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  Olive Press

I have had numerous people ask me whether the wine press could be used to press olives to make olive oil. This is something that I have been thinking about for a number of years and over the last year or so I have been seriously investigating the possibility.

Why the interest?

For those that have read the About me page would have gathered, I love the idea of making things myself and getting back to basics. Wine making was one of those things and olive oil seemed the logical extension - these two foods in particular typify the Mediterranean way of life and everything that is healthy (the Mediterranean diet is commonly thought to be very healthy) and holy (both are frequently referred to in the Bible).

The secondary reason for olive oil was to extend the use of the press I had already made for wine making.

What research have I done?

I searched high and wide in libraries, new and used book stores and of course, the Internet (search engines and user groups etc). Very quickly, I discovered that there is very little information on making olive oil at home. Most books and articles only discuss commercial olive oil production techniques and either totally ignore the traditional techniques or discuss them very briefly, giving no useful information.

Most sites on the Internet about olive oil either relate to cooking, commercial olive oil producers or equipment manufactures selling their wares. These start from US$20,000 to well over US$100,000. The cheapest had a crusher/press set up for around US$2,400 (see the Referenced Sites later on). While this seemed reasonable enough, I wanted to be able to design and build it myself for a fraction of this price (my budget was around US$400).

The olive oil making process

The process of making olive oil is as follows:
1. The olives are washed to remove leaves, sand, debris etc.
2. Olives are then crushed into a paste (like coarse sand).
3. Paste is mixed for approx. 40mins to bring together the microscopic oil molecules.
4. Olive paste is pressed to separate the oil/water mixture from the solids (pomace).
5. Oil is separated from the water.
6. The oil is finally cleared by filtration.

In a commercial operation, all these processes can be done automatically with no human intervention at any of the steps (although sometimes that last step is done after some months to allow the larger suspended particles to naturally settle before the final filtration).

If one were to make oil at home, the cleaning, separation (by decanting) and filtering could quite easily be done by hand. However, it is the mixing, pressing and crushing (in that order) that seem the most difficult.

... more page two

 
 

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Last Updated: 15 August 2009