Mills in Altoaragón - aceitero


Mipanas, situated on the shore of the Embalse de El Grado, was the middle of nowhere. The new connection from L'Ainsa to Barbastro brought Mipanas nearer to the modern world. Park the car where Mipanas is signposted. There is enough space next to the garbage containers. Walk the gravel road towards the village. You'll soon reach the mill.
(1) Mipanas — white circle: this mill; black circle: the other mill

(2) mill next to the village road
(3) mill as seen from Mipanas village
The mill is an empty skeleton. The roof is gone and all things not too heavy also. But it's an opportunity to get an idea about the usual layout of an oil mill.

The ground plan is rectangular. The most striking feature visible from the outside is the enormous difference in the height of the walls. The wall at the back is about two times as high as the front wall (2, 3). This high back wall is a necessary pre­requisite for the older mills which had to accom­mo­date a huge prensa de palanca. We can see the same situation in the mills of Abizanda and Castilsabás which is one of the very few cases where the main beam of the press is preserved and in good shape. I wish I could say the same about Coscojuela de Sobrarbe which is the nearest spot with the same type of installation.

The entrance is located in the center of the façade (2). The door (7) was still in place when we visited in 1994, but was gone in 2010.

Inside, there is only one huge space without any divisions. Next to the entrance at the right is a rectangular container which served as a temporary storage for the olives to be processed (4, 6). At the opposite wall and in the center of the room several smaller, round containers can be seen (5, pilas). They served to catch and decant in order to obtain pure olive oil without water. You'll find almost the same constellation in Abizanda.

The space where the olives were crushed is situated at the left side of the entrance (6, 9).

(4) storage (algorín)
(5) oil containers

(6) workfloor layout
Pict. 9 illustrates that the flat circular space to crush the olives —the balsa— occupies most of the space at the left of the entrance. From storage the olives were spread out in this balsa. The stone was then turned around by man- or animal power. The result was a mash of olive flesh and stones. When ready this mix was gathered and spread out between mats under the press.

In some mills the axle carried a funel (tolva) which provided a continuous flow of olives (e.g. the other aceitero of Mipanas, or Troncedo). A scraper guided the paste towards a pit from where it could be collected. The whole contraption made it possible to work without interruptions.

(7) entrance door hinge
(8) press
(9) ruello in 2010

(10) ruello in 1994
(11) pudding stone

The press with large beam which originally must have been used had several inconveniences. Its size was a real burden. Both length and height put important claims on space and capital investment. The whole extraction process required complex ma­nip­ulations to be done in the right order by at least two people working together.

Sometimes a much smaller type of press was put in place (e.g. the mill of Sieste). Pressure was built up by turning a wooden screw.

In the second half of the 19th century a new type of cast iron press became popular. They were compact and could exercise a pressure which was three times more than the former cantilever press. The daily production was more than double with one operator only. And to top it all off the required capital —building included— was less than a quarter!

Reasons enough to move from the old system for which the mill originally was built to the cast iron press still present (6, 8).

(12) factory label on the press
N° 82
La Maquinista
Terrestre y Maritima
Barcelona 1880

The press is a N°82 of La Maquinista Terrestre y Marítima dated 1880. MTM was born out of several smaller firms in 1855 and located in Barcelona. Main business presumably was hydraulic presses (from the 1870s) and steam engines, but before that time they must have made screw presses, because we've found similar presses of the same brand in several other oil mills.
Other specimens of the same brand in: The last three with two screws instead of a single one in the center.

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