How Coffee Gets Decaffeinated ? A Quick Guide

Most of us enjoy the taste of coffee but are sensitive to the effects of caffeine. Do You Know How Coffee Gets Decaffeinated? Let Us Teach You!

How Much Caffeine Does A Cup of Coffee Contains?

cup of coffee

Coffee is the earth’s 2nd most common drink, just behind tea. Historians agree that coffee was first used as a stimulant in historical Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Caffeine is the antioxidant ingredient of coffee that gives it its gentle stimulatory activity of the central nervous system. A six-ounce cup of coffee usually includes 50 to 75 milligrams of caffeine.

Which Type of Coffee Has Less Caffeine? Secrets Revealed

Robusta coffee, for example, has almost double the caffeine level of Arabica coffee. Even 10 mg of caffeine may cause headaches in caffeine-sensitive people. As a result, almost all decaffeinated coffees have fewer than 10 mg of caffeine per serving (usually 3 to 5 mg).

What is Decaffeination?

Almost all of the caffeine in the beans is lost during the decaffeination phase. It is done before the beans are roasted, while they’re still “green.”

*According to European law, decaffeinated coffee should have 0.1 percent caffeine or below in roasted coffee beans and up to 0.3 percent caffeine or below in instant coffee.

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The phases of Coffee decaffeination

Decaffeination occurs in food processing. The procedure involves:

  • The green coffee beans are bloated with steam or hot water so that the caffeine can be removed.
  • Caffeine extraction from coffee beans. This is performed using water, a liquid, or activated carbon.
  • Returning the decaffeinated coffee beans to their original moisture state.

The Best Solvents Typically Used in Decaffeination

Common solvents used throughout decaffeination include:

Is it true that the chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee are carcinogenic?

Is Decaffeinated Coffee Dangerous? Although scientists believe that the Swiss Water Process and liquid carbon dioxide raise no health risks, methylene chloride is a source of debate in certain coffee groups. This can cause asthma, coughing, and chest tightness when inhaled in small amounts. Though, we will talk about this issue later in detail!

Is Decaf Coffee Toxic?

how Coffee Gets Decaffeinated

According to studies, decaffeinated coffee can be dangerous to the heart by raising the levels of a particular cholesterol in the blood.

Can Decaf Coffee Make me Gain Weight?!

Caffeine-free coffee is frequently made from a bean with a higher fat content, according to their statement.

The Careful Processing of Coffee Decaffeination

While processing methods vary a bit from one factory to another, where solvents are being used, the water or chemical is pumped around the water-soaked beans (160-210 degrees Fahrenheit), causing the caffeine to be extracted.

The extraction fluid is then removed from the extraction tube, and the procedure is done multiple times until just a tiny drop of caffeine exists in the bean. All methods are strictly observed to check that any possible chemical concentrations stay far below specific safety parameters.

The First ever Process of Decaffeinating Coffee in History!

Let’s educate ourselves!

Ludwig Roselius created the first method of decaffeinating coffee in 1905. Roselius’ process extracted caffeine from already moist, green coffee beans using benzene, a dangerous chemical liquid.

New decaffeination methods are much gentler; most claim to be “naturally decaffeinated” to emphasize this idea.

The 4 major Decaffeination Processes in use today

In fact, they do have fundamental connections!

In all 4 stages, the green or roasted beans are moistened first, allowing the caffeine accessible so that it can be extracted. Furthermore, they all decaffeinate green coffee at low temperatures increasing from 70 – 100 degrees Celsius.

*To keep things ordered, let’s divide the 4 steps into 4 specific categories each with 2 methods.

SOLVENT-BASED PROCESSESNON-SOLVENT BASED PROCESSES
Indirect-Solvent ProcessSwiss Water Process
Direct-solvent ProcessCarbon Dioxide Process

Solvent-based methods require extracting caffeine from beans using a chemical solvent like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate.

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DIRECT VS INDIRECT

These solvent-based methods are further divided up into processes that use the “direct” method vs “indirect” method.

  • Caffeine is removed directly in the direct process by boiling the materials in a solvent and spreading the solvent immediately to the beans.
  • In the indirect process, from the other side, the caffeine-laden water is moved to a different container and controlled with a solvent; in this scenario, the solvent never comes into contact with the beans.

The Solvents Used in Coffee Decaffeination

Solvents Used in Coffee Decaffeination

What is a Solvent in Decaf Coffee?

As stated earlier, decaffeination of coffee requires the use of a decaffeination agent.

To specifically extract the caffeine in solvent-based systems, a chemical solvent is applied either directly or indirectly.

A. Methylene Chloride

While methylene chloride, also known as dichloromethane, is a solvent, it is used as a decaffeination product is not highly toxic to one’s health. Indeed, the Food and Drug Administration has stated that any possible health risk is generally a non-existent.

Although the FDA allows the use of 10 parts /million residual methylene chloride, the coffee industry actually uses amounts as low as 1 part / million.

Is Methylene Chloride toxic in Decaf Coffee Process?

Although concentrations of the solvent are likely to stay in the decaffeinated beans, methylene chloride is impossible to survive the roasting phase.

At 104 degrees Fahrenheit, this colorless liquid burns up. Remember that coffee is roasted at a minimum of 400 degrees F for at least 15 minutes, and that the proper brewing temperature is about 200 degrees F.

