Coffee is naturally caffeinated, lucky for us. Along with it’s delicious smell and flavor, coffee is also the perfect wake up call. Some coffee lovers can’t ingest caffeine, or aren’t looking for an energy boost, but still want to enjoy a cup. That’s where decaffeinated coffee comes in. All that coffee flavor with little caffeine. I have found myself wondering lately, how do they suck all the caffeine out of the coffee? So I did a little research, and here goes my explanation of the process for anyone who may be interested.
Apparently, the first method for decaffeination wasn’t so safe and is no longer used. This method consisted of steaming the coffee in brine and then applying benzene to the coffee beans. Sanka was the first coffee brand to use this method. However, it became known that benzene was used to make napalm, and thus this method was discontinued.
Notice the “naturally decaffeinated” label on the Sanka coffee container above? That brings us to the next method of decaffeination – the direct method, which Sanka (brought to you by Maxwell House in present day) now uses. The direct method consists of steaming the beans for half an hour and then washing them in ethyl acetate, then draining the chemicals, then steaming the beans again. Ethyl acetate is derived from fruits and vegetables, therefore the direct method of decaffeination is considered the natural method.
There’s one more method – the indirect method. The indirect method is different in that it soaks, instead of steams, the beans in water. After a nice soak, the water is then drained and ethyl acetate is added and the concoction is placed over high heat, and the ethyl acetate and water are evaporated. Afterwards, the beans are then placed in another water bath to soak. There are a couple of different ways that the indirect method is used as well, where the main changes are the use of either charcoal or carbon dioxide instead of ethyl acetate. The charcoal method seeming to be loved a little more by coffee drinkers, as it is believed to help the coffee retain more of its flavor during the process.
So, there ya have it. Coffee decaffeinated, well almost. Coffee can only actually be decaffeinated about 97% of the way. If you’re further interested, most coffee brands have no problem divulging which method they use and how they do it. Happy sipping!