Classification of Olive Oils


The classification of olive oil is based on the amount of acidic fats in the oil and varies based on climate, pressing technique, and the length of time between picking and pressing. Acidity is a reflection of the amount of oleic acid in the oil, which is also affected by the quality of the olives and the manner in which they are harvested. The more acidic the oil, the more it can withstand high temperatures.

A good quality olive oil retains much of the flavor of the fruit of the olive. The best ones are stone pressed and unfiltered. The more refined the oil, the more the oil loses flavor and taste.

The more fruity and aromatic the oil, the greater is its nutritional value.

1. Extra Virgin Olive Oil has an acidity level of 1% or less. Acidity is a function of oleic acid concentration. Extra Virgin is the healthiest and tastiest form of olive oil. It is not a good oil to cook with since its smoke point is around 370 degrees.

2. Soprafino Virgin Olive Oil is 2% acidic. 400 degree SP

3. Fino Virgin Olive Oil is produced by industrial refining and is even more acidic with up to 3 % acid and a SP of 420

4. Virgin Olive Oil is a light colored oil that contains 4% acid.

Sansa (Pomace) is highly refined oil that is obtained by solvents used to dissolve the pulpy residue (sansa). The sansa still contains oil but requires more extensive processes to extract it. The resulting oil contains more than 4% acidic components and many chemical imperfections. Since the refined oil is devoid of flavor and taste, it is often blended with Extra Virgin oil to lend  flavor to the oil and makes a good choice for high temperature cooking.

The Food and Drug Administration now permits food manufacturers to claim that olive oil can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease due to its monounsaturated fat content.

Extra-virgin olive oil is the least acidic of the olive oils. The best extra-virgin olive oil contains less that 1% free acid. Acidity lends a sensation of sourness to the oil. The less free fatty acids in the oil, the better the tasting oil. Extra-virgin olive oil is much less acidic than virgin olive oil.  The more an oil is refined, the higher its oleic acid content.

Differences in extra virgin batches are due to the region and climate where the olives were cultivated. The type of olive and the manner in which the olives are harvested provide other flavor differences.

Virgin olive oil is the most common olive oil found in supermarkets. They are good oils for light cooking. Virgin olive oil lacks the flavor, aroma and phytopigments of extra virgin but is more heat resistant.

Extra light and light olive oils are more refined, have less taste and phytochemicals but still retains the calories of the more pigmented extra virgin. These light olive oils are even more heat resistant and make a better choice for cooking.

Extra virgin olive oil is the preferred type since it contains all the unaltered phytochemicals, nutrients, flavors and aromas of the whole olive. These compounds give olive oil its distinctive fruity flavor and provides important health benefits.

The health benefits attributed to olive oil include an improved  lipid profile and lower cholesterol levels. It is also thought to prevent cancer though its library of olive polyphenols, flavonoids and tocopherols..