Is there a practical way to extract quantities of cooking oil from sunflower or other seeds?

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Amanda Witman's picture
Amanda Witman
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Is there a practical way to extract quantities of cooking oil from sunflower or other seeds?

Or, more generally, I am wondering if there is a reasonable homemade version of vegetable oil, and sunflower seeds came to mind.  I live in New England and they grow well here.  I' m asking here because I'm not involved in any other communities where I think I could get a useful answer to this question.

Our budget is squeezed tight, and organic canola oil is expensive.  Non-organic canola oil is GMO- and pesticide-laden and, having little kids, I'd prefer to avoid it.  Same with cottonseed oil.  I don't know about safflower.  Olive oil is imported, expensive, and doesn't taste great in baking anyway.  Animal fat is good for some things, but not for baking, in my experience.  I'm wondering if anyone knows of a press (to buy or simply make) that can extract the oil from sunflower seeds (or other seeds or nuts) in practical quantity.  I have a family of six and could easily go through a few pints of oil in a month.

I'm not looking for a hypothetical solution for when/if TSHTF.  I'm looking for a solution that will help my grocery budget later this year, and the year after, and the year after.  The time is now.

Any ideas or experience with this sort of thing? It seems like there ought to be a seed oil press available, perhaps similar in size and price to a grain mill, but when I last Googled it I didn't come up with anything.

RussB's picture
RussB
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

Amanda, 

I don't know the answer to this myself, but if no one here does, I bet you could get some good info at the Life After the Oil Crash Forum (LATOC).

http://www.doomers.us/forum2/index.php

They have fora for everything including practical matters like gardening, relocalization crafts, home economics, etc.

If you can't find out there, maybe at some other site like (I don't have the links offhand) Transition Towns, PostCarbon.org, Off-Grid, any of numerous relocalization sites.

Hope that helps.

-Russ 

Michael Höhne's picture
Michael Höhne
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

Here's a manual to build your own: http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_library/oilpress.html. Seems quite complex, but also interesting.

Jarhett's picture
Jarhett
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

Here is another site with detailed instructions.

 

http://www.green-trust.org/2000/biofuel/sunfloweroil.htm

SkylightMT's picture
SkylightMT
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

I looked into this last year for the same reasons you are, Amanda. There was a lot of discussion about this on the natural foods forum of Mothering.com.

As far as I can tell, it's just not practical. First, the press itself, even the smallest you can make, is pretty complex - much larger than a grain mill. This is because for cold process (probably the simplest way) an enormous amount of pressure is needed to press the oil out. Fairly heavy machinery is needed to perform the pressing.

Second, the yield is so small that it takes a great deal of seeds to get a little oil - way more than our typical-sized rural front yard could produce. Even if we planted the entire front yard it was estimated I would only get about 1-2 quarts per growing season, not enough for our family.

In the end I decided it was more cost-effective to purchase something like Anchor butter (non-gmo grass fed organic butter from New Zealand, available at Grocery Outlet stores - $2.00 for 2 sticks currently- and maybe other places) and keep it in the freezer.

Ready's picture
Ready
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

Amanda,

I use a large diesel powered press that presses 8 tons of seed per day. I'm guessing this is a bit big for your needs Laughing


There is more to just pressing to prepare oil for consumption, and it varies greatly depending on the feedstock. One step involved with sunflower is called degumming, and it requires both acids and a cetrifuge to complete. This is just one of many steps to get oil like you would buy at the store. To put things in perspective, while I plant and press acres of oilseed to convert to biodiesel, I buy my vegetable oil for cooking at the store. This may change in the future, but for right now it's more cost effective.

If you still want to give it a try, there is a small, hand operated press that goes for just over $100, and it comes from somewhere in Europe, Germany I believe. If you want to pursue this, let me know and I'll dig up a link for you from my home PC. I couldn't quickly find it on google, but I know I have it with my biodiesel stuff at home.

Best,

Rog

Jarhett's picture
Jarhett
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

This website sells oil presses that are for household use.

http://www.oilpress.com/

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

I was looking into this myself since we're trying to be as self-sustaining as possible on our homestead. The small oil presses (like oilpress.com) should be able to produce enough cooking oil for family use but it does take quite a few sunflower seed to make oil... I think the yield I read was 1 acre of sunflowers = 1 gallon of oil. 

There is a "cheater" way that doesn't require a special press, but it does result in very cloudy oil (better for biodiesel than cooking). Chuck the seeds (shell and all) in a grinder/blender, then spread the pulpy mush on a screen or cloth, sandwiched between two boards, and then squeeze out the oil & juices using an acme screw or a scissor or hydraulic car jack to apply the necessary pressure. You then have to let the mixture sit and separate the oil from the watery juice -- an old crock with a tap on the bottom will let you drain off any liquid or solids after the oil separates. This is defnitely not the most efficient way and the results aren't superb, but it does work and you can use the same press set up for any seed/grain, as well as apples and grapes. Not perfect, but usuable and multi-functional. Plus the seed/shell pulp cake that is left over is awesome as supplementary animal feed during the winter (especially chickens and pigs).

