Decaf coffee 101 – What it is and how to make decaffeinated coffee

Starting your day with a hot mug of coffee is so refreshing, right? Sipping on that flavorful beverage while enjoying its luscious taste is quite a big deal and a daily ritual for coffee lovers.

That fragrance of freshly brewed coffee tickling the nostrils first thing in the morning and appealing to savor its taste is quite irresistible.

Have you ever wondered if your coffee can have a better taste? (We’re sure it has crossed your mind at least once)

As per studies, at least 10% of coffee lovers have wondered about enjoying this drink without experiencing the stimulating effect of caffeine.

Now the question is, can you really eliminate caffeine from coffee?

Can you actually enjoy coffee without having caffeine in it?

Can you satisfy your coffee cravings with missing caffeine from your drink?

Let’s explore answers to these questions and learn how one can craft decaffeinated coffee, but before that, let’s understand the idea behind decaffeinated coffee, how it came into existence and a little more detail about the drink.

What is decaffeinated coffee?

Stating this in super simple words; a decaffeinated coffee simply means the absence of caffeine. The decaffeination process removes a large chunk of caffeine, making the drink caffeine-free and soft for people who like their coffee light and are willing to enjoy its taste rather than its effects. 

Having a decaffeinated coffee without hampering the taste is surreal, but do you really think decaffeinated coffee does not contain caffeine at all? Let us break that bubble for you.

According to USDA, coffee is “decaffeinated” when it is 97% caffeine-free. So yeah, your coffee is never fully decaffeinated. 

Quite interesting, isn’t it?

You must be wondering how to brew a perfect cuppa of decaffeinated coffee and what all it takes to remove caffeine from the drink. Let’s first dive deep into how the concept came into existence and who’s the master behind the idea of decaffeinated coffee.

The history

The consumption of decaffeinated peaked when the total coffee consumption fell from an average of 3.12 cups per person per day to 1.82 cups in the year 1962. 

The first decaffeination process took place in the year 1820 by Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge. However, he was not confident about the components or the science behind the procedure and left the process incomplete.

Fast forward to 1906, the first commercially-available decaf coffee came into existence by a German man Ludwig Roselius. Ludwig believed that he lost his father due to extensive caffeine consumption, and that day he decided to eliminate this toxic element so that people can enjoy their beverage carefreely.

He was into his research when he coincidentally discovered that coffee beans lose their caffeine content if they encounter salty water. 

He patented his process where he steams coffee with acids and bases and eradicates caffeine with the help of benzene.

This process of decaffeination took the coffee market by storm, and it became a go-to procedure for brewing decaf coffee for years. This brewing technique is known as the “Roslius Process.” 

Current scenario

Decaffeinated coffee is one of the largest growing markets and is also one of the positive parts of the coffee space in the USA. It has persuaded people to know the crucial drawbacks of coffee and made people conscious of their overall health and fitness. The coffee market amounts to US$460.00bn in 2022 and is one of the fastest and the most traditional spaces for beverages. 

We hope you gained a clear understanding of what decaffeinated coffee is all about. Now let’s explore various types of decaffeination processes. 

Related: Difference between decaf coffee and regular coffee.

Types of coffee decaffeination:

Typically, decaffeination is divided into two general categories. 

  1. Solvent-based processes
  2. Non-solvent-based processes

Let’s first understand the solvent-based method.

The solvent-based process is all about using chemicals like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to remove caffeine from the coffee beans. 

The solvent-based method is further divided into 2 parts. 

  1. Indirect-solvent process
  2. Direct-solvent process

Direct-solvent method:

In direct solvent, coffee beans are soaked directly in chemicals to remove caffeine. Due to negative records and health concerns, only methylene chloride or ethyl acetate is used for direct-solvent decaffeination. 

Green coffee beans are steamed for 30 minutes straight to open the pores. Once the pores are open, they are rinsed with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to eliminate the caffeine content. This rinsing and process take 10 hours to get results. 

After rinsing, coffee beans go further for roasting to remove any chemical residue. Once done, the coffee beans are sent for packaging and distribution process to get to end users. 

Now the question is, even after processing the coffee and doing everything to remove the chemical remains, there are chances that there can be solvent remains in the coffee beans, then how it won’t affect our health?

Coffee beans go for roasting before reaching the end users. The roasting process uses a high capacity of heat, and it’s highly unlikely that the chemicals can survive the roasting process. Coffee is generally roasted at a minimum of 400 degrees F for at least 15 minutes. The methylene chloride vaporizes at 104 degrees F, so the chemical will rarely land up to your hot mug of coffee. 

Talking about ethyl acetate, the chemical is way too safe compared to methylene chloride and is present in fruits like apples and blackberries.

Since this chemical appears “naturally”, coffee manufacturers label this decaffeinated coffee as “naturally decaffeinated” coffee. 

Indirect-solvent method:

This is one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways to decaffeinate your coffee beans. In this process, coffee beans are soaked in boiling water for long hours. This steeping method extracts the caffeine and other strong oils from the beans and makes them decaffeinated.

Once the steeping is done, the coffee beans are separated and get transferred to another tank where they’re washed with methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. The chemical molecules and coffee molecules bond with each other, and it later gets evaporated during roasting.

After this, the coffee beans are transferred to the water they’ve used for steeping. This process helps in the absorption of essential oils and other crucial elements of coffee. 

This decaffeination process is widely used in Europe. It is popularly known as “The European Method,” “Methylene Chloride Method,” or “Euro Prep.”

