Decaffeination Methods

Chem-Free vs European Decaf Processes

Ever wonder how do they make decaf coffee? Let's discuss how coffee is decaffeinated by exploring the difference between Chem-Free Decaf and Euro Decaf. Drinkers of decaffeinated coffee can choose from a wide variety of unblended, blended, and flavored coffees with little sacrifice to flavor. Since the introduction of decaffeinated coffee to the United States just before World War I, the coffee industry has developed several methods to remove caffeine with a minimal loss of flavor and quality in the brewed product.

Although caffeine is water soluble above 175F, water alone is generally not used to decaffeinate coffee because it strips away too many of essential flavor and aroma elements. Decaffeination involves the use of a decaffeinating agent. To give the best taste, the decaffeinating agent must be very selective at removing caffeine without disturbing the flavor components. The two best at this are carbon dioxide (Chem Free) and methylene chloride (Euro Decaf). Carbon dioxide is the bubbles in beverages and what we exhale with every breath. Methylene chloride is a light organic chemical that evaporates at warm temperatures. I'll explain the decaffeinated coffee process in more detail:

Process: Chem Free Decaf
In the Chem Free decaffeinated coffee process, the green (unroasted) beans are first softened by steam to allow the solvent to penetrate the bean. Next, the beans are immersed in liquid carbon dioxide which is under very high pressure. It penetrates the beans and dissolves the caffeine. The carbon dioxide is then drawn off, leaving the beans 97 percent free of caffeine. The solvent residue remaining on the beans dissipates as a gas when the beans return to normal pressure. All coffees labeled “Chem Free” and all Café Fair chemical free decaf coffee use this process.
Process: Euro Decaf
This decaffeinated coffee process is similar to the chem-free process; however, methylene chloride is used to remove the caffeine rather than carbon dioxide and since methylene chloride is a liquid it is not under high pressure. After soaking the caffeine laden solvent is drained away, and the beans are steamed a second time for 8 to 12 hours to evaporate any remaining solvent. Finally, air or vacuum drying removes excess moister from the decaffeinated beans. Virtually no solvent residue remains after roasting the beans. For this process we only use a decaffeinator in Hamburg Germany, because they a very diligent about removing the solvent. Give it a try with our organic decaf coffee.