How to Store Extra Virgin Olive Oil at Home

Optimal storage entails protecting EVOO from light, heat and oxygen. Proper storage will ensure olive oil’s quality and health benefits are preserved for as long as possible.

Sep. 28, 2021
By Paolo DeAndreis

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Extra vir­gin olive oil (EVOO) is the flag­ship ingre­di­ent of the Mediterranean diet.

Its healthy prop­er­ties are the focus of hun­dreds of sci­en­tific stud­ies, while EVOO’s unique fla­vor makes it a cher­ished secret ingre­di­ent of many chefs around the world.

The Michelin-star chef Luigi Sartini, in San Marino, told Olive Oil Times almost all of my recipes end up with an extra vir­gin olive oil fin­ish­ing.”

See Also: Olive Oil Basics

Given its sig­nif­i­cance as a high-qual­ity ingre­di­ent, more peo­ple around the world are choos­ing extra vir­gin olive oil for use at home.

Once in the kitchen, extra vir­gin olive oil must be prop­erly han­dled and stored to pre­serve its healthy char­ac­ter­is­tics and its spe­cial fla­vor over time.

Storing larger quan­ti­ties of EVOO

Oxygen is the biggest threat to extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity. Contact with oxy­gen is the lead­ing cause of oxi­da­tion (light and heat cause oxi­da­tion too).

Some of EVOO’s most impor­tant com­po­nents, such as its polyphe­nols and toco­pherols, play a role in defin­ing its fla­vor and healthy prop­er­ties as well as in pre­serv­ing its qual­ity.

When EVOO comes into con­tact with oxy­gen, it oxi­dizes. When this hap­pens, the polyphe­nols oxi­date first, pro­tect­ing the pro­duc­t’s fatty acids.

Producers deploy a num­ber of pro­ce­dures and tech­nolo­gies to limit or even avoid con­tact with oxy­gen. They know that han­dling is cru­cial, and that is as true at home, where EVOO may be stored for months before its actual use.

High-qual­ity EVOO is often directly bought from the pro­ducer, who sells it in sealed con­tain­ers that can hold dif­fer­ent quan­ti­ties, usu­ally up to five liters.

To pre­serve EVOO, every con­tainer, big or small, shall have to be filled up to the top and be cor­rectly sealed, to reduce as much as pos­si­ble the space avail­able for oxy­gen,” Alessandro Ceraudo, a pro­ducer in Latera, Italy, told Olive Oil Times. Once opened for daily use, the can or bot­tle should always be prop­erly closed imme­di­ately after.”

The tem­per­a­ture fac­tor

EVOO is a resilient prod­uct and is eas­ily shipped by pro­duc­ers all over the world. Still, func­tional stor­age of EVOO cans and bot­tles in the home requires avoid­ing extremely low or high tem­per­a­tures.

The opti­mal tem­per­a­ture range for EVOO stor­age is between 14 ºC and 18 ºC. Such a range con­tributes to longer dura­bil­ity for the most rel­e­vant EVOO prop­er­ties. Still, many of its qual­i­ties will be safe even if tem­per­a­tures fall sig­nif­i­cantly out of that range.

Under 12 °C, EVOO might begin to show signs of solid­i­fi­ca­tion, but that will not dam­age its organolep­tic and nutri­tional qual­i­ties. Such dam­age can instead occur when tem­per­a­tures get too close to 0 °C.

On the other end of the spec­trum, higher tem­per­a­tures also lead to oxi­da­tion.

EVOO thrives in the dark

Light has a sig­nif­i­cant effect on extra vir­gin olive oil qual­ity and dura­bil­ity.

An EVOO stored in full light will quickly lose its healthy pro­file, even degrade in a mat­ter of months to the point of no longer being edi­ble.

Among the rea­sons for this is the role exerted by chloro­phyll, an EVOO com­po­nent that is trig­gered by light expo­sure. Once this hap­pens, the chloro­phyll destroys other cru­cial EVOO con­tents.

Storing EVOO in the dark guar­an­tees a dura­tion that is almost three times longer than stor­ing it in the light.

More specif­i­cally, EVOO’s healthy prop­er­ties are eas­ily pre­served in the dark and can still fully express them­selves in terms of fla­vor and health ben­e­fits even after pro­longed stor­age.

