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Cold Extraction vs Millstones: Traditional Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Cold Extraction vs Millstones: Traditional Doesn’t Always Mean Better

How many times have you heard that ‘traditional’ is synonymous with ‘better’?

You have surely heard phrases like:

“this is the method used for generations…”

“my grandparents have always done it this way”

This belief is rooted in many aspects of our culture, especially when it comes to food.

However, this rule is not always a guarantee of quality, as in the case of extra virgin olive oil!

For millennia, the process of extracting olive oil has not undergone major changes.

estrazione olio tramite macine

The traditional method, also used by the Romans, consists of two or more granite millstones that rotate and crush the olives to form a pulp.

This pulp is then collected and spread on interwoven mesh discs called fiscoli, which are in turn stacked on top of each other and pressed with presses. Imagine them like a large sieve.

In this way, a liquid composed of olive oil and water is extracted, which will be separated by centrifugation.

Broadly speaking, this is how we have extracted olive oil for the last few millennia. A simple but slow and costly method that produces, as we will see, an olive oil of inferior quality.

How is olive oil extraction done now?

estrazione olio mediante macchine a ciclo continuo

At Oilalà, we exclusively use the modern continuous cycle method, where all the machines are connected to each other and work without interruptions.

In this case, the olives are turned into pulp by machines (crushers) that, thanks to their high rotation speed, transform the olives into pulp in a very short time, preventing them from heating up too much.

This method is also known as cold extraction because throughout the process, a temperature below 27°C (80.6°F) is maintained

But why does the traditional method produce an olive oil of inferior quality?

  1. Many mills do not have leaf removers: this is because leaves and twigs do not damage the machinery. The result? A beautiful extra virgin olive oil with a taste of dirty leaves…
  2. It is not possible to control the temperature throughout the process: if the olives are hot, they cannot be cooled, risking fermentation. Remember, heat is the enemy of extra virgin olive oil, and due to the presses, temperatures can even reach 40°C!
  3. The grinding time with the large granite wheels is long, and the pulp remains in contact with oxygen for a long time, generating oxidation processes even before extraction. Oxygen is the second enemy of EVO oil!
  4. The millstones are not thoroughly washed between one grinding and the next. This is impossible because the slightly porous granite wheels accumulate processing residues. In short, not the best…
  5. The fiscoli (the ‘sieves’, so to speak) are not well washed after each use! Personally, I have not seen any traditional mill wash them so well that they become white (their true color). On the contrary, dark, i.e., dirty fiscoli are used, and their use contaminates the olive oil.
  6. All the processing takes place outdoors, and therefore dust, dirt, various residues, are free to come into contact with the pulp and fix themselves in the olive oil. What a treat!

With the modern continuous cycle method, however, all these problems have been solved because:

  1. The entire process takes place at a rigorously controlled temperature below 27°CT
  2. The time in contact with oxygen is significantly less as the processing is faster and takes place indoors
  3. There are no dirty fiscoli or millstones, but the machinery is all made of easily washable stainless steel
  4. The mills are obliged to use leaf removers, otherwise leaves and twigs would damage the expensive machinery

How much can all this affect the taste of the olive oil?

Temperature, as I have already said, is the enemy of olive oil.

Actually, it’s the enemy of quality olive oil!

Let me explain.

The higher the temperature, the more the paste is worked for a longer time, and the more olive oil is extracted!

Great, right?

Unfortunately, high temperatures and long processing times destroy many of the beneficial properties of extra virgin olive oil.

The olive oil obtained from the traditional method is an olive oil with a more neutral taste and a much lower number of polyphenols and beneficial properties than that extracted cold due to the higher temperature and oxygen.

Cold-extracted olive oil, in fact, has a much stronger and better taste, with many more polyphenols and beneficial substances, so quality does not go hand in hand with quantity.

On the other hand, with the traditional method, it is possible to obtain about 50% more olive oil. This is also why there are cheaper extra virgin oils…


One of the mantras that has accompanied our company from its inception to today has been ‘search for quality at any cost’, which is why we exclusively use the modern continuous cycle method.

In fact, if machines and systems that produce better quality olive oil are introduced, we will be the first to use them.

So for this reason, traditional does not always mean better!

Discover our majolica

The best Italian extra virgin olive oil in the world (according to WREVOO) in the beautiful Oilalà majolica

Here for you our proposal: Extra Virgin Olive Oil Majolica

Fonte foto fiscoli wikipedia

Categorized: Blog Oilalà