This is a continuation from our first blog, "To Become Decaffeinated”, we are back to provide a bit more detail about the various processes used to decaffeinate coffee. Here I will discuss a widely used method for coffee bean decaffeination called the Swiss Water Process. This process is unique in that there are no chemical solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate used to strip the caffeine molecules from coffee beans. It simply uses pure water.
A green coffee bean is made up of approximately 25% soluble flavor components, 74% insoluble components and 1% caffeine. With the Swiss Water Process the green coffee beans are soaked in hot water until the soluble components are fully extracted and the water becomes saturated with coffee solids. The water then passes through a carbon filter that traps the caffeine but lets the coffee solids pass through. New green beans are then added to the saturated "flavor charged" water. Since the flavor charged water is completely saturated with coffee solids only the caffeine is released from the newly added green beans, thus creating a decaffeinated coffee bean. This process can be repeated for up to 10 hours before the desired results are produced.
In addition to not using chemicals, a significant advantage of the Swiss Water Process is that the flavor characteristics are not completely stripped from the green coffee beans. In some decaffeination methods, flavor compounds need to be added back in to the bean to produce an authentic taste. Once beans are removed and dried using the Swiss Water Process the majority of both the flavor and smell are retained.
Out of curiosity, how many decaf drinkers are out there? Or are you reading this for knowledge alone?