Many of us have experienced the symptoms of caffeine overdose. Trembling hands, fast heartbeats and anxiety are just some of the most common of these.
For some people, even a small amount of caffeine can have a negative effect. Thus, decaffeinated coffee may be a good choice for those who are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine, or also for those who simply prefer to avoid the stimulant effects of caffeine.
But can decaffeinated coffee be a specialty coffee? Are there any decaffeinated specialty coffee versions that taste just as good? And how do you get caffeine out of coffee? There are many common misconceptions about the quality and health risks of decaffeinated coffee. Let's take a look at the truth.
Who drinks decaffeinated coffee and why?
All coffee naturally contains caffeine. This chemical compound is thought to protect coffee and other caffeinated plants from predatory insects and prevent competing seeds from germinating.
It is also a stimulant, and people have appreciated its effects for millennia. But sometimes we want a delicious cup of coffee without buzzing. There are many reasons why people choose decaffeinated coffee instead of regular coffee, not least because it is considered healthier.
A 2018 report by the National Coffee Association (NCA) shows that 42% of all coffee consumers drink decaffeinated coffee, a trend that is mostly driven by young adults. Some market research has shown that decaffeinated drinkers are willing to pay more for quality coffee than other consumers.
How does caffeine removal work?
The first reported decaffeinated method was developed by Ludwig Roselius in 1905. Roselius used benzene to remove caffeine from moistened green coffee beans. Benzene is now known to be a carcinogen, so it is not recommended to try this technique.
But all modern decaffeinated methods start the same way. The green coffee beans are moistened, which makes the caffeine soluble, and then the caffeine is extracted. They simply use different techniques to remove caffeine.
Direct solvent method
The chemical method uses either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to extract the caffeine.
The coffee beans are first soaked in water and then in a solution that attaches to the caffeine molecules. The solution is removed on an evaporator, the beans are washed and dried and roasted like any other green coffee.
However, because methylene chloride has been linked to cancer in laboratory animals, the US Food and Drug Administration has set its own restrictions on its use. Ethyl acetate is also highly flammable, making it difficult to work with. It has also been reported to have a very peculiar odor, which often disturbs the final taste of the coffee.
Carbon Dioxide Method
The removal of caffeine by the carbon dioxide method is similar to the soluble method, but uses pressurized carbon dioxide for the removal. Liquid carbon dioxide is circulated through moist green coffee beans and attaches to caffeine. It is then allowed to evaporate or passed through charcoal filters.
Decaffeination of carbon dioxide has low toxicity, but the method is more expensive to perform than the chemical method. It is also said to extract a little more caffeine.
Swiss Water Method
The Swiss water method is a patented decaffeination method that mainly uses water to remove 99,9% of the caffeine content of coffee.
The coffee beans are dipped in very hot water and then added to a mixture of water and green coffee extract. The caffeine content of this mixture has been reduced beforehand. Because green coffee extract wants to balance, it draws caffeine from dipped beans.
The water from each bath is then passed through activated charcoal, which traps the caffeine. Coffee beans go through a series of baths to remove almost all the caffeine. The water and green coffee extract can then be reused in other baths.
The Swiss method is more expensive than solvent methods, and the extracted caffeine cannot be reconstituted or sold separately.
mamountain water method
This is another patented method that uses glacial water to extract caffeine. Descamex explains that the company uses a special filter to remove caffeine.
The resulting decaffeinated aqueous solution is saturated with a bean-soluble solid and reused in the extraction process.
As neither this method nor the Swiss water method uses chemicals, some consumers consider it to be a safer and healthier option.
Can decaffeinated coffee be a specialty coffee?
Decaffeinated coffee was formerly known as a tasteless beverage. However, caffeine itself has no taste, but some caffeine removal methods remove important flavoring compounds along with caffeine.
The challenge for any decaffeinated company is to find a method that extracts large amounts of caffeine while not affecting the taste of the bean. In the world of specialty coffee, this is even more critical.
Matt Hassell is a global purchaser of green beans responsible for quality control and sample management at Collaborative Coffee Source. He says: “One of the most common processes for extracting caffeine is the use of a solvent. This method is detrimental to taste because it cannot be directed to caffeine alone. This process also dissolves other positive compounds and ultimately negatively affects the cup. "
However, this does not mean that decaffeinated coffee is not suitable for drinking. Starting with quality beans and using other decaffeination methods, you can make a wonderful cup of coffee.
"The Swiss water method leaves what should be the same coffee as before. This method really costs a little more, and that may be why it's used less often, ”says Matt.
Erin Reed, marketing director at Swiss Water, says the Swiss water method leaves soluble solids in coffee beans and this treatment only traps the caffeine molecule using the carbon that has the pores inherent in caffeine.
He says: “These steps ensure that the nuances of taste from different regions and origins are protected and represented in each cup of decaffeinated coffee. For each batch of decaffeinated coffee, we check that it is achieved before and after decaffeination. "
Does decaffeinated coffee have to be dark roasted?
Decaffeinated coffee is usually more porous and heat sensitive. This means that the toaster needs to make some adjustments.
Consumption of decaffeinated coffee has come a long way and the Swiss water process is doing a decent job, leaving the roaster with the same bean as before the decaffeination. The problem is that some people simply use lower quality green beans to make their decaffeinated coffee.
Finding decaffeinated coffee with the profile you'd expect from a specialty coffee can be a little trickier, but there are many options.
Considering the different decaffeination processes and watching how the beans are roasted, you can easily choose coffee with a special taste and depth.
Yes, it can be more expensive to buy high-quality decaffeinated coffee, but as younger generations increasingly prefer decaffeinated coffee and are willing to pay for quality, we at Mission mainly prefer to use beans that have been decaffeinated by water.