It seems like everyone’s drinking it. It is a major part of millions of people’s morning rituals. It can be found in pots on pretty much every continent around the world. What is it?
It’s coffee. A simple word, a simple, bitter flavor, and an all-around addictive substance.
But what happens if you like the flavor, love the ritual, but don’t want the buzz? Well, if you like the taste, but not the kick, decaf is often your best bet when it comes to coffee. But have you ever wondered how they get that pesky caffeine out of the coffee? Doesn’t caffeine naturally occur in coffee beans? How do you decaffeinate coffee beans without completely destroying them and making them totally unnatural? Read on: all of your questions will now be answered.
In essence, the caffeine is soaked out of the coffee beans, usually when they are green. The beans are soaked in a solution of water and methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. These chemicals are quite tame and never actually touch the bean, so this process is not too toxic. So there is no need to worry. Furthermore, you can actually find ethyl acetate in some fruits, so companies that use it can say that their coffee is decaffeinated naturally.
With all of that being said, there are three particularly common methods of doing this soaking and dissolving of caffeine. These methods include the Carbon Dioxide process, the Sparkling Water process, and the Swiss Water process. All of these are similar, but the Swiss Water method actually soaks two batches. The first batch of beans is junked, but then the water left over is used in the next batch and this helps the flavor.
The sparkling water method follows the carbon dioxide process. In other words, the sparkling water combines a sparkling water step with the most common process, which is the carbon dioxide approach. This CO2 process soaks the beans in concentrated carbon dioxide. Then the caffeine is removed from the CO2 by using a water soak. You guessed it: that water soak is in sparkling water.
Now, the soaking process doesn’t really utilize common kitchen bowls. It utilizes industrial grade equipment and requires serious precision. In the end, this is not really a process you want to try at home, although it probably sounds pretty tempting. You would need a chemistry lab to get this done. So for now, keep buying that decaf at the market!