Are Cold-Pressed Oils good for the environment?

Are Cold-Pressed Oils good for the environment?

Interestingly, Gramiyaa’s cold pressed oil story began when the founder—Sibi visited an oil refinery in Chennai.

He decided to restart his grandfather’s cold pressing mill for people who are looking for healthier oil alternatives. Back then, he didn’t know that cold pressing oils also positively impacts the environment.

Yes, cold pressed oils are good for the environment.

Cold pressing oil uses 90% less energy resources compared to refining oil.

Before we delve into the details, let’s understand how cooking oils are refined vs how they are cold pressed.

How are refined oils extracted?

The refined oil pouches you see on your supermarket shelves journey a long way.

First, seeds are crushed to release oil. This can be done either by mechanical expellers or with solvents in a chemical extraction process.

The oil has free fatty acids that affect flavor and shelf life. It’s neutralized using an alkali to remove flavor and other compounds that degrade over time. And so this increases the shelf life of the oil.

The crude oil contains impurities. It’s degummed using water, acid, or enzymes. This makes the oil clearer.

Now, the oil is bleached to absorb colored pigments. This makes the oil lighter and neutral in color.

The oil is exposed to high temperatures to remove volatile odor and flavor compounds. This makes the oil flavor neutral.

That’s 6 steps after cleaning/dehusking the seeds and before packaging. The process is elaborate and energy-intensive.

Here’s a TL;DR (too long; didn't read version).

When oils are chemically refined, a lot of heating is required to crush the seeds, squeeze the oil out, and remove impurities. For high temperatures, a lot of thermal energy is needed. And as a coolant, lots of water is used.

Now, how are cold pressed oils extracted?

If you’ve reached this far, you must have guessed. Cold pressed means the oil is extracted at cooler temperatures compared to refined oils.

As a child, have you visited local oil mills in your neighborhood?

Here’s what I remember about these trips.

I lived in a joint family with 10 people. We used plenty of oil to cook 3 meals a day for 10 humans and 2 dogs (Does dog food use oil? I’m not sure, but their food was cooked in our kitchen too).

I sat behind my father on his scooter, holding a 10L steel can.

Once we reached there, I remember a person standing near a circular machine. A pestle from the top was moving in circles as it crushed groundnuts.

Magically, the groundnuts turned into oil which dripped into a container placed on the floor nearby.

He poured the oil from his container into the steel one I brought from home.

That’s a little bit from what I remember from my younger days.

Now that I work with Gramiyaa, I see, hear and know about cold pressing in more detail.

Here’s how we cold pressed oils at Gramiyaa.

The seeds or nuts are gently crushed by a rotating wooden pestle that moves at a slow speed.

The wood pestle moves at a slow speed to reduce the generation of heat due to friction. The crushing happens at room temperature plus or minus 10-15 degrees.

Cold pressed oils are flavourful, meaning they retain the taste from the seeds. They also have a shorter shelf life (12 months) compared to refined oils (24 months).

So there’s really no process after oil extraction to alter these two factors

The oil is passed through a multi-layered cotton fabric sieve. This removes any tiny seed particles that might have slipped through.

If not removed, this splatters while cooking and adds a bitter taste.

It’s then left undisturbed for 4-5 days in a huge tank where any leftover seed particles settle down.

And then, it’s packed in our signature tetra paks.

A quick TL;DR of cold pressing.

There’s no heat or thermal energy involved. The only energy used is to run the motor that rotates the wooden pestle. And a tiny bit of water to bind the seeds for crushing which immediately gets separated once the oil is extracted.

Let's look at the numbers

According to a study by The Energy and Resources Institute, an oil refinery in India with a capacity of 19,13,800 tonne/year uses a power source of 169.6 x 10^6 MCal/year. Most of which is used for boilers, chilled water generators, and pumping systems.

169.6 x 10^6 MCal. The number is too big to visualize in our heads.

It’s enough to provide electricity for 758,830 houses for 1 year.

I don’t mean oil refineries are evil because they are energy sucking. In reality, most processing and industrial plants operate the same energy-intensive way.

To compare this with the cold pressed process, I called up our Production Manager and asked him for Gramiyaa mill’s electricity bills.

In March 2024, we produced 68,000 liters of oil and our power consumption was 17,000 units.

  • We have 20 wood and stone mills. Each connected to a 1.5hp motor. And each mill can make 6.5 liters of oil in 50 minutes.
  • In terms of water, 200 ml of water is added to 16 kg of seeds for binding. Additionally, we wash the cotton fabric after every 2000-2500 liters of oil is sieved through.
  • That’s 90% less energy and water consumption in comparison to refineries.

Our packaging reduces energy consumption too

Yes! Cold-pressed oil making is a much more environmentally friendly process compared to refined oil. It uses a simple mechanical process with minimal energy consumption.

The numbers speak for themselves: a single refinery can use enough energy to power hundreds of thousands of houses for a year, whereas Gramiyaa's cold-pressing operation uses just a fraction of that.

Other aspects like Gramiyaa’s Tetra Pak packaging minimizes plastic and transportation footprint, contributing to a more sustainable approach.

So, next time you run out of cooking oil, reach out to us and do your bit, both for your health and the planet.

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