Upon hearing the word “Decaf”, many immediately think of familiar statements such as ‘death before decaf’. Let us not forget, that commercial products all have fans and foes. Nothing, however, beats actual personal experience. Before you buy and try, here are a couple of facts for those who are of the adage : If I am going to put this in my mouth, I want to know where it has been.
Does Decaf involve a chemical process?
There are two main ways to decaffeinate coffee. The solvent based process and the non-solvent based process.
MC Processed (Solvent Based)
Words like methylene chloride(CH2Cl2), or MC come to mind. According to experts, these pose little to no health risks. Basically, everything is removed from the beans, then solvents (stuff that absorbs other stuff) are used to remove the caffeine at which time the flavour is re introduced. This method has more risk of physically altering the coffee bean.
Mountain Water Process.(Non-solvent)
Very similar to the Swiss water and Sparkling water process, the coffee beans are soaked in very hot water to draw out the caffeine and flavour molecules. It is then passed through an activated charcoal filter. The filter captures the caffeine molecules but not the flavour molecules. This results in tasteless beans in one tank and a flavourful concentrate in the other. The beans are now discarded and the process begins again with fresh beans, but this time using the flavour rich water. Since the water is already saturated with flavour molecules it canâ€™t extract any more from the beans; only the caffeine gets extracted.
The C02 Process(Non-solvent)
When green coffee beans are soaked in highly compressed Carbon dioxide,(the gas you breathe out and plants breathe in) the caffeine is dissolved out of the beans into the gas. When the gas is removed, the caffeine disappears with it. Flavour is not lost.
Still…. a chemical process?
Ever use wine in a stew? The heat kills the alcohol and you are left with a reduced rich red sauce. Decaffeination is the same principle but a different chemical reaction. ‘Chemical reaction’ has a bad rep because it sounds like something unnatural being done by a nutty professor in a hidden lab. The truth is that chemical reactions happen all around us naturally. Fall in love? Chemical reaction. Making tea? Water reacting with tannin. Chemical reaction.
Co2 and Mountain Water process ? A little more work, yet still a natural chemical process without added solvents.
The price difference
It is interesting to note that the non-solvent methods are more costly. Because of the higher cost of processing, better quality coffee is often used such as organic and high scoring single origins. That is why these decafs can cost in the region of R20 per Kg more for the raw green beans
Our search for a great decaf started because of great interest shown by customers. When our last batch ran out we discovered a Mexican Variety. One of our regulars remarked at how particularly flavoursome it is. While at a cupping session, between many regular samples, no one realised it is decaf. If you are okay with what you have just read , and you often crave a late night libation, try our Tucan Decaf. It is sure to give you a sweet taste without stealing sweet dreams.