Decaffeination is the process of removing caffeine from tea leaves, coffee beans,cocoa, and other caffeine-containing materials.
These products are commonly called – decaf.
We can thank Ludwig Roselius – a German coffee merchant and founder of the company Kaffee HAG – a worldwide brand of decaffeinated coffee.
There are four major processes used for decaffeination.
In direct caffeination, it is the beans themselves that are treated, in indirect decaffeination, it is caffeine-saturated water.
Ludwig Roselius patented the direct process in 1902.
Today, we use different chemicals as we now know that benzene is a carcinogen.
After the beans are flushed, they are allowed to dry and return to their normal size before being packaged and sent to roasters and processing facilities.
During the process, you remove the caffeine from the sample 8 to 12 times until it meets the required standard (97% of the caffeine removed per US standard or 99.9% caffeine-free by mass per EU standard).
The indirect organic solvent method is another variation of Roselius’ method.
In this method, you don’t treat the beans directly, but first, you soak them in hot water for several hours, making a strong pot of coffee – and then remove them. The remaining water is treated with solvents (e.g. dichloromethane to extract caffeine).
Swiss Water Process
The process uses only water instead of organic solvents to decaffeinate the beans.
To begin the decaffeination process, you soak the beans in hot water to dissolve the caffeine.
How do you decaffeinate coffee without using solvents while maintaining the flavor profile of your favorite beans?
You pass the water from the first round of green beans through a charcoal filter after soaking.
Caffeine is a large molecule and gets trapped in the filter, but sugars, oils, and other chemical elements in coffee that impart flavor and aroma pass through and remain in the water to create the result known as Green Coffee Extract.
Now, the water infused with green coffee extract is used to soak the next batch of green beans.
Due to the fact that the Green Coffee Extract already contains other elements of flavor, these substances won’t dissolve and there will be only caffeine left.
Although it may sound complicated, the result is decaffeinated coffee with a high degree of flavor and without any additional chemical solvents.
First, you soak the green beans in a hot water/coffee solution, and then the caffeine is drawn to the surface of the beans.
After this, you transfer the beans to another container and immerse them in coffee oils obtained from spent coffee grounds.
The triglycerides in the oils remove the caffeine from the beans after several hours of high temperatures, but the flavor remains.
After this, you separate the beans from the oils and dry them. After removing caffeine from the oils, you can reuse them for decaffeinating another batch of beans.
Supercritical CO2 process
Finally, the newest method of decaffeination uses triglycerides from spent coffee grounds to extract caffeine from raw coffee beans.
The beans are soaked in a hot water solution to draw the caffeine to the surface. After that, they are transferred to another container and immersed in coffee oils that were obtained from spent coffee grounds.
The coffee oils contain triglycerides, which, when heated at a high temperature for an extended period of time, separate the caffeine – but not the flavor – from the beans.
Next, you separate the beans from the oils and dry them.
After the oil is decaffeinated, you can reuse it to decaffeinate another batch of beans.
Decaf coffee is not completely caffeine-free.
According to FDA, decaf coffee typically only has between two and 15 milligrams per 8-ounce cup.
Is Decaf Coffee Bad for You?
The reputation of decaf coffee is seriously negative, even among those who drink it once a day.
There are many people who wonder what the point of drinking decaf is, while others say it tastes worse than regular coffee.
One of the problems is that decaf coffee is chemically treated and has a history of toxic chemicals being used in the decaffeination process, giving it a negative connotation.
But today, those chemicals are no longer used, making the end product far safer to consume.
The only downside of drinking decaf coffee is that you won’t get that “buzz” we get drinking regular coffee.
Decaffeinated coffee isn’t necessarily “bad” for you-it all depends on what you want from it.
If you need a boost of energy and mental stimulation, for example–then decaf isn’t for you.
Consider also how your decaf coffee is treated and how the caffeine was removed.
Although decaffeination is safe, some companies use different chemicals. Make sure you buy organic decaf coffee if you want to avoid chemical solvents; organic decaffeination will not use solvents.