Olive Press
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The Greeks first began pressing olives over 5000 years ago. Extant Roman Era olive presses survive to the present time, with a notable collection present at Volubilis in Morocco.

Production

An olive press works by applying pressure to olive paste to separate the liquid oil and vegetation water from the solid material. The oil and vegetation water are then separated by standard decantation. This basic method is still widely used today, and it’s still a valid way of producing high quality olive oil if adequate precautions are taken. First, the olives are ground into an olive paste using large millstones. The olive paste generally stays under the stones for 30 to 40 minutes. 

This has three objectives:

  • To guarantee that the olives are well ground
  • To allow enough time for the olive drops to join to form the largest droplets of oil
  • To allow the fruit enzymes to produce some of the oil aromas and taste 

The liquids are then separated either by a standard process of decantation or by means of a faster vertical centrifuge. The traditional method is a valid form of producing high quality olive oil because Grindstones, while ancient in design, break up the Drupe’s [drupe in stone fruits] pulp while only slightly touching the pit and the skin avoiding the release of the oil oxidation enzymes present in the pit and skin. Also as compared to the modern methods, the need for water is minimal in preserving the Polyphenols. The resulting exhausted paste, called Pomace, is easier to handle when drier.