Autoclaves are big drum-like pressure cookers used in Tequila production (to cook the piñas before being mashed and fermented). By using steam and high pressure, the agaves can be cooked quicker and in larger batches than typical brick ovens or pit fires. There are also significantly easier to clean too, meaning they are more efficient not just when switched on, but to turnover repeat batches as well. Autoclaves can cook a batch of agave in around 10-12 hours – which is typically less than half the time it would take a traditional brick oven.
The combination of the above benefits makes a significant difference to the cost of production. The shortened cook time can create some issues unless it is carefully monitored and expertly done however, as it’s all too easy to burn the agave sugars, which produces a bitter finish which becomes apparent in the end spirit.