Extracting Oils From Plants

There are three main ways to extract oils from the seed/nut/plant etc:  Cold pressed, expeller pressed, and solvent extraction. The first two involve a machine that mechanically presses down to get the oil out. The last one involves a chemical to help extract as much as the oil from the plant as possible.

The reason behind this post is because while searching for oils I found an organic grape seed oil, and sorry to disappoint you, but we won’t be using that.  As romantic and lovely as it sounds, at $145.00 a gallon it would make our product too expensive for the consumer to purchase. After speaking to the supplier about the cost of his oil, he mentioned a couple of things regarding the process of extracting the oil from the grape seeds.  This got me thinking… I should probably know ALL this!!

So I did some research and found that there are three main ways to extract oils from plants and it is important!  How the oil is extracted really does matter.
You may have noticed the different oil options that are available to you on the shelves of your super market, specialty store, etc, etc.   Canola oil, for example, might say, “expeller pressed” or “cold pressed” on the bottle. Or it might just say “canola oil”.

Expeller pressed means that the oils were extracted from the plant using a chemical-free mechanical process.  The harder the nut or the seed that you are extracting from, the more pressure that needs to be applied. This results in more friction and higher heat.
Cold pressed, which is the method usually used for delicate oils, means that they are expeller pressed, but in a heat-controlled environment.  The temperature is kept below 120-122 degrees F.

Solvent extraction is the method used in pretty much all conventional oils. This method uses solvent extracts to get the oils out of the plant which not only produces higher yield, but it’s less expensive than expeller and cold pressed methods, and its’ quick.  The problem is that the solvent that is commonly used is hexane.  Some companies say that the solvent is evaporated during the process, but other say some of this chemical remains in the oil.  So there is obviously a problem with this method.  Who wants hexane in their oil!?  I sure don’t…. and I don’t want our product to have it either! (Not a lot of information on this, I will try and dig up more info later)

We received 4 different oils from a supplier the other day; grape seed oil, canola oil, pure olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, and safflower oil.  We have yet to test with them, but I can hardly wait. And yes, I doubled checked with the vendor, the oils that we are testing with are only expeller pressed & cold pressed.  (I held my breath when she confirmed this… HUGE sigh of relief)


  1. Jon Jew wrote:

    We are a very small, startup prepopped popcorn business still struggling to find a good grapeseed oil. We need to be pure and free of chemicals such as Hexane. Could you please recommend your supplier? It would be very much appreciated. And by the way, I really like your popcorn! It is delicious and habit forming were it not for our own popcorn that I consume daily. We are from the left coast, not far from the Napa Valley, where grapeseeds are abundant.

  2. Dario wrote:

    I’m interesting in extracting my own oil from garden plants. Anyone can guide me through the process?.

  3. Aditi wrote:

    As an experienced researcher in green chemistry, I can confirm that hexane is never left behind in the oil. It always evaporates. If we are extracting herbal oils, we can always go for ethanol or acetone. They have even lower boiling points and evaporate much efficiently.