One in ten coffee-lovers drinks decaf, studies say. For various reasons, these people enjoy the taste of coffee, but do not want to have to deal with the stimulating effects of caffeine.
So if you’re shopping for decaf coffee, here’s a quick guide that explains the different methods of how a regular coffee bean becomes a special decaf bean. Let’s dive right in.
The process of removing caffeine from coffee beans is called decaffeination and it is very tricky because it is quite hard to remove just the caffeine, leaving all the natural flavors in place. However, this does not mean that decaf is 100% caffeine-free.
Regular coffee contains around 70 mg of caffeine per cup, while decaf only contains 7 mg per cup.
Basically, there are four decaffeination methods in use today. What they all have in common is that they are applied to green coffee beans, before they are roasted.
Since caffeine is water-soluble, all decaffeination methods involve water. However, there are two solvent-based methods, which use chemicals to eliminate caffeine, and two non-solvent based ones.
Experts say that both methods are safe, as steaming water is used to eliminate residual chemical particles. And, in any case, most chemical residues will largely disappear during the roasting process.
There is a possibility that your decaf still contains chemical agents, but health officials insist the amount of solvent is very low and poses no health risks.
The most popular non-solvent based decaffeination methods involve water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Green coffee beans are again left to soak in water for hours, then they pump carbon dioxide at high pressure and temperature. CO2 acts as a selective decaffeination agent and only extracts caffeine molecules, leaving flavors and aromas intact.
Finally, there is the so-called Swiss Water Process, which also involves soaking the beans. The first batch of beans is removed and a charcoal filter is used to trap caffeine molecules. A new batch of coffee beans will be placed in the same water – and this is the interesting part.
Since the water is already saturated with flavors and oils, the new batch of beans will only lose caffeine molecules.
This is the safest method and allows beans to retain their original flavors. It is also an uncommon method, only used for a few types of organic coffee.
So as we’ve seen, there are quite a few ways to decaffeinate coffee. Has this lesson in decaffeination made you more or less likely to drink decaf?
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