What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a chemical and psychoactive molecule that acts to stimulate the mind and body. We often hear that caffeine increases focus, helps coordination and supports physical efforts. Naysayers will affirm that caffeine feeds anxiety, that it disturbs sleep and gives headaches. Contrary to rumors which mention that dark roast coffees contain less caffeine, we are now able to state that a multitude of factors influence the amount of caffeine contained in our cup of coffee: the nature of the bean, the roasting, the infusion, the water temperature or the amount of coffee used, among others. If you would like to know more on this subject, you can refer to this article of the SCAA, expert in the world of coffee.
How is coffee decaffeinated?
First of all, be aware that decaffeinated coffee will always contain a minimum of caffeine. As mentioned above, the caffeine molecule is tenacious! However, there are 2 well-known methods to eliminate a good deal of caffeine.
Swiss water process:
- The coffee bean is soaked in water. This step allows the bean to expand (it becomes waterlogged) and thus prepare the extraction of caffeine.
- The bean is then filtered with charcoal. This filter traps in caffeine.
- This process is repeated until coffee is decaffeinated to more or less 99%.
KVW process (chemical process):
- The (green) coffee bean is first placed in a high-intensity steam bath. The objective is to open the pores of the bean.
- Subsequently, the bean is rinsed in a solution of dichloromethane (methylene chloride, an organic solvent) where it will macerate during 10 to 12 hours.
- Finally, the coffee beans return to steam for several hours in order to purify from the residues of the solvents used in the previous step.
Watch this video if you want to learn more about the Swiss water process!