Today we went to a little mountain town outside of Rome to see the olives get pressed into olive oil. The little pressing operation we went to wasn't a mega operation, but rather a community press that the local farmers brought their olives to be pressed at. As such it used an older method for pressing, slightly more labor-intensive but less wasteful. When we entered the town, we could smell the olive oil several hundred yards away where we parked the car. It was amazing how powerful it was.
The first step in the process is dumping the collected olives in the main hopper.
From the hopper they travel up this chute which functions like an escalator.
Into this trough which tumbles them with water to remove the dirt and debris. The water drains away at the bottom.
While the clean olives get dumped into another hopper at the other end.
The olives are then ground, and transported using a screw up into the final hopper where they are pulverized by two large marble mill stones. This is the olive paste you see.
The olive paste is then transferred by another screw to a spreader machine that resembles a sausage stuffer. The spreader applies a layer of olive paste to these mats you see below. The mats are made out of plastic fibers so that the oil can be squeezed through but not the pits, skin, etc.
A man operates the spreader and layers mats on after each layer of paste has been applied, much like stacking pancakes .
This is a shot of a stack of mats and olive paste, ready to be pressed.
The stack is then wheeled over to one of the giant presses, which exerts up to 9 tons of pressure.
The stack of mats is in the press, getting pressed. The oil and water flow down into the tanks under the floor and are transferred to another portion of the room where a centrifuge spins the water out of the oil, separating the two. The water is then drained off, and the oil is passed through a filter to remove any remaining impurities.
The brilliant green oil is then piped into stainless steel or plastic jugs, ready for use.