Swiss Water Decaf! Better Decaf!

Posted by Mitchell Hamilton on

Have you ever wondered how they can take the naturally occuring caffeine out of coffee? 

The first successful decaffeination process that was available commercially was invented in Germany by coffee merchant Ludwig Roselius in 1903.

It is said that his desire to create a decaffeinated coffee arose from the belief that to much coffee consumption had poisoned his father. His process involved steaming the green coffee beans in a brine solution of water and salt and then using the organic chemical Benzene to extract the caffeine. Fortunately this method is no longer used as benzene is known to be a human carcinogen. 

Today, there are two general methods to decaffeinate coffee.

  1. The Solvent Based Method (uses Chemicals)
  2. The Non-Solvent based Method (Chemical Free)

The solvent based method uses a chemical solvent such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to remove the caffeine from the coffee beans. These chemicals have been determined safe by the FDA and are regulated to below 10 parts per million. The green coffee beans are either boiled and washed in the chemicals or are steamed to open the pores of the bean and then flushed with the chemicals to remove the caffeine. 

If you aren't that excited about putting chemicals that you can't pronounce into your body via your favorite drink of the day don't worry as there is another method.

The Swiss Water Process is a chemical free decaffeination process that was developed in Switzerland in 1933 and was introduced commercially in 1988 by The Swiss Water Company in Vancouver, British Colombia. The Swiss Water Company is the only decaffeination plant in the world to be certified organic by both OCIA and Aurora Certified Organic. On top of these certifications they are are also certified Kosher.

Using the Swiss Water Process there are no chemicals introduced to the coffee but rely on hot water to dissolve the caffeine in the beans. This water, containing coffee flavors and coffee oils as well as the caffeine, is filtered through a charcoal filter that is sized to only capture the caffeine while allowing the flavors and oils to pass through. This results in having a tank of coffee beans that have no caffeine but also no flavors or oils and another tank full of Green Coffee Extract.

Now is when the trickery happens. These decaffeinated flavorless beans are discarded and a new batch of coffee beans are placed in the tank. This Green Coffee Extract full of coffee flavors and oils is then used to decaffeinate this new batch of coffee beans. Since this water is saturated with coffee flavors the existing flavors in these new beans can't dissolve, leaving a decaf coffee that holds on to the majority of its flavor without the use of chemicals. The swiss water method results in a 99% caffeine free coffee and is almost exclusively the method used to decaffeinate organic coffees. 

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