How Olive Oil is Made

by Travis Loncar on October 11, 2011

For centuries, olive oil has been a staple in the realm of gourmet cooking. From fresh garden salads to elegant, home-cooked meals, olive oil is used as a cooking agent, dressing, flavor inducer, or some combination of the three. We buy it by the bottle, cook it by the hour, and consume it by the minute. From where does it come, though? Olives, obviously – but how? How is that much oil extracted from the tiny olive? Let’s take a look.

olive tree


The process begins with the harvesting of the olives from trees of plenty. While the traditional way to strip an olive tree of its fruit is beating the tree by hand, it’s become more common to utilize commercial machinery to increase picking efficiency. Ater the pick, the olives are transported post-haste to an olive mill, where they are run through multiple cleaning phases of the production chain. Once sparkling with cleanliness, the olives are processed in a grinder, which breaks them down into an olive paste. This paste undergoes what is known as ‘the malaxation process” – a slow mixing at around 27˚ C that yields droplets of oil (that adhere to one another). When the malaxation is complete, pressure is applied to the paste, causing oil and water to separate from the fruit. Using a centrifuge (in most cases), the olive oil is then separated from the water and bottled for storage. This oil, due to the purely mechanical nature of its production, is known as “virgin” olive oil. When the acidity of the oil is less than one percent, it is labeled as “extra virgin.” Racy, I know.

how olive oil is made


As you know, there are all different types of olive oil, and no one type is necessarily better than the other. As holds true with most things in life, it’s really all preference. That said, farmers do try to avoid letting the olives sit for too long after picking, as this can result in higher acid levels. Higher acidity calls for chemical refinement, which ultimately detracts from the value of the olive oil.

That’s all for now, ladies and gents! Mix it up with one of our gourmet Italian olive oils today!

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