Olive Oil is Perishable, So Here’s How to Keep It as Fresh as Possible

A fan named William emailed us a couple days ago: “Do you have any info on typical shelf life for your olive oil, and also the best way to keep an open bottle fresh?” Great question, we replied, and offered him tips. And, because it’s such an important topic, it’s worth revisiting here. That’s because fresh oil tastes great! Rancid oil tastes awful!

Fresh extra virgin olive oil basically is fruit juice. (Yes, olives are a fruit.) So the oil is perishable. And, unlike wine, extra virgin olive oil doesn’t improve with age. Quite the contrary.

It’s why we go to great lengths to ensure our oil stays as fresh as possible once we harvest and crush our olives.

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. Once bottled, the oil has a two-year shelf life. And once you open your oil, you’ll want to use it sooner versus later. We recommend using up the oil within 30 to 60 days.
  • Light – Exposure must be minimized or eliminated at all times. “Light causes olive oil to degrade,” olive oil expert and author Tom Mueller notes.
  • Temperature – The optimal storage temperature for olive oil is 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Oxygen – Exposure must be minimized or eliminated during storage. That’s why we pick our olives and rush them to the mill for crushing ASAP – to limit their exposure to air.

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

When shopping, look for a harvest date.  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 in a box. That box also shows a “Best By” date for using the oil.

A bottle of our 2012 Arbosana, for example, shows a harvest date of November 2011. And because the oil was bottled in March 2012, it shows a “Best By” date of March 2014 – given that an unopened bottle of olive oil, as we said, 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. It’s why we bottle our oil in dark green bottles. “Dark glass that filters out light is very important,” Mueller says. “Clear plastic and glass are to be avoided.”

Keep your oil away from any heat source. It can get damaged if exposed to heat. So avoid keeping it near a stove or oven, or in warm sunlight. At home, we keep our oil in a cool, dark closet.

Protect 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