This is the basic step by step guide to making tequila. The different types of tequila differ in their aging process, the barrels used and the flavor that comes from the aging process.
- Harvesting the agaves: To make tequila, the agaves must be planted and harvested, and they must be at least 8-10 years old to produce enough sugar.
- Removal of the agave leaves: when the agaves are ripe, their leaves are cut off by hand, exposing the heart, also called "piña".
- Cooking of the agave hearts: the piñas are then cooked in ovens or in pits made of natural materials to release the juice and sugar. This process can take between 12 and 48 hours, depending on the size of the agave.
- Extraction of the agave juice: When the piñas are fully cooked, the agave juice is extracted. This is done either by pureeing the piñas or by cutting them into small pieces and squeezing them in juicers.
- Fermentation of the juice: the agave juice is fermented in large tanks with special yeast strains to increase the alcohol content. The fermentation process usually lasts between 2 and 5 days.
- Distillation of Tequila: When the fermentation process is complete, the tequila is distilled. It is usually passed through copper stills twice to achieve a higher alcohol content and richer flavor.
- Aging (optional): Some tequilas, such as anejo and reposado, are aged in oak barrels for a period of time to enhance their flavor. Anejo tequila is aged for a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years, while Reposado tequila is aged in barrels for a minimum of two months and a maximum of one year.
- Bottling: When the tequila has matured satisfactorily, it is bottled and prepared for sale.