While dark glass bot­tles, bag-in-box con­tain­ers and tins remain the most pop­u­lar ways to store EVOO, some­times the prod­uct may come in trans­par­ent bot­tles.

In any such case, check when the EVOO was bot­tled and whether its color is some­what orange, which is an easy way to spot the chloro­phyll acti­va­tion.

When pur­chas­ing EVOO in trans­par­ent bot­tles, fol­low­ing the afore­men­tioned tip of pour­ing the bot­tle into var­i­ous smaller con­tain­ers will help pre­serve qual­ity.

Comparing bags, tins and bot­tles

A grow­ing num­ber of pro­duc­ers sell their EVOOs in bag-in-box con­tain­ers. The bags inside the box pro­gres­sively deflate as the prod­uct is poured out of the con­tainer, lim­it­ing the oil’s expo­sure to oxy­gen.

Bag-in-box con­tain­ers allow con­sumers to store larger quan­ti­ties of extra vir­gin olive oil safely at home for longer peri­ods. However, the bags are usu­ally made of plas­tic and are not refill­able.

Traditionally, pro­duc­ers have stored and sold their extra vir­gin olive oils in tin cans. These con­tain­ers are opaque, block­ing the harm­ful effects of light. They also min­i­mize the quan­tity of oxy­gen that enters and, given their dura­bil­ity and strength, may be eas­ily stored.

Tin cans are made of steel with an inter­nal tin lin­ing, which avoids any pos­si­ble chem­i­cal alter­ation of its con­tent. These con­tain­ers can also be used directly in the kitchen or put on a table at home.

Furthermore, it is pos­si­ble to buy tins in all sizes, but their metal­lic appear­ance is not always con­sid­ered aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing and might lead con­sumers to choose other types of con­tain­ers.

See Also: How Packaging Influences Olive Oil Quality

However, glass bot­tles are the most widely used con­tainer for EVOO, which are seen as more aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing. They are the pre­ferred method of stor­age for many high-qual­ity EVOO pro­duc­ers.

Still, glass bot­tles are sus­cep­ti­ble to light pen­e­tra­tion, which makes them well-suited for smaller quan­ti­ties of EVOO used for tast­ings or for use in the kitchen.

Given the grow­ing con­scious­ness of the dam­age caused by light, many pro­duc­ers have begun using glass bot­tles that are com­pletely coated in an opaque mate­r­ial; a solu­tion that pre­serves the option to invest in orig­i­nal and ele­gant designs.

Ceramic bot­tles are also becom­ing increas­ingly pop­u­lar because of the easy per­son­al­iza­tion they offer and the mes­sage of tra­di­tion and con­nec­tion to the ter­ri­tory inspired by ceram­ics.

While being more del­i­cate and prone to break­ing than some of the alter­na­tives, ceramic bot­tles allow for the high­est level of pro­tec­tion against light con­t­a­m­i­na­tion.

However, most extra vir­gin olive oil sold is sold in PET con­tain­ers. These bot­tles come in many dif­fer­ent shapes and sizes and may be eas­ily per­son­al­ized by the pro­ducer.

PET con­tain­ers are also quite resis­tant to trans­porta­tion and easy to han­dle. However, most of them are trans­par­ent, so they must be stored in a cool and dark place to main­tain their qual­ity.

How long can EVOO be stored?

While many coun­tries have dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tions about EVOO, in the United States and European Union, its shelf life is 18 months.

Still, as EVOO qual­i­ties depend on many dif­fer­ent fac­tors – from the specifics of the pro­duc­tion phase to the fol­low­ing expo­sure to tem­per­a­ture, light and oxy­gen – the actual limit for its qual­ity to degrade might be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent.

In opti­mal stor­age con­di­tions at home, olive oil will main­tain its extra vir­gin qual­i­ties for as long as two years. Consumers can tell when the oil is no longer extra vir­gin as they will begin to taste one of the main defects – ran­cid­ity, fusti­ness, winey-vine­gari­ness or musti­ness.

A good strat­egy for those who make daily use of EVOO at home is to esti­mate the amount needed for one year of con­sump­tion and buy it accord­ingly directly from the pro­ducer,” Ceraudo said. It should be bought right after the har­vest when the olives are processed and the new EVOO is pro­duced.”


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