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Olive Oil Storage & Handling

As a natural product, and unlike wine, olive oil does not improve with time, so it is best used within a year. Nevertheless, depending on the variety, a freshly harvested olive oil could last up to 18 months without losing its sensory characteristics. Store olive oil in an air-tight bottle or container away from light and heat to maintain freshness.

Storage Containers

Olive oil can be kept longer than most other edible oils. Although it can get rancid, olive oil is less likely to become rancid than other oils, especially if it is stored properly. The best containers for storage are glass (especially tinted glass), ceramic, porcelain, or non-reactive metals such as stainless steel.

Olive oil will oxidize rapidly if it is not kept in a sealed container. If olive oil is stored in a bottle, always replace the cap on the bottle and keep it tightly sealed. Never put olive oil in a container that does not have a tight cap or some other method of sealing the container.

Do not store olive oil in containers made of reactive metals such as copper or iron. The chemical reaction between the olive oil and the metal will damage the oil and may produce toxins. Olive oil should not be stored in plastic containers because the oil may absorb PVC’s from the plastic.

Temperature for Storage

The ideal temperature for storing olive oil is 57°F, although a normal room temperature of 70ºF works very well if the olive oil is stored in a dark area where the temperature remains fairly constant. Olive oil will solidify at 36ºF, but it will return to a liquid state as soon as the temperature rises. In colder weather, olive oil may turn cloudy, especially if the temperature of the storage area falls below 50ºF.

Locations for Storage

It is important to store olive oil in a cool, dark place. A wine cellar is an ideal place for storing olive oil because it is dark and the temperature is cool and constant. Since most of us do not own wine cellars, a kitchen cabinet located away from the stove and away from direct sunlight will work quite well.

Refrigeration will extend the life of olive oil without harming the oil. The oil will become cloudy and solidify in the refrigerator, but this will not significantly affect the quality or flavor. When the oil is warmed to room temperature it will return to a liquid state and its color will be restored. Refrigeration does not harm most grades of olive oil, but it is not recommended for expensive extra virgin varieties because condensation may develop in the bottle, affecting the flavor.

Shelf Life

Olive should keep a minimum of 15 months if it is properly stored. If it is stored in its original container and remains unopened, it should last for 2 years or more.

Olive oil has the best flavor when it is used within a year after it is pressed and it is at its peak within 2 or 3 months after pressing. Unlike many types of wine, olive oil does not improve with age. As olive oil ages, it continually degrades and the acidity level rises. As a result, an older bottle of olive oil may have an unpleasant odor and taste. The oil will be neither harmful if consumed, nor very pleasing.

Lower grades of olive oil usually have a shorter shelf life than top quality extra virgin oil because the acidity level is already higher at the time of bottling. A grade of olive such as semi-fine virgin, which has a much higher oleic acid content than extra virgin, may become less desirable after only a few months because the acidity level may rise to an unacceptable level.

Safety Tips

Olive oil is safe to use even if it has oxidized. The flavor and aroma may not be very pleasant, but it is not harmful if consumed.

Some flavored olive oils have additives that may require refrigeration in order to preserve them. Others may not require refrigeration because of the process used when manufacturing the oil, so it is best to read the label carefully. It is usually not safe to make your own flavored olive oils at home and keep them for any length of time. Some flavoring agents may promote the growth of bacteria and can only be safely added with commercial processes. You may, however, prepare homemade flavored olive oils if they are used immediately and any leftover oil is disposed of.

A major safety concern is when olive oil (and any other cooking oil) is heated to a very high temperature for deep-frying. Follow the recommendations listed under deep-frying safety tips for more on this [missing content]