How To Make Tequila

How To Make Tequila

Tequila is one of the most popular shooters to enjoy at a party or club.  This tasty liquor goes hand in hand with lime and salt.    

But that is not the only way that you can enjoy tequila.  Traditionally, in Mexico, tequila is enjoyed by drinking it neat and at room temperature. This liquor can also be added to many cocktails and mixes. 

A pure tequila has a very unique taste but when you add it to mixes, something brand new, different and bold is created..       

So, What Is Tequila?

Tequila is an alcoholic beverage that is made from the blue agave plant.  This liquor usually has an alcoholic percentage of 35-55%.  To be sold in the USA and Canada it must have a minimum percentage of 40%.   

This beverage must also only be produced in the state of Jaliso according to Mexican law.  The red volcanic soils in the area are ideal for growing blue agave, which is primarily around the city of Tequila as well as in central westren Mexico.   

Can You Make Your Own Tequila?

You can make tequila at home but there are 3 requirements that you must meet. 

  • The agave must be grown in one of the five states in Mexico as per the Mexican law
  • The distillery must be in one of those five states    
  • You require the approval and certificates from the Tequila Regulatory Council and you have passed all the inspections. 

Tequila is a Mexican product which is protected by NAFTA and the World Trade Organization.

So if you do not meet these requirements you cannot distribute tequila.   However you can make something that is called  blue agave spirits or agace lixirs at your home that you can share with friends or enjoy.

How Is Tequila Made. Step By Step?

True tequila is produced from the blue agave, which is a succulent that is found in Mexico. There are 7-step required for the production of tequila, and each step is closely regulated.  Each distillery has their own source of agave plant and their own techniques.  These unique techniques and the origin of the plant can alter the taste of the spirits.   

Here is a quick look at one of the simplest ways to make tequila. 

Step 1 - Harvesting

The agave plant takes six to ten-years to grow until they are ripe and ready to be harvested.  Harvesting these agave plants requires lots of manual labour and a harvester is called a “Jimador”.

The jimador is used to remove the 200 plus leaves on the plant using a Coa, which is a sharped curved tool.  Only the heart or the piña of the agave plant is used to make the tequila.  These piña’s can weigh anything from eighty pounds to three hundred pounds.  But size isn’t what is most important, the sugar content is. 

The older the agave the more starch has been accumulated which will convert into fermentable sugars.   

Step 2 - Cooking 

The piñas are cut into halves or quarters so they can be evenly cooked. Traditional brick or stainless steel autoclaves with steam injection are used to activate the chemical process in the piña.  During this process the complex carbohydrates are turned into simple fermentable sugars. 

The whole cooking process can take anything from 24-48 hours.  Doing this makes extracting the sugar process just so much easier.     

Step 3 - Extraction

The piñas are then moved to the milling area where they will be crushed to get the juices or “aguamiel” out. Traditionally, a giant grinding wheel also called a “tahona” is used to release the juices, it is normally operated with mules, oxen or a tractor.  Mechanical crushers are used in modern distilleries. 

The minced product is then washed with water which aids in extracting the juices.  These juices are used to produce the tequila.  

Step 4 - Fermentation 

The juices are placed in large wooden vats or stainless steel tanks.  The sugars in the juice ferments which then transforms into alcohol.  To accelerate the fermentation process yeast is added.  

The agave plants leaves have a natural yeast growing on the leaves, which was traditionally used. Many distilleries nowadays have a more cultivated form of the wild yeast.  

The whole fermentation process takes anything from, seven to twelve days.

Step 5  - Distillation

Tequila is now created via distillation.  The ferments are separated by heat and steam pressure within large stainless steel pots still or distillation towers.  The majority of tequilas are distilled only two times but some of them go through a third distillation.  

The first distillation, also known as “dez rozamiento or smashing” usually takes a couple of hours and the alcohol content is about 20%, known as “ordinario”.  The second distillation, “rectification”, takes about three to four hours and has an alcohol content of about 55%. 

The tequila is now considered as a silver or “blanco” tequila. 

Step 6 - Aging

French or American white oak barrels that have been used to age bourbon in is used to age the tequila in.  The aging duration and previous use of the barrels will affect the taste and color of the tequila. 

Tequila that has been aged for two to twelve months are called reposados. Spirits with one to three years of aging are called añejos and tequila aged over three years are called extra añejos.  

What Ingredients Are Used to Produce Tequila?

Tequila is produced from the blue agave plant that is indigious to Mexico.  There are 166 species of agave which 125 can be found in Mexico but it is only the Weber Blue Agave that can be used to produce tequila. 

Premium tequilas are 100% pure blue agave. Lower end tequilas are called “mixtos”, usually 51% of it is agave and the rest is made up from molasses, corn syrup and other sugars.    

How Many Agave Plants Does It Take To Make A Bottle Of Tequila? 

One agave plant makes about  two to five liters of tequila, all depending on the size of the plant and the proof of the liquor.  

So 15 pounds of agave will produce about one liter of tequila.    

Considering the time and effort required for making tequila, you will probably appreciate it more the next time you sip on this beverage. If you are shopping for the best tequila, it is best to buy from a family owned business.