Picualia’s facilities are regarded as an example all over the world because of their impressive size and because of the technology Picualia uses to make its excellent olive oils.
In 2015, after hard work by its farmers and employees, the cooperative opened a powerful new oil mill. This was the real start of a new age devoted entirely to the high-quality production of what has doubtless become one of the finest extra-virgin olive oils in the world.
1. THE HARVEST: Olives are the fruit from which we get olive oil. Olives start as blooms on the branches of the olive tree, which flowers in April or May. New olives grow and fatten on the tree until just before September. In September they begin lipogenesis. In the process of lipogenesis, oil begins to form in the olive. So, this is when our technical staff start running in-depth analyses and detailed studies of the fruit as it matures, so we can start gathering olives in October, when they achieve optimum ripeness. When November rolls around, the fruit starts to take on a ripe colour. That tells us it’s time to harvest.
2. OLIVE RECEPTION YARD: Olive reception is the most important job at the oil mill.Olives have to be sorted and classified for use in making one kind of olive oil or another.
At Picualia this process is completely controlled and automated. Each farmer has a contactless card. When the card is tapped on the olive reception panel, the system automatically prepares to unload the fruit, which our yard staff have already examined and sorted.
Once the olives are classified, they have to go through the controls and classification protocols set up by Picualia’s quality and production area. The olives are washed to eliminate leaves, stones and dust, and the clean olives are sorted into a stainless-steel hopper to await their turn in the mill.
3. MILLING: Our facilities have stainless-steel sorting hoppers, as we have already mentioned. There the clean, thoroughly sorted olives are carried to the mill. The mill is fitted with a modern system of grinders that turn the whole olives into a smooth, moist mass. The solid part of the mass is the minced flesh and pits, and the liquid part is a combination of olive oil and water the olives release when they are ground up.
4. OIL EXTRACTION: To extract the precious oil, our company relies on Pieralisi’s Protorreatore and Leopard technology. We operate with what’s called the continuous low-temperature extraction method. First, we knead the paste to bring out the liquid. Then we separate by density, centrifuging the mass so the solid portion (pomace) separates from the liquid (water and oil). Lastly, we use a vertical centrifuging process to separate the water from the oil. Picualia employs cutting-edge technology to make extra-virgin olive oil, and inside our milling plant you will find robots and other automated devices. We’re always willing to act as a host company and participate in research, development and innovation projects aimed at improving the processes involved in olive milling and oil extraction. For example, we partnered with the University of Jaén for the Almazara 4.0 project.
5. FILTERING, STORAGE AND BOTTLING: Once we’ve extracted the oil, it has to be filtered to make sure no impurities remain. Our company has a special filtering room. In this room we classify the oil according to the quality guidelines we use in the olive reception lines. Once the different oils have been classified by lab and human senses, it’s time to filter them, using a natural decanting process followed by a natural process that uses cellulose filters to eliminate any leftover moisture and clarify the oil. That way we preserve all the healthful components of the pure olive oil. When this process has finished, we take the olive oil to our vats. We have 64 stainless-steel vats. The ones lined up along the sides of the room hold 100,000 litres apiece, and the central vats hold 50,000 litres apiece. We estimate that Picualia has a maximum storage capacity of 5.8 million litres, plenty for all the oil we produce in a season. Thanks to today’s olive-oil preservation technology, our modern facilities are fitted with systems that inject a charge of inert gas (nitrogen) into the vats. The nitrogen pushes out any oxygen that has found its way in, and that’s good, because oxygen can speed up the chemical processes that make oil go rancid. This is the best way there is to keep oil fresh all the way from harvest to bottling and sale. Lastly, we have a bottling line that handles every size of container, from 250 millilitres to five litres. This line is an example of the perfect harmony among the oils that have lived up to our exacting quality and traceability criteria. Thanks to the technology we use at Picualia, we can trace from beginning to end not only our oils, but also the other materials used in bottling, like glass and plastic, and know exactly where the product really comes from. This ensures perfect harmony from the grove to the table.