How to Decaffeinate Coffee – Best Four Methods

Coffee (with origin from the Coffea plant) is a beverage brewed from roasted coffee seeds and found in most parts of the world. Commercially, coffee has two major species namely: Coffea Arabica and Coffea Robusta (they both contain large amounts of caffeine).

How To Decaffeinate Coffee
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It contains compounds such as caffeine, antioxidants, and nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, manganese, niacin, and riboflavin. Coffee stimulates the central nervous system and causes it to stay active and release energy to the body.

Caffeine (a naturally occurring stimulant found in coffee seeds, tea, chocolate, and other drinks) is a major constituent of coffee. Caffeine is responsible for the stimulating effect felt after coffee consumption. 

The amount of caffeine present in a cup of coffee depends on the type of coffee beans and how coffee is produced. However, you can choose to have your coffee caffeinated or decaffeinated.

Coffee is said to be beneficial to the body. Some benefits of coffee include:

1. It protects the body against type 2 diabetes mellitus.

2. It protects against Parkinson’s disease.

3. It reduces the risk of developing cancer.

4. It reduces the risk of developing liver diseases.

5. It reduces the risk of heart failure or stroke.

6. It increases activeness and reduces feelings of exhaustion.

7. It increases metabolic rate and fat burning.

8. It reduces the risk of depression and suicidal thoughts in women and men alike.

“What are the benefits of coffee”

Video: How to Decaffeinate Coffee

If you prefer learning by video, this article is also explained here.

Nutritional Value of Coffee

A cup of black coffee is low in calories, high in vitamins (Vitamins B2, B3), magnesium, potassium, niacin, antioxidants, essential oils, and natural flavors. 

The nutritional value of coffee changes with the addition of sugar, milk, flavors, and other sweeteners. Therefore, the number of calories increases. 

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Forms in Which Coffee Exist

Coffee exists in two forms; caffeinated coffee and decaffeinated coffee.

Caffeinated Coffee

Caffeinated coffee is beneficial to the body. Caffeinated coffee affects people in different ways. This is determined by body size, gender, metabolism, and rates of consumption. 

Other factors include the type of coffee beans, how it was roasted, type (instant, espresso or decaf), and serving size. 

Caffeinated coffee can be harmful to the body when taken in excess.

Decaffeinated Coffee

Decaffeinated coffee is a type of coffee that has some percentage of the caffeine removed through the decaffeination process. This type of coffee is for people who feel the regular coffee is not good for their body because of its caffeine content.

A lot of people believe decaf coffee does not taste well like the regular caffeinated coffee, that’s not true. Its taste is dependent on the quality of the coffee seeds, decaffeination method, roasting, and consumption time.

Also, people rarely buy decaf coffee so it can stay in the shop for a long time affecting the taste and quality. 

There is a recent development on growing decaffeinated coffee trees that will be used to produce high-quality decaf coffee. It will stop all decaf processes and methods that are quite difficult. 

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How Much Caffeine Is in a Decaffeinated Coffee?

Decaffeinated coffee contains some amounts of caffeine but in little quantity compared to regular coffee. According to the United States standard, coffee can only be decaffeinated by 97% while the European Union standard is 99.9%.

Apart from caffeine, decaf coffee also contains nutrients such as vitamins, antioxidants, potassium, magnesium, niacin, manganese as caffeinated coffee.

Brief History of Decaffeinated Coffee

The first attempt at isolating refined caffeine from coffee seeds was done in 1820 by Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, a German analytical chemist. He identified the mydriatic effects of belladonna extract.

After seeing Runge’s research on belladonna extract, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, a German poet, requested that he conduct research on coffee seeds. 

He separated the compound but was unable to grasp a lot about the composition of the compound which was later to be identified as caffeine.

Also, he never used this process to commercially make decaffeinated coffee.

In the year 1903, Ludwig Roselius (a German coffee merchant) discovered a method of decaffeinating coffee by accident when his shipload of coffee seeds got soaked with seawater. 

This method involves steaming coffee seeds with water and salt solution (brine solution) and using the solvent Benzene to extract the caffeine without changing the taste and flavor of the coffee. 

This became the first successful commercial decaffeination process and his work was patented in 1906. However, because of the carcinogenic effect of benzene, it is not used anymore for this process.

