Olive Oil Acidity (Free Fatty Acid) Explained

Olive oil acidity is a measure of the free fatty acid content in the oil.

When people talk about olive oil acidity they're referring to free fatty acid, FFA. Free fatty acid is a physicochemical measurement used by producers and farmers to better understand the health of their olive trees and fruit.

Olive oil has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine for centuries, but it has gained global popularity in recent years for its numerous health benefits. It's a rich source of healthy fats and antioxidants, making it an ideal choice for a healthy diet.

However, not all olive oils are created equal. One of the key factors that determine the quality of olive oil is its acidity, or rather FFA, as far as the physicochemical part is concerned.

In this article, we explore everything you need to know about olive oil acidity, including what it is, how it affects the quality of oil, and how to choose the best quality oil based on FFA.

olive oil acidity

What is Olive Oil Acidity (Oleic Acid)

Olive oil acidity, or free fatty acid, is the detachment of glycerol from the fatty acid chain. When this happens the acid fat becomes ‘free’, detached from its chain.

As stated previously, the term olive oil acidity is incorrect. However, it has been used by many brands and producers and adopted by the public so it's challenging to reverse the term.

In addition, the word acidity often makes consumers think the oil will actually taste acidic which is also incorrect. More on that below.

olive oil acidity

Why Free Fatty Acid is Important for Olive Oil

Extra virgin olive oil must have free fatty acid below 0.8 grams per 100 grams, or 0.8%. If an oil doesn’t have an FFA below 0.8% it does not qualify as extra virgin. 

FFA is one of the most crucial physicochemical factors in the olive oil industry. It provides information for if an extra virgin olive oil is genuine and the smoke point. In addition, it tell us if the oil will remain stable over time in conjunction with other factors connected to free acidity.

The FFA can even be an indicator of bad weather and bugs. For example, olives that were heavily affected by certain types of insects may have a higher acidity.

However, poor harvesting and milling methods can also affect the free fatty acid. For example, olives that sit in a bin for too long before milling can potentially increase in acidity.

Related: What Makes Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 'Extra Virgin'

olive oil acidity

Can You Taste Free Fatty Acid

No, you cannot taste if an oil has high free fatty acid. A high FFA is not an indication of whether an extra virgin olive oil tastes good or bad.

In fact, free fatty acid can only be measured by a lab test. The measurement is used to determine if the olives and trees are in good health.

Should Acidity Impact How Consumers Shop

It's an important factor  to consider when choosing a high-quality extra virgin olive oil. This is because the FFA he acidity level not only affects the shelf life of the product but also indicates its quality.

However, it's not the most important factor, and everyday consumers should not obsess over finding an oil with the lowest FFA possible. This is because all true extra virgin olive oils have a free fatty acid level below 0.8%.

The best practices is to find several high-quality olive oils you enjoy and cycle threw the bottles regularly.

How Free Fatty Acid Measured

FFA is measured as a percentage of oleic acid. It is not an indicator of the nutritional value of olive oil and the ideal acidity level for olive oil depends on its intended use.

olive oil acidity

What Causes Olive Oil to Become Acidic

The acidity of olive oil can increase due to improper handling and storage, as well as exposure to extreme cold, heat, light, and air.

Can High Acidity Olive Oil be Used for Skin Care?

Yes, it can be used for skin care! If you're looking for a brand that incorporates olive oil into its products try Jordan Samuel Skin.

How Long Can Olive Oil be Stored Without its Acidity Level Increasing?

Olive oil can be stored for up to 18-24 months without significant changes in its acidity level if stored in a cool, dark place and sealed tightly.

You might also like...

Does Olive Oil Freeze

Everything You Need to Know About Green Olives

A Guide to Black Olives

Hey, have you ordered  our book The Olive Oil Enthusiast yet?

If you learned something new or have opinions on this topic, please leave a comment and let us know your thoughts! We love to hear from you and do respond to comments. If you’re on Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook don’t forget to tag us and use #EXAUoliveoil so we can repost!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

Shop real olive oil

Explore the Blog

Explore our blog, a space completely dedicated to helping olive oil lovers better understand their favorite cooking fat!

Explore now


Shop our collection of high-quality, polyphenol rich Italian olive oils. Exclusively produced along the Ionian coast of Calabria, southern Italy for almost 100 years.

We conveniently deliver the freshest and most delicious products directly to your home or business.

Shop now