How to Store Extra Virgin Olive Oil: The Dos and Don’ts for Keeping it Fresh

We can’t tell you how often we’ve walked into a friend or relative’s kitchen and … gads! … spotted a bottle of our extra virgin olive oil stored by the stove or oven. Sure, it’s a convenient place. But heat damages the oil, shortening its lifespan.

Storing olive oil is one of the most important topics we get asked about. So it’s time for a refresher.

Freshness is crucial when it comes to extra virgin olive oil. Fresh oil tastes great! Rancid oil tastes terrible! So we go to great lengths to ensure our oil stays as fresh as possible once we harvest and crush our olives. (Unlike wine, olive oil doesn’t improve with age. Quite the opposite.)

When storing olive oil, keep in mind the oil has four enemies:

Time – The time from when we pick the olives to when we crush them must be as brief as possible. And once you open your oil, you’ll want to consume it sooner versus later. We recommend using up the oil within three to six months.

Light – Exposure must be minimized or eliminated at all times.

Temperature – The optimal storage temperature for olive oil is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oxygen – Exposure must be minimized or eliminated during storage.

Here are tips for how to safeguard your oil and ensure it’s as fresh as possible.

When shopping, look for a harvest date.  THIS IS A BIG DEAL.  If there’s no harvest date on the container, it’s quite possible people are trying to bottle oil that might be more than two years old.  We put the harvest date on the back label of our bottle. The label also shows a “Best By” date for using the oil.

A bottle of our 2012 Everyday Fresh, for example, will show a harvest date of November 2011. And if that oil was bottled in March 2012, it will show a “Best By” date of March 2014. Olive oil is best when consumed within two years.

Keep your oil away from direct light, preferably in a dark cupboard or storage area. Avoid storing it by a window. Ultraviolet rays can break down an olive oil over time. (That’s why we bottle our oil in dark green bottles or in boxes.)

As we’ve noted, keep your oil away from any heat source. It can get damaged if exposed to heat from a nearby stove or oven, or even warm sunlight. At home, we keep our oil in a cool, dark closet downstairs.

Also, prevent your oil from being exposed to air.  Air can degrade oil quality and the process starts once the oil is exposed to air.  At our mill, we store our oil prior to bottling in airtight tanks. Once you open a bottle, use oil quickly and store it in smaller bottles or steel containers to minimize its exposure to oxygen.

And then there’s the matter of time. It pains us to hear about people who buy our Limited Reserve or some expensive oil and “save” the bottle for special occasions, doling out a few tablespoons every few months.  The oil is going bad!

Bon appétit,

Your friends at California Olive Ranch