Non-solvent-based processes:

Non-solvent based process is a chemical-free technique where no chemical is used to decaffeinate the coffee. It is done in 2 ways:

  1. Swiss Water Process (SWP)
  2. Co2 Process

The water-based procedure (SWP) began in Switzerland in 1933, and the first commercial process of non-solvent decaffeination happened in 1980. After all the experiments and tests, the coffee was made available for commoners in 1988. 

Let’s understand the Swiss Water Process (SWP) in detail.

Swiss Water Process:

In the swiss water process, unroasted coffee beans are steeped in hot water. Once done, the water is passed from an activated charcoal filter, where it splits the colossal caffeine content from the beans and allows smaller oil and flavor molecules to pass through it. After this, the flavorless coffee beans are dumped, and the water used to extract the caffeine flavor is reused to pull the caffeine from a fresh batch of coffee beans. 

Since the water is transfused with flavors, the taste in this fresh batch can’t dissolve; only caffeine shifts from the beans to the water. So it is a decaffeination without an enormous loss of flavor.

This procedure is generally used to decaffeinate organic coffee and is labeled as “Swiss Water” decaf.

Food trivia: Coffee decaffeinated using the swiss water method is 99.9% caffeine-free.

Co2 Process:

The Co2 method, also known as the liquid carbon dioxide method or supercritical carbon dioxide method, is very recent in the decaffeination industry. This procedure developed by Kurt Zosel, a scientist at the Max Plank Institute uses liquid CO2 rather than chemical solvents. It acts choosey on the caffeine, i.e., it releases the alkaloid and nothing else.

Let’s understand this in detail. The soaked coffee beans are kept in a stainless steel container known as the extraction vessel. The vessel is then sealed, and liquid CO2 is forced into the coffee at pressures of 1,000 pounds per square inch to drag the caffeine. 

Then, the CO2 dissolves and removes the caffeine from the coffee beans, leaving the larger-molecule flavor components behind. The caffeine-packed CO2 moved to another container called the absorption chamber. Here the pressure is released, and the CO2 goes back to its gaseous state, escaping the caffeine behind. The caffeine-free CO2 gas is stored back in a pressurized container for further use. 

This process is quite pocket-friendly and is used for decaffeinating large amounts of coffee that are less exotic in nature and found in grocery stores. 

Now that we understood different ways of decaffeination, let’s see how we can brew decaffeinated coffee at home

Use fresh water

Decaffeinated coffee tastes best in fresh water. Make sure you boil fresh water for a refreshing cup of decaffeinated coffee.

Let it cool down

Piping hot water can burn your coffee and make it tasteless. Let the water cool down for a bit and pour the water at between 90°C to 96°C into the coffee. 

Get the quantity clear

Decide how many cups of coffee you plan to brew to take the right amount. 

Type of coffee beans for decaf coffee

The best part about decaf coffee is that since the process of decaffeination takes place on unroasted coffee beans, you unlock wide options to choose from to enjoy a mug of decaf coffee. There are a few good decaf coffee options available to purchase online. Make sure you go for dark roasted beans, as it tastes much better. 

Get in some flavors

Add sweetener or vanilla to enhance the taste. 

Get the milk

Add milk if you want and stir well. Once done, serve the decaf coffee immediately.

How to make decaf coffee

Here is the step-by-step guide to making the decaf coffee
Print Pin Rate
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2
Calories: 2kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp Decaffeinated instant coffee grounds
  • 1 tsp warm water
  • 2 tsp sugar or other sweeteners, to taste
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice or half-and-half

Instructions

  • Take a pan or a vessel and heat the water. Take the quantity of water as per the no. of coffee cups you want to prepare.
  • Take a mug and put fresh coffee grounds into it.
  • Once the water starts boiling, turn off the heat and let the water rest for some time. 
  • Gently pour the water into the mug of coffee grounds and give it a nice gentle stir.
  • If you want to enhance the taste of your beverage or, simply want to experiment with your barista skills, go on and add vanilla essence or sweeteners like sugar. Doing this can definitely elevate the flavors and make you drool in so many ways. 
  • Give a nice gentle stir, and voila! Your drink is ready. 

Notes

Pro tip:
  • Buy a grinder if you can. It will help you enhance the taste of your coffee. Grinding decaffeinated coffee beans once a week can make you ample coffee powder you can use later.
  • If you’re a person who likes their coffee with mild flavors, make sure you dilute your drink with water before adding milk. Doing this can dilute your coffee without hampering its texture and consistency.
  • If you plan to use swiss water decaf coffee, ensure that you store them in an airtight container. Storing decaffeinated coffee in an airtight container can avoid the nature of coffee powder forming lumps and keeps them fresh and smooth.
 

Nutrition

Calories: 2kcal

The Bottom Line

Decaf coffee is not something new. It is into existence for a very long time, and because of its impeccable health benefits, it is gaining popularity with each passing day. We agree that you won’t get good quality decaf coffee easily but once you do, it’s quite easy to brew them and enjoy their luscious taste without facing the jittery feeling that coffees generally produce.

Go for a decaf that is less dark and oily to enjoy the pure feel of decaf coffee. 

I am a foodie and a barista. I love cooking as much as I love my kids. Here in this blog, I am sharing all my recipes and guides.

Home » Coffee » Decaf coffee 101 – What it is and how to make decaffeinated coffee

Leave a Comment

Recipe Rating