UNDERSTANDING EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL CHEMISTRY PROFILES
NOT ALL EXTRA-VIRGIN OLIVE OILS ARE CREATED EQUAL!
We hear the saying “I have the best olive oil” or “Italy makes the best olive oil” all the time. Well yes, it may be true that you have a high quality extra-virgin olive oil but how can you tell? The only way to have a level playing field when judging the quality of extra-virgin olive oils is to compare their chemistry profiles at the time of the olive crush. Although Italy is a beautiful country to visit, it is one of many countries that produce the finest extra-virgin olive oils. At EVOO Marketplace freshness and purity come first rather than the country of origin. We follow two olive crush cycles in the World, a Northern Hemisphere crush (U.S.A. Europe November-January) and Southern Hemisphere crush (South America, Australia – April-June). By doing so we ensure our customers that they are purchasing the freshest extra-virgin olive oil possible. What about purity? With the vast majority of imported “extra-virgin olive oils” being a blend of a small percent EVOO and the remainder Canola, Grapeseed, or Safflower oils it’s hard to tell if one can not sample prior to purchase. At EVOO Marketplace we allow our customers to sample all of ultra-premium extra-virgin olive oils prior to making a purchasing decision. More importantly we proudly display all of the olive oil chemistries which ensure us and our customers that our EVOO’s are FRESH and PURE. In addition to the chemical analysis of each EVOO we also display sensory (Bitterness, Fruitiness, Pungency) ratings on all of our ultra-premium EVOO’s. Unfortunately, the current regulations on imported extra-virgin olive oil is extremely loose and therefore the majority of so called “extra-virgin olive oils” found in big-box grocery stores and “specialty” shops are not the real deal. Below we present in-depth information on each of the olive oil chemistries that we track.
HARVEST & CRUSH DATE
Although not a chemistry this information is crucial when determining how fresh an extra-virgin olive oil is. Crush date is very different than an “Expiration” or “Best By” date as it informs the customer on what month and year the olives were crushed. Our Ultra Premium EVOO’s are ultra fresh for approximately 14 months from the crush/harvest date. We recommend consuming within 18 months.
FREE FATTY ACID (FFA)
Free fatty acid speaks to the condition of the fruit at the time of crush. The higher the FFA the greater the indication of poor quality fruit such as damaged, overripe, insect infestation, overheating during production or too much of a delay between harvest and crush.A low FFA is desirable. Low FFA also correlates with a higher smoke point. IOC maximum limit: 0.8%. EVOO Marketplace limit 0.3%.
A monounsaturated omega-9 fatty acid found in olive oil. Olive oil is generally higher in oleic acid than other vegetable fats. Extra virgin olive oil high in oleic acid has greater resistance to oxidation. IOC minimum limit = 55%. EVOO Marketplace minimum = 65%.
Polyphenols are a class of antioxidants found in a variety of foods. Polyphenols such as Oleuropein, Oleocanthal, and hydroxytyrosol impart intensity connected with pepper, bitterness and other desirable flavor characteristics. Recent studies indicate that these potent phenols are responsible for many of the health benefits associated with consuming fresh, high quality extra virgin olive oil. IOC limit N/A. EVOO Marketplace minimum limit = 130ppm.
Peroxide content speaks to the integrity of the olive at the time of crush. Unsaturated free fatty acids react with oxygen and form peroxides, which create a series of chain reactions that generate volatile substances responsible for a typical musty/rancid oil smell. A very low peroxide value is desirable. IOC maximum limit = 20ppm. EVOO Marketplace maximum limit = 9ppm.
Diacylglycerols are an indicator of the age of an oil. The chemical conversion of DAG’s form 1,2 to 1,3 takes place naturally as the oil ages. A higher DAG’s 1,2 is desirable: AOC minimum limit = 35%. EVOO Marketplace minimum limit = 90%.
Pyropheophytins are an indicator of the freshness of the olive oil. Degradation of chlorophylls to pyropheophytin was found to take place at a predictable pace, making it possible to gain information about the age of an olive oil. A low PPP content is desirable. AOC maximum limit = 17%. EVOO Marketplace maximum limit = 5%.