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4 Methods Used To Decaffeinate Coffee Beans

When you reach for your decaf organic coffee capsules in the morning, do you ever stop and wonder who first created decaffeinated coffee? A coffee merchant from Germany, Ludwig Roselius, first decaffeinated coffee in 1905. At the time, he received a shipment of coffee that had gotten soaked by sea water during a storm. He experimented with the saltwater-soaked coffee and discovered that benzene could bond with caffeine. Although his first experiments caused decaffeinated coffee to lose much of the flavour, it started the idea for decaffeinating coffee. Because benzene is toxic, it’s no longer used to decaffeinate coffee.

Whether you use Nespresso compatible coffee pods or eco coffee pods, the decaffeination process is still the same. Here are the most common ways that are used to decaffeinate coffee today:

4 Methods Used To Decaffeinate Coffee Beans

European/Traditional Process (Direct Method)- with this method, coffee beans are softened by hot steam and then washed for ten hours with a solution of ethyl acetate or methylene chloride. This will dissolve the caffeine from coffee beans and the solution is thrown away. Coffee beans are re-steamed again to remove remaining solvent. After that, beans are dried for storage.

European/Traditional Process (Indirect Method)- instead of using hot steam, caffeine is extracted by soaking in very hot water. Ethyl acetate or methylene chloride is added so they will bond with caffeine to ensure complete removal. The solution is heated again, so ethyl acetate or methylene chloride along with the bonded caffeine will evaporate. A small amount of oil is added to replace dissolved natural oil. The decaffeinated beans are then dried for storage. With both direct and indirect methods, about 80 percent of caffeine is removed. Most coffee drinkers consider that European/traditional process retains much of the flavour.

Swiss Water Process- this process doesn’t use chemicals, only hot water and osmosis. Just like the traditional indirect method, coffee beans are soaked in hot water to remove caffeine and natural oils. The first batch of beans are discarded and not used anymore. Caffeine in the water solution is removed using activated charcoal filter, so only the natural coffee oils left. A second batch of coffee beans is placed into the same water solution. Through the osmosis process, caffeine is dissolved into solution, but the natural oils will remain inside the beans. The caffeine in the solution can be removed with activated charcoal filter again for the third batch of beans. After being decaffeinated, coffee beans will be dried for storage.

Hypercritical Carbon Dioxide- coffee beans are placed in a high-pressure container (up to 300 atmosphere), carbon dioxide remains at liquid state. Caffeine will dissolve and when pressure is reduced, both the caffeine and carbon dioxide will evaporate. It’s a more expensive way to decaffeinate coffee beans and often used at an industrial scale.

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