The province of Jaén is the largest olive oil producing region in Spain and in the world. With 550,000 hectares of olive groves and more than 66 million olive trees, it generates 20% of the world’s olive oil production.

It is the place in Spain with the highest concentration of olive trees and olive oil production. The most common variety is Picual, although Royal, Arbequina and Cornicabra varieties are also grown.

There are currently three protected designations of origin (P.D.O.) for olive oil in the province: Sierra de Segura, Sierra de Cazorla and Sierra Mágina. A Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) is currently being created, which would cover the whole of the province.

Extra virgin olive oil production process:


Consists of removing the olives from the tree. An important aspect is to pick the fruit just when it reaches the correct ripeness. Various methods are used for harvesting, always trying to avoid damaging the fruit during the process, the most common being vibration (shaking the tree mechanically to make the fruit fall) and “vareo” (the traditional method of beating the tree with long wooden or plastic sticks).



After harvesting, the olives must be transported to the almazara (oil mill) to obtain the highest quality product in a period of no more than 24 hours in order to preserve all the properties of the fruit, preventing it from heating and fermenting.


Cleaning and washing

First, leaves and branches are removed by means of an airflow. Then the olives are washed with water to remove the remains of soil and stones.



In this step the whole olive is broken and crushed, including the stone to make the process easier. The aim is to free the small particles of oil inside the fruit. Nowadays, the most commonly used mills are mechanical, but years ago the crushing was done by means of stone mills moved by animals or by mechanical traction.


Beating the paste

Once the olives have been crushed, a paste is obtained, which is then beaten to help the oil extraction. In this way, the oil is easier separated from the water contained in the fruit and also from the solid part or orujo (olive pomace, made by broken skin, pulp and stone), through a physical process. The beating temperature must not be high in order to preserve the organoleptic properties of the product and not to accelerate oxidation.



Following the traditional procedure, nowadays in disuse, it is cold-pressed using capachos (mats), leaving the pomace in the mats and extracting the oil to separate it from the water in decanter tanks.



According to the modern procedure, the oil is extracted by thermo-beaters, which heat the mass and centrifuge it, separating the liquid from the solid and the oil from the water.

The paste obtained from the crushing and beating processes is fed into a centrifuge in order to completely separate  oil, water and orujo. This machine is cylindrical and rotates at high speed, separating the components by difference in density. The residues thus obtained constitute the alperujo (used as fuel or as organic fertiliser).



Before being bottled, the oil must be filtered to remove impurities which, over time, can ferment in the container and give rise to undesirable odours and flavours.


Storage and conservation

The conservation of the oil in suitable conditions is essential for it to reach the consumer with all its properties. Storage tanks must be made of inert materials such as stainless steel, avoiding materials that cause the oil to oxidise. In addition to cleanliness, temperature is also an important factor, the ideal temperature being between 15º and 20º for correct conservation.


In addition to those of Jaén, the following Extra Virgin Olive Oil PDOs also exist in Andalusia, all of them of supreme quality:

Córdoba: PDO “Baena”, PDO “Adamuz”, PDO “Priego de Córdoba” and PDO “Aceite de Lucena”.

Granada: PDO “Poniente de Granada” and PDO “Montes de Granada”.

Málaga: PDO “Antequera”

Seville: PDO “Estepa”

Cádiz: PDO “Sierra de Cádiz”.

Aceituna en el olivo. Pozoblanco (Córdoba). Photo: Fundación El legado andalusí

Olivar en Cazorla (Jaén). Andalucía Turismo y Deporte.

Aceituneros vareando. Cazorla (Jaén). Andaucía Turismo y Deporte.

Fábrica de Aceite en Martos (Jaén). Photo: Mª del Rosario Ortiz Amores. © Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico

IAPH image under the conditions established under license cc-by 3.0 de Creative Common.

Almazara en Baena (Córdoba). Andalucía Turismo y Deporte.

Fabricando. (2022). CÓMO se HACE el ACEITE de OLIVA virgen extra ¿Cómo se EXTRAE el ACEITE de OLIVA de la aceituna? [Video File].

Instituto Andaluz del Patrimonio Histórico. Mª del Rosario ORTIZ AMORES, Atlas del Patrimonio Inmaterial de Andalucía. Fase 1. Zona 5. Producción de aceite, 2009.