The Positives and Negatives of Decaffeinated Coffee

Recently a variety of the coffee tree was discovered that naturally contains almost no caffeine. Until and unless that species finds its way into commercial production, we're left with the current methods for removing unwanted caffeine from coffee. But how do those methods affect the taste of our java?

If processed and prepared well, studies have proven that there is very little difference in the taste of regular coffee and decaffeinated coffee. What is the decaffeinating process?

One necessary step for removing caffeine is exposing the coffee beans to hot water and then passing them through methylene chloride.

When picked from the tree the coffee beans is removed from its fruit and rinsed thoroughly to remove the pulpy fruit from the bean.

The beans are then washed thoroughly then soaked in methylene chloride. Most people are unaware how much exposure to water their coffee has had before they receive it.

So, the taste difference is less likely to come from the presence or absence of caffeine as from any remaining processing chemicals and whether they removed flavor-producing components.

To decaffeinate the beans using chemicals they must first be steamed to open up the pores of the beans. This allows the caffeine to be pulled from the bean when soaked in methylene chloride.

Alternatively, the beans can be soaked for several hours in hot water, where the caffeine leaches out into the bath. The beans are removed and methylene chloride introduced to the bath. There it bonds with the caffeine, not the flavored components that have washed out of the bean. The beans are then soaked again where they reabsorb the flavor compounds.

In another decaffeinating process charcoal is used instead of methylene chloride. The beans are placed in hot water for hours and then removed the same as with the process described above. However, this time to remove the caffeine from the water the water is strained over charcoal. The caffeine from the water binds to the charcoal so that the beans can be replaced in a caffeine free bath in full flavored water.

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