Caffeine is found naturally in the green bean, and while its consumption is often the main reason many crave coffee, there are many who, for personal or health reasons, choose to avoid caffeine all together opting for a decaf coffee. Those who choose decaf coffee will often say that finding a quality decaf coffee is very difficult. This is partially because roasters avoid decaf, or roast it in such small volumes that it isn't much good, or worse yet - sits on the shelves for months before consumption. Recently, decaf coffees have come a long way, but until recently, the only options Decaf drinkers had was to avoid caffeine and consume the methylene chloride or ethyl acetate (read: "poison") that was used to decaffeinate coffee, or skip it all together (it should be noted however that those using the this traditional decaf method claim vehemently that there are no traces of the chemicals in the decaffeinated coffee. I remain sceptical).
There are other, non-chemical decaf options:
- CO2. (or Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination Method)
- Swiss Water Decaf Method. (or "Swiss Water Process")
CO2 – This method of decaffeination works by placing the green coffee beans in a bath of highly-pressurized CO2. The "supercritical" CO2 acts as the solvent penetrating the coffee and extracting the caffeine, and once the coffee returns to its normal temperature and pressure, there is no residue once the CO2 floats away. It should be noted however that certain CO2 decafs have a tendency to Cup similar to those that employ the chemical methods of decaffeination.
Swiss Water Decaf – is the only process that does not employ any gas or chemicals in its decaffeination, and also tends towards the best quality in the cup. How does it work?
Coffee contains about 30% soluble solids – caffeine being one of these. The process begins by placing the un-roasted green coffee beans in a bath of water and soaked until all the solubles are removed. The “soluble free” green beans are discarded. The flavour-logged water is then passed through carbon filters that remove only the caffeine from the water, a new batch of green coffee beans are introduced to the water, and as the only soluble element not present in the water is the Caffeine, this is all that the water dissolves, leaving all the flavour elements in the bean. The green coffee beans are then removed, the water is passed through the carbon filters again and a new batch of beans introduced.
The process is remarkably effective, almost 99% of caffeine is removed. The only negativity to this process, is that most coffees introduced to the flavour logged water tends to take on all the same flavour profiles and lose a certain amount of delicacy in the cup. But all things considered, this method certainly, and consistently cups the best of all the decaf options we at FIX! have tried.