Olive oil is traditionally extracted from olives buy a process of pressing. Cold pressing means that the temperature during the pressing does not exceed 27°C. Pressing at higher temperatures allows the extraction of more oil from the olives but also reduces the quality of the resulting produce. In order for an oil to be described as Virgin it should be produced using cold pressing.
The First Cold Pressed Olive Oil
The first cold press, as the term indiciates the the first press of the olive using a cold press process. In order for an olive oil to be described as Extra Virgin it should come from the first cold press.
Therefore, olive oils described as first cold-pressed or should be the best possible that you can buy, in theory…
Why Cold Pressing is important
When high temperatures are applied the more fragile and distinctive aromas are lost and oxidations increases. The result is lower quality oil and the content of health benefiting antioxidants and vitamins is greatly reduced. Cheap olive oil and olive paste is often pressed using warmer temperatures to maximise the quantity rather than quality of the produce.
Modern Olive Oil Production
In the EU the qualification for using the terms Extra Virgin and Virgin Olive Oil are regulated by article 5 of Regulation 1019 of 2002. However, these regulations are not so strictly applied to olive oils produced outside the EU, and many people say that for oils massed produced from places such as California “Cold Pressed” is merely as a marketing term with little regard for its actual technical meaning.
Like many other products that have suffered in quality in the quest for mass production techniques, in the last fifty years or so there has been a huge shift towards using centrifugal extraction of oil from olives.
This is why this site favours the produce from Greece as most of the brands there still use traditional methods to extract their olive oil, even if the machinery used is somewhat more modern these days!
Photo Credit: Ronald Saunders