What Coffee Lovers Should Know About Decaf Coffee

by Phillip Bynes - Date: 2010-05-18 - Word Count: 535 Share This!

Most Americans love their morning coffee. Even when we are rushing out the door, we still have time for that all important cup of joe. Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee and is therefore used as a beverage for its stimulating affect. Did you know that coffee is the most widely consumed beverage in the world?

Caffeine can cause jitters and nervousness and is not recommended for individuals with certain health problems. Because of this, some individuals have taken the decaffeinated route, but did you know you are still consuming a little bit of caffeine? Have you ever wondered how they get the caffeine out of those delicious aromatic little coffee beans? Well, if you have, you've come to the right place! Let's take a look at some of the processes used to remove caffeine from coffee beans.

The first step to removing caffeine from coffee beans is to soak the beans in water. This softens the beans. After soaking, a solvent such as methylene chloride is used to remove the caffeine. Methylene chloride is used in several products to remove caffeine as the molecules blend together. The beans are processed either directly or indirectly. The direct method is where the beans are soaked directly into the chemical solution. Indirectly is where the water is treated with the methylene chloride solution and then the beans are soaked in the water after the caffeine has been removed.

Coffee labeled naturally decaffeinated is another chemical process of removing caffeine from coffee beans. The beans are again soaked in water and then the coffee water solution is treated with ethyl acetate. Ethyl acetate is a chemical found naturally in fruits, therefore the term naturally decaffeinated. After the caffeine has been removed, the coffee beans are again soaked in the coffee water solution so they can reabsorb their natural flavor.

Water processing is where the beans are soaked in water and no chemicals are used. After soaking the beans, the solution is drained through carbon filters that remove the caffeine and then the beans are soaked in the water to absorb oils and flavor.

Another type of water processing is called the Swiss Water Process. This is similar to the water processing method however the coffee water is used instead of plain water. Basically the beans are soaked over and over again to preserve flavor after being passed through carbon filters.

The last process is carbon dioxide processing. That is where the beans are soaked in water and then treated with carbon dioxide in a pressure cooker at high temperatures and very high pressure. The carbon dioxide bonds with the caffeine molecules and is then removed from the beans.

Coffee beans are treated before roasting to preserve flavor. Even though coffees are labeled decaffeinated, they still contain some measure of caffeine. In the United States 97% of the caffeine must be removed to qualify as decaf. What do they do with this left over caffeine? Surprisingly it is used in soft drinks and other products.

For those who are drinking decaffeinated coffee due to jitters or sensitive stomachs, there are alternatives that are low caffeine, non-acidic, organic, and not subject to the chemical processing of decaf coffees. More information can be found on our blog on healthy coffee.

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