Before we get into the processes to remove caffeine, let's take a look at what exactly it means to be "decaf". This is when you separate caffeine from the coffee bean, seeds, or the leaves from their natural ways. Caffeine is not bad in coffee, it is there naturally. To be decaf in the US, 97 percent of the caffeine must be removed. Due to it being a natural part of the coffee bean, it is hard to remove it 100 percent.
There are three methods for decaf coffee:
- The natural process: When it comes to the natural process, the coffee beans are put through a steam process, or it is soaked in water; either way, the caffeine is easier to extract. Once either of these processes are done, the caffeine is removed via ethyl acetate and water. Once that combo is used, the beans are again steamed, this process will remove any residue that is left on the beans. If you are wondering what ethyl acetate is, it is a perfectly natural compound that is extracted from veggies and fruits.
- The direct process: To start this process, the beans are soaked in water and also steamed. A liquid is then mixed with the beans that will remove the caffeine. Once that is done, the beans are again steamed and then allowed to dry, this will remove the caffeine from the beans. What is the decaffeinating agent? This is a substance that is utilized to remove the caffeine from the beans; there are different agents used depending on the specific process.
- The water process: This process starts off by soaking the beans in intensely hot water for a specific period of time and the caffeine is leached out. Once that happens, the solution is then moved though a filter that is made out of carbon; this will grab the larger caffeine molecules and will allow for the smaller oil and flavor molecules to stay. The beans are finally dried.