1 minute; be careful when handling, the steam and cloth will be quite hot!).  Place a colander inside a larger bowl.  Line the colander with the cloth. Pour the contents of the blender in the cloth. Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to let most of the liquid drip into the bowl.  When most of the liquid has dripped out, pick up the cloth by the corners, hold the four corners in one hand, then pick up the new corners that have formed, so that you hold the cloth at 8 points. Hold *tight*, with those 8 points above your fist, and twist the cloth, holding it over the bowl. Twist, and twist the other way, and wring, and press, and squish! And twist the other way again! You're milking your coconut! When you can't wring much more out, dip the clothball in a bowl with 1/4 cup water, let it soak in a bit, and wring again, to get those last drops of deliciousness.

Alternately, just fold the cloth edges over the center while still in the strainer, and press by setting a saucepan filled with water on top of the cloth.

(Truth moment: I got myself a press after a few weeks of milking by hand).

This makes 3 to 4 cups of coconut milk, perfect for drinking. Its light, nutty taste is fresh and wonderful, a lot better than that "coconut milk drink" (yep, I'm talking about So Delicious, which was a terrible disappointment for a coconut connaisseuse like moi), plus it's a lot cheaper (see below). Did I say it tastes incredibly fresh, rich and wonderful? (Don't toss the "dregs", by the way. That's Coconut Flour. It's high-fiber to an extreme. Use it in your meat loaf, casseroles, cookies, or make coconut flour pancakes or other baked goods - this flour is legal for the SCD & GAPS diets, since it contains no starch. But use it sparingly, that much fiber can be overwhelming to your digestive system.)

(Truth moment number two: I haven't found ANY good SCD recipes that use the dregs, oops, coconut flour. I did notice that one batch of flour turned into some kind of slime after a few weeks of neglect in my fridge!  I was afraid to taste it... Maybe it was a miracle cure for something...)

Pour the milk into a glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. Use within 2 or 3 days. Shake before using. It will separate, the cream rising to the top like in an olden day milk jug, just because it's a whole food. Because it doesn't have emulsifiers. Because it's homemade. Because it wants to give you a choice: coconut cream? coconut "skim" milk? coconut "whole" milk? You get to pick each time you pick up the bottle (esp. if you have a gravy separator).

Use within 2 days, because that wonderful lipase will start doing its thing on the milk, as well as the ever-present bacteria by the billions.  Fresh food usually needs to be eaten fast.

Health Benefits: Coconuts contain Manganese (very good source), Phosphorus, Magnesium, Folate, Vitamin C, Selenium, Zinc, Copper, Iron, Potassium, Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, Vitamin E, and more! The coconut protein array is among the best (most complete) available from any source, animal or vegetable. The fats in coconut are saturated, so whether coconut is a terrible threat to your health or a miracle cure remains a subject of controversy in some circles. I'm convinced it's a very healing food.  The fatty acids present in coconut (and coconut milk) are lauric acid, myristic acid, and palmitic acid. Lauric acid is converted by the human body into monolauric acid, the main fat in breast milk, so it must be pretty good for you. Myristic acid is named after a variety of nutmeg, Myristica fragrans (love that name!). It's also present in butter and sperm whale oil. Palmitic acid is also found in palm oil as you may have guessed. Palm oil got a really bad reputation because early research was done using hydrogenated palm oil, which contains trans fats. But recent research shows that populations that consume coconuts and coconut milk in their raw, unprocessed, non-hydrogenated, un-de-vitaminized, un-trans-fat-ified, non-emulsified, non-additive-itited, great-tasting state, have healthy cholesterol levels.  As for the "more," it's enzymes!  Hard to find the info from a reliable source, but you can get those enzymes in the milk if you DON'T HEAT IT or heat the water you use to make the milk.  

Whew!  A long blog to describe a simplified method. It seems long as written above, but with the concrete-slab shell-busting method, it really is doable. I've timed it to 22 minutes from poking the eyes to bottling. I'll add photos when I replace my lost camera...

Pricing: one coconut costs $1.49 where I live, and makes one quart of milk, so this milk costs about $2.98 per half-gallon (So Delicious is $3.49 per half-gallon). Comparable to whole milk (cow's) where I live. And that's not counting the coconut flour, if you can figure out how to use it.


  1. I am just starting my research into coconut oil and other products. Love the method above and the thorough review of why. Thanks for good food for thought. If I find out how to use the flour I'll pass it along.

  2. You. Are. Amazing. Here in Hawaii, coconut milk is $5.20 and coconut flour is $9ish... you're a life saver haha. I can't wait to go pick a coconut and do this! thanks again!

  3. Thanks! Have fun with it!
    My daughter insisted on taping my coconut-busting method, so you can see me in action at

  4. Can you let me know which press you are using to extract the milk out of coconuts? Let me know:


  5. Lovely post! Yes! Please share your preferred coconut press brand :)

  6. Fragrant Vanilla Cake blog has a mean handle on coconut flour, enjoy.

  7. I stumbled upon your site while looking up coconut flour info.
    I just wanted to share my coconut crackin' with you. I use a heavy knife and tap around it. Breaks in half and then I use a coconut shredder. It's this thing that clamps to your counter, has "teeth" on one side and a little crank handle on the other. Works great and is only about 20 bucks.

  8. 3 Researches PROVE How Coconut Oil Kills Waist Fat.

    The meaning of this is that you literally burn fat by consuming coconut fat (including coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut oil).

    These 3 researches from big medicinal journals are sure to turn the conventional nutrition world around!