Serpong – Humas BRIN. In early 2022, there was a spike in the price of cooking oil in the market. The price of packaged cooking oil could reach Rp. 24,000 per liter. This eventually triggers scarcity of cooking oil in a number of regions.

To tackle this condition, as of February 1, 2022, the government has officially set the highest retail price (HET) for cooking oil. Under this decision, the HET for bulk oil is set at Rp.11,500 per liter, for simple packaging it is set at Rp.13,500 per liter, while for premium packaging the price is set at Rp.14,000 a liter.

The cooking oil commonly used in Indonesia for cooking is palm oil. Other vegetable oils however can also be used, such as coconut oil. Coconut is a tropical fruit and grows in a large number of places in the Indonesian archipelago.

Although palm oil and coconut oil are one family, they have different species. Oil from coconut contains short and medium chain protein, while oil from palm oil contains long chain protein.

Acting Deputy for Research and Innovation Facilitation of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Agus Haryono said that BRIN has many research activities related to coconut oil alternative. “Coconut oil has been used since ancient times as the main source of cooking oil. The making process is also easier. At BRIN we make virgin coconut oil (VCO) by adding tempeh yeast so as to have natural fermentation. Besides VCO, this process also produces cooking oil,” said Agus Haryono.

Teuku Beuna Bardant a researcher at the Chemical Research Center of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) applies the process of making coconut oil with the help of tempeh yeast at Puspiptek, Thursday (3/2). This method produces cooking oil and VCO which is good for human health, helps the body to increase metabolism, and boosts endurance.

Beuna explained the process of making coconut oil with the help of tempeh yeast. Coconut oil is made in a wet way namely from coconut milk. The coconut meat has to be first grated, processed into coconut milk, then added with tempeh yeast.

In principle, coconut milk contains oil with water. These two are immiscible materials. Uniquely, oil and water can be mixed in coconut milk. That’s because of the coconut protein in it. Thus, he explained, if coconut protein is damaged, the oil and water in coconut milk will separate by itself.

“Addition of tempeh yeast in coconut milk will make the coconut protein eaten by the yeast. When the amount of protein decreases, its function to maintain the stability of oil and water mixture decreases, thus there is no more things to hold the oil and water molecules. So the two will separate on their own,” he explained.

“Subsequently, the oil still needs to be heated at a temperature of 700C to kill the yeast and the spores carried in the oil. Heating is repeated two to three times commonly called the pasteurization process. That is what we do during the fermentation process with tempeh yeast,” he added.

“The short chain and medium chain are better for human health, because it is easier to digest. So when it enters the body, it tends to use rather than to store it,” said Beuna.

Coconut oil as cooking oil or as VCO is beneficial for health. Cooking oil from coconut oil has a shorter chain than palm oil, so it is easier to digest, tends to be used rather than stored under human skin tissue. Beuna also said that by consuming coconut oil, the impact is (our body) will not get fat faster, compared to (consuming) palm oil.

He hopes that for food we can use coconut oil, while for energy raw materials we can use palm oil. “So the people should not be too dependent on palm oil, coconut oil can also be used as cooking oil,” he said.

Research Development of Coconut Oil and Tempeh Yeast

Initially, this research was developed by one of researchers from the Chemical Research Center (P2 Kimia) of LIPI which is now BRIN’s Chemical Research Center, namely the late Tami Idiyanti in 2002 – 2012. It started from the idea to ​​diversify products resulting from the innovation of P2 Kimia LIPI which was developed in a commercial scale, namely tempeh yeast.

In developing the tempeh yeast, Tami developed a special yeast production line for coconut oil production. This coconut oil is popularly known as virgin coconut oil (VCO). The results of her research show that VCO is good for cosmetics and body health.

The coconut oil produced is not in contact with strong heat and short heat contact, so the coconut oil molecules are not damaged, especially the molecules that bind short chain fatty acids.

Then in September 2019, the P2 Kimia LIPI at the initiative of the Creative House of State Enterprise PLN Muna Regency, Southeast Sulawesi held a Food Quality and Safety Improvement Counseling for the VCO industry.

The following year, in 2020, the production of coconut oil mixed with alcohol was introduced as raw material for hand sanitizer and soap. “These two derivative products have actually helped the Muna SME with supervision from the Industry Service Office, in producing hand sanitizer and soap which are increasingly needed during the pandemic,” explained Beuna.

Tempe yeast is superior in the processing, because this fungus Rhizopus oligosporus is more voracious in eating protein than other commercial yeasts such as bread yeast and tapay yeast. “Because basically, this fungus thrives on soybeans, which are rich in long-chain proteins and the process is faster,” said the chemical engineering researcher.

“The tempeh yeast also helps in breaking down proteins into medium and short chains that are utilized by humans. Hence soybeans are easier to digest in the form of tempeh,” he continued.

Cooking oil or VCO produced from processed tempeh yeast can last long. “So as long as the processing is in a closed container, the oil does not mix with water, not in contact with air, it will last a long time. As long as there is no change in color, change in aroma, then it will be safe for consumption,” concluded Beuna. (hrd/ ed: adl)