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Olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil

It is an honor to be able to talk about olive oil, as one of our gastronomic emblems, the hallmark of our province and of Spain too.

But a doubt comes to mind when evaluating our flagship product. When is an oil of good or bad quality?

There is a lot of misinformation about this and here is the intention of this article: to clarify this question. To be able to recognize a quality olive oil from another one that is not.

Thus, we will briefly comment about the process of oil extraction, a main part in the selection process of one type and the other. 

How is oil extracted from the olive?

About 30% of the pulp of the olive is oil, and when the fruit is harvested we must extract it, so that we separate the rest of the olive from the oil, which is the part that interests us. There are two main ways to do it, and a third one that is actually a second process of the other methods.

The most traditional method is the extraction by pressure, where the olive is placed in a press and the oil is extracted by mechanical force. This is the best way to do it, and the one that best conserves all the oil’s features. However, it is hardly used due to its complexity and low yield, although in some parts this method is still used.

The second method is centrifugation. In this method, mechanical elements are also solely used. The olive is crushed, and its different elements are separated by centrifugation due to their different densities. This is the easiest way to get a high-quality industrial olive oil, and therefore the one that is the most used today.

The third method uses lower-quality oils, those that are left over from the other methods or the olive residues, which are the oils that remain in the pulp after the mechanical extraction. These oils cannot be consumed due to their bad taste, and chemical processes are used on them to make them suitable for consumption. This is the refining method. With this method, inferior quality olive oils are obtained.

What is the difference between olive oil, virgin olive oil and extra virgin olive oil?

Virgin and extra virgin olive oils are obtained by the first two extraction methods. They are always mechanical and with no refining. The extra virgin oil is the one with the highest quality. It must never exceed 0.8% of acidity and its qualifying tasting note must be 6.5% or higher.

The only difference between both is that the virgin oil has lesser quality, but the difference is minimum. A level of acidity up to 2% is allowed and, in this case, the qualified tasting note must be at least 5.5%.

Finally, we have the oil that loses the name of virgin, which is the normal olive oil found in supermarkets. This oil is a blend of refined olive oil (90% at most) and virgin olive oil or extra virgin olive oil. This is the one with the worst quality, and you just must taste and see that its flavor is completely different compared to the other two. We even think that this oil could be chemical and not natural.