I used to spend about 5-10 minutes trying to open a young coconut, hacking away and then spilling half the water all over my counter when I finally succeeded. It was a great arm and shoulder workout, but I eventually wised up and found a better way to open them.
I bought a heavy cleaver, and now it takes only 30 seconds or less to open each one. What I do is place the shaved white coconut right side up, and with the cleaver I hit it four times on each side of the pointed top. Then I use the side of the cleaver to pry the top off. Both Leslie and Boise demonstrate the method I use now in some of the videos. It’s a little more dangerous, but that’s why I keep all of my hands off of the coconut while I hack at it. I also do usually use a small mesh strainer when pouring the water out of it. You just hold it over the cup or bowl you’re pouring the water into and let it filter any shell bits out. It’s optional though and most people don’t use one.
I then go in with a large spoon to scoop the meat out. This only works for the young coconuts (the shaved white ones as you’ll usually find them). That’s why they call these coconuts spoon meat coconuts. I scoop up and scrape the meat from the sides and bottom and put it all into a bowl. I then examine the meat for any large hard bits of shell on it and scrape any off with a small paring knife. Then I rinse it all in a bit of water to wash off any other loose shell fibers that might be stuck on any of them. Then that’s it, the water and meat are ready to use! I’m seriously considering not buying them anymore though, or only very occasionally. Due to the weight of them with the long distance where they are coming from, not knowing what is used on them since they’re not organic and are imported, not knowing how old they are when I get them, and that they are now $1.99 each.
In Leslie’s Chocolate Pudding video, she shows how to open the coconuts using the method that I use. She also shows how to scrape and clean the coconut meat inside of it. You can also see in that video how to scrape and use a vanilla bean as well. If for some reason it doesn’t play for you you can also watch this flash version, but it is a lower quality.