March 2, 2007, Newsletter Issue #98: Making Coffee Decaf

Tip of the Week

The three main processes for removing caffeine are to use carbon dioxide, water or chemical solvents, such as ethyl acetate and methylene chloride. Treating beans with chlorinated hydrocarbon solvents is popular, according to Encarta, Microsoft’s online encyclopedia.

The Swiss Water Process uses only water.

Sparkling water process uses carbon dioxide. The green beans are soaked in highly compressed carbon dioxide, which extracts the caffeine. The caffeine it then washed from the carbon dioxide with water in a secondary tank and is then recycled to extract more caffeine from the coffee. The solvent consists of approximately 99.7 percent compressed carbon dioxide and 0.3 percent water.

Nobody seems to agree on which method best maintains the flavor of the coffee beans, and different processes can have varying effects on different beans, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The process does affect the flavor and the decaffeinator works to ensure that stripping the caffeine does not strip the flavor.

After removal of the solvents, the process is similar to regular coffee - beans are roasted by ordinary procedures.

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