How do they make decaf coffee?


Why decaf?

We all enjoy a fresh cup of coffee, it’s what helps most of us get through the day. However, not all of us enjoy the side effects that caffeine can bring with it. Some people are highly sensitive to caffeine and require a decaffeinated solution.

Since caffeine naturally exists within coffee, many coffee aficionados claim that it is unnatural for the beans to undergo the decaffeination process. Personally, I find it just as natural as offering a pulp free glass of orange juice.

 

How do they take the caffeine out?

Despite how simple coffee beans appear, they are quite complex when you break them down. There is an exact science behind the magical elixir we drink every day, the perfect concoction of chemicals that exhibit the aroma and flavors we all enjoy.

It is extremely easy to alter the original concentration of chemicals within the bean which inadvertently manipulates the flavor, usually for the worse. This makes the decaffeination process difficult. Many people claim that the decaffeination process causes the bean to become bland and lose most of its flavor.

Although this may have been true in the past, it is not the case anymore. We have engineered the process in a way that makes it nearly impossible to detect the difference between a regular and a decaffeinated bean from the same source.

Still, there are many decaffeination methods being used, some of which are better than others. Some of which are healthier than others. You may be shocked to learn that places like Dunkin Donuts are using less desirable methods because they are more profitable.

So let’s break down the methods!

 

Decaffeination Methods

Roselius Process (Deadly)

One of the first methods of decaffeination was introduced in the early 1900s. A German coffee merchant, Ludwig Roselius, wanted a solution that would remove the caffeine from coffee. He felt that the caffeine within coffee had poisoned his father.

Ironically, his process of removing the caffeine involved steaming the beans with a solution of salt water and then using benzene to extract the caffeine. This is ironic because benzene is a human carcinogen. Needless to say, this process is no longer used!

Solvent-Based (Added Chemicals)

This widely used method involves adding a solvent, such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, to the coffee beans. These solvents can be introduced directly to the beans or directly to the water that contains the caffeine from the already soaked coffee beans.

Whether the solvent is introduced directly or indirectly, small traces of the solvent may exist within your cup of coffee. According to studies, this amount of solvent is not harmful, and most are eliminated within the roasting and brewing process. Still, I tend to air on the side of caution and avoid this method when possible.

CO2 (Expensive but Better)

This newer method is more expensive, but it is a healthier alternative to the previously mentioned methods. In this process, CO2 is blasted through the water-soaked coffee beans which removes most of the caffeine. You are essentially left with the flavorful coffee beans in one tank and a highly caffeinated CO2 compound that is extracted and reused in another tank.

*Swiss Water Process (Our Winner)

 

This is the only decaffeination process that does not directly or indirectly add chemicals into your cup of coffee. Instead, this method uses a healthier version of science thanks to our friends, solubility and osmosis!

Step 1.) Beans are soaked in scorching hot water solution (this solution is created from a previous Swiss Water Process) to dissolve the caffeine from the beans.

Step 2.) This highly caffeinated water is then passed through a charcoal filter. Since the filter is too porous to remove the tiny oil and flavor molecules, only the caffeine is removed from the water. You now have a tank of flavorless coffee beans and a tank of highly flavored (caffeine free) water.

Step 3.) New caffeinated and flavorful beans are brought into the picture, and the flavorless ones are discarded. The flavor rich water is reused as the “hot scorching water” that was mentioned above. Through osmosis, the flavor within this water is put into the bean and the existing caffeine/flavor is taken out of the bean.

This process is repeated over and over, “science, yo!” -Breaking Bad


Here is a link if you want to learn even more about these processes. Do you enjoy learning about our coffee? Be sure to check out our weekly blogs to stay in the know! Also, follow us on InstagramFacebook and Twitter to stay up to date with the latest news from Black Ink Coffee Company.