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How To Make Tequila At Home: Complete Guide (2023)

Last Updated on January 1, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Tequila is a native Mexican spirit – protected by the country’s law. Authentic tequila must only be made in Jalisco and some specific regions in Mexico. 

While you can’t just make any alcohol, there’s no harm in learning how to make tequila at home. 

This guide will detail the step-by-step process of making tequila according to distillers. Let’s start. 

8 Easy Steps To Make A Homemade Tequila 

1. Choose The Tequila Wash Ingredients

blue agave plant

You’ll need to use a Blue Weber Agave plant to create pure tequila. 

Good thing you can find Blue Agave nectar at grocery stores or online, so you won’t have to harvest the actual plant to make the wash.

2. Decide The Tequila Type You Want To Make

pure agave plant paste

What type of tequila do you want to make? You can go for pure tequila if you have access to a Blue Weber Agave Plant. 

But since blue agave nectar is easily accessible, you’ll likely end up making mixto tequila. 

Mixto means the spirit is made with at least 51% blue agave, and the remaining 40% is made from other ingredients like cane sugar, among others.  

3. Make The Agave Nectar & Cane Sugar Wash

putting yeast on a bucket with agave mixture

The next step is creating the agave nectar/cane sugar wash. Follow the instructions below: 

  • Set your brew pot with 4.5 gallons of water on a heat source and heat it to 125 degrees F. 
  • Pour agave nectar and cane sugar into the water and stir until they completely dissolve.
  • Once fully dissolved, pour a gallon of cold water to reduce the wash’s temperature.
  • Monitor the temperature and stir every 5 minutes for about 30 seconds until the temp cools down to 80 degrees F. 
  • After that, mix in the tequila dry yeast. 
  • Expose the wash to air by dividing it into two containers and letting it sit for around five minutes. Then, pour it into your fermentation bucket. But ensure the necessary equipment, such as a bucket, cap, and air-lock. You can also use a spigot to make the process easier.  
  • Now, seal the bucket for fermentation and store it in a dark place with temperatures around 75-80 degrees F.  

4. Ferment Wash

2 bucket of fermented agave tequila mixture

A simple wash made with raw cane sugar and agave nectar can ferment for about seven days.

Once ready, it will no longer taste sweet or excrete gas from the air-lock. 

Also, the yeast converts the sugars into alcohol in the wash. This time, you need to test the alcohol volume of your fermented wash using a hydrometer. 

5. Wash Straining

After fermentation, you must remove any solid particles that may have formed. 

You can use a cheesecloth or any accessible siphon material for straining before it undergoes distillation.  

Distiller’s Tip: You can also test your wash’s pH level; the ideal range is 4.5 to 5.0. If you want to increase it, use calcium carbonate. But if you want to reduce it, use citric acid. 

6. Distill The Tequila

distilling mixture on a copper still

First, remove the sediment and other undesirable components from your tequila [1] wash using a cheesecloth or any siphon material.

Set your pot still properly; make sure the condensers and hoses are attached to clamps. Turn on your heat source to raise the temperature of your tequila wash. 

You’ll then split the mixture into two batches. During the first distillation, you’ll collect the entire amount of the spirit without separating the heads, tails, and hearts.

Allow the water to once the boiler reaches 130 degrees F, and keep increasing the temperature to 168 degrees F to continue producing distillate.

Stop the process upon reaching less than 20% ABV (use a hydrometer [2]).

Dilute it with 20% water, stir and put it back into the still for another distillation process. 

7. Collect The Tequila Distillate

collecting distilled tequila

Now, you’ll need to collect the tequila distillate. Refer to the points below: 

  • Foreshots: The first 5% of your pot still run will be composed of foreshots, which are incredibly toxic and volatile alcohol. You should throw out the first 250 ml of methanol per 5 gallons.
  • Heads: Around 30% of your tequila pot still run are the heads. These contain the most volatile substances, such as acetone, that shouldn’t be consumed. 

Note: To isolate the heads and foreshots, bring your condenser to a stopping temperature of 168 degrees F. 

This will allow you to keep the alcohol in your run until it reaches its final output.

You’ll know all the foreshots and heads have been collected once the condenser stops.

  • Hearts: Another 30% of your tequila run is hearts, where you can create consumable alcohol. Before collecting this, raise the temperature of your tequila still to 175 degrees F.
  • Tails: This portion is the last 35% of your tequila run. You can recognize it by its smell, taste, and sight, and you’ll notice an oily film collects on the top of the distillate. 

You don’t want these carbohydrates and proteins in your final product but don’t discard them. You can re-run them as another own wash in the future and make some more products.

8. Age The Tequila

wooden barrels

There are several ways to age tequila. The process breaks down into three main periods, producing different types– each with its distinct flavor and appearance. 

“If you want to make some memories, add some tequila. It was too much Tequila, or not quite enough.”

— Jimmy Buffett, Musician/Actor/Author

The time your tequila ages determines its flavor profile and type. 

  • Gold or Joven: Unaged alcohol with added color and flavor from oak extracts, syrups, and caramel
  • Reposado: Aged for around two months to one year in an oak barrel 
  • Silver, White, or Blanco: Unaged or aged for two months in an oak barrel
  • Anejo: Aged for at least one year up to three years in an oak barrel
  • Extra Anejo: Aged for a minimum of three years in an oak barrel 

FAQs 

Why can’t the US make tequila?

The US can’t make tequila because, as per the law, it must only be made in Mexico. 

How long does it take to make tequila at home?

It depends on the type of tequila you want to make. It can take days to years (3 years). While the cooking process can take a day to finish, the aging process takes the longest time. 

Is it legal to make your own tequila?

It’s illegal to make your own tequila because Mexican law has imposed strict laws and requirements. 

Also, Mexico signed international trade agreements with other countries, such as the US, regarding production, importation, and distribution. 

Final Thoughts 

Knowing how to make tequila at home doesn’t mean you can produce it anytime, anywhere. 

It involves strict rules and international trade agreements, and you can be punished by law for violating and jailed for up to 5 years or so, according to the US Code. 

While you have access to equipment to craft tequila at home, we suggest leaving this work to authentic and registered distillers. 

So, just enjoy bottles of ready-made tequila that you can pour in no time. Cheers!

References:

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/tequila
  2. https://www.instructables.com/Measuring-Alcohol-Content-With-a-Hydrometer/

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