The Coolest Quarantine Undertaking Ever? Making an Agave Spirit at House

Replace: This mission continues! You’ll be able to comply with our progress within the “Lotecito Log“.

On this unusual pandemic yr asking adults what they did throughout quarantine has develop into as widespread as asking children what they did throughout summer season trip.

Whereas most of North America was in peak sourdough bread making, we determined to deal with a unique form of mission. Since we stay within the Mexican state of Jalisco, have tequila {industry} mates, and an infinite curiosity about tequila manufacturing, we thought we’d attempt to make our personal tiny batch of tequila, or “agave spirit”, by hand.

(Disclaimer: Something we make at house can not legally be known as “tequila” as a result of it’s not made below the supervision of the CRT. Though we’re utilizing the identical sort of agave, producing inside the denomination of origin, and following the identical course of as tequila, we’re technically making an “agave spirit.”)

Our purpose: make one thing drinkable.

We’ve been by way of sufficient distilleries to know that tequila making isn’t simple. One misstep alongside the best way might wreck a whole batch, so we made positive to have a number of phone-a-friend connections* in place from the very begin.

After doing the maths, we determined that we would wish one cooked blue weber agave piña. (In a conventional manufacturing course of you will get about 9 liters of 40% abv tequila out of a single 50-kilo agave. ) Being optimistic, we aimed for 4 liters, utilizing what would little question be a much less environment friendly technique.

However, the place to get the cooked agave? That is the one step we couldn’t do ourselves since we couldn’t determine the right way to gradual prepare dinner a 50 kilo agave at our home. We shared our plan with Guillermo Erickson Sauza, Founding father of Tequila Fortaleza, and he was amused by our mission.

“You may get one from me,” he mentioned. So we had been off to the Fortaleza distillery within the city of Tequila to pinch an agave contemporary from the oven.

Cooked Agave

Sourcing the Agave

We set out early within the morning on Could 16, 2020. Grover chosen a 50.7 kilo mass of completely cooked, slow-roasted agave (it spent 3 days in a brick oven on the Fortaleza distillery).

The 6-year outdated agave got here from Mexpan, Ixtlán del Río, which is positioned 80 kilometers from Tequila within the Mexican state of Nayarit. (A bit greater than an hour west of the city of Tequila.)

On the best way house to Tlaquepaque, the automobile, stuffed with agave nonetheless scorching to the contact, smelled superb. (Thought for brand new enterprise: cooked agave air fresheners.)

Extraction: CrushFit

As soon as again in Tlaquepaque, the extraction started. That is probably the most labor-intensive a part of the method, which includes crushing the agave to be able to launch the sugars which can be clinging to the fibers. Usually a distillery will use a curler mill, or tahona, to do that work. As a substitute, we used 2 picket posts to smash the cooked agave in plastic cement mixing trays, after which washed the fibers by hand. This course of took 2 full days.

Crushing Cooked Agave

Fortunately, we had some assist. Our mates Karla and Andres, who’re agave spirit lovers in addition to crossfit fanatics, noticed their 2 worlds collide. Quickly “CrushFit” was underway.

Our goal sugar stage was 12 brix, which is increased than most distilleries use. Our logic was that we had restricted fermentation capability, so we wanted to benefit from what we had. Packing extra sugar and fewer water into the containers appeared to make logical space-saving sense on the time.

We finally partly crammed two 40-liter chrome steel pots, and two 19-liter glass carboys with the sugary water (mosto). We managed to create 83 liters of mosto, and there was nonetheless loads of sugar left on the fibers. (Lesson discovered : Rinsing by hand is a really inefficient extraction technique!)

Agave fermenting in glass carboys

Along with chrome steel tanks, we additionally fermented a portion in these glass carboys.

Fermentation: The place The Magic Occurs

“It’s most likely crucial step within the course of as a result of that’s the place most of the aromas and flavors come from,” Grover mentioned. We did numerous superior analysis on this and finally got here up with a plan.

We selected a champagne yeast (Lalvin EC-1118) as a result of it might probably deal with increased temperatures (this was taking place in Could, the most well liked month of the yr in Jalisco). This yeast pressure is understood for its slow-and-low traits. We weren’t in a rush, and feared a effervescent fermentation which may overflow the tanks.

We additionally determined to ferment with out fibers, for 2 causes: first, the fiber cap that kinds on the prime of the tank might trigger it to overheat, and secondly, we needed to maintain methanol ranges down within the ultimate product (fibers include extra methanol). Additionally, we didn’t need the fiber to take up an excessive amount of area in our limited-capacity tanks.

A few of our favourite tequilas ferment with out fibers (Fortaleza, G4, Terralta, Don Fulano), so we weren’t frightened about lacking out on taste. Typically, when the manufacturing course of makes use of a tahona or is crushed by hand, fibers are put into the fermentation tank just because the extraction course of isn’t as environment friendly, giving the yeast an additional alternative to eat the sugar that’s nonetheless sticking to the fibers.

Pitching the yeast

We pitched the yeast (dry) at 78˚ F, after which allowed it to ferment naturally, outdoors on our coated rooftop. Inside 24 hours, the exercise prompted the temperature to rise to 83˚ F. Nevertheless, after checking in with a couple of of our tequila mates, they had been frightened that the temperature was too low, and we weren’t doing sufficient to manage it.

So we put some warmth mats below the tanks, and obtained the temperature as much as 93˚ F, which helped to maintain the temperature from dropping through the cool nights. After that, the temperature remained at 90˚ F for the rest of the fermentation.

