As an Agricultural Engineer and throughout my 9 years of experience in the tequila making process, (particularly in the extraction of agave sugar process), one of the questions I get asked more frequently is: how do you do the sugar extraction? The answer I give them is: we extract it using a hot water dilution through a diffuser.
What Is a Diffuser?
It is an alternative for the extraction of agave sugar process, having as a final goal the tequila production.
How Does a Diffuser Work?
The diffuser working process is based on the systematic wash of agave bagasse which swims against the current through the water. In the practice, this is achieved by forming a "bagasse bed", which is previously torn apart into small pieces on a transporting chain.
Some water is added in the opposite side of the transporting chain, and its filtered through the agave bagasse bed and the small holes of the chain.
Water dissolves the contained sugar in the agave bagasse, extracting a juice that has plenty of these sugar, after this, it is recollected in a special tub. The juice moves pumping along the diffuser to the next stage and the process is repeated till the juice reaches the maximum concentration level at the final point of the diffuser.
What is the Efficiency that The Diffuser Brings to the Extraction of Agave Sugar?
Technology allows us to have an extraction efficiency above the 95%, which gives us a higher alcohol production (tequila). In the diffusers, more than 95% of the sugar extraction occurs by leaching, that is to say, through a repetitive was of the agave fibers with a higher soluble solids concentration. That is why is very important to prepare the agave fiber in the right way because we want the maximum number of open cells to be exposed to water contact/ circulating juice, and by doing so, we are able to reach a higher level of sugar extraction.
In the diffusion process, the cell membrane that covers the sucrose-rich cells degenerates because of high temperatures, making them permeable and allowing the sucrose migration from the highly concentrated nucleus to the outside of the cell.
The best sugar dissolver is water, so this idea settled down the bases of the sugar extraction process we use through diffusion. Water gets in contact with the product dissolving the sugar in the water, increasing the juice concentration and decreasing the sugar concentration in the product.
Thanks to this extraction process, we can obtain a higher sugar concentration in the juice, which allows us to produce a better quality tequila.
The diffuser equipment is able to substitute the traditional mill process and it has become the most efficient way of extracting the agave sugar.
This allows us to administrate better the produced tequila after the distillation process and compare it to the agave waste using the mill process. By using the first one, we obtain a fewer agave quantity in kilos per each tequila liter.
Agave diffusers are also used as an equipment for honey and inuline processing, and thanks to this method, a higher concentration of inuline its obtained in the juice and we also achieve a better efficiency in the extraction of it.
What kind of Raw Material can be Processed in the Diffuser?
By using this same technology, different applications of the diffuser process are possible, like in grapes, sugar canes, etc.
Although many other traditional processes have been used to extract the sugar, in Casa Sauza we have decided to use this one due to all the benefits it provides to our industry, along with a better quality control of the process.
We invite you to keep reading about our tequila making processes in the following articles: