Unfiltered Olive Oil: What Is It Really?

We live in a world of illusions, delusions and fantasies. Sometimes it’s too hard not to lose the boundaries of common sense.

In recent years, it has become fashionable to consume unfiltered olive oil. People dress their salads, fry in this oil, add it to fish and cheese dishes, or simply drink it in the morning on an empty stomach.

This popularity is based on the fantasy that unfiltered olive oil is more natural, authentic, fresher and healthier than filtered olive oil. Distinguished by its turbidity and dense consistency, it is considered the best gourmet olive oil and the gastronomic pinnacle of Mediterranean cuisine.

Actually it’s not. This turbidity has nothing to do with the naturalness or quality of the olive oil, but is only caused by residues of small particles of fruit pulp and some residual moisture. 

In this article, we will talk about what unfiltered olive oil is and try to answer the question of how it is better (or worse) than filtered olive oil.

To begin with, it should be noted that filtered and unfiltered olive oils are both natural olive oils obtained by the first cold pressing.

Unfiltered oil is produced in the same way as filtered oil, with one difference: there is no filtration during the production of unfiltered oil.

Filtration is the process of passing a liquid through a filter, which must be made of a porous material that allows this liquid to be cleaned of the materials it contains in suspension. This is what we do, for example, when making broth to remove solid ingredients, or when making coffee in a coffee machine. 

How Is Olive Oil Filtered?

Freshly harvested olives are processed in the olive mill. They are washed, separated from the branches and leaves, and then ground to a paste.

Further, with the help of a centrifuge, olive oil is obtained from this paste, which is passed through special filters that absorb all moisture residues and the smallest particles of olive paste.

This procedure is carried out immediately after pressing the olive oil and before bottling. The result is a clear, bright, golden-green olive oil.

Why is filtering necessary? Filtration of olive oil aims to remove any impurities and moisture. This allows you to keep extra virgin olive oil in good condition for a long time, saving all its organoleptic qualities.

But what if we exclude the filtration procedure from the olive oil production process? In this case, we get unfiltered olive oil that still contains some solid compounds and a small amount of water.

This is not dirt or harmful impurities, these are tiny remains of the olive paste from which the oil is obtained. You can filter your unfiltered oil yourself with an ordinary coffee filter. You will be able to try the taste and aroma of filtered oil and compare it to unfiltered. You’ll see that by changing the appearance, it does not lose its flavour.

How Are They Different? Appearance.

Unfiltered olive oil has a pronounced greenish colour, cloudy appearance and somewhat thicker consistency, while filtered oil is brighter and clearer.

We already know why this is so: unfiltered olive oil contains particles of the pulp, peel and pits of the olives, as well as moisture residues that are removed during filtration.

These impurities remain integrated into the olive juice and settle naturally over time, which means that due to the difference in density, the impurities sink to the bottom of the bottle. This process is slow and largely depends on the olive ripening stage and the storage temperature.

In this way, you get a cloudier and denser olive oil with beautiful visual effects that do not affect the content of polyphenols, vitamins and minerals in the product itself. 

Health Benefits of Unfiltered Olive Oil

Well, it’s very simple. There is no evidence that unfiltered extra virgin olive oil has more health benefits than filtered extra virgin olive oil. Period. 

Yes, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil has the same degree of acidity, the same amount of polyphenols, the same set of vitamins and minerals, and the same benefits for our body as filtered extra virgin olive oil. We’d like to add something, but honestly, there is nothing. 


The Biggest Difference Is in Taste

Unfiltered olive oil is no better than its filtered equivalent, but it has a slightly different taste, aroma, and texture that is really worth trying.

The fact is that this oil retains additional components, which gives the taste certain features. Its taste conveys all the nuances of freshly squeezed olives.

Unfiltered olive oil has a very intense bitterness and spiciness, a distinct burning sensation in the throat, and a powerful and fresh aftertaste.

As for the burning sensation in the throat, it’s hard to say that it is stronger than when swallowing filtered oil. This depends more on the olive ripeness than filtration.

The aroma of unfiltered oil is also distinguished by the richness of shades and various fruity nuances.

Another feature of the unfiltered product is its thickness, which gives the taste of a very rich and full-bodied olive oil in the mouth.

This thick consistency also influences the taste of the dish, revealing new and unusual nuances in it. However, let’s admit, most of us just don’t have such subtle gourmet tasting skills to feel all these shades.

As for filtered olive oil, it differs in smell and mouthfeel due to the removal of certain components. It cannot be said that the taste of such oil becomes poorer or more ascetic.

