When you think of an oven, what do you think of? Surely you never imagined an oven of more than 5 square meters, with a concave roof, brick walls and cast iron gates. But yes, they do exist. Once the agave piñas are "jimadas", it is necessary to cook them through a baking process. This step of the process, even today, continues to respect traditional elements, but unlike the jima, it has been industrialized (to a certain point) to optimize the process.
In order for the baking to be efficient, the piñas must be cut into uniform pieces so that the cooking is more even.
By the end of the cooking process, carbohydrates and natural starches present in the agave are transformed into fermentable sugars from which liquor will be obtained.
And yes, this part of the process is crucial to determine the flavor and richness of the tequila you'll be drinking later; steam is the essential key to cook the heart of the agave and achieve as a result some perfect agave honey.
At Casa Maestri, we use two methods to cook our agaves:
1) Traditional "horno"
Shown above, the traditional "hornos de mampostería" at Casa Maestri Distillery.
The traditional "hornos" are mostly made of bricks, have a vent where steam comes out and a door where the piñas are introduced inside for cooking. When all piñas are cut and placed inside, doors are closed and the interior of the oven is heated with steam, making the cooking of these ovens very slow. It may take several days to cook a batch of agaves, depending on how many piñas are being cooked and the size of the horno, of course.
Our two autoclaves; one full with the recently cooked agave piñas and the other,
just beginning being filled.
And in the other hand we have the autoclaves. These are large stainless steel ovens you could actually compare to "giant pressure pots", since they work with high levels of humidity and temperature, much higher than those of the traditional ovens. The cooking time for agaves in autoclaves is much shorter. Usually it does not exceed 18 hours.
And remember when we mentioned the cooking process is crucial to get an amazing, award winning tequila? This is because the slow and careful cooking of the agave piñas guarantee that the whole piece cooks evenly and its sugars do not burn / caramelize; resulting in a perfect hydrolysis. In this part of the process, it is also possible that the juices obtain smoky tones, hints of cinnamon or other spices that later will give an enhancement to the finished tequila.
Casa Maestri has more than 70 years of joint experience in the creation of spirits, but especially tequila. Our Master Distiller, our engineers, workers, managers and each pair of hands involved in the production process will always have as a priority to bring you tequila of the highest quality, always.
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