Decaf Coffee - Types of Processes


Image: Coffee on the left, green decaffeinated Peruvian mountain water processed. Coffee on the right, regular (caffeinated) Peruvian green coffee.


Decaffeinated coffee. What's the point, right? Well, despite the judgement of decaf, many people are trying to cut back on their caffeine intake for many reasons, especially for health issues. So how is coffee decaffeinated? Decades ago, there were thoughts that coffee was decaffeinated using formaldehyde. While this myth is completely not true, many people do not really know how coffee is decaffeinated. Let's take a look at the most common methods.

Water Processing

Swiss Water Process/Mountain Water Process: This method is 100% chemical free and organic and uses hot water, steam and activated charcoal to remove the caffeine. Coffee beans are first soaked in water until all of the soluble components, one of which is caffeine, are released from the beans. This solution is passed through carbon filters, which removes the caffeine from the fluid. The company then discards the beans and uses the fluid, called green coffee extract, to soak new batches of coffee to extract the caffeine from the coffee. Because the green coffee extract is being used to soak the beans, the flavor of the beans is less likely to be compromised. 

The two types of water processing methods are Swiss Water Process which is done at the Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company located in British Colombia, Canada and Mountain Water Process, which is done at Descamex in Mexico.

The water process method is the only type of decaffeinated coffee that we roast here at Cloudland Coffee Company because is it 100% chemical free and organic.

Methylene Chloride (MC)

Methylene chloride is a solvent commonly found in paint thinners, adhesives and cleaning products. In this method of decaffeination, the beans are first soaked in hot water and steam to swell the beans to increase the surface area. This allows the chemical (MC) to penetrate the beans which bonds to the caffeine molecules, but does not compromise the flavor. Afterwards, because of the volatility of the chemical (similiar to acetone), the coffee is steamed in order evaporate the chemical away. The typical end result of the chemical residue left on the green coffee beans is 1 part per million. The FDA allows though up to 10 parts per million. Also to note, the caffeine that is extracted using this method is often sold to third party companies including soft drink manufacturers. 

Ethyl Acetate (EA)

Ethyl acetate is an organic compound that is has a sweet fruity oder and is commonly found in cleaning products and perfumes. It is also a volatile chemical like methylene chloride and the process of decaffeination is similar as well. 

It is important to note that both the methylene chloride and the ethyl acetate methods of decaffeination cannot be used on coffee that is to be sold as organic coffee. Only the water process coffees are approved by the USDA for organic use.

Currently we offer an organic mountain water process decaf coffee from Peru. To find out more about it and to purchase a bag for yourself, click on the link here:


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