Decaf Coffee

Written by Linda Alexander
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Making decaf coffee is a scientifically simple process that either involves solvents or activated charcoal. The beans are soaked in water to dissolve the caffeine. Then the solvent or activated charcoal is used to take the caffeine out of the water. The beans are then soaked again in the water to absorb any flavors that were lost during the caffeine extraction.

With the Swiss Water Process, green coffee beans are soaked in hot, almost boiling, water. The water is removed into a different tank, where it is forced through activated charcoal filters, which soak up the caffeine. Unfortunately, many of the flavor oils are removed in this process. The beans are then soaked again in the water, which still has the flavors but most of the caffeine removed. The decaf coffee beans can then re-soak up some of their lost flavor.

Decaf Coffee Contains Caffeine

With decaffeinated coffee, not all the caffeine is removed from the coffee. Not all of the flavor can be returned to the coffee either. The process alters the chemical composition of the coffee, changing its flavor slightly.

All of the other methods of making decaf coffee use chemicals. Even the "natural" process uses a naturally-occurring chemical compound to extract the caffeine. Since the beans never come in contact with any of the chemicals, these methods are also considered generally safe. The Swiss Water process is a patented method that uses only water to decaffeinate coffee beans.


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