Decaffeination Methods

Coffee is decaffeinated in it's green bean form before it is roasted. Over the years the processes have become more and more refined meaning that great tasting and great quality coffee can still be produced even after the caffeine has been removed. It is worth noting that Arabica beans, which are used in speciality coffee, naturally have about half the caffeine content of the more inferior Robusta variety used in cheaper coffees.

There are several different ways to decaffeinate a green coffee bean. We believe the CO2 method or the Swiss Water Method to be the best but here is an overview of all the methods:-

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Swiss Water Process

This is a similar process to the natural or water process above where the beans are soaked in water to remove the caffeine. However, the key difference in this process is that the water used to soak the beans is full of good oils, anti-oxidents and flavours (to match the composition of the coffee beans) but contains no caffeine so when the green beans are soaked to release their caffeine there is no room for any of their goodness to escape into the water. Only the caffeine can be released into the water and this can then be removed. The flavour-charged water used to soak the beans is known as green coffee extract (GCE) and once it has been used on one batch, the caffeine is removed and it is used on the next batch.

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CO2 Process

By far the coolest process, the grean beans are placed in a chamber, steamed and then bathed in supercritical (or highly pressurized) CO2. In this form the CO2 is able to dissolve the caffeine directly from the bean. After about 10 hours the pressurized CO2 is released and the caffeine is removed from it using charcoal filters and recycled for another batch of beans.

Conventional or Chemical Process

This isn't as bad as it actually sounds! The green beans are steamed to increase moisture content and swell the bean to loosen the caffeine. They are then soaked in warm water and a solvent, normally Methylene Chloride, to dissolve the caffeine. The resulting caffeinated water is then washed off and fresh water is pumped in to replace it. This process is repeated until the beans are 99.9% caffeine free to meet EU standards. No chemical is left on the roasted bean as beans are roasted at temperatures well over 104 degrees which is the temperature that the chemical vapourizes. However, even tests done by independent researchers on decaffeinated green beans before roasting have found 0% trace of chemicals.

Natural Process - Direct

So called the Natural process because Ethyl Acetate is used and this can be found in naturally in orange rinds and other fruits. The beans are steamed for 30 minutes and then repeatedly rinsed in the solvent which is then drained away and the beans are steamed for a further 10 hours to remove all residue of the solvent. This however is not a great way of decaffeination a bean as it strips the bean of it's anti-oxidents and it's flavour and often a chemical form of Ethyl Acetate or Dichloromethane is used as it is more effective than it's natural counterpart..

Natural Process - Water or Indirect

In this method the beans are soaked in water for several hours which extracts pretty much everything, including the caffeine from the beans. The beans are then separated from the water and a solvent or chemical (normally Ethyl Acetate or Dichloromethane) is used to extract the caffeine from that water. Once the caffeine and the solvent are removed from the water (by skimming or evaporating the water), the water is returned to the beans which soak up all the flavours again. They are then dried.

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Posted in Greenhouses Post Date 07/30/2018


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