How Tequila is Made: What You Need to Know

Indeed, you’ve wondered how tequila is made. We get it because it’s one of the world’s most recognized traditional Mexican drinks.

Its flavor reminds us of the joy of those who inhabit this country. They are undoubtedly characterized by their cheerfulness, music, and parties, which have tequila as the protagonist.

But today, we want to delve deeper into the subject because there’s a long and complex manufacturing process behind a sip.

Discover in this blog what happens from the cultivation stage until it reaches your home.

What is tequila, and where does it come from?

It’s the most representative and symbolic distilled spirit of Mexico. It comes from the cultivation of the agave, the fermentation, and the distillation of its juices.

But what does “Tequila” mean? The Nahuatl language refers to fieldwork, as it implies a workplace.

This plant grows in the arid areas of Mexico, where hundreds of farmers or jimadores carry out the harvesting phase during long working days.

In 1974, the General Declaration of Protection to the Denomination of Origin “Tequila” was issued. It’s a document that certifies that the beverage is native to Mexico.

Likewise, it establishes that it’s obtained from the material extracted exclusively from the agave belonging to the tequila Weber blue variety species.

You may find everything from 100% Agave tequila to proposals that contain added sweeteners, flavorings, and colorings.

All to offer a pleasant product to consumers.

How is tequila made?: Requirements for selecting agave

As we mentioned earlier, production must be carried out with blue agave. However, the Denomination of Origin imposes other requirements.

First, cultivation must take place in the lands indicated in the declaration. There are five states: Jalisco, Nayarit, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, and Michoacán.

Second, it must be registered with the body that certifies the beverage.

Third, it must reach a maturity of 7 to 9 years, as within this period, it contains the maximum accumulation of carbohydrates.

Learn how tequila is made

The manufacturing process of this beverage must comply with different cycles. It starts with cultivation and ends with the maturation of the liquid.

Next, we will detail each of them. So you’ll understand how tequila is made and how that characteristic flavor is achieved.


This marks the beginning of a series of challenges from which the satisfaction of producing the beverage is expected.

As indicated by the origin designation, cultivation must occur in the 5 states indicated in the document.

It’s a specific area of Mexico with volcanic soil with particular nutrients. Hence, the well-known sweetness of blue agave.

By the way, traditionally, laborers or jimadores do their work manually.


When the agave reaches its proper development, harvesting begins for subsequent industrialization.

This involves separating the leaves or “pencas” from the unusable part. The result is the obtaining of the “pineapple.”

The stem and the basal part of the leaf form this part. Right there is where the carbohydrates needed in tequila production are stored.

The tool used by the workers is the Coa. It’s a long pole that ends at one end with a flat-blade knife.

Reception of agave

This is when authorized producers receive the harvested agave from the plantation fields.

Their task is to ensure the quality to proceed with the distillation.

They verify that it has been cared for more than seven years, as indicated by the regulations.

Likewise, they ensure that it belongs to the required species and finally subject it to laboratory analysis to determine the amount of reducing sugars it contains.

Agave shredding

When discussing how tequila is made, it’s necessary to mention agave shredding.

This is an important step because it involves the fragmentation of the plant’s pineapple. In other words, it consists of separating the fibers so that the extraction of sugars is easier.

Specifically, it’s subjected to blades operating at high speed. This leaves the structure of minimal and very fine size.

The ultimate goal is to facilitate cooking in the oven.

Hydrolysis or cooking

It’s a process used to obtain simple sugars such as fructose.

Why is it important? It’s necessary because inulin, the main carbohydrate of agave, is not susceptible to fermentation by yeast.

So, the procedure is carried out, which can be enzymatic, thermal, or a combination of both. Something common among all? Yes.

For example, masonry ovens are used. Also, autoclaves are commonly used.

In both cases, steam is used at 100 and 110 °C.

The result? In addition to simple sugars, other compounds are formed that determine the organoleptic profile of the product.


Consider this: the process, in general, allows this step to be carried out before or after hydrolysis.

The idea is to separate from the fiber, the carbohydrates, or sugars it contains. For this, a roller mill train is used. How does it work?

They squeeze the raw material to obtain the juice. However, some companies still prefer “tahonas”, while others prefer diffusers for gentle extraction.

In the latter case, a solution of water and sugar is obtained. Hence, it’s necessary to extract prior to hydrolysis.


The Official Mexican Standard of Tequila indicates that only two categories of this beverage can be made. They are 100% Agave Tequila and Tequila, just as you read.

The first one is pure. This means that it exclusively uses sugars extracted from agave. Does it need formulation? Yes.

It consists of adding yeast, adjusting the pH, achieving the right temperature, and sending the juices to the fermentation tank. The result? Fresh wort.

However, for the Tequila category, the process is longer because a more complex formulation is necessary. How is it done?

Before the previous steps, the sugars from the agave are mixed with sugars from other sources.

Stop! There is a premise: the combination only accepts 49% of this last ingredient.


To understand how tequila is made, you must carefully look at this period.

Here, by the action of yeast, the sugars in the wort will be transformed into carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol.

Similarly, compounds will be formed that determine the sensory characteristics of the product. How?

To ferment it, the juice is deposited in stainless steel tanks. 100% Agave Tequila lasts from 2 to 3 days, while for other formulations only 24 hours.


At this point, we have the fermented juice, which from now on we will call “dead wort,” and whose alcohol content is between 4 and 10%. It’s little, isn’t it?

Well, for this reason, it’s necessary to start with distillation. The idea is to evaporate the alcohol, condense it, and turn it into a liquid with a higher alcoholic content.

It’s done in two cycles.

In the first one, the stillage is removed. That is, the undesirable components, such as yeast residues, solids, secondary alcohols, nutrient salts, and water.

And in the second one, known as rectification, the tequila is finally obtained. All this is done in stills or distillation columns.


But does tequila age? Of course, it does. Although not all presentations undergo this step.

On the one hand, you will get the one bottled as blanco or joven tequila, which is bottled immediately after distillation.

And, on the other hand, there is Reposado Tequila. This is sent for maturation in oak or oak containers.

The minimum time it spends there is two months. However, to achieve an Añejo Tequila, it’s left for at least one year; and for Extra Añejo tequila, it’s matured for no less than three years.


Regardless of the type of tequila, it’s necessary to remove the excess fatty compounds remaining in the liquid.

Consider that they give it a cloudy and somewhat unpleasant appearance.

For this reason, cold filtration is initially carried out using a charcoal filter. Other processes are then carried out to remove unwanted particles and give them a shiny finish.

How is tequila made?: Final stage

To conclude, authorized producers subject the product to tests that corroborate its quality.

Then, it’s released for packaging. They use sanitary containers of up to 5 liters. They can be glass, aluminum, laminated cardboard, stainless steel, or polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

And they label it following the parameters of the Tequila Standard for subsequent packaging and commercialization worldwide.

Undoubtedly, this process and all the regulations that govern it have allowed this beverage to be the favorite not only in Mexico but in many countries.

Now that you know how tequila is made, you’re ready not only to enjoy its flavor but also to start an enjoyable conversation on the topic.

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