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Wash your Decaf!

September 14, 2009

If you haven’t noticed by now, I work in coffee. I have worked in the business for over six years, grew up in the coffee capital of Seattle, WA, and had the luck to work with and be trained by five different roasting companies. One undergoes training for each different bean because every coffee is so unique it will pull differently from the machine, has different cremas, flavors, and lots of other nerdy coffee talk. Nonetheless, I loved it because I got to learn a little more from each one! (Not to mention, taste some really good coffee!)

I have worked for both major companies and some smaller ones, but I love seeking out different coffees and tasting them for what they truly are. So I figured we’d do a little coffee talk. My early morning comrade coworker and I have noticed and increase in the requests for decaf or half-caf coffees lately, and I’ve noticed the talk of decaf amidst the blog world, so I thought I’d start with the explanation of the best decaf method out there, which is the Swiss Water Decaffeinated Processing method.

flavors_in_cup

Often, coffee companies use a chemical called methylene chloride to strip caffeine from the beans. While this process is believed to be safe to consumers, it does deprive the beans of some natural flavors. It also leaves a chemical residue. Although, what is commonly known as the Swiss water processing method, costs a bit more, companies who care about providing a high quality bean will invest in it for their customers.

Simply stated, the process involves the following:

  • Steaming
    This opens the beans’ pores, making them responsive to the solvent that will remove the caffeine.
  • Drawing
    After steaming, a coffee solids-rich solvent is introduced to draw the caffeine out of the coffee. Water is used as the all natural solvent. Because the water has already absorbed soluble solids from a batch of green coffee that is discarded to start the decaffeination solution, it leaves most of those important flavor-imparting solids intact resulting in a pleasantly intense decaffeinated coffee.
    • Water (H2O)
      Water is the solvent of choice. Water is used to remove caffeine from the bulk of the beans allowing us to preserve nearly 100% of the coffee’s original flavors.
  • Swiss water decaf had this spiffy chart: (they also have a cool little video)

swiss dcf 

Some well known companies that use this process are:

  • Caribou Coffee
  • Stumptown Coffee (okay, some of you may not have heard of them, but they are by far my favorite coffee I have tasted thus far!)
  • Starbucks Coffee

Some interesting decaf facts:

  • Decaf coffee can still have between 2-6mg caffeine
  • Excessive caffeine intake has been linked to decreased bone density, earlier menopause, elevated stress levels, and decreased absorption of minerals

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, there are also benefits of caffeinated coffee. I think what the world has to learn, especially Americans, is that it’s all about proper portion sizes. Stay tuned!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 14, 2009 7:49 pm

    Great post Faith!

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