There are actually many ways coffee is decaffeinated. Plus, the process has changed over the years. It was first done by a man named Ludwig Roselius, this method used benzene to remove the caffeine, which later raised health concerns and was no longer used.
Today there are about five methods used to create decaffeinated coffee for commercial purposes which include the following.
This method is sometimes referred to as the natural method, because “ethyl acetate” which is used in this process can be found in many fruits and vegetables. However, the actual chemical used in this process is synthetic.
In this method the coffee beans are steamed for thirty minutes, then rinsed repeatedly in the synthetic ethyl acetate for approximately ten hours. The ethyl acetate solvent in the water traps the caffeine.
The beans are then taken out of the water solvent, and steamed for an additional eight to ten hours. This helps to clean the beans of any excess solvent. The beans are then dried and now decaffeinated!
The Indirect method is commonly referred to as the water method, because in the beginning only water is used to start the process to decaffeinate. However, there are chemicals used in this method also.
This starts with soaking the coffee beans in hot water for several hours. This ends up creating a really big, strong pot of coffee. The beans are then taken out, and like with the Direct method the ethyl acetate solvent is added to the coffee water to absorb the caffeine from the water.
This is then left for the solvent to evaporate from the water, at which time the process is repeated with new beans. This happens until the only thing removed from the beans is the caffeine and all the smell, and flavor remain.
Super critical carbon dioxide/oxygen or C02/02
This process is appealing to a lot of people because it does not use any solvent that may be, or later found to be, toxic to your bodies. This process is done by transforming C02 or 02, which is plain old oxygen or carbon dioxide into a liquid under tremendous pressure of 73 to 300 atmospheres and 88 degrees F.
This then works to get a deep penetration of the bean to remove the caffeine. The temperatures are then regulated to more normal levels and the caffeine then precipitates into another area, which then leaves the C02 or 02 ready to be reused!
Triglyceride is found in the oils of coffee and is also used to decaffeinate coffee, now there’s an interesting fact. This works by first placing your coffee beans in a hot water and coffee solution, this will bring the caffeine to the surface of the bean. Once this has been done, the coffee beans are taken from the water and placed in Triglyceride (oils from coffee).
The beans are left soaking in this solution for hours at high temperatures, with the end result being the caffeine is removed from the coffee beans. However, this leaves the flavor and taste of the coffee still in place. The Triglyceride is then separated from the caffeine and is able to be reused for the process again.
Swiss water method
This method is similar to the Indirect method, the main difference being carbon and charcoal filters are used instead of the ethyl acetate. The Swiss water method involves placing unroasted beans in hot water, this causes the caffeine to leave the bean and remain in the water, this water is then filtered through a carbon filter which will trap caffeine and let solid pass through the filter.
This water is called “flavor charged water”. They then put this through another filter but add coffee beans. The caffeine will leave these beans but not the flavor. This process is repeated until the beans are 99% caffeine free.
There are many reasons to drink decaffeinated coffee, and many methods that coffee is decaffeinated. So why not enjoy that next cup of coffee with less caffeine but all the same coffee smell and taste we love and crave.