How Olive Oil is Pressed: A Tour of Oliviera Sant’Andrea in Sinalunga, Italy
Since we came first to Italy a few years ago we started appreciating the real, high-quality olive oil. What is being sold in most supermarkets around the world is marketed as high quality extra-virgin olive oil, but once you try the real deal, you will understand what all the fuss is about.
As October is usually the month when Italians start pressing their olive oil, we were in luck! On 17th of October we were lucky to get a small glimpse into how olive oil is pressed at a modern Oil Mill owned by the brand Olio Del Capùnto in Sinalunga.
Most farmers bring their olives in special containers to an oil mill and a few hours later they can walk out with freshly-pressed olive oil. Let’s take a look at the process.
1. This is what the building where the oil mill is. The whole process is handled on the ground floor, I haven’t seen what is upstairs.
2. The olives are brought in special-sized containers. Each container has an attached paper that has the information about the date and time it has arrived and who the owner of the olives is.
3. The olives slowly fall down on a special conveyor belt.
5. THe conveyor belt takes the olives to a special machine where they are filtered from leaves and branches on their way down.
6. Here the olives are washed.
7. Clean and shiny they are taken into the oil press.
8. Here you can see 5 separate containers in which the olives are pressed and mixed.
9. The olives are pressed together with the pips. Research has been done and there is no real evidence that removing the pips from olives before pressing will result in a better olive oil.
10. Each press has a small screen above it where the temperature of the mixture is displayed, as well as the length of the cycle. The temperature is very important, as higher temperatures will reduce the quality of the oil. Usually there’s a 60-minutes cycle at 26-27 degrees Celcius.
11. It is important to note that this process is very noisy. Don’t expect to be able to talk a lot, unless you like shouting. There are some noise-cancelling headphones available, but I haven’t seen the workers using them.
12. This part of the mill is not active right now, as they have a lower volume of work. Once more people start bringing in their olives, this line will be activated too.
13. You can relax by the live fire while your olives are being processed. Most people prefer to be present during the whole process, so as to eliminate the possibility of getting your olive oil replaced or diluted.
14. Once we see that one of the presses got to 58 or 59 minutes, we can enjoy the pressing itself. At first some water comes out.
15. Then the color and consistency of the liquid starts to change.
16. But wait, there is more.
17. From here the liquid goes through a filtering process. I am not sure if it went through a decanter yet or this is happening now. As I said, there’s a lot of noise and asking questions is difficult.
18. Toxic waste? No, freshly-pressed olive oil.
19. The olive oil first gathers in this large “collector”, where you can additionally filter some residue.
20. This goes back into the filter in the next photo.
22. Once you are happy with what you see, open a valve and start pouring the oil into your container of choice (50 liter tanks in this case).
23. This oil mill produces its own olive oil under the brand Olio Del Capùnto. This is the bottling station.
24. Some olive oil is aged in stainless-steel vats.
27. This young gentleman was happy to explain and articulate the process, unfortunately he spoke only Italian, a language that we don’t speak :)
28. Beautiful! And yes, there’s a very pleasant smell on the premises.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to taste any of this oil, that would have been very interesting. Instead we got to taste olive oil that was already ~7 days old.
Once we run out of our reserves of genuine Tuscan olive oil, it will be difficult to get used to the one in the markets. Almost the same price but the taste and quality is sad to even compare.