Unfortunately in life, I have often found this old adage true: "If you want a job done right, you better do it yourself!" That was the main reason why I did my own veterinary work for the most part while training horses, why I shod them myself, why I was my own equine dentist and why I performed many other tasks not commonly performed by a racehorse trainer. There are way too many incompetent professionals out there whose work cannot be trusted! I also of late found to my chagrin that one should probably press one's own Flax-seed oil as well. You will have a cheaper and better product extracting it yourself rather than buying it commercially off the shelf. One beautiful benefit of extracting one's own flax-seed oil is that one can make just enough to be used in a week. Since I have become a proponent of the Budwig protocol at this late date, it is imperative that I have access to the freshest oil possible. One cannot over-come cancer and other pathology with a rancid or going-rancid oil!
I want to add a note of warning here! The Flaxseed farms and companies tend to proclaim the sales pitch of how impervious to rancidity their flax-seed oil is. They love to say it can last months on end in the unopened bottle, not refrigerated. I suspect this to be very untrue no matter how much they would like to protest! As one European user wrote, most all USA sold oil is rancid to some extent. That has been my experience too. If your flax-seed oil has varying degrees of a burnt or bitter taste, a fishy taste, disagreeable---chances are it has become rancid or is heading that way!
I dare say that much of the flax-seed oil being offered on the USA market is probably going rancid, if not already there! I have a number of my acquaintances in just this year, who have purchased flax-seed oil for the first time and hated its taste. This is a prime clue that the oil is bad. As one Flax seed farm wrote: ". . . taste is your best test of the quality and condition of linseed/flaxseed oil. Good flax seed oil should be mild, creamy, nutty, grassy, i.e. characteristically taste of linseed (flaxseed), with no off or rancid butter notes. Linseed (flax seed) Oil should not be bitter or smell strongly." Heat, sunlight, oxidation are its natural enemies. Plus, all oil processors are not equal in their care of properly cold-pressing & storage of the finished product. When one considers the long chain of travel which oil makes from the farm's whole seed storage bins to the store's shelf in finished product form, it is no wonder there is such variation in flax-seed oil quality. The trouble with the buying public is that they really do not know what fresh flax-seed oil should taste like. The supplement companies get away with murder. If one must buy oil, it is often best to buy the more expensive name brands like Barlean's or Flora, but even those brands can go bad, if not properly stored or recently bought. This conundrum came to my attention by pure luck. I was treating my dog for cancer using the Budwig Protocol. I purchased Jarrow brand of Flax-seed oil and she made a spectacular recovery. You can read about it at my Budwig web-page. After about 3 weeks, my bottle was empty, and I could not buy a replacement. My supplier was out-of-stock. I went to Vitacost and bought their house brand of flax-seed oil. I found out very quickly the differences in taste and freshness from comparing those two! The Jarrow's was very pleasant, mild, nutty as flax-seed oil should be. The Vitacost brand had a rather harsh, if not slightly bitter taste. My dog stopped improving on the Vitacost brand. I knew there was going to be a major problem in keeping fresh oil in stock and decided to cold-press my own oil from the whole seed. After doing some research, I found that I could save money and have guaranteed freshness at the same time. A no-brainer! I purchased a generic Chinese seed extractor/press with some trepidation as there was not much out there on the Internet about pressing flax-seeds using these types of machines. Luckily, I am happy with the results and hope this page will help others who would like to go the same route.
Processing & Machinery
First off, before extraction, one must obtain the best whole flaxseed (also called, linseed) available (Linum usitatissimum). Organic, triple cleaned, low moisture and non-GMO seed harvested in the last year is to be preferred. There are two types of seed, the dark brown and the golden. Flaxseed grown in the northern climates tend to have the highest essential fatty acid content. The dark brown tends to have a slightly higher ALA content, but on the whole, they are about equal. Oil extraction rates for flax-seed is generally believed to be around 28-40% depending on a number of factors. Seed moisture content and the temperature of the press's auger head all have significant impact on oil extraction. Oil recovery rates decrease with increased moisture in the seed. Cold-pressing is the preferred method of obtaining a high quality flax-seed oil. The FDA states that Flax-seed oil should not be mechanically cold-pressed higher than 122 degrees F (50 degrees C). Absolutely no chemicals must be used in its extraction. An Indian study found: "Higher moisture content increased the plasticity and thereby reduced the level of compression and contributed to poor oil recovery. Moisture also acts as a lubricant in the barrel; therefore, higher moisture content resulted in insufficient friction during pressing. For cold pressed oil, oil temperature should be less than 50 °C (<122° F) or another study suggesting less than or equal to 70 °C (<158° F) when exiting the screw press. " There may be some debate on how high one can heat flaxseed without significantly deteriorating the EFA content in the oil, but one should keep it as low as possible with a temperature less than 120°F being a good benchmark.