How to Decaffeinate Coffee

There are two ways to decaffeinate coffee. They include:

1. Solvent-based or organic process.

2. Non-solvent or inorganic process.

“How to decaffeinate coffee”

Video: How Coffee Is Decaffeinated

This video will show you how coffee is decaffeinated.

The decaffeination process is done when the coffee beans are still green before they are roasted. This is to remove caffeine to maintain the quality of coffee produced. The process of making good decaffeinated coffee is not a straightforward one.

Solvent-based Process

What is the solvent-based process of decaffeinating coffee?

The solvent-based process of decaffeinating coffee is otherwise called the organic process. This is a process in which caffeine is removed from coffee beans using a chemical solvent like ethyl acetate or methylene chloride. 

Solvents Used in Decaffeination

What solvents are used in decaffeinating coffee?

There are two solvents used for decaffeinating coffee organically. They include:

1. Methylene Chloride or Dichloromethane.

2. Ethyl Acetate.

“What solvents are used in decaffeinating coffee”

Methylene Chloride or Dichloromethane

Methylene chloride is a highly volatile compound used in decaffeinating coffee. Methylene chloride evaporates at 102F while coffee is roasted at approximately 400F.

This decaffeination process is safe and poses no threat to human health. This is because the process of roasting the coffee seeds completely removes methylene chloride from coffee beans.

Ethyl Acetate

Ethyl acetate is a chemical solvent found in most fruits. Ethyl acetate has a sweet-smelling flavor and so is used to produce vinegar and some other products. The natural components of ethyl acetate make it most preferred to methylene chloride. 

Ethyl acetate is commercially produced from ethyl alcohol and acetic acid which makes it synthetic. In this form, ethyl acetate is volatile and poses no threat to human health as the process of roasting the coffee beans completely removes it.

The solvent process is further divided into two methods

1. The direct method.

2. The indirect method.

Direct Method

In the direct method of decaffeinating coffee, green coffee beans are steamed first for about 30 minutes to open their pores. Thereafter, they are continuously rinsed in a solvent for about 10-12 hours. The solvent removes the caffeine and leaves other constituents unchanged.

The caffeine-solvent solution is drained away and the coffee beans steamed once more to completely remove any leftover solvent.

This process can be repeated as many times as possible until the caffeine level meets the stipulated standard. The direct method is otherwise called the ‘Natural Decaffeination Method’.

Indirect Method

In the indirect method of decaffeinating coffee, the coffee beans are soaked first inside hot water for some hours to remove the caffeine, oils, and other flavors from the coffee seeds. 

The coffee beans are then removed from the water and rinsed with a solvent for about 10 hours. The solvent removes caffeine from coffee beans. They are steamed to remove all traces of the solvent.

The solvent is used again to remove the caffeine in the water leaving behind the other constituents. The coffee beans are reintroduced to the water to absorb oils and other flavors. 

This method of decaffeination is sometimes called the ‘Water Processed’ because the water was used in the first stage.

Non-Solvent Process

What is the non-solvent process of decaffeinating coffee?

The non-solvent process is otherwise known as the inorganic process.  In this process, decaffeination is done without the use of any solvent.

The non-solvent process is divided into two methods:

1. The Swiss water method.

2. Carbon dioxide method.

Swiss Water Method

What is the Swiss water method?

The Swiss water method is a decaffeination method that uses solubility and osmosis to remove caffeine from coffee beans. First, the coffee seeds are soaked in hot water to extract the caffeine. Then, the water is removed and passed through an activated charcoal filter whose porosity allows only smaller oils and flavor molecules to pass through while it traps large molecules of caffeine.

“What is the swiss water method”

As a result of this, we have coffee beans with no caffeine and flavor in one tank and caffeine-free but flavored water in another tank. The latter is called ‘Green Coffee Extract’. 

Thereafter, a fresh batch of coffee beans is soaked in the caffeine-free but flavored water to remove caffeine from fresh coffee seeds. This removes the caffeine but leaves the other constituents (oils and flavors) unchanged because the water is already saturated with flavors.

Note that the coffee beans with no caffeine or flavor are discarded. 

This method of decaffeination is also called the Swiss Water Decaf.

Carbon Dioxide Method

What is the carbon dioxide method of decaffeinating coffee?

The carbon dioxide method is also known as the supercritical carbon dioxide process. It is the most recent method of decaffeinating coffee. This method uses carbon dioxide to remove caffeine from coffee seeds instead of solvents.

“What is the carbon dioxide method of decaffeinating coffee”

First, coffee beans are soaked in water and are transferred to a high-pressured stainless-steel vessel called the extraction vessel. 

