Decaffeinated Coffee⎮What You Need to Know


          
            Swiss Water Coffee Beans Used by Espresso Canada

By law, decaffeinated coffee must contain less than one percent caffeine. If you are looking for a cup of decaffeinated coffee that is of good quality, maintains aromatic levels and provides the satisfying taste we all crave in coffee, read on to learn what you need to know.

What is Caffeine

Caffeine, the world's most popular alkaloid, is a member fo the Xanthine family.  On average we consume about two hundred milligrams daily, while some avid fans double that amount.

The fact is that even through the caffeine molecule, in its naked state, is a bitter alkaloid, caffeine loses its potency during the caffeination and roasting process.  The hitch is, flavour and aroma compounds may also be diminished or removed during caffeination.   

Effects of Caffeine

The substance, felt by the entire body about twenty minutes after ingestion, does not accumulate and its effects are short-lived and transitory, wearing off in about an hour and a half.  The boost is pleasant and research has shown it makes the mind more alert and invigorates the body. There have been numerous studies that show caffeine to have some health benefits.

Couple enjoying cappuccino and espresso made from a Philips Superautomatic Espresso Machine available at Espresso Canada

The four most well known plants that contain caffeine are coffee, cocoa, cola and tea.  As it turns out, caffeine is really an important characteristic that has the power to protect the plants and the soil around them from fungi, bacteria and insects.  So caffeine not only provides benefits to humans but to plants as well.  There are many ways to use coffee grounds in beneficial and practical ways around the home and garden.

Why Drink Decaf

Decaffeinated coffee appeals to certain coffee-lovers:

  • those with sensitive stomachs,
  • or who find regular coffee too stimulating,
  • or whose sleep will be ruined by a caffeinated night cap. 
To most who are used to having caffeine the "unleaded" brew just doesn't have the same psychological kick as does the regular one.

Caffeine in Espresso

Espresso contains from thirty to fifty milligrams per cup, less than any other coffee brewing preparation including the most common methods such as filtered coffee, American or French style which reach about ninety milligrams per cup. 

The Process To Achieve Decaffeination

The need not to have the effects of caffeine from drinking coffee has promoted the industry rise in decaffeinated a coffee. However, drinking decaf doesn't mean having to sell out on flavour, aroma or quality.   It should taste the same as caffeinated coffee if the caffeine is removed properly.

There are several ways caffeine can be removed from coffee beans.  Decaffeinated coffee is not the natural way coffee grows so beans need to be treated to remove the caffeine.  Some methods use chemicals while other methods use more organic natural system.  Which type of decaffeinated coffee should you choose. 

The process to remove caffeine occurs when the bean are green and raw. To make the best choice to suit personal preferences, you need to understand the various technological processes used by the coffee industry.  The following general overview and information may help demystify decaffeination.

Unroasted Swiss Water Decaf Coffee Beans Used by Espresso Canada in their Swiss Water Coffee Beans

Three Primary Methods for Decaffeination

The process of decaffeinating coffee began at the turn of the last century, in Germany.  Although there have been many patents since, today there are only three primary decaffeination methods used by the coffee industry. Each process begins the same way: the green (unroasted) coffee beans are moistened with steam and water to soften them, open their pores and loosen their caffeine bonds.  After this initial step, the following various methods are used.  These methods are conventionally named according to the process. 

The Swiss Water Process or Water Only Method

Swiss water decaffeination almost always uses high quality arabica beans. Thus the final higher quality product is reflected in a more expensive price tag. Essentially you get what you pay for. 

The process does no use chemicals.  First, the caffeine, as well as the flavour extracts, is stripped from the bean by the initial water and steam soak.  This first batch of beans is discarded.  The water, which now holds the coffee flavour extracts and caffeine, is filtered through carbon to remove the caffeine.  It is this extract that is used to subsequently absorb the caffeine from a new batch of beans. 

Due to the scientific principles of solubility, the caffeine in the new batch of coffee beans moves from an area of higher concentration (the bean itself) to an area of lower concentration (the extract).  By this process, 94 to 96% of caffeine is removed.  Since this process uses no chemicals aside from the carbon filter (the same substance that is used to purify water), it is referred to as an organic, or natural method.

The Water Decaffeination Method

In a water decaffeination process that is not specifically "Swiss", sometimes chemicals rather than charcoal filters are used to extract the caffeine from the "coffee flavour charged" extract.  It is important to note that this chemical solvent does not come into contact with the actual beans.  The beans come into contact with water only, and the rich aroma and flavour characteristics of the coffee are minimally altered.

The Solvent Method to Decaffeination

Certain solvents, such as methylene chloride and common ethyl acetate are the most widely used chemical components to decaffeinate coffee.  

Although synthetic methylene chloride has been under fire as being hazardous to the environment, its use is allowed, providing the residues fall below certain limits.

Ethyl acetate may be sourced rom natural ingredients, and it can be produced synthetically as well.  This method is generally advertised as a "naturally" decaffeinated process.  Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing whether the solvent source is natural or synthetic.

Roasting Decaffeinated Beans

Although decaffeinated coffee beans are difficult to roast, it is usually the roasting process, if not done properly, that is responsible for the unpleasant tastes and textures of some decaf coffees.  A superior decaffeination process, however, protects the original, rich flavour characteristics of the coffee when the caffein is removed. 

Based on experiences at Espresso Canada a superior 100% arabica, quality "air-roasted Swiss water decaffeinated coffee can deliver a deliciously satisfying cup of decaf espresso or filtered coffee.  We believe our roast could challenge any comparative taste test with a standard cup of caffeinated coffee. 

Swiss Water Decaf Beans from Espresso Canada

Consumer Awareness and Labeling of Decaf Coffee

The majority of caffeine free coffee is sold in specialty stores is initially shipped to decaffeination plants in Switzerland and Germany.  It is in these countries that the majority of all decaffeinated coffees are produced.  Once the processing is complete they beans are shipped to North America. 

When purchasing decaffeinated coffee, check to see if the decaf is an arabica or robusta blend.  Depending on the type of bean and/or blend, the amount of caffeine that remains in the finished product can also vary.  For example, the amount of caffeine in a decaffeinated 100 percent robusta coffee will naturally be higher than a 100 percent arabica coffee since robusta beans have almost twice as much caffeine in their natural state as do arabica coffee beans.   Arabica beans, even when decaffeinated offera superior finished coffee flavour, aroma and body and certainly a lower caffeine content. 

Preparing Decaffeinated Espresso

Preparing a decaffeinated espresso can be a very easy process.  You can make it as you would a regular espresso using any espresso brewing appliance - moka pot or espresso machine.   

There is a growing popularity of superautomatic espresso machines because they are easy to use and maintain.  The beauty of a superautomatic is that you can put your decaffeinated beans directly in the bean hopper, press a button and the machine will grind and tamp the fresh beans and prepare an espresso.  However, if you have two types of coffee drinkers in the house - one who wants caffeinated and the other who prefers decaffeinated- a superautoamtic is still the best choice.

The bypass hopper on superautomatics allows you to put one variety of beans in the bean hopper and then use the bypass doser for the other variety.  When using the bypass doser, you need to ensure you the coffee is ground.  Ensure you use an espresso grind (fine) when using the bypass doser.

Bypass doser of a superautomatic coffee machine by Philips.  Available from Espresso Canada

 

Be sure to know what kind of decaf you are buying because quality really does matter. Remember you get what you pay for - it may be a bit more expensive but Swiss Water Decaf is the safest most natural decaf coffee on the market.

Contact Espresso Canadafor any questions you may have on Swiss Water Decaf, superautomatics or the best coffee to use in superautomatics.  

 

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