We only supply the very highest (and darkest) grade of cochineal available. The best cochineal is dark and full of carminic acid (the red color you are after). This batch tests out at about 20-21% carminic acid content. When extracting the color with care, 3½ to 4 ounces of dried bugs will dye about 2 pounds of wool or fiber to a deep shade.
Our favorite method for extracting as much red as possible is to bring inch or a little more water (the purer the water the better) to just below a simmer (stainless steel or glass container), add the quantity of cochineal bugs you are going to use - you can add a little more water if you feel you need to - and continue that slow simmer for a few minutes. Then turn off the heat and let it sit covered overnight. Using a fine mesh strainer, pour off the dye liquor into a glass storage container, empty the strainer of bugs back in the pan, add enough water to just cover them, let sit another 24 hours, pour off, store, empty the bugs back. . . repeat 10 to 30 times — this method will get you the most dye for your money. For a visual, go to YouTube and look at the videos that Kimberly Baxter Packwood has put up under "Cochineal Extraction". Two are on the extraction process and one is on dyeing with the "liquor" you have produced. Some people grind theirs... I choose not to.
The mordants you can use to shift the color result include Alum (safest and most benign),Tin, Copper, Iron plus others. Google for information about mordants and assists.
Remember, a little goes a long way.