For those of us that regularly or occasionally drink decaffeinated coffee do you ever wonder just how the caffeine is removed? Do you ponder if you truly are being decaffeinated and question how that works? Here are some interesting tidbits for inquiring minds.
First, in order to qualify as decaffeinated coffee the beans must meet the international standard of having at least 97% of the caffeine removed. In the EU, the standard is now 99.9% caffeine free by mass to qualify as being decaffeinated. So yes, most decaffeinated coffee is not truly completely decaffeinated. Some coffee bean farmers have experimented with the production of a naturally produced caffeine-free bean which may eventually lead to a 100% caffeine free bean. For now, there are various techniques being used to remove caffeine.
In a nutshell, most decaffeination processes consist of soaking beans in water to dissolve the caffeine and then extracting the caffeine with either a solvent or carbon. This process is often repeated up to 12 times to obtain the most complete caffeine extraction. Some methods will actually use a coffee-flavored solution while soaking the beans to avoid a complete loss of flavor composition. Once the caffeine has been removed, the beans are then re-soaked in the decaffeinated water to reabsorb the flavor compounds that were lost in the initial extraction. I will get in to more detail about the various decaffeination processes in future blogs so stay connected.
The actual roasting of a decaffeinated bean is slightly more detailed as well. The original moisture content of a green bean is usually somewhere between 10 and 12 percent. Because decaf beans are soaked in water the beans have much higher moisture content. Many decaf roasters will start off roasting beans at a low temperature to dry the beans and bring the moisture content back to where it was before decaffeination. Although a different temperature range is used, ultimately the beans temperature ends up similar to regular roasted beans. Because of the extra attention that decaffeinated beans require the consumer will often see a slight bump in price compared to regular coffee.
Some of you more caffeinated consumers might now be wondering what happens to the precious caffeine once it has been extracted. No worries, the caffeine can be recovered using an evaporation and crystallization method. The recovered caffeine is most often distributed to beverage companies and cosmetic companies who use the caffeine for anything from producing naturally enhanced caffeine beverages to creating lip balms and body soaps. Did you know that many beauty companies claim that properties in caffeine can reduce cellulite? I think I just thought of my next blog…stay tuned.