Plus 1 more that was banned.
Not all decaffeination is the same. Of the five different processes, which is the best for you?
It’s not always clear on a packet of decaf coffee or tea how the caffeine was removed. In fact, a lot of well-known brands will not tell you anywhere – not the packet, their website or FAQs – exactly how decaffeination was achieved at all.
At I Love Decaf, we’re a big fan of transparency and often detail the decaf process in the name of the product, just so there are absolutely no doubts.
While we don’t hide the details, there’s still not enough space on the label that tells you why we chose one method of decaffeination over another. So, we wanted to fill you in on everything you need to know about the methods of decaffeination available, which ones we use and why.
The method of decaffeination has a direct effect on the taste and aroma of decaf tea and coffee.
Not all methods of decaffeination were created equally. Let’s dive into the details.
There are five known methods of decaffeination. Of these, the original method is now illegal because it used benzene, which is highly toxic. The 1906 discovery of Ludwig Roselius, a man whose second claim to fame involved a plot to kill Hitler, led to a decaffeinated coffee drink that became popular in almost every country.
Neither of Roselius’ grand plans ultimately bore fruit, so that leaves four different ways to decaffeinate your coffee.
The Methylene chloride decaffeination (MC) process.
Methylene chloride (MC) is combined with caffeine molecules to make decaffeinated coffee or tea. This process can be done on either the coffee beans or tea leaves in hot water. and it is important to note that because it is only a tiny trace amount remaining, even that evaporates.
The Ethyl Acetate decaffeination methods
Ethyl acetate decaf is sometimes referred to as the “natural” method because it involves naturally occurring chemicals from fruits. This process is otherwise identical to the direct and indirect methods which use methylene chloride as a solvent.
What method do the Swiss use to decaffeinate coffee beans?
The Swiss Water Process for decaffeinated coffee – and a few teas – removes caffeine by soaking beans (or tea leaves) in hot water and passing them through activated carbon filters. The decaffeinated beans are then re-soaked in water to reintroduce the flavors.
What is carbon dioxide decaffeination
This is very much the science laboratory way of doing decaffeination and doing it well. Part of its boffinological appeal is that it involves turning carbon dioxide ‘supercritical’, which is essentially making CO2 do things well above its pay grade.
No one said making a quality cup of coffee was easy, but it’s worth it. Beans or leaves are pressure cooked with carbon dioxide which becomes temporarily capable of extracting the caffeine from the beans while still leaving the flavour molecules in place.
Learn about the Mountain Water Method of decaffeination
The Mountain Water Process (MWP) is seen as a cut above all other decaffeinated beverages. This process uses water from Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico.
To remove the caffeine, the process starts by steaming green coffee beans which then get soaked in a water solution, removing caffeine and the compounds that make the flavour. Water is drained from the soaked seeds and passed through activated carbon filters which separate the caffeine from the water. The beans are then introduced back to the decaf water and the flavours soak back in without the caffeine.