The yeast carried out precisely as anticipated, and seven days later we began distillation, despite the fact that we might see there was nonetheless some fermentation exercise happening. The brix stage dropped from 12 to six, which implies the yeast had already consumed half of the out there sugars.

Some distilleries will begin their fermentation at 8 brix, after which wait till the mosto reaches 1 brix — a change of seven — earlier than distillation. We thought {that a} change of 6 was ok. There was additionally a priority that we might permit the fermentation to go on too lengthy. Since we’d by no means achieved this earlier than, we didn’t know at which level the fermentation can be completed. The danger of letting fermentation go too lengthy is that it might probably begin to odor like vinegar after which the completed product might be overly lactic, like spoiled milk. We positively needed to keep away from that.

It turned out that we had been nowhere near that time, however now we all know!

Home tequila distillation

That is the total setup. Fermentation tanks on the left, and copper pot nonetheless and water cooling tank on the proper.


“Don’t blow your self up!”

That was the primary bit of recommendation we obtained from Guillermo. He was significantly involved that we had been going to injure ourselves as soon as we obtained to the distillation step. So we approached this a part of the method rigorously.

We purchased a tiny 5 gallon copper pot nonetheless on-line, and used a propane gasoline heater to deliver it as much as temperature. There’s positively one thing that looks like a little bit of magic once you expertise distillation for the primary time. This was probably the most thrilling a part of the method.

The primary query we confronted: when to chop heads and tails? There’s a sure artwork to this, and grasp distillers know precisely when to begin and cease gathering the distillate.

Throughout the first distillation, we determined to begin gathering at 37% abv, and to cease gathering when the tank reached 23% abv.

Throughout the second distillation, we began gathering at 73% abv, and stopped gathering when the tank reached 47% abv (or 12% abv direct from the nonetheless.)

We initially needed to distill to 46% abv, however when what was coming from the nonetheless was 12% abv we determined to cease early, since taking an excessive amount of from the nonetheless beneath 15% alcohol might result in elevated quantities of methanol within the ultimate product.

Each jiffy we took samples from the nonetheless and saved notes on which aromas had been coming off. This can be a fascinating expertise that each tequila lover ought to have. It’s a good way to study which sorts of aromas and flavors are pure to tequila. (Trace, tutti-fruity and cake batter icing should not pure!)

So as of look, that is what we detected:

START @74.8% abv

  • Mint
  • Slight melon
  • Dominant melon
  • Inexperienced Apple + Melon
  • Cinnamon
  • Cinnamon + Quince + Agave
  • Dominant agave + cherry/fruit
  • Caramelized agave
  • Natural
  • Caramel
  • Intense cooked agave (@27.5% abv from the nonetheless)
  • Light cooked agave
  • Slight cinnamon

  • END @12.8% abv


    Attaching labels to bottles
    We ended up with 4.9 liters at 47.1 abv. Success!!

    After it rested in glass bottles for 80 days, we added water and introduced it right down to 44.4% abv, which is the precise level the place we felt it opened as much as showcase its distinctive traits. We ended up with 6 bottles (700ml). Since we had been calling it our “Lotecito”, which implies “tiny lot” in Spanish, we thought it will be enjoyable to have actual labels made, disclosing all of the manufacturing particulars.

    Lotecito 001 Bottle Photos

    Is it protected to drink? We had it examined, and the entire lab outcomes present that it’s protected; nothing fell outdoors of industry-standard authorized limits. In different phrases, you gained’t go blind ingesting our agave moonshine.

    Listed below are the check outcomes, exhibiting the higher and decrease limits a product should fall into in varied classes to be legally offered and safely consumed.

    Chemical Analysis Report

    Classes Realized

    1) 12 brix might be too excessive. There was simply an excessive amount of sugar there and the yeast couldn’t get round to consuming all of it within the time we allowed for fermentation. Subsequent time we’ll attempt it at 10.

    2) Conserving the temperature extra constant appears to be one thing our tequila-making mates really feel is vital. We weren’t frightened about it sufficient, so subsequent time we’ll be sure that it doesn’t have a lot variation. It will likely be fascinating to check the distinction within the ultimate product.

    3) We should always measure the alcohol stage within the completed mosto along with the change in brix. We might want to buy some alcohol measurement instruments able to detecting decrease ranges of alcohol.

    4) We reduce too many heads this time, and we shouldn’t be so frightened. Subsequent time we must always accumulate the heads into smaller vessels after which combine them again in as wanted to deliver extra aromas and flavors.

    5) Deep clear the nonetheless between first and second distillations. Subsequent time we’ll run some steam by way of the nonetheless earlier than beginning the 2nd distillation. We didn’t clear it totally sufficient and a few unusual, thick, yellow stuff got here out initially of the distillation. It will definitely went away, however prompted us to panic a bit (okay, so much) once we noticed it.

    This entire course of was immensely enjoyable and fascinating. The end result was a drinkable product, so we achieved our quarantine mission.

    It’s additionally not on the market. So, if you wish to attempt it for your self, any Tequila Matchmaker consumer can come to Guadalajara and pattern it at our workplace whereas it lasts!

    We’ve already obtained plans for the subsequent batch. 🙂

    *Due to Guillermo Erickson Sauza, Ana Maria Romero Mena, Antonio Rodriguez, Jaime Villalobos Sauza, and Sergio Mendoza for being supportive of our mission, and for taking our calls and messages (typically in the midst of the night time.)

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