The elaborate process for Tequila is very simple, but important in determining the characteristics acquired by this spirit. Making every step in this process, key to a harmonious Tequila that can be greatly appreciated.
The process starts with the cultivation of the blue agave. It usually takes seven to ten years for the plant to reach maturity, depending on the soil and weather. Once full-grown, the “Jimador” is in charge of cutting the agave; he cuts the leaves leaving only its heart or “piña”.
The piñas are then taken to the factory where they are cut usually in four pieces. After selecting the best piñas, they are manualy put in brick or adobe ovens where they slowly cook for about 48 hours with steam. This is called Hydrolysis, when the starches from the agave convert into sugars giving its distinct caramel smell and taste.
After the piñas have cooled down the ovens are unloaded and the piñas are carefully arranged on a band where they are taken to a milling station. In the traditional process the piñas were grounded by a “Tahona”, a volcanic stone wheel that can weigh up to 2 tons. Now, in a more industrialized process, the piñas are grounded in still mills, once ground all the sugars in the soluble fiber are extracted to obtain agave juice which contain about 20º Brix of sugar, this juice is also known as “Mosto”.
The agave juice or mosto is then fermented in stainless steel tanks with variable volume. As the yeast starts to convert sugar into alcohol the temperature rises gently. Most of the time the container are open, leaving the yeast do its natural fermenting process.
The process can last between 12 and 72 hours depending on the characteristics wished to be given to the Tequila. With a percentage of alcohol that can be 6% for Tequila, 51/40 and 4.5% for a 100% Tequila. At this point the agave juice has become a sweet alcoholic drink with a similar condition in alcohol level as that of a beer or wine.
Distillation is commonly done through the use of stills, though a second method by cooper columns is used. During the first distillation in the first still the dead mosto is then heated with steam and distilled. This first ending product of distillation is also known as “ordinary”, its alcohol concentration varies between 25% and 30%. Most of the solids, heas and tails have been removed at this stage.
At the second still the “ordinary” product is once again distilled. By doing this the alcohol level is argumented up to 55% resulting in a more polished product. At this point the distillate is then and homogenized with deionized water until its contents reach from 38 to 46% alcohol in the volume having an end result of Tequila Blanco.