As much as we enjoy caffeine in our coffee, some might be sensitive to it. To counter this problem, various methods have been developed to decaffeinate coffee.
The world has moved away from the phase when Baristas looked down upon decaf drinkers. People in the coffee industry are increasingly realising that there are many people who want to enjoy a nice cup of coffee without caffeine. Many roasters are realising that decaf can be tasty too!
The process of Decaffeination – removing caffeine from coffee was first devised in 1903 by a German coffee merchant Ludwig Roselius. According to legend, his quest for decaffeination was motivated by his belief that his father was poisoned by excessive drinking of coffee. (We are certain that his belief was wrong but it gave the world decaf!) The process used by him involved steaming coffee beans with a water + salt solution followed by using benzene as a solvent to extract the caffeine. The process has evolved a great deal since then as nobody wants benzene in something they drink!
Decaffeination is performed on green beans (before coffee is cooked/roasted). Today the commonly used methods are Solvent Based or Non-Solvent Based. In solvent based methods, chemical solvents such as Methylene Chloride or Ethyl Acetate are used to remove caffeine.
The Swiss Water Process, a method that does not use chemical solvents was introduced to the market in 1980s and its facility is based in British Columbia. This method prevents loss of too much flavor. To understand this method in detail you can check out this very interesting video This video will help you understand why decaf is expensive and not as popular.
Another method that does not use chemical solvents is the CO2 method. This method involves use of pressurized CO2 to remove caffeine and not the main flavors of coffee. Our recently introduced Columbia Supremo decaf coffee roasted by Naivo uses this method of decaffeination. We’d be lying if we tell you that we didn’t expect it to taste “bad” but we were pleasantly surprised. We thoroughly enjoyed this decaf coffee after a long session of coffee (caffeine) tasting.