Use a hammer to crack the coconut right between its "eyes" and "mouth" or right in the center of the three brown spots a bowling ball's holes on one end of the coconut. It may require three or four strikes to crack the coconut enough to pull apart. Drain the coconut water into a mixing bowl. Repeat this cracking with the second coconut.
Remove any debris, rogue fibers, and shell from the water using a strainer.Separate one cup of this strained coconut water from the rest to use in making the tea.
Prepare the Flavoring for the Coconut Milk (Optional)
In a small saucepan combine the reserved, strained coconut water, the allspice, cinnamon sticks, star anise, whole cloves, and the split vanilla bean. Put the pot on the stove over a medium flame.
Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the spices for 5 minutes. After the "tea" has simmered for 5 minutes, turn the stove off and allow the spices to steep in the water for 15 minutes.
Strain the spices through a cheesecloth-lined strainer to remove them. Finally, use the back of a knife blade to press the paste out from the vanilla bean.Add the extracted paste to the strained coconut water tea and stir it with a spoon to combine. Set the tea aside while you work on shredding the coconut meat.
Extract, then Shred, the Coconut Meat
Use a clean flat head screwdriver to separate the white flesh from the hard, brown shell by sticking the screwdriver's head between the white flesh and brown shell and pushing up. It's okay if a thin film of brown sticks to the white meat.The meat should release from the shell reasonably easy. If the meat sticks to the shell, warm the coconut pieces in a 210°F (99°C) oven for 15 minutes. Heating the coconut releases the meat from the shell easier.
Rinse the coconut meat quickly under cold running water, then add the meat to a large mixing bowl.In a separate microwave-safe bowl, heat the remaining coconut water (not the spiced tea) in the microwave until steaming, or about 3 minutes. Pour the hot coconut water over the large pieces of coconut to soften the meat.*If your coconuts were small, or didn't have a ton of water, add more hot water, as needed to just cover the coconut in the bowl. Sometimes, you need as much as 3 cups of water.*Allow the meat to soak in the water until the water is cool to the touch or about 10 minutes.
Remove the coconut meat from the soaking coconut water and grate it with the broad-hole side of a box grater into a mixing bowl. This step can also be done with a food processor*.
Pour the soaking coconut water back over the grated coconut meat and allow it to soak for another 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the liquid in the bowl will appear opaque and milky.
Scoop 1-2 cups of the shredded coconut into a muslin cloth or nutbag set inside a colander that has been placed over a deep bowl. Gather the ends of the muslin cloth or bag and twist the bag until you've extracted as much milk from the coconut meat as possible. Transfer the squeezed coconut shreds to the bowl of your food processor or blender before continuing to scoop and press the remaining shredded meat.
Pulse the shredded coconut meat with the blade attachment in your food processor (or in your blender with a small amount of the extracted coconut milk). Pour the coconut milk you squeezed from the shredded coconut meat over the pulsed coconut. Allow the milk to soak the coconut for 10 minutes.
Repeat the scooping and squeezing process to extract the rest of the coconut milk from the pulsed meat. Finally, strain the coconut milk through cheesecloth that's been placed over a fine mesh strainer set inside a bowl. Stir the spiced tea you made with the coconut water earlier into the coconut milk to flavor it.
Once the coconut milk has been strained, transfer it to a glass or plastic serving pitcher.Taste the coconut milk and, if desired, add a small amount of honey, agave syrup, or granulated sugar to sweeten the milk.
Store the coconut milk for one week in the refrigerator in a covered pitcher. As the coconut milk sits, the heavy cream will rise to the top of the pitcher, just give it a whisk to combine it. If your pitcher has a screw-on lid, you can give it a vigorous shake, instead to combine it.Serve the coconut milk on its own, in cocktails or smoothies, or use any cooking or baking recipes that call for canned coconut milk.
* If you want to cut down on the prep you can use a juicer to extract the coconut milk. The end result is not nearly as "coconutty", but it's still delicious.
Freeze the coconut milk in ice cubes to use in cocktails: just pour the strained coconut milk into ice cube trays and freeze as you would water ice cubes.
Freeze for later use by simply pouring the milk into leak-proof bags and storing it in the freezer for 3 months. Thaw the milk in the refrigerator, making sure to stir it well as the fat will have separated from the water in the milk.