Acidity in olive oil

Many olive oil suppliers advertise low acidity (and fool you with it).
(and lead you around by the nose with it!)

Some olive oil suppliers actively advertise low acidity. This is misleading because many people think they can taste the acidity in olive oil. But acidity has nothing to do with taste, because free fatty acids are tasteless. Therefore, in order to determine the acidity of olive oil, no taste test is necessary, but a chemical analysis is carried out. Because only in the laboratory can you determine how high the acid content of an olive oil is. You should know that olive oil, like all vegetable oils, consists largely of triglycerides. Triglycerides are always composed of three oleic acids that are bound to glycerol. Put simply, this means that the three oleic acids are held in place by glycerol, but this “holding mechanism” is not very stable. Through the effect of heat, oxygen (= oxidation) or the influence of certain bacteria (= fermentation), the oleic acids detach from the glycerol and so-called “free fatty acids” are formed. In chemistry, the acid content indicates how many free fatty acids are present in the oil. If the acidity is high, there are many free fatty acids in the olive oil. Conversely, if the acidity is low, the oleic acids are bound to glycerol and the vegetable oil consequently has a low acidity.  

Is there a connection between the taste and acidity of olive oil?

As already mentioned, the question “Does olive oil taste sour?” must be clearly answered with “No”. Nevertheless, it could be that the acidity can be tasted, if not by a layman, then at least by an expert. But that does not work either. The acidity of olive oil must always be based on a chemical analysis. Even the most trained and specialised palate cannot determine whether an olive oil contains many or few free fatty acids. Thus, many think that the high-quality olive oil they have bought is “sour” and confuse quality characteristics such as pungency and aroma with acidity. Conversely, many oils that are advertised as “mild”, like most supermarket products, are simply old and oxidised and therefore have an increased acidity that is perceived as pleasant and gentle by the unsuspecting consumer. Such olive oils no longer offer any health advantage over other oils, they only fill the tills of the supermarket chains.

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