Here's an example of two styles of homemade press (ignore that the example is apples because the mechanics work for anything "pressable").

There is another small crank seed grinder, oil extractor at http://www.network6000.com/store/html/oil-press.html if you wanted something a little less rustic :)

Ready's picture
Ready
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...
PlicketyCat wrote:

I think the yield I read was 1 acre of sunflowers = 1 gallon of oil. 

There are 2 primary types of sunflower with several sub varieties. Of the oil type (the kind you see sold as birdseed) the average oil/acre is 127, although there are too many factors to list, so this can vary wildly. 127 is the accepted average that biodieselers base calculations from. Also it is possible to get 2 crops per year per acre depending on your growing season, but it is doubtful in MA unless you have a greenhouse.

Confectionery (the seeds you buy that humans consume as snacks) have significantly lower oil per acre, but it is still well more than an order of magnitude greater than 1 gallon.

For what it's worth, Canola both gives more oil per acre (or patch in the garden as the case may be) grows far better in a northern climate (the Can in Canola stands for Canada, as it is a form of rapeseed bred in and for Canadian climates) and is easy, disease and bug resistant, can be grown 2x per year even in a northern climate, and is far easier to post process for human consumption, as hot water removes almost all impurities and phosphatides without the need of chemicals or advanced methods. Other options include nuts (perhaps you have a tree of some kind in your yard) or peanuts, even soybean, although it renders relatively low oil content but the remaining cake after pressing is great for bot humans and animals.

Hope all this helps.

Rog

DurangoKid's picture
DurangoKid
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

The trick here is to balance the cost of your labor versus the cost of the materials to process the seeds and extract the oil.  In the old days, three granite rollers were mounted about a vertical shaft.  The rollers turned on a granite disc with some wipers rigged up to direct the mash back beneath the rollers.  Water, animals, or humans turned the shaft.  With water, you'll need a stream, a diversion, flume, paddle wheel, gear train, and bearings.  Most of this can be made of hardwood, so get out your chisels, planes, augers, etc.  After the mash is sufficiently pulverized, it is spread on wicker plates and stacked in layers in the press.  Building a press is not as hard as you might imagine.  Believe it or not, a pretty good screw can be carved from wood provided you use the right species and keep the loads fairly light over the area of the threads.  Another approach is a long lever with wieghts on the end.  A 15 foot lever with the fulcrum about 1.5' from one end can exert quite a bit of force with 500 pounds on the long end.  Some blocks and shims can get the proper fit.  Leaving the mash in the press for a couple of hours will make sure most of the oil is extracted.  Carefully weighing several batches and trying various combinations of grinding and pressing should get you to a fairly good return on your time spent.  You could grind till you drop and then press for a couple of days, but would it be worth it?  You might do better to press several batches in that time and settle for a little less oil.  If your process is fairly efficient, you could press for other producers for a cut of the oil or cash money.  Millers made the same arrangement with the flour as payment.

jerrydon10's picture
jerrydon10
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

Why not just boil the seeds, extract the oil, then evaporate the water??

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

Thanks Rog - I couldn't remember what the gallon oil yielded was... I think maybe I was remembering bushel yields or something!

DurangoKid's picture
DurangoKid
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...
jerrydon10 wrote:

Why not just boil the seeds, extract the oil, then evaporate the water??

Very inefficient.  Huge fuel costs.  Heat damages the oil, too.  Pressing has been used for thousands of years.

BSV's picture
BSV
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

I have been looking into this issue for some time. My take on this is as follows:

1) If you have a few acres of arable land, it is feasible to grow oil seeds and produce a small quantity of biodiesel fuel. This is relatively easy to do. Assuming that you have -- say -- 10 acres of arable land, it should be relatively cost-effective.

2) It is not so easy to produce edible oil.

After considerable study, I have decided (tentatively)  to concentrate on producing oilseeds for biodiesel (my wife and I live on an 87 acre plot of land in Central Texas). But my main focus is on woodgasification, which seems to hold considerable promise. We have a woodlot, which helps a lot. Wood gasification technology seems to be promising enough to merit further study. The technology is ancient and proved.

 

Ready's picture
Ready
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

BSV

I do the canola thing on my 86 acres in Missouri. Been doing biodiesel for a long time - started with used vegetable oil from restaurants.

If you do get into this, drop me a line so we can compare notes and learn from each other's mistakes!

Rog

kowanalynn's picture
kowanalynn
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Re: Is there a practical way to extract quantities of ...

www.piteba.com has a hand operated oil expeller.

Lynn

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