Walk into a market and you’ll see first cold pressed proudly displayed on dozens of bottles of extra virgin olive oil. It might be in bold or highlighted because the point is to draw extra attention to the fact that the oil is in fact first cold pressed.
You might be saying, great, but what does it mean? Today we unpack the term and explain its origins.
What Does First Cold Pressed Mean?
First cold pressed means the extra virgin olive oil is made from the first milling of the olives, and during the milling process the olives and oil are not heated excessively.
There are clear rules and standards producers follow to create extra virgin olive oil. These standards include maximums and/or minimums of temperature at time of milling, acidity levels, polyphenol levels, sensory panel results, and more.
The Origin Of The Term
The phrase first cold pressed was used frequently prior to the 1960s. The term should be broken up into two parts, cold pressed and first pressed.
Cold Pressed Origin
For centuries only communal mills, made of several slabs of stone and pulled by livestock, were available. The friction of the stones throughout the day would cause the stones and thus the olives to heat up. The best olive oil was produced earliest in the day before the stones would heat excessively.
First Pressed Origin
The highest quality oil was also made using only the first pressing of the olives. When olives are milled what exits is technically juice because there is a large percentage of water within the fruit. This first ‘oil’ was considered the best and would be kept separate.
While the slabs would heat up and continued to mill the olives, there would be several millings/pressings of the ofruit in order to press as much oil out as possible. The subsequent millings were considered an inferior product.
Therefore, the highest quality EVOO was produced first and cold, hence the phrase first cold pressed.
The oil made earlier in the day with cold stones and during the first milling was reserved for nobility.
Related: What is an Olive Press?
Why Do We Still Say First Cold Pressed?
A lot of brands still use the term first cold pressed because it’s good for marketing. After the 1960s the olive oil industry experienced an industrial revolution of sorts.
Mills became completely mechanized as brands, such as Pieralisi, started making leaps and bounds with the creation of commercialized decanters and shortly after, the centrifuge.
Today almost everyone in the industry extracts oil from olives through mechanical means. Therefore, olives are milled and oil is extracted not pressed.
Modern technology also enables mill operators to set a maximum temperature at which the mill can operate usually 27 °C (80.6 °F). This means extra virgin olive oil is milled ‘cold’.
The term first cold pressed has stuck around but a more appropriate term would be first, cold milled. However, the term should just be retired, see below.
Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil First Cold Pressed Olive Oil?
In order for an extra virgin olive oil to be recognized as ‘extra virgin’, it must be 'first cold pressed'. Therefore, stating that an extra virgin olive oil is first cold pressed is redundant and unnecessary.
It’s like saying you’re driving with a driver’s license. Were you previously driving without one?
'First cold pressed' extra virgin olive oil is not something to be celebrated, it’s the bare minimum consumers should expect from producers and brands.
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