According to some estimates, about 10% of coffee-drinkers routinely limit their caffeine intake, and the percentage increases when you consider people who choose to drink little or no caffeine occasionally or drink only at certain times of day. If you are among either group, please know that you do not have to sacrifice flavor.

It’s all about choice, and choosing the right decaffeinated coffee is similar to selecting the most satisfying caffeinated version. The only difference is that you also have to consider the process being used to remove the caffeine.

Creating decaffeinated coffee (which, according to the USDA is at least 97% caffeine-free) can be done either chemically, using solvents like methylene chloride – or naturally, using the Swiss Water® Process or Mountain Water® Process.

 

Water or Solvents?

It’s no surprise that a company like ours would opt for a water-based decaffeination process and avoid a chemical solvent. That’s why at Burwell Beans, all our decaffeinated coffee is processed using the Swiss Water Process.

Even though the solvent methylene chloride (dichloromethane) supposedly doesn’t leave any residual taste, who wants to drink something that’s been soaked in a chemical solvent?

 

The Swiss Water Process

Developed, patented, and introduced by Coffex AG, a Swiss firm, in the late 1970’s, the Swiss Water Process was the first commercial decaffeination method that did not use chemical solvents. Instead, it uses water, and monitors time and temperature to remove caffeine from unroasted coffee beans. Over the years, it has become a widely popular method for decaffeinating specialty coffee.

In this process, high-quality coffee beans are immersed in pure water, extracting both the coffee flavor solids and the caffeine from the beans. The beans are set aside, and a carbon filter is used to remove the caffeine, leaving water that is intensely saturated with coffee flavor.

Subsequent batches of green coffee are immersed in the flavor-charged water. Because the flavor components in the beans and in the water are equal, the original flavor remains in the beans. Only the caffeine is allowed to seep from the beans into the water. The water is again passed through carbon filters, trapping and then removing the caffeine from the water. The water flows back to the beans to remove more caffeine. This process continues for about eight hours, until nearly all of the caffeine is removed from the beans.

 

The Mountain Water Process

Similar to the Swiss Water Method, this process is used at the state-of-the-art Descamex plant in Cordoba, Mexico. What distinguishes the Mountain Water Decaf process is that it uses clear, pure water from the glaciers of the highest mountain in Mexico.

Again, the green coffee beans are