The Full Story
Chemicals vs. Swiss Water® Process
How Decaf Coffee is Made
Caffeine is removed from coffee beans while they are green. Green coffee beans are beans that have been harvested, removed from the fruit and dried but have not yet been roasted. Once green coffee beans are ready for decaffeination there are a few different methods for removing caffeine in use today. Solvent-based methods use chemicals like Ethyl acetate or Methylene chloride to remove caffeine while the Swiss Water process requires just water, time, filters and temperature.
Solvent-based decaffeination utilizes Ethyl acetate or Methylene chloride solvents applied directly or indirectly to green coffee beans to dissolve the naturally occurring caffeine. The US Food and Drug Administration has determined that neither of these solvents poses a health risk, but some coffee connoisseurs find that coffee decaffeinated with a solvent-based method has less flavor and depth than coffee decaffeinated by other means and can leave a bitter aftertaste. If you see the words “naturally decaffeinated” when you buy decaf coffee online or at the store, it is likely that coffee was decaffeinated using Ethyl acetate.
The Swiss Water® Process – No Added Chemical Solvents
The Swiss Water process is a method for decaffeinating coffee that was created in Switzerland in the 1930s and scaled for commercial coffee production by the 1980s. The Swiss Water Company headquartered in Burnaby, BC, Canada is the only decaffeination facility that is certified organic and Kosher.
How Swiss Water Process Decaffeination Works
To begin the decaffeination process, green coffee beans are soaked in hot water to dissolve the caffeine. However, caffeine isn’t the only water-soluble substance present in coffee. Sugars and other chemical components that create the flavor and aromas of coffee we love can also dissolve in water.
After soaking, the water from the green beans is passed through a charcoal filter. Caffeine is a large molecule and gets trapped in the filter while the sugars, oils and other chemical elements in coffee that impart flavor and aroma pass through and stay in the water to create what is called Green Coffee Extract. This green coffee extract-infused water is now used to soak the next batch of green beans. Since the Green Coffee Extract already contains the other elements of flavor, those substances won’t dissolve from the beans and just the caffeine is removed. The result is decaffeinated coffee that is high on flavor and free from additional chemical solvents and no bitter after-taste.
No Caffeine and No Chemicals!