Olive Oil Process
This is a typical example of small olive-oil processing, from the modernized mill in a small Provencal town. The photos used for this description of the olive-oil process were taken at the Callas Mill (Moulin de Callas) in the Var. For an quick overview of the process, step through the photo gallery photos once before reading the description below.
Olives, Olive Oil | Process |
The freshly gathered olives arrive at the mill from the nearby olive orchards [Photo 1, Photo 2]. About 5 kg of olives are required to make 1 litre of olive oil. The olives are started on the milling process quickly, within a few hours or a few days at the most. If the olives sit around long enough they will begin to ferment on their own.
1 - Cleaning (Effoliage)
The first step of the process is to clean the olives of leaves, twigs and other debris from the orchard. In [Photo 3] you see a bin of olives being tipped into the hopper of the cleaning maching. A water bath and forced air vaccuming separates out the debris. Photo 4 shows the clean olives as they are about to be conveyed into the mill building and into the grinding machine.
2 - Grinding (Broyage)
In this stage, the olives, pits and all, are ground up into a pasty mixture. The front of the grinding machine is visible in the right-hand corner of Photo 5. The ground-up mixture is pumped through small hoses to the mixing machine.
3 - Mixing (Malaxage)
The olive-mill mixing machines are the long machines in the center of Photo 5. These mixing machines uses spiral blades to blend the ground olives into a smooth consistancy [Photo 6] before being sent to the separator.
4 - Solid-Liquid Separation (Centrifugation horizontal)
The separator machine (far left of Photo 5) is a horizontal cetrifuge that separates the oily liquid from the solid part of the olive paste. The liquid part is pumped to the final filtering machine while the solid part is sent away to be re-cycled.
5 - Final Filtering (Centrifugation vertical)
The now-liquid olive oil passes through a vertical centrifugal filter [Photo 7] to extract the water from the oil.
At this final stage, the oils from different olive batches can be blended to produce the desired type of olive oil. The Moulin de Callas, however, produces only one type of olive oil, called "fruité vert".
The solid part of the olive-paste mixture, once separated from the oil, is loaded into trailers and hauled back to the olive orchards to be used as a natural fertalizer, completing the orchard-to-orchard cycle.