Many of us love coffee, but sometimes, we don’t want the caffeine. Have you ever wondered how coffee is decaffeinated? How do you take the caffeine out of anything, whether it’s cocoa to make chocolate, tea leaves that brew teas or coffee beans that make that luscious cup of coffee every morning?
First off, the term decaffeination implies the removal of caffeine from such items. We’ll explain how this is done. Oh, and do be aware that even decaffeinated coffee may still contain approximately 20% original caffeine.
Did you know that your cup of coffee can contain more than 400 different chemicals that give your coffee its aroma and taste? So how do they remove the chemicals that contain caffeine while leaving other chemicals found in the coffee bean alone? Different types of coffee contained different degrees of caffeine (for example, Arabica coffee generally contains roughly half the caffeine of Robusta coffee), so processes and processing times may differ.
When it comes to coffee, decaffeination is usually achieved by steaming unroasted or green coffee beans. Those beans are then saturated or rinsed in a solvent that is designed to extract the caffeine while at the same time leaving other chemicals in the coffee bean that produce flavor and aroma. This rinsing with a solvent can be repeated up to a dozen times until approximately 97% of caffeine has been removed (by international standards) or the coffee bean meets the EU standard of 99.9% caffeine free coffee determined by mass.
Different methods of decaffeination have been explored since the early 1900s, and up to half a dozen such processes are still used today throughout the world. You might be interested to know that since 2009, research has been underway to find a way to grow coffee beans that don’t contain caffeine. However, for those of us who prefer that kick start every morning, nothing will ever replace that caffeinated cup of coffee.