There are several ways one can extract seed oil. If you do an Internet search, not much comes up using a motorized seed oil extractor for the home user. Most of the sketchy descriptions involve using water to primitively extract flax-seed oil which produces a very low quality product. Seed oil expellers or presses are of several designs, but one of the more common ones consist of an auger/screw inside of a cylinder. This encasing cylinder is capped at one end to allow slow excretion of the flaxseed flake. The auger draws the flaxseed in deeper in the cylinder where the pressure and friction exerted by the auger expels the oil. The oil runs out of bottom slots into a container. This is the method that most DIY'ers will use. One widely reviewed method on the net is to use a hand-crank screw type seed press that is heated with an open flame to facilitate oil extraction. For a number of reasons, I don't consider this a good method either, but it is a cheaper alternative than buying the more expensive motorized presses. The Dutch manufactured Piteba flax-seed crank machine is quite popular and well made. There are also Chinese versions of this same crank design. They are all around the price of US$100-150 depending. Their disadvantage is small production volumes, high labor requirements on the part of the operator, and debatable temperature control from the open flame. My machine of choice was the motorized screw-type press for its ease of operation, efficiency and more precise heat element functionality. Prices vary for this type, but one can usually find them for around $300-500 delivered with the higher wattage motors increasing the price tag. The Chinese seem to have cornered the market in these machines though one can find some more expensive variations being made in India. The Germans as usual seem to produce the premier seed presses, but they are pricey! The German Komet hand-crank model goes for $1800 and their more industrial version (pictured to right) for around $4000. The Chinese version seems always to be on the same basic design consisting of a stainless steel box exterior with two rod handles on top, a manually controlled heating element laying on top of the auger cylinder assembly, electric motors from 200w up to over 500w, and fairly low prices compared to other countries. They all appear to come from the same factory with slight variations to specs and auger assembly designs. The Chinese Tenguard Company makes a somewhat unique oil press, but still of the basic Chinese design with the exception of their advertised, "World's Best Home Oil Press" which is of a more automated digitalized design. The Tenguard Company has designed a machine that is suppose to heat no higher than 120° F which is not the case of the others and if this is true, may be worth the added expense. Tenguard advertises their base version press at 1000w which is not really true. This rating probably includes the heating element. If one watches their web-site video of that machine, the unit's label is shown to read 450w.
My Oil Press & Technique
I studied the machines for a few months before taking a chance and buying one. I pretty much went on my gut instincts as there were no informative do-it-yourself experiences on the Internet utilizing these types of machines. What really worried me outside of if they really worked well was that the heating elements for these generic seed oil expellers were designed to obtain very high temperatures with no regulation control for other types of seed extractions. Flax-seed is the exception in seed pressing where very low temperatures are a must. How would I cope with a machine that had an unregulated heating element? Yes, these machines have manual heating switches that controlled only their elements, but a little heat is good--none at all, I was worried. I decided, I could probably regulate the heat to 120°F by simply turning the element on-and-off, monitoring it with a thermometer probe. I soon discovered that one does not need to worry about any heating element functionality when pressing flaxseeds as the mere mechanical action of the auger in the cylinder will generate more than enough heat. Perhaps, even too much?
I decided to try to buy a Tenguard seed press, but was unable to make e-mail contact with their sales rep in enough time to complete the deal. They were one of the few seed presses that seemed to have an actual company name and identity with a web-site and videos. When they finally did contact me (after I had already purchased another one), their price seemed competitive at US$398 which included shipping costs to USA. There would be a 3 week delivery time. I needed a machine now because of my sick dog and didn't have time to wait even if I had gotten their quote in time. I ended up buying one of those generic Chinese seed presses like the one pictured at the heading of this page from a California import company via eBay for $370, free delivery. Its electric motor was rated at 450w. Supposedly, Flax-seed could be pressed without the use of its heating element. I have used it for about three pressings so far. I am generally happy with how it operates. I have had no problem extracting a high quality flax-seed oil using premium Great River Mills whole non-GMO flaxseed, purchased bulk in 25 pound sacks for $48. The batch pictured below, I used 2.5 pounds of seed to produce 450 ml of oil. I produced about a pint for a cost of $5.00. Compare this to the price of the premium Flax-seed oils at prices starting at $17 for 16 oz and up which may not even include shipping costs. I saved at least $10 a bottle and have the freshest oil possible. My machine expels the oil in very short time with easy clean-up.
