Olive oil has become an indispensable food for many people and is used to a greater extent in the Mediterranean diet. As it is known by most people, extra virgin olive oil is considered to be of superior category as it is obtained from the best olives and exclusively by mechanical processes. But not all olive oils authorized for consumption are extra virgin. For this reason, the European Commission created a regulation on olive oil to preserve and guarantee the quality and transparency of the different types of olive oil. This is determined according to the extraction process, acidity and other characteristics obtained through analysis in an authorized laboratory. Even in high quality oils, odor and flavor are measured. In this post we are going to talk about the different types of spanish olive oil.
This spanish olive oil is extracted exclusively by mechanical processes. It must have a maximum acidity of 0.8%. It must be analyzed in a laboratory to determine this percentage. The acidity is related to the amount of free fatty acids in the oil, the lower the acidity the better the quality of the oil. When there is more acidity it means that the olives are not at their maximum level of health, such as those picked from the ground or chopped olives.
There are more parameters that are measured in this spanish olive oil. The peroxide index, which is the amount of active oxygen in the oil and gives us its degree of oxidation. It should not exceed 20 meq/kg (milliequivalents of oxygen per kilogram). K270 indicates the degree of oxidation caused by alterations, contamination or handling of the product. And the waxes that pass into the oil due to the presence of dirt, high temperature or improper storage and as we can see, exhaustive analyses are carried out to know if the oil is extra virgin or if it has been adulterated.
When buying an extra virgin olive oil, it is a synonym of quality that is certified by the Regulatory Council of an authorized Denomination of Origin. The D.O.P. Sierra de Cazorla is one of the most demanding in the world and establishes parameters far below those established by European regulations. For all these reasons, the extra virgin olive oil is the best of all being named as «liquid gold«.
Virgin olive oil.
Virgin olive oil is the juice extracted in the same way as extra virgin olive oil, but its degree of acidity is higher than that of its brother. In this case it cannot exceed 2%. Its free fatty acid content is higher because the olives are in worse condition. They are usually extra virgin olive oils that narrowly miss the parameters so they become only virgin olive oils. Their difference is usually in their taste or smell, which is of poorer quality. However, it is safe for consumption. It is usually used more for cooking than for raw use, since its flavor is less intense.
Lampante olive oil.
This oil is the juice resulting from olives of poorer quality, usually the last olives of the season or collected from the ground. It has an acidity higher than 2% and is not suitable for human consumption. This type of oil is used by industrial refineries to produce other products. Unfortunately, many brands have slipped into supermarkets with this type of oil for consumption being catalogued as extra virgin. It is dangerous for human beings.
Olive oil (refined + virgin).
There are many oils that have a label on which is written mild and intense. This oil is a commercial category for olive oil containing a mixture of virgin and lampante olive oil. They must have a maximum acidity level of 1.5%. This level can be manipulated during chemical processes. This type of oil usually has less flavor and loses a lot of natural antioxidants present in virgin oils. The olive oil that is sold to us as «mild» or «intense» is refined olive oil, do not be fooled.
It contains a mixture of virgin olive oils and oils obtained from the solid residue of the olive called «orujo». Its acidity is 1.5% maximum, so it is suitable for previous consumption. This oil is similar to the previous one, except that the residues do not come from refined lampante oil, but from the solid residue resulting from the mechanical extraction process in the oil mills. The pomace is a dark mass that is deposited in special tanks during the olive season, after which it is transferred to the orujeras (a type of mill). This oil is very typical of our bars and restaurants as it is used to grease frying griddles… and at a very cheap price. Obviously the extra virgin oil is still better for consumption.
Apart from these types of oils, we have other subtypes of oils. These can be determined by the variety of olive (picual, royal, hojiblanca, arbequina,… etc), its geographical origin or its extraction process. What we recommend is that you buy and try the oils yourself and decide which one suits you best.