How does coffee become caffeine-free?

Only one thing springs to mind with "caffeine-free coffee" and that is: simply wrong. How can coffee be free from caffeine? It can. And that – hear, hear – with full flavour.

Decaffeinated coffee has fought a long battle against a bad reputation. The accusation: the coffee is far too watery and tasteless. Old stuff that was not important to the disciples of the Third Wave. You can now get really good decaf coffee that tastes just as good as "normal" coffee. But how do you make a really good decaf?

Decaf: the old school way

It was invented – attention, history lesson – by the Bremen merchant Ludwig Roselius as early as 1903. He had a hunch that his father, who died shortly before, had poisoned himself with excessive coffee consumption. He went on to develop the so-called "Roselius procedure for decaffeinating coffee". This procedure included the solvent benzene, however. It later transpired that it was highly carcinogenic and poisonous. Better methods were long overdue.

Nowadays, direct and indirect methods and the carbon dioxide method are used for the decaffeination process. It sounds complicated. And that is true to some extent. Close your eyes:

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Decaf: the cheap way

With the direct method, the green coffee beans are soaked in hot water and then treated with solvents such as ethyl acetate or dichloromethane. Nasty names for substances that help dissolve out the caffeine from the beans. The decanted beans are then dried and roasted – just like its caffeinated friend. It is important to completely remove the solvent. Otherwise it would have an adverse affect on the coffee aroma and your health. However, this method is comparatively cheap.

Decaf: the wasteful way

An indirect method is the Swiss water process. This entails placing green coffee beans in hot water and all components are removed. These beans are disposed of. The water mixture is pushed through a coffee filter to remove the caffeine. New, caffeinated beans are added to the caffeine-free water. These beans only release their caffeine in the water, but not the coffee particles, because the water has already fully absorbed the flavourings. This process is repeated until the beans have become caffeine-free. Who would have thought!

The benefit of this method: the majority of the coffee aroma is preserved. The obvious disadvantage: an extremely high amount of water is consumed and a large portion of the coffee beans lands in the bill. That is why this method is only rarely used.

Decaf: the royal way

And now? Does the carbon dioxide method still exist? The green coffee beans are rinsed under high pressure with liquid CO2 on ambient temperature, in order to release the caffeine. Finally, the CO2 is boiled away and the pure caffeine is left behind.

The CO2 method is a very gentle method that retains all the flavours and aromas of the coffee beans. Even the beans of our Espresso Decaffeinato and Lungo Decaffeinato are decaffeinated using this method. Free from residues. Full of flavour.

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What does caffeine-free mean?

Caffeine-free does not necessarily mean completely free fro caffeine. At least on paper: in the EU, a coffee is considered to be caffeine-free if it contains less than 0.1% caffeine. An infinitesimally small amount. Either way – our Espresso Decaffeinato is a light alternative for all those who react sensitively to excessive amounts of caffeine. Those who quickly develop palpitations, have a particularly sensitive stomach or are pregnant, are well-advised to drink caffeine-free coffee. Also in terms of taste.

For the full coffee aroma, it is also essential to ensure gentle treatment and the right roasting. Not only for "normal" coffee but also with caffeine-free coffee. Otherwise you are only left drinking a cup of hot water. Sprinkled with poisonous residues. No thanks!

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