The vessel is sealed and liquid carbon dioxide is forced into the coffee beans at high pressure of about 1000 pounds per square inch. This removes caffeine leaving behind the coffee beans and it’s other constituents. 

The caffeine-laden carbon dioxide is transferred to another container called the absorption container or vessel. The pressure is released converting the liquid carbon dioxide to its gaseous state. This gaseous carbon dioxide is drawn out from the container for future use.

The carbon dioxide method of decaffeinating coffee was developed by a scientist called Kurt Zosel. This method is very expensive and so is used to decaffeinate large amounts of low-quality decaffeinated coffee found in most stores.

Why Is It Difficult to Make Good Decaffeinated Coffee?

The following are reasons why it is difficult to make good decaffeinated coffee:

i. Lots of flavor ingredients and oils are destroyed during the decaffeination process. They contribute to the sensory character of the roasted coffee seeds.

ii. The decaffeination process starts off almost brown and not green (after steam effect). As a result, they are not controlled by roasters and thus roast faster because they have lost moisture.

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Does Decaf Coffee Have Any Benefits?

The benefits of decaf coffee are:

i. Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

ii. It has a positive effect on aging and reduces the risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease.

iii. Reduces the symptoms of heartburn.

“Does decaf coffee have any benefits”

What Are the Side Effects Associated With Too Much Consumption Of Coffee? 

The side effects associated with too much consumption of coffee include:

1. Anxiety.

2. Caffeine withdrawal.

3. Bone fracture.

4. Endometriosis.

5. Insomnia.

6. Migraine.

7. Nausea.

“What are the side effects associated with too much consumption of coffee”

Anxiety

Caffeine increases alertness by inhibiting a brain chemical called adenosine that makes you feel exhausted. This sends a signal to the brain to produce adrenaline that increases energy.

Too much intake of caffeine increases this effect leading to caffeine-induced anxiety. This can manifest as restlessness, nervousness, sleeping disorders, tachycardia, and gastrointestinal problems.

Caffeine Withdrawal

What is caffeine withdrawal?

Caffeine withdrawal occurs when an individual consumes too much coffee for a long period of time and suddenly stops. This is called caffeine addiction.

There’s excessive dependence on caffeine and it becomes difficult to stop consumption because the body is accustomed to it. When you stop drinking coffee abruptly, it leads to caffeine-withdrawal syndrome. This can lasts for 2 to 9 days after the last intake of caffeine.

“What is caffeine withdrawal”

The common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal include depression, tremor, fatigue, headache, irritability, poor concentration, low energy, and so on. 

Consult your doctor for expert advice on how to gradually stop or reduce the consumption of caffeine.

Bone Fracture

Women who consume too much quantity of coffee are at higher risk of bone fractures. This is not so with men.

Endometriosis 

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a painful condition or disorder in which tissues grow outside the uterus instead of inside of the uterus or endometrium. Endometriosis commonly involves the lining of the pelvis, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. Sometimes, it may spread beyond the pelvic organs.

Endometrosis can cause severe pains during menstrual periods. It can also cause fertility problems.

“What is endometriosis”

What are the common symptoms of endometriosis?

The following are common symptoms of endometriosis:

1. Painful menstruation also called dysmenorrhea.

2. Infertility.

3. Excessive bleeding.

4. Fatigue.

5. Constipation.

6. Bloating.

7. Painful intercourse.

8. Painful urination.

9. Nausea.

“What are the common symptoms of endometriosis”

Women who consume too much coffee are at a higher risk of endometriosis.

Insomnia

Caffeine increases alertness and helps you stay active. When caffeine is consumed in excess, a negative signal is sent to the brain. This causes insomnia.

When insomnia is not managed properly, it can lead to a nervous breakdown.

Migraine

Too much intake of caffeine causes insomnia. On the other hand, the inability to sleep poses as stress to the body and causes migraines.

Nausea

People who drink lots of coffee are at high risk of gastroesophageal reflux.

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Summary

Coffee is one of the best beverages beneficial to humans in the world.

It contains antioxidants and vitamins that are beneficial to your health.

Caffeine causes a lot of problems in some people; hence you must reduce intake or don’t drink coffee at all.

Decaf coffee is a great option for those whose bodies can’t tolerate caffeine.

Decaf coffee is made from green coffee beans and they are sensitized using solvents or non-solvent processes.

