Coffee is the ultimate wake-up call in many ways, from the caffeine it provides to the soothing taste and aroma. However, for those sensitive to high amounts of caffeine, decaf is the ideal way to tie together a morning routine. Decaffeinated coffee is a great drink, but many people aren’t familiar with the creation process. We’ll discuss how to remove caffeine from decaf coffee.

The Unfiltered Truth

Before we can dive into the specifics, there are a few things you need to know about decaf brews. Many people assume that decaf coffee is entirely caffeine-free, but the level is just significantly reduced. The FDA mandates that for manufacturers to label coffee “decaf,” it must contain less than 2.5 percent of its original caffeine content. This means a 16-ounce decaf coffee can still contain up to 12 milligrams of caffeine—about one-tenth the caffeine in a cup of regular coffee. That said, the methods we’ll share adhere to these guidelines and are effective in their own ways.

Water Processes

The Swiss water process and the carbon dioxide process are two methods that are “naturally decaffeinated.” Neither method involves using a direct application of chemical solvents. Instead, they rely on the age-old principle that water dissolves water-soluble compounds, caffeine included.

The Swiss Water Process

This method begins with a pre-soak of green coffee beans in hot water. Extraction occurs until the beans can no longer release caffeine. Then, the liquid passes through an activated charcoal filter, which removes the caffeine due to its natural affinity for charcoal. The process reintroduces the now-decaffeinated coffee to the beans in a continuous cycle until the caffeine level meets the required standard.

The Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Process

The CO2 method is a more nuanced approach using a concentrated carbon dioxide solution to extract caffeine. Liquid CO2 circulates through the beans, where it chemically attaches to the caffeine. Once specialists remove the CO2, the beans have lost the caffeine but kept their flavor compounds.

Solvent-Based Methods

Solvents like methylene chloride and ethyl acetate are common components in caffeine extraction. Not to worry—the FDA approves them as safe for human consumption.

The Methylene Chloride (Direct) Method

This is the most common solvent-based decaffeination method. It starts with steaming the beans to open their pores. Then, the methylene chloride washes over them and binds to the caffeine. After separate steaming to remove the solvent, the beans undergo steaming again to eliminate traces of the solvent.

The Ethyl Acetate (Indirect) Method

Ethyl acetate, a naturally occurring compound in fruits, also helps us decaffeinate coffee. The indirect method is similar to the methylene chloride approach but takes place in a laboratory setting rather than a processing plant.

Decaf coffee undergoes the removal of caffeine in several ways, and each brand has its own approach. Because of this, you might find that some decaffeinated coffees match your tastes and health needs better than others. At 11th Street Coffee, we carry a slew of different decaf K-cups, allowing you to experiment with different ones to find the right match for your preferences. By understanding the decaf varieties, you can make the best choice for your morning joe!

April 22, 2024 — DigitlHaus Agency