So, that means…

It appears that very few, if any, methylene chloride can end up in your glass of coffee!

B. Ethyl acetate

Some consider ethyl acetate to be much more “natural” than most other chemicals and better than methylene chloride because it appears in minute amounts in ripening seeds such as apples and berries.

Since this solvent exists naturally, coffee beans decaffeinated using this process are often marked as “naturally” decaffeinated. Even so, due to the obviousness of collecting natural ethyl acetate and its high cost, the chemical used during decaffeination seems to be synthetic.

Ethyl acetate is made from ethyl alcohol and acetic acid, which can be made from natural materials or oil products. Since ethyl acetate, like methylene chloride, is extremely unstable, the previous explanation also occurs here.

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1. The Indirect–Solvent Based Process

“The European Method / Methylene Chloride Method”

How coffee gets Decaffeinated in Europe?

The coffee beans are soaking in almost hot water for a few hours in the indirect-solvent process, which removes caffeine as well as other flavor ingredients and oils from the beans.


The water is then removed and moved to some other container where the beans are cleaned with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate for almost 10 hours.

2. The Direct–Solvent Based Process

“The Natural Decaffeination Method / The Ethyl Acetate Method”

What is the Natural Decaffeination Method?

To open the pores of the beans, they are boiled for about 30 minutes in this process of decaffeination. When the coffee beans are reactive to a solvent, they are washed for around 10 hours with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to extract the caffeine.

The caffeine-laden solvent then is removed, and the beans are steamed once more to clear any remaining solvent.

3. The Swiss Water Process (SWP)

The background behind Swiss Water Process

This is the Solvent Free Method!

This chemical-free water decaffeination system was started as an economically successful method of decaffeination in 1980 after being developed in Switzerland in 1933.

The Swiss Water Method is first brought to the industry in 1988, and its office is located just next to Vancouver British Columbia, Canada.

It is worth noting that the Swiss Water Company’s decaffeination center is the only one in the world which is certified organic. Furthermore, the Modern Overseers Organization has approved them as Legal.

What is the Swiss Water Process Coffee Decaffeination?

This process of decaffeination differs from others because it does not use chemicals directly or indirectly to remove the caffeine. To decaffeinate coffee beans, it instead absolutely depends on key ideas: solubility and osmosis.

The method starts with soaking a sample of beans in quite hot water to remove the caffeine.

What is Green coffee extract?

The water is then filtered and purified using an organic charcoal filter. This tube’s pores are designed to trap only bigger caffeine particles whereas allowing smaller oil and flavor pieces to move through.

As a result, in one tub, we have beans with no caffeine and no taste, and in another, we have caffeine-free “flavor loaded” water (aka “Green Coffee Extract”).

And this is where the Magic Begins

how Coffee Gets Decaffeinated

The flavorless caffeine-free beans are removed, but the flavorful water is used to extract caffeine from a new sample of coffee beans.


Because this water is indeed filled with flavor additives the flavors in this fresh crop will not melt; only caffeine will pass from the coffee beans to the water. As a direct result, decaffeination occurs without a massive loss of taste.

The most eco-friendly decaffeination process!

Why Swiss Water Process is the most Environment Friendly?

Coffee that is now being decaffeinated using environmentally friendly methods Swiss Water Process is exposed to daily caffeine level tests to guarantee that it is 99.9 percent caffeine-free.

4. CO2 process

The far newer advance is the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Technique.

It was created by Zosel, a Plank Institute researcher, and using liquid CO2 instead of chemical solvents. It works specifically on caffeine, releasing only the alkaloid and only that.

Water-soaked coffee beans are put in a distilled steel tank known as the extraction device during the CO2 decaffeination method.

The separator is then closed, and liquid CO2 at pressure of 1,000 pounds / square inch is pushed into the coffee to remove the caffeine.


The CO2 serves as a solvent, dissolving and removing caffeine from coffee beans while holding the larger-molecule flavor components untouched. The caffeine-infused CO2 is then moved to a separate tube known as the absorption room.

The Conversion of Liquid to Gas State

The force is removed here, and the CO2 goes back to a gaseous form, leaving the caffeine untouched. The caffeine-free CO2 gas is recycled by pouring it back into a high-pressure tube.

What kind of Coffee is Processed with CO2?

Due to the high cost of this procedure, it is mainly used to decaffeinate large amounts of marketing, non-exotic coffee sold in supermarkets.

Why Is It So Difficult to Make Good Decaf Coffee?

Let us begin with a sad truth:

First, as previously mentioned, the decaffeination process damages several flavor substances that apply to the sensitive quality of roasted coffee.

Second, decaf coffee is known for being difficult to roast. This is due to the fact that decaffeinated, unroasted coffee beans start quite dark instead of green. That makes it hard for roasters to manage them because they react poorly and unnaturally to heat expose during roasting.

They also have a lower binding moisture levels, that allows them to roast quicker. So, you have an unroasted “green” bean that roasts darker and quicker than un-decaffeinated beans.

Last Thoughts

That being said, not all is damaged. Despite what we’ve learned so far, we can also use this knowledge to guarantee a successful decaf experience. All in all, the style of roast you purchase will have a greater effect on the flavor than the decaf process.

Our advice!

Avoid decaf coffees that are extremely dark and sticky, as you don’t really want to add the ruination of a quite dark roast to the harsh realities of the decaffeination method.

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