If we look back in time, we will find that oil mills have changed a lot in recent years and, therefore, so has the processing and production of olive oil.  In olden days, oil mills were a kind of mortar made of stone where small quantities of the product, that is small quantities of olives, were crushed.  Over time, and with the rising need for olive oil, the mills changed enormously, although they still are one of the most important, and traditional, steps in the extraction and production of olive oil.


What is an oil mill?

We could define an oil mill as a mill where olive oil is produced.  Although mills have improved greatly over the years, they are nothing new and go back ages.  The first oil mills we have records of belong to the Copper Age, when a type of press was used to crush the olives to make olive oil.

History of the oil mill

As we have already observed, centuries ago people already knew that olive trees and their fruit, that is the olive, could produce olive oil by crushing the fruit.  But, how?  They did not know but in the face of necessity, they created a ‘machine’ similar to a mortar, made of stone and very large – up to two metres high.

As we have also mentioned, these were similar to the ones used nowadays but there are great differences between the old and modern mills. 

Old mills had a large screw holding together the levers which exerted pressure on the olives, permitting the production of what we know as olive oil. 

Also, these mills became so important in society that they were even situated right in the centre of each town so that the distribution of the olive oil was easier to control and more visible.

An alternative method of obtaining olive oil was through what is called a beam press.  After gathering the olives in large baskets, these were dropped from on high into a recipient, or chute, where the olives were crushed; the chute was rotated by animals tied to it.