After baking is complete and the piñas are cooled, it is time to extract the sumptuous juices. At this stage, the cooked agaves are shredded and water is added to help extract sugars. The resulting juice, called aguamiel or honey water, is transferred into tanks for fermentation.
Many years ago, the cooked agaves were crushed and shredded in a round pit. The cooked agave pulp was placed in a shallow stone-lined pit equipped with grooves that collected the juice. A large circular grinding wheel, called a "tahona", slowly spun round the pit, crushing the baked pinas and pressing out the juices, while a worker followed behind, turning the agaves and readying the pit for the next pass of the heavy wheel. Those days, a couple of donkeys or horses used to pull the tahona wheel that could weigh up to 2 tons. After the agaves were fully crushed, the juice would be lying on the top of the pressed fibers and could be picked up with buckets and transferred in the fermentation tanks.
Nowadays, most tequila distilleries employ milling machines that shred the cooked agave. During the process, the purified water is added to the fibers to help extract the sugars from the agave pulp and then the mixture is strained to remove the fibers. The resulting liquid - aguamiel or honey water- has a heavy and sweet aroma, redolent of rich earth and honey. The agave juices are transferred into stainless steel vats for the next step of agave transformation into tequila - for fermentation.
Many producers process the cooked fibers four times, extracting all available juice from the pulp. At our distillery, we use the agave juice from the first pressing only, a process slightly reminiscent of the production of extra virgin olive oil. We believe that this approach results in the finest and the fruitiest juice.