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Some say there is no point in drinking decaffeinated coffee. However, decaffeinated coffee can be an excellent solution for those who love coffee but cannot consume caffeine due to health reasons. The central part of making decaffeinated coffee is the caffeine extraction process, which is conducted while the coffee beans are still green. Then, according to the taste profile you intend, you can roast these decaffeinated beans. 

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Decaffeination process – three different methods for you!

People often assume that extracting caffeine from coffee beans happens either during the roasting or grinding process – spoiler alert, this is not true. The decaffeination process takes place before the roasting when the beans are still green. There are three typical caffeine extraction processes. Firstly, the most common method, there is the direct chemical solvent method. With this method, the green beans are soaked in water or steamed first. Then, they are rinsed with the chemical solvent which can flush the caffeine away. Ethyl acetate or methylene chloride are commonly used for these chemical solvents.

 

Secondly, as a sustainable and chemical-free method, there is the Swiss water method. This method uses only water, temperature, and time. First, the beans are rehydrated, so they can easily be extracted. Then they are soaked in heated Green Coffee Extract (“GCE”), a solution containing the water-soluble compounds in coffee. The beans release the caffeine as they are swirled within the GCE for 8-10 hours, then finally carbon filter extracts the caffeine. 

Finally, there is the carbon dioxide method. Green beans are put into a stainless steel pressure vessel. With air pressure of up to 1,000 lbs per square inch, carbon dioxide is used in the vessel as a solvent to remove the caffeine. A few hours later, CO2 that contains the caffeine is then removed from the vessel.

Roasting Decaf coffee – different from regular coffee?

Undoubtedly, the caffeine extraction process is an inevitable extra step taken upon the green beans. This means that the decaf beans are processed with one more artificial step compared to the normal coffee beans. This extra processing, which includes rehydration and dehydration, influences the cellular structure of the beans. The beans expand and contract during this processing and become less densely structured. As a result, the moisture left inside of decaf beans is more sensitive to heat.

Hence, there are a few points you need to focus on when roasting decaffeinated beans. First, you need to be careful during the drying phase due to the heat-sensitive feature of the beans. Here, applying a lower temperate or lower level of energy than the normal bean would be recommended. Secondly, you should not rely on the color, but you should focus on the smell and time. Decaffeinated beans are darker than normal beans before the roasting, and this makes the evaluation of the roasting process based on color very difficult. Therefore, you should observe the first crack time and development after that instead of looking at their colors. 

Processing steps involved in decaffeinated-coffee making

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