Master Milling Course Returns to UC Davis

The three-day course will go over every step of the olive oil production process with field trips to local olive oil mills to see those steps in action.

Aug. 8, 2018
By Daniel Dawson

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The University of California, Davis Master Miller Certificate Course returns to the Robert Mondavi Institute for its eleventh edi­tion in September.

The course is a huge first step in demys­ti­fy­ing the milling process so we can inno­vate and pro­duce bet­ter oils.- David Garci-Aguirre, Corto Olive

Forty atten­dees will learn about the inter­na­tional olive oil indus­try, olive oil chem­istry and har­vest­ing and milling best prac­tices. The goal of the pro­gram is to pro­vide tips and guid­ance for olive grow­ers and millers so that they can pro­duce higher qual­ity oil more efficiently. 

This year’s course will take place over three days instead of four and cost less than it pre­vi­ously has. 

We decided to try a lit­tle bit of a dif­fer­ent for­mat to make it more afford­able for peo­ple,” Dan Flynn, the direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center and one of the instruc­tors on the course, told Olive Oil Times. We still think the cost of the course is a good invest­ment and it will pay for itself many times over in higher qual­ity and bet­ter efficiency.”

According to a recent sur­vey from the UC Davis Olive Center, 90 per­cent of respon­dents believed that the course mate­r­ial would improve their qual­ity or effi­ciency and 72 per­cent said that the course was very likely” to lead to higher prof­itabil­ity for their own operations. 

Without this class, we would not be able to make high-qual­ity, award-win­ning extra vir­gin olive oil,” Malcolm Bond, a pre­vi­ous attendee and co-owner of Bondolio, told Olive Oil Times. The price of this sem­i­nar is a bar­gain. As an invest­ment, the first year’s crop paid for the class many times over.”

During the three days all of the same mate­r­ial will be cov­ered, but more effi­ciently, accord­ing to Flynn. The first two days will be held in the Silverado Sensory Theater and are more aca­d­e­mic. The last day will include sev­eral field trips to local mills where the atten­dees will see what they have learned being put into prac­tice, and they will have the oppor­tu­nity to net­work and try var­i­ous local prod­ucts, includ­ing olive oil and wine. 

The course cov­ers some of the most advanced approaches to milling avail­able, but also cov­ers the basic fun­da­men­tals,” David Garci-Aguirre, another pre­vi­ous attendee and vice pres­i­dent of oper­a­tions and mas­ter miller at Corto Olives, told Olive Oil Times. 

What I learned imme­di­ately is that a lot of the old milling lore’ cir­cu­lat­ing the indus­try in California sim­ply wasn’t true or backed by any evi­dence. The course is a huge first step in demys­ti­fy­ing the milling process so we can inno­vate and pro­duce bet­ter oils.”

After a brief overview of the global olive oil sec­tor, the instruc­tors begin with what hap­pens to the olives in the field and how this influ­ences the qual­ity of the oil. 

Before we even get to the pro­cess­ing, there’s talk of the things hap­pen­ing out in the field and how they have an impact on olive oil qual­ity,” Flynn said. So things like the mois­ture con­tent of the fruit are really impor­tant for the grower to deter­mine how much oil they are going to get and also the qual­ity of the oil.”

This is fol­lowed by tips on how to deter­mine the best time to har­vest the olives as well as pro­tect­ing the qual­ity of the fruit between the tree and the crusher. 

You can mea­sure the oil accu­mu­la­tion in the fruit and when that hits a plateau then you are not going to get any more oil accu­mu­lat­ing and at that moment you’re also prob­a­bly going to have your high­est phe­no­lic con­tent,” Flynn said. So the course talks about how the grower can deter­mine when that point is.” 

These steps will be fol­lowed by a thor­ough walk­through of the entire milling process, begin­ning with assess­ing the fruit once it arrives in the mill and fin­ish­ing with the best prac­tices for stor­ing and pack­ag­ing the final product. 

When I started milling and took this class the first time […] I learned that every year the har­vest is dif­fer­ent and that small adjust­ments to pro­cess­ing equip­ment along with har­vest­ing tech­niques has a great effect on pro­duc­ing qual­ity extra vir­gin olive oil,” Larry Treat, the mill man­ager at Lucero Olive Oil, told Olive Oil Times.

The course will also entail a tast­ing ses­sion, but with a twist. The atten­dees will be able to taste olive oil that has been har­vested from fruits where some­thing went wrong along the way. Flynn said that this allows millers to really appre­ci­ate how some small dif­fer­ences have large impacts on flavor. 

There will be some tastes that give exam­ples of just how much dif­fer­ence it makes to har­vest the olives in a span of a few weeks on the fla­vor pro­file of the oil using the same vari­ety,” he said. 

We will also taste some oils made with fruit that was dam­aged in some way. In the past, we’ve had fruit that has had frost dam­age [and] what the atten­dees found is the pro­file of that oil will have this sort of stewed fruit qual­ity and it will also oxi­dize very quickly.”

Along with Flynn, Leandro Ravetti and Selina Wang will be among the course instruc­tors. Ravetti is an agri­cul­tural engi­neer with more than 20 years of olive oil pro­duc­tion and research expe­ri­ence. Wang is the research direc­tor of the UC Davis Olive Center and the leader of its olive oil lab.

The course is set to run from September 26 to 28 and reg­is­tra­tion ends September 17. The price is $875 until August 10 and $1075 after­ward. Register online here.





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