What Does “First Cold Pressed” Olive Olive Oil Really Mean?

An e-mail landed in my Inbox recently asking me a question:

I usually look for “first cold pressed” when buying olive oil. I did not see any information about your pressing process on your site. Can you please let me know if I can get “first cold pressed”?

We get this question – or some variation of it – a lot. And I can understand the confusion out there, because some very large olive oil producers stamp “First Cold Press” on their labels.

I’ll try to clear up the confusion.

To be officially certified “extra virgin,” an olive oil must be first cold pressed. If it’s not first cold pressed, it can’t qualify as extra virgin olive oil under standards established by the International Olive Council or the California Olive Oil Council.

Consequently, you can’t have two different EVOOs – one which is first cold pressed, and one which isn’t. All of the oil we produce is certified extra virgin olive oil. It’s entirely first cold pressed.

First cold pressed, by the way, isn’t an official designation for olive oil. It basically means the fruit of the olive was crushed exactly one time – i.e., the “first press.” The “cold” refers to the temperature range of the fruit at the time it’s crushed.

The temperature during processing can’t exceed 86 degrees Fahrenheit, note olive oil experts Paul Vossen and Alexandra Devarenne of the University of California Cooperative Extension.

If the temperature range is too high during the crushing process, the quality of the oil will suffer. Lower quality oils – those that aren’t extra virgin – typically are crushed multiple times and at higher temperatures to extract more oil from the fruit. The resulting oil is much lower in quality.

And please note: The “First Cold Press” label doesn’t always ensure good quality. Moreover, the term is outdated.

“This is a relic of the days when olive paste was actually pressed between mats to extract the oil (nowadays almost all extraction is done with a centrifuge),” write the UC’s Vossen and Devarenne.

“The second (hot) press was done to squeeze out more oil from the fermented waste pomace, producing a very low quality oil which was then refined or burned in lamps.”

I hope I’ve cleared up some of the confusion. And please feel free to ask us any questions you may have about olive oil. We love the topic!

Bon appétit,

Claude S. Weiller
Vice President of Sales & Marketing
California Olive Ranch

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