General Characteristics and Classification Back to Main

Olive oil is generally classified by the level of free acidity in terms of free oleic acid. The classification must also meet certain organoleptic criteria in terms of taste and aroma. Free acidity level per se is not a criterion for quality but when paired with peroxide level, they are complementary to the organoleptic characteristics. Olive oil can be conveniently classified as follows:-

Virgin Olive Oil

Only oil extracted using solely mechanical means without the addition of chemicals or other types of oil can be called Virgin Olive Oil. Virgin olive oil with free acidity level of 3.3% or less is fit for consumption as it is. Those with free acidity level of less than 0.8% can be qualified into Extra-Virgin subcategory. Virgin olive oil with more than 3.3% free acidity is not fit for consumption as it is and must be sent for further refining to reduce the free acidity level.

Refined Olive Oil

Refined Olive Oil, as its name suggests, is obtained after refining virgin olive oil with original free acidity level exceeding 3.3%. The refined oil will contain less than 0.3% free acidity level. Refined olive oil by itself is tasteless and associated with low quality olives. Therefore, it is normally blended with virgin olive oil to obtain some aromatic and taste characteristics.

Olive Oil (Pure Olive Oil)

The ordinary olive oil, commonly labelled as “Olive Oil” or “Pure Olive Oil”, is a blend of refined olive oil with virgin olive oil. Such blend aims to achieve free acidity level of less than 1% with some aroma and taste.

Light Olive Oil is obtained when the ordinary olive oil undergoes a fine filtration process. It is lighter in colour and aroma, and contains the same calories with other regular olive oil.

There is another type of oil called Olive-Pomace Oil. Pomace is the leftover pulp of olive fruits after processing. The remaining oil in the pomace is extracted using chemicals and further blended with virgin olive oil. Olive-pomace oil is not recognized (and not to be confused) as olive oil.