The method of decaffeinating coffee may vary from company to company but with the same result (decaf).

There are 4 methods of making decaffeinated coffee: direct method, indirect method, Swiss water method, and Carbon dioxide method.

How to Make Iced Coffee — Related FAQs

What Are The Side Effects Of Decaffeinated Coffee?

The side effects of decaf coffee include:

1. Increased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Too much intake of decaffeinated coffee has been found to increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. This could be as a result of the decaffeination processes or method the coffee beans undergo.

2. Inhibition of Iron absorption. Decaffeinated coffee just like caffeinated coffee contains chlorogenic acid which has been reported to inhibit non-heme iron absorption, a plant-based form of Iron.

3. Increased risk of heart complications. Decaffeinated coffee may increase LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels in the body. Decaf coffee also increases a particular blood fat linked to metabolic syndrome.

The chemical solvents used during the decaffeination process are the predisposing factors. For example, methylene chloride is said to be carcinogenic. Drinking two cups of decaf coffee daily is considered safe for healthy people.

4. Increased Acidity. Decaf coffee is said to increase the concentration of serum gastrin. Gastrin is a hormone that causes the release of gastric acid in the stomach. Excessive secretion of this hormone may cause symptoms of acidity.

5. Drowsiness and Headache. Methylene chloride used during the coffee decaffeination process can slow down the CNS (central nervous system). This can lead to drowsiness, fatigue, nausea, and headache. 

Which Decaf Coffee Has The Least Caffeine?

The decaf coffee with the least caffeine is the Swiss water process decaf coffee. With the Swiss water process decaf coffee, you are sure of getting a purely decaffeinated coffee without chemicals. The Swiss water process decaf coffee is caffeine-free up to 99.9% and chemical-free (100%).

Swiss water decaf coffee is highly flavored and gluten-free, unlike other decaffeination methods that use chemical solvents to decaffeinate coffee. Also, Swiss water decaf coffee is packed in heat-sealed valve bags usually made from foil. This helps to preserve the freshness of the decaf coffee beans.

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Is Formaldehyde Used To Decaffeinate Coffee?

Formaldehyde is no longer used in decaffeinating coffee in the United States. Nowadays, solvents such as ethylene acetate and water are used in the decaffeination process. These are natural decaffeination methods or processes.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring element in coffee beans. It is released during the roasting process of coffee beans due to the characteristic high temperature during this process. Solvents are used to decaffeinate coffee beans; a process that lasts for a long time.

As a result, coffee beans can have contact with any of these substances directly or indirectly. The FDA approves the use of formaldehyde in some food processes and vaccines as it converts to formaldehyde derivatives once ingested into the human body.

Some people have reported that some coffee beans companies still use formaldehyde to decaffeinate coffee. So, make sure you buy good coffee and know its composition including how the coffee beans were decaffeinated. 

Does Decaf Coffee Raise Blood Pressure?

Decaf coffee decreases blood pressure. This is unlike caffeinated coffee that increases blood pressure because of the presence of caffeine.

Caffeine tightens blood vessels and magnifies stress and its effects. This makes the heart pump more blood thereby boosting or increasing blood pressure. Drinking decaf coffee reduces the amount of caffeine ingested leading to a decrease in blood pressure. 

Hence, decaffeinated coffee lovers do not have to worry about increased blood pressure except those who are caffeine sensitive.

Note that decaf coffee is not totally caffeine-free. Decaffeinated coffee contains caffeine in minimal amounts.

Can Decaf Coffee Make You Gain Weight?

Decaf coffee can make you gain weight. Drinking about 5 or more cups of decaffeinated coffee can increase fat storage in the abdomen. The amount of fat stored in the stomach when in excess can affect fat utilization in the liver. This can result in abnormal fat retention in different cells of the body.

People who look slim have fat accumulated in some cells around different organs of the body. As well as in the liver. Too much consumption of decaf coffee can aggravate this.

Can You Get Addicted To Decaf Coffee?

You can get addicted to decaf coffee. However, the amount of decaf coffee that can lead to addiction is dependent on the number of servings per day. This determines the milligrams of caffeine consumed per day.

Hence, the total cups of decaffeinated coffee consumed every day plays a major role in decaf coffee addiction. The amount of caffeine in a cup of decaf coffee is not constant. It depends on the coffee brand. 

It has been observed that people who stop drinking decaf coffee usually experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and so on.