THE OLIVE OIL PRODUCTION PROCESS
1.A. THE HARVESTING
The process of picking up the olives for producing olive oil generally starts in November and December. As olives ripe, we need to pick them up, for them not to fall down to the ground. In that case, the quality of olive oil will decrease.
There are two different processes: – the olives for being eaten are harvested before being completely ripened, in the month of October. Those olives for oil production, normally in November, December or January.
1.B. HARVESTING METHODS
There are different ways for collecting the olives avoiding them to harm, since this fact would affect the quality of olive oil.
BY HAND, one after the other. This method is used for table olives, which are going to be eaten directly by the consumer.
BEATING the trunk or the tree branches to provoke the falling down of the olives
HITTING the branches is the traditional method. It is done with plastic sticks of around three metres long (wood sticks up to ten years ago). A net is placed under the tree to prevent the olives from mixing with the ground materials (earth or stones)
2. 1. TRANSPORT
Transport of olives must be made immediately after picking them up, as they must be processed in a maximum of 24 hours for them to preserve their natural properties and the oil being of high quality.
Healthy olives must be carried separately from those ones who are broken or sick, as these may affect the quality of olive oil.
Traditional plants for producing olive oil are called “almazaras” (this is an “almazara”). The name comes from the Arabic (al-mas’sara), meaning extracting, squeezing.
Olives must be well treated and not piled up in order to avoid heating or fermentation.
3. SELECTION OF OLIVES
Before starting to handle the olives, they must be separated according to their characteristics, assigning the best ones to the elaboration of extra virgin olive oil. A fine oil can only be obtained from healthy and complete olives.
4. THE CLEANING AND WASHING OF OLIVES
Once at our installations, they are cleaned from branches and leaves by means of a strong air stream.
After that, they are washed with drinking water to eliminate mud or stones.
5. THE GRINDING PROCESS
It consists in crushing and breaking the complete olives, including their pits, to facilitate the separation of the oil they contain.
Nowadays, metallic mills or grinders are used (having the shape of a toothed wheel or a hammer).
In the past, up to thirty years ago, the traditional way to grind was by means of a stone mill. (With some big stones of two or three tones each). It had the advantage of not provoking heating or emulsion of the oil, eliminating the risk of contamination by metals, but it was a slow and very expensive method.
6. SHAKING THE MASS
Once the olives have been ground, a mass or paste is obtained. It is beaten or shaken in order to cause the oil production. Oil separates physically and in a natural way from the water contained in the olives and from solids (that is, skin, flesh or soft parts, and pits or stones).
The temperature of the shaking mass must be under 30º not to lose flavours and aromatic compound of the olives and not to accelerate oxidizing processes.
7. CENTRIFUGAL PROCESS
For a complete separation of oil from water and pomace, the olive mass is introduced into a vacuum centrifuging machine.
Rotating the paste at a high speed, we obtain the separation of pomace, water and oil by difference in their physical density.
8. STORAGE AND CONSERVATION
Keeping olive oil at its very best conditions is essential for it to reach the consumer having its complete qualities.
Tanks must be built in inert materials, such as stainless steel, polyester, glass-fibre, never being iron or copper these materials, as they help the oxidizing process.
The ideal storage temperature must range from 15º to 18º to allow the oil ripening process without helping it oxidize.
In 2012, the Company introduced the Quality System ISO 9001, to guarantee that all processes are done in a strictly controlled way, according to the requirements of International Food Programs and the Consumers.