March 18, 2010
Dear Coyote patrons,
During the last few weeks we explored some of the steps to tequila production. If you are just joining us and want to get a better understanding of this process please read the last 3 previous blogs to make your learning experience complete.
This week I will teach you about distillation. Last week we explored the fermentation process. We learned that fermentation is the process in which the agave sugars are converted into alcohol by yeast. We also learned that the fermentation process creates alcohols that our body cannot digest. How can we eliminate these harmful alcohols and create the refined spirit called tequila? We can do this through a process called distillation.
Distillation is the process of purifying a liquid by boiling it and condensing its vaporsTwo forms of distillation are practiced in Mexico’s tequila distilleries. Tandem pot still distillation in copper or stainless steel alembics are the most traditional and commonly used. Column distillation towers are also used but can me expensive due to their cost and maintenance.
To eliminate unwelcome substances tequila must be distilled at least twice to meet quality and government regulations. During the first distillation the dead must is heated with vapor and is distilled to have an ethyl alcohol content that reaches about 20-30 percent of its volume. The liquid obtained in the first distillation is called “ordinary” and cannot yet be called tequila because it contains waste products that need refinement. These aldehyde, ester and minor alcohols are called the “heads” of the distillation. Other heavier elements are also discarded. These are called “tails”.
The second distillation is known as rectification. The ordinary liquid in the first distillation is distilled for a second time to get the purest part of the juices called the heart. This principal part comes out at about 55 percent alcohol and can know be called tequila blanco (silver). Before bottling the tequila is diluted with water to bring its alcohol content down. Tequila that is exported to the United States comes at a minimum of 40 percent alcohol by volume.
Next week we will learn about the 5 tequila types: gold or young, blanco, reposado, añejo, and extra añejo. I hope you are having a good learning experience and hope to see you at Café Coyote soon.
Café Coyote y Cantina