Guide to Decaffeination – How is Coffee decaffeinated?

Drinking decaf doesn’t mean selling out on flavor, aroma or quality . . .  It should taste the same as caffeinated coffee if the caffeine is removed properly. — Rosemary Furfaro

A little history: Decaffeination: Kaffee Hag in Germany, Sans caffeine (“Sanka”) in France, and Dekafa in the United States. From its earliest history, there were health concerns regarding coffee and its effects. In 1511 the Arab governor of Mecca closed the coffeehouses, partly on medical advice that, like wine, coffee contained a harmful drug. In 1679 a French doctor asserted in a pamphlet that coffee produced “general exhaustion, paralysis, and impotence”.

Caffeine was first isolated from green coffee beans in 1820 and proved to consist of three methyl groups around a xanthine molecule; among other things, it mimics the neurotransmitter adenosine, which aids sleep. When a caffeine molecule gets to a receptor first, it prevents adenosine from doing its job, thus keeping people awake longer. Caffeine affects some people more than others, and excessive coffee consumption can lead to lack of sleep and irritability, which explains the appeal of decaffeinated coffee.

Decaffeination in the U.S.A:

Decaffeination usually occurs at the roasting establishment in the consuming nation, prior to roasting, although in some instances the coffee may be sent to special decaffeination facilities in separate countries. Less than 15 percent of the coffee consumed in the United States is decaf. Decaffeination begins with the green bean.

Early processes included steaming the beans to open them, soaking them in a solvent of noxious chemicals such as chloroform or benzene to destroy the caffeine, then steaming them again to eliminate traces of the solvent. Later, the coffee industry turned to methylene chloride. Although some of the big U.S. roasters have abandoned the chemical, the Food and Drug Administration allows its use in the United States as long as residues fall below certain limits. Nowadays, decaffeination can also be achieved using either a carbon dioxide process or a complex water process.

There have also been efforts to breed naturally un-caffeinated coffee, often using naturally occurring caffeine-free Coffea species, but the flavor has been similarly absent. The modern hope is to create a bioengineered arabica that will have the full coffee flavor without any of the caffeine.

From Germany to the U.S.A:

Decaffeinated coffee was brought to America in 1910 by Ludwig Roselius, who had been selling it under patent in Germany. One year later, Merck and Company sold the first decaf product in the United States: Dekafa. Immediately became popular with those concerned by coffee’s powerful punch, decaf was quickly adopted by all of the large coffee roasting companies and soon found its way onto the shelves of all the major grocery store chains. After peaking at about 25 percent in the 1980s, today about 13 percent of the coffee drunk in the United States is decaf.

Decaffeination process

The fact remains that even though the caffeine molecule, in its naked state, is a bitter alkaloid; caffeine loses its potency during the decaffeination and roasting processes. The hitch is, flavor and aroma compounds may also be diminished or removed during decaffeination. Although decaffeinated coffee beans are difficult to roast, it is usually the roasting process itself, if not done properly, that is responsible for the unpleasant tastes and textures of some decaf coffees. A superior decaffeination process, however, protects the original, rich flavor characteristics of the coffee when the caffeine is removed.

Based on my personal experience, a superior, 100 percent Arabica, quality “air-roasted,” Swiss water decaffeinated coffee can deliver a deliciously satisfying cup of decaf Espresso or filtered coffee. I believe it could challenge any comparative taste test with a standard cup of caffeinated coffee.

The decaffeinated coffee market is achieving exponential growth. Today, it accounts for more than 20 percent of America’s coffee consumption, as compared to only 3 percent back in 1962. Hence, greater demands for quality and variety go along with increased health concerns. To make the best choices to suit personal preferences, you need to understand the various technological processes used by the coffee industry. So if you want to understand that process we highly recommended you to see the previous article about decaffeination methods; we give you there a general overview and information may help demystify decaffeination.

The love of un-coffee arise

In 1979 a large Swiss manufacturing firm, Coffex, perfected a decaf process using only water. Although the methylene chloride method left virtually no chemical on the roasted beans, the new “Swiss Water Process” appealed to the health-conscious, and many specialty roasters began to supply the beans. The decaffeinated variety would never taste as good as regular coffee since essential flavor oils were removed with the caffeine, but 1980s decaf offered a much better flavor than its predecessors. The processing had improved, and specialty roasters used higher quality beans, to begin with. They also began to offer flavored decafs to spice the denatured beans.

By the mid-1980s nearly a quarter of all American coffee was decaffeinated, with some experts predicting that the segment would grow to 50 percent within the next decade. In the early 1980s, companies rushed to take advantage of the decaf craze. General Foods introduced decaffeinated versions of Maxwell House and Yuban to go along with Brim and Sanka. Nestlé added a new line of Nescafé decafs to go along with its Taster’s Choice variety. Procter & Gamble sponsored a decaf Folgers instant to augment its High Point. Ad budgets for decaf coffee increased as a result.

The illusion of Decaffeination

In 1939 a major national advertising campaign—funded by six Latin American countries that had formed the Pan American Coffee Bureau—spent $35,000 to encourage summer Iced-coffee consumption. They even crowned a buxom swimsuited Miss Iced Coffee. They sponsored a fall-winter marketing campaign, reaching 25 million families through newspapers and magazines, offering true-false quizzes such as “Coffee Makes Physical Work Easier” (True) and “Coffee Makes Your Brain Work Better” (True).

The bureau also published Coffee Facts and Fantasies, a booklet to combat the “health fetish” that branded coffee a drug. It reported on an experiment conducted at the University of Chicago in which two groups of college students were given coffee and milk, respectively. The coffee group complained of disturbed sleep, while the milk group did not. The students did not know, however, that the coffee was decaffeinated, while caffeine had been added to the milk. Thus, concluded the booklet, their reaction was psychological rather than physiological.

Fear is another way of advertising:

Coffee soon was cleared on nearly all counts, as new studies failed to replicate earlier findings or conclusions were revised. Like most scare stories, however, initial claims linking coffee to diseases made headlines and a huge impact on the public consciousness, whereas later qualifications slipped quietly to the back pages. In response to health concerns, sales of decaffeinated coffee surged, increasing 70 percent from 1970 to 1975, when it accounted for 13 percent of coffee consumed in U.S. homes.

During the 1980s, coffee was associated with over one hundred diseases and disorders and, though subsequent studies threw every negative finding into question, the implanted fears led more consumers to decaffeinated alternatives or away from coffee completely. The number of Americans who drank coffee fell from 58 percent in 1977 to 50 percent in 1988.

Finally, it is very hard to distinguish the truth from the commercial purpose that stands behind everything. decaffeinated or not I just need my favorite cup. have a good day friends see you in the next blog.

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