How is coffee decaffeinated?
There are several ways that the amount of caffeine in coffee can be reduced. Do be aware that decaf is never entirely free from caffeine, however, there are limits that decaffeinated coffee must fall below, in order to bear the label in Europe. This is 0.1% for coffee beans, and 0.3% for instant coffee.
The most prevalent method of decaffeination is the use of a solvent to draw out the caffeine from the unroasted beans. This solvent is commonly an alcohol, either ethyl acetate or methyl chloride. First of all, the beans are soaked with water or saturated with steam to begin the decaffeination process. Then the dampened beans are washed with the solvent for a set period of time, during which the caffeine binds with the solvent and draws it out of the bean.
The water – by now saturated with solvent – is reused numerous times. This helps the coffee to retain its flavour, as the solvent and water is steeped in coffee flavours already.
After the caffeine has been extracted, the now decaffeinated beans are carefully dried to approximately their natural state, and then sent off for roasting which enhances and deepens the flavour so that you can enjoy a delicious cup of coffee without getting the jitters or losing any sleep.
Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee is the product of another way to decaffeinate coffee. It starts the same way, by soaking the raw beans in water. But then, instead of subjecting them to a solvent, they are strained through activated carbon, which binds the caffeine in the same way the solvent does, albeit with an even lower risk of harmful contaminants being left in the coffee.
And a final method of decaffeination is by using CO² (carbon dioxide) to pressure blast the soaked beans. This draws out the caffeine and binds it to the CO². This last method is the most expensive and will remain so until the method is perfected and mechanised.
This table demonstrates the difference between different processes.
|Product||Process||Caffeine Reduction||Caffeine Level|
|Regular Coffee Beans||No Decaffeination||N/A||80-100mg|
|Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee||Water Process||99% caffeine-free||2-15mg|
|Dark Decaffeinated Colombian Coffee||Methylene Chloride||98% caffeine-free||2-15mg|
|Guatemala Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee||Water Process||99% caffeine-free||2-15mg|
|Medium Roast Decaffeinated Colombian Coffee||Methylene Chloride||98% caffeine-free||2-15mg|