Cooked agave gives off a delicious smell. If you've never had the opportunity to visit a tequila distillery during production time, you are missing out on a lot. There is something very special behind seeing the steam coming out of the oven doors and cracks, and knowing that the process is progressing. After they're cooked, the agaves release their juices or "agave honey", and become ready to cool and begin the next part of the process: shredding to obtain the agave sugars for fermentation.
This part has been one of the most industrialized over time, due to the need to do it effectively, quickly and more productively.
Not many years ago, when tequila was not so popular and was only produced in small quantities, agaves were ground for hours in an artifact called "Tahona" or "Chilean Tahona". This mechanism had a function similar to that of a molcajete: to crush and dissolve until only fibers and threads of the agave remained and sugars were extracted. But, unlike a molcajete, this process was not done by hand, but with a giant stone that turned in circles, pulled by animals, crushing the cooked agave hearts over and over again.
Tahona, being pulled by two donkeys. Photo source: CRT
The tahona's floor is usually stone or concrete. It takes many hours for the agave to be fibrous, completely crushed by pressure and for it to release all the sugars it obtained during cooking. A person must always be in charge of separating the fibers that are crushed and taking care of the animals, so they are in optimal conditions during the process.
Currently, only very few distilleries continue to grind their agaves with tahona. For the most part, the cooked hearts are now ground with an mechanic mill.
In mechanical mills, pressure is applied on the fibers of the cooked agave through metal rollers, resulting in a juice with a high concentration of sugars. These mills are powered by electric motors.
Close up image of one of Casa Maestri's mills, shredding agaves and adding water to
ease the process.
Regardless of which method is used, the extraction of sugars through shredding is always crucial to obtain an excellent tequila. Casa Maestri pays excellent attention to detail, so we can provide the highest quality possible in our tequilas. Stay tuned for more of our tequila production process!
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