How is Coffee Decaffeinated?*
*(While the majority of caffeine can be removed from coffee, it is important to remember that a trivial amount of caffeine will still remain.)
Many of you may be wondering how coffee is decaffeinated. How could we possibly meddle with a drink so synonymous with energy and caffeine that we take out its key element? Or for that matter, have the desire to? Decaffeination is a necessary option for various reasons, but the process of decaffeination can vary for better or for worse.
Below you will find each respective method (Swiss Water Process, Indirect-Solvent Based Process, Direct-Solvent Based Process, CO₂ Process) and how each of them work to decaffeinate the coffee.
The Swiss Water Process or SWP (Method used for PapaNicholas)
We have always prefered to use this method that is free of chemicals. This method relies solely on the use of osmosis and solubility to decaffeinate the beans. The process begins by soaking the beans in a batch of nearly boiling water in order to dissolve the caffeine. The water is then passed through an activated charcoal filter which is designed to capture large caffeine molecules and allow small oil and flavor elements to pass through. This flavor-rich water is then used to decaffeinate a fresh batch of beans. The final result is a flavorful batch of beans that are 99.9% caffeine free.
The Indirect–Solvent Based Process
This method is popular in Europe and utilizes methylene chloride as a solvent. The beans are first soaked in near boiling water for several hours. This kick starts the caffeine extraction as well as removing oils and flavor elements from the unroasted beans. The water is then transferred to another tank and the beans are washed for 10 hours in methylene chloride. The molecules of the methylene chloride then bond with the caffeine molecules. The mixture is then heated in order to evaporate the solvent and caffeine. The last step is to reintroduce the beans to the oils and flavor elements that were removed during the caffeine extraction process. We are left with perfect beans that are full of flavor and no caffeine!
The Direct–Solvent Based Process
In this method, the beans are steamed for around 30 minutes to open up their pores. Once they become adequately receptive to a solvent, they are most likely rinsed in ethyl acetate for 10 hours to remove the caffeine from the beans. The solvent is then drained from the beans and they are then steamed again to evaporate any remaining solvent.
This process, also known as the Carbon Dioxide method, is the most recent method that was developed. It uses carbon dioxide instead of chemical solvents. To begin this process, unroasted beans are soaked in water and placed in a stainless steel container referred to as the extraction vessel. The extractor is then closed and liquid carbon dioxide is dispensed into the chamber at pressures of 1,000 pounds per square inch to extract the caffeine. The carbon dioxide acts as a solvent and extracts the caffeine from the bean. The carbon dioxide with the caffeine is then transferred to another chamber to release pressure. The carbon dioxide then returns to its gaseous state and the caffeine is all that remains. The carbon dioxide is then available to reuse for the next batch of beans.
Each process is effective, but we prefer simply using clean, pure water to maintain the best quality and taste. Many other coffee manufacturers don't take this step, so look for the Swiss Water Processed logo on our PapaNicholas decaffeinated coffees to be assured you're drinking the best!