My initial process involves pre-heating my whole flax-seed in a slow cooker with gentle heat up to a 120°F core temperature. Most crock-pots are very poor at finely regulating temperatures, so I needed to add a variable auto-transformer which would allow me to fine tune the exact temperature I needed. These "Variacs" as they are sometimes called can be purchased used on eBay for not too much money. I think I paid no more than $30 for mine. You will also need a good thermometer probe as well. These variable auto-transformers only work on the old style crock-pots that are not digitalized. You want one with simple, warm, medium and high dial switches. Also, my particular crock-pot pictured to the right has the heating element on the sides. I didn't want my seeds to become over-headed next to the element, so I placed them in a smaller stainless steel bowl to keep them away from the sides with my thermometer probe going through the hole in the lid where I had removed the knob.
Images to the right:
1) I weighed out 2.5 pounds of whole seed in a stainless steel bowl that will keep the outside seeds away from the high heat of the crock-pot's sides.
2) The crock-pot is connected to the variable auto-transformer. Its dial is set on "60" which seems to only heat the crock-pot's element to approximately 120°F. One needs to continually monitor the thermometer until 120°F is reached in the core of the bowl. Every crock-pot is different and you will have to experiment to what setting is appropriate for your situation.
3) Shows my thermometer probe in between the auger cylinder and the heating element when checking high temperatures.
4) This shows the probe on the upper-side of the auger cylinder checking temperature, with the element raised.
In the end, I found that one does not need to worry about the heating element in these models ever being on when pressing flax-seeds. I originally pre-warm my flax-seeds in the crock-pot and add directly to the press' top bin, but in the end, even found this step unnecessary and not advised. The cylinder soon heats up surprisingly very quickly. In testing without using the heating element ever being switched on, but still pre-heating the seeds to 120, the mechanical action of the auger had the oil coming out of the slots at around 130°F and when finishing up, the top cylinder was showing 160°F, only from the friction action of the auger alone. Certainly, higher temps than I want, but I suspect for such a short matter of seconds during the pressing, it is not that detrimental. After all, I have never seen any commercial flax-seed press with any type of cooling device around the cylinders being sold. I do immediately put the finished oil directly into the freezer for quick cooling. This makes one wonder how the commercial companies can really control their oil temperatures when extracting oil for hours and days on end with the same unit! On an industrial scale, I would suspect temps from cold-pressing friction alone could go much higher than the 160°F my little machine reached in around 20-25 minutes of operation. Perhaps, this is yet another reason to extract one's own oil? Smaller batches can be produced at lower temperatures.
Below is the complete system set up with the 450 ml of oil recovered from the 2.5 pounds of seed. Notice that the freshly expressed oil is a dark brown color. The color is from seed particulate during the pressing process passing through the screen, but it will settle in time to reveal a golden yellow oil. Personally, I find the unrefined, unfiltered oil to probably be the most healthy, if not so pretty to look at. I don't worry about removing the particulate. I gently shake before dosing trying to avoid air mixing in the oil while at the same time evenly distributing the seed particulate. I put my fresh oil immediately in the freezer where it is stored till needed to replenish my refrigerator bottle. Just remember, Johanna Budwig suggested grinding up 1-2 tablespoons of whole flax seed and sprinkling it in the cottage cheese/flaxseed oil mixture; so, having seed particulate already present is no biggie!
In my final technique, I found that any type of pre-heating is totally unnecessary when doing flax seeds. In fact, it may be even deleterious! I ceased pre-heating my flax seeds as previously demonstrated in the crock-pot and simply added them to the bin or hopper above the press at room temperatures. It kept my oil temperature down considerably from my previous pre-heating. Monitoring the temperatures of the oil as it fell to the screen in the collection vessel, I got an 85°F range. Monitoring the temperatures as the oil came directly out of the cylinder slots, around 88°F. Finally, after about 25 minutes of pressing 3 pounds, I stuck the thermometer probe on the cylinder and read 133°F . Again, this is all without any electrical external heating or pre-heating of the flax seed in the crock-pot. I could not tell any measurable difference in oil recovery volume plus at the same time keeping my temperatures about 30° cooler! I collected 500 ml of oil from 3 pounds of seed. Final analysis: You will collect a more potent oil by keeping the temperatures as low as possible. Avoid pre-heating the seed or the cylinder before pressing!