You might be an avid coffee drinker looking to reduce their caffeine intake, a newbie to the coffee world and don’t want to jump straight into a daily caffeine routine, or just curious about the world of decaf coffee. If this sounds like you, we’ve got the perfect article! Decaf coffee is a great option for a caffeine-free delicious drink – read on to find out more.
What is decaf coffee?
As we briefly mentioned, decaf is short for decaffeinated coffee. Naturally, coffee has caffeine in it. Through special processes (like using organic solvents, carbon dioxide or water), at least 97% of caffeine is removed from the coffee beans. This leaves you with a delicious decaf coffee drink!
Your favourite drinks, like an iced coffee can be made decaf by simply switching the caffeinated coffee pods you use for decaf pods!
How do they make decaf coffee?
We mentioned coffee is decaffeinated using organic solvents, carbon dioxide and water. But how do these processes actually work? We’ve got all the answers on how coffee is decaffeinated below.
The Swiss Water Method
As it suggests in the name, the Swiss Water method involves water and was developed in Switzerland. Check out how this process works below.
- Green coffee beans are soaked in hot water so the caffeine is dissolved. This, however, also removes all of the sugars and other coffee flavourings
- The water from this batch of green coffee beans is passed through a charcoal filter which traps the caffeine molecules (i.e., the largest molecule) so the sugars and other coffee elements can pass through. This creates the green coffee extract
- The green coffee extract is then used to soak the next batch of caffeinated green coffee beans. The green coffee extract then removes all of the caffeine through diffusion and the coffee bean retains the coffee flavour
- The delicious beans are then caffeine free and dried
This method means that you can get decaf coffee, rich in flavour and crafted without the need of added chemical solvents.
Caffeine can also be removed from coffee beans through highly compressed carbon dioxide, instead of chemical solvents. It’s a clever process that only targets the caffeine in the bean. See below for more details on how decaffeinated coffee is made with the CO2 process.
- Milled green coffee beans are placed in a stainless-steel vessel and sealed
- The green coffee beans are soaked in a highly compressed carbon dioxide (called supercritical carbon dioxide) an extremely high pressure – 73 to 100 atmospheres
- This is left for about 10 hours and out comes decaffeinated coffee beans
Methylene chloride is a method of direct decaffeination that uses a chemical solvent to remove caffeine from coffee beans. How it works is pretty simple:
- The green coffee beans are soaked in hot water or steamed to draw out the caffeine from the beans
- These soaked beans are removed from the water and the methylene chloride solvent is added to this water to soak up the caffeine
- The methylene chloride and caffeine are skimmed from the surface of the water mixture
- Finally, the beans are readded to the water or steamed again to reabsorb the mixture and all the coffee goodness
Some coffee companies choose to use this method as it maintains the coffee flavour better. However, some choose to not use this it uses chemical solvents, so they opt for the indirect methods listed above instead.
How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?
In decaf coffee, 97% of caffeine is removed but there’s still a small amount. It’s said that there is up to 7mg (milligrams) of caffeine in a 235ml cup of decaf. The EU regulates that there needs to be no more than 0.3% of caffeine to be considered decaf.
Is decaf coffee better than caffeinated coffee?
There are conflicting ideas as to whether decaf coffee is better than caffeinated coffee. We’ve listed the pros of drinking decaf coffee for you below so you can see if decaf might be a good fit for your lifestyle.
Perfect for those who love the taste of coffee but have a sensitivity to caffeine
Decaf coffee means you can escape the usual side effects of caffeine. People who are sensitive to caffeine can experience heart palpitations, restlessness and insomnia.
Reduces the risk of caffeine-induced anxiety
Some people may feel more anxious after drinking coffee with caffeine. Although caffeine doesn’t cause anxiety, it can worsen the symptoms. People who experience this might want to stick to decaf.
Now you know all about what decaf coffee is and how it’s made, check out how your coffee actually gets to you with our article on the bean to cup journey.