Yes, after de-pulping, olive oil loses some piquancy and viscosity, but at the same time, its olive taste becomes more pronounced.

In addition, this oil will gain stability and can be used for cooking at much higher temperatures. 


How Should You Consume Unfiltered Olive Oil?

Speaking of the taste of olive oil, we inevitably come to the question of its pairing with food. 

In general, unfiltered olive oil can be used in the daily diet as an addition to any meal. Its intense and fresh olive taste will give your dishes new flavours and you will be able to fully enjoy the whole palette of its flavours.

This oil is ideal for toast, salad dressings, pickles, cream soups, hummus and more. Also, its combination with dark chocolate and avocado will give gourmets an incredible pleasure.

However, if you want to use olive oil for cooking or frying, it is advisable to use filtered olive oil, as it retains its original properties better over time and withstands high temperatures better. 


What’s Wrong With Unfiltered Olive Oil?

So now we know enough about attractive features and rich taste of unfiltered olive oil, but does it have any disadvantages?

Yes, there is one, and a very serious one: it is short-lived. Unfiltered oil is much more delicate than filtered one and it spoils very quickly. 

As we already know, this oil contains impurities: particles of pulp, peel and olive stones. These impurities remain integrated into the structure of the olive oil for some time, but then naturally sink to the bottom of the container. 

The reason for this is the difference in density of this impurity and olive oil. This process is slow and largely depends on the degree of fruit ripeness, temperature and other storage conditions.

Also, unfiltered olive oil contains residual water from the olive fruit, which causes it to oxidise more quickly. Solid compounds settling to the bottom accelerate oxidation and decomposition. The interaction of residual moisture with particles of olive paste leads to the fact that the olive oil begins to ferment.

You can slow down this process if you store unfiltered oil in a place protected from light, heat, moisture and extreme temperature changes. However, in any case, this oil has a much shorter shelf life, averaging about six months before it starts to lose its properties.

You can use it after this period, but most of its flavour characteristics (what you bought this olive oil for) will have already been lost by this time.

Although… There are people who consider these changes in the taste of fermented olive oil to be its additional benefits. You know, gourmets – they are not quite ordinary people. 


How to Buy Unfiltered Olive Oil?

The best time to consume unfiltered olive oil is when it has just been produced and bottled, i.e. in November or December.

The best place to buy it is directly from the olive farm if you have such an opportunity. Also, you can buy unfiltered olive oil in specialised gourmet stores or farm stores and markets.

Unfiltered oil requires special care as it is more sensitive to high temperatures and temperature fluctuations than filtered olive oil. It can lose all of its features if too much time has passed between purchase and consumption and if it has not been stored properly.

For this reason, you need to think twice before buying unfiltered olive oil in the supermarket. Olive oil comes to the supermarket not from an olive farm, but from large olive oil factories.

This is not good. And it’s not just because the quality of their products always leaves much to be desired. The supply of goods to supermarkets is carried out through a complex logistics chain, and at each stage, olive oil is at risk of deterioration as a result of violation of the rules of storage and transportation. 

For filtered olive oil, breaking these rules is very bad. For unfiltered olive oil, it’s simply deadly.

Unfiltered olive oil is recommended to be stored in a dark and cool place and consumed relatively quickly. Usually, it is one week from the moment the bottle is opened.

Therefore, 3L or 5L cans of unfiltered olive oil should cause you a shock, slowly turning into quiet horror. Although of course, for a Mediterranean restaurant or a family of 30 it is an absolutely normal size.


Summary

You definitely shouldn’t go crazy for unfiltered olive oil, but if you’ve never tried it, be sure to do it. It is really beautiful, especially immediately after pressing, and if the high requirements for its storage have been met.

Therefore, when buying this oil, you should consider a few points:
1. Buy only fresh unfiltered olive oil between November and January and try to consume it within one week of opening the bottle. Don’t save it for a special occasion.
2. Don’t buy unfiltered oil in the supermarket, it’s too warm and light there. In addition, the logistics of supplying supermarkets do not provide for particularly careful handling of this product.
3. Store unfiltered olive oil at 12-15 °C in a dark place. There should be no sudden temperature changes, it is extremely important.
4. It is best to use this oil with it with cold dishes (salad, cheese, toast, avocado), so it better reveals its taste properties.
5. Do not fry in this oil. Unfiltered olive oil has a very low oxidation temperature, which kills the taste of the finished dish and is very harmful to your health. 

In our collection you will find unfiltered Slovenian olive oils Sopotnik and Vanja Couvee, and PROTOLEO – unfiltered olive oil made from wild olives from the Greek island of Lesvos.  

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