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Café Geeks: How Do You Decaffeine Coffee to Make It Decaffeinated?

As we explained in our first post, caffeine is a psychoactive substance found, among other products, in coffee. But precisely its "exciting" capacity, there are people who for different reasons prefer to take it without caffeine.

Whether it is for medical reasons, for a high volume of consumption or for simple taste, if you drink decaffeinated you should know how is the process to remove caffeine from coffee beans.

Decaffeinated Coffee

Can you remove caffeine from coffee? As we can see in any supermarket, store, cafeteria, the answer is yes. And although decaf is not 100% caffeine free, we have to emphasize that the process is not as simple as one might think.

Decaffeinated coffee is practically the same as caffeinated in taste, body, cream and other properties, except, of course, in its caffeine content. At the beginning of the 20th century, the first person to discover a practical and repeatable method of decaffeination was the German, Ludwig Roselius, head of the Kaffee HAG coffee company. And he discovered it by accident ...

In 1903, a shipment of coffee had been covered by seawater during its transfer; this "soak" caused the caffeine to leak out, but remarkably, it did not affect the taste. Roselius set out to develop an industrial method to repeat this, steaming the beans with various acids before using that resulting benzene to remove the caffeine. Thus was born decaffeinated coffee. But it turned out that benzene was a possible carcinogen, so new techniques were sought to extract the caffeine from the beans, trying to keep the flavor intact.

After years of trials, a group of researchers came to the conclusion that the best way to do this, a technique that is still used today, was to soak the beans in a solvent, usually methylene chloride or ethyl acetate.

Methylene chloride can be used as a caffeine remover, but also as a paint remover and degreaser. And ethyl acetate, is a natural ether of the fruit, generally made of acetic acid, the basic component of the vinegar and is also used to remove enamels.

To make decaffeinated coffee, it is preferred to work with Arabica coffee varieties since they tend to have a lower caffeine content than the robusta variety. Different tests are being carried out in laboratories to achieve direct cultivation of a variety of caffeine-free coffee, but at the moment it has not been achieved.

What is done today is to remove the caffeine that the grain contains, through three different methods:

  • wet,

  • chemical,

  • or by applying pressure

1. Wet Method

This method consists of moistening the green coffee beans that are then mixed with water and caffeine-free coffee extract, allowing an osmosis process to transfer the caffeine from the beans to the liquid in which it is dissolved. The beans are then dried in a stream of air and ready for packing or roasting.

2. Chemical Method

Green coffee beans are moistened and soaked in a chemical solvent whose active ingredient is methylene chloride, a substance that dissolves caffeine. Once dissolved, the chloride is evaporated by means of heat and the grains are washed with water to eliminate any remainder. The coffee is then dried with hot air.

This is the most common method since it is the cheapest method for the coffee industry, although the most demanding consumers prefer decaffeinated products obtained by the other methods.

3. Physical Method by Pressure

Through this method, also called the Swiss Process, the caffeine is removed using a system that combines pressure with the intervention of CO2. To eliminate caffeine, the coffee is subjected to a pressure of 275 atmospheres, causing the CO2 to circulate between the beans, penetrating them as a result of the pressure and helping to dissolve the caffeine.

When washing and drying the beans, the caffeine is no longer there and no chemicals have acted on the bean, so this way is very good to obtain a quality decaffeination. The problem is the cost of this method that makes the industry reserve it for the more expensive or higher quality coffees.

What is done with the Caffeine that the Coffee Industry Withdraws?

That caffeine is purified and recovered, and is destined for the pharmaceutical and food industries to produce additives, medicines, sports supplements, beverages and other products such as those for the cosmetic industry.

Decaffeinated Classes

We find two modes of presentation:

The so-called "envelope", in single-dose packages that are prepared by dissolving the decaffeinated coffee powder in water or milk, and the "machine" ones, which are the beans ready for grinding and making coffee in the presentation that they request. the ones that go to consume.

The Ugly Truth: "What is healthier, a Pure Coffee or a Decaffeinated one?"...

We know that there are more than four hundred different chemical compounds in a coffee bean and the challenge of decaffeination is to release the caffeine but make the rest remain in concentrations similar to what they originally had. Currently there is no perfect method that only removes caffeine and they always take part of the rest of the bean, causing us to notice a different flavor in decaffeinated coffee.

Regardless of the volume of coffee that is ingested and, consequently, the effects of caffeine on our body, pure coffee does not have any added process in addition to roasting, so the answer for me is light or rather dark: depending on how you like your coffee.


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