Decaffeinated

Decaf Processes

Your concern over the safety of decaffeinated coffee probably stems from solvents used in the past. If your coffee is labelled naturally decaffeinated or Swiss water processed, you can be assured that no harmful chemicals are used. If you are uncertain, you can ask or call your coffee processor to learn about the method used.

 

In one process, coffee beans are soaked in water to soften them and dissolve the caffeine. The water containing the caffeine (and the flavour from the beans) is treated with a solvent, heated to remove the solvent and caffeine, and then returned to the beans, which are then dried. This process is referred to as “indirect decaffeination”, because the beans never touch the solvent themselves.

 

A direct decaffeination process involves the use of carbon dioxide as a solvent. The coffee beans are soaked in compressed CO2, which removes 97 percent of the caffeine. The solvent containing the extracted caffeine evaporates when the beans return to room temperature.

 

The most widely used solvent today is ethyl acetate, a substance found in many fruits. When your coffee label states that the beans are “naturally decaffeinated”, it is referring to the process, specifically using ethyl acetate. In one process, coffee beans are soaked in water to soften them and dissolve the caffeine. The water containing the the caffeine (and the flavour from the beans) is treated with the solvent, heated to remove the solvent and caffeine, and then returned to the beans. The flavours in the water are reabsorbed by the beans. which are then dried. This process is referred to as ‘indirect decaffeination” because the beans never touch the solvent themselves.

 

Another indirect method soaks the beans in water to soften them and remove the caffeine, and then runs the liquid through activated charcoal or carbon filters to decaffeinate it. The flavour containing fluid is then returned to the beans to be dried. This charcoal or carbon process is often called “Swiss water process” (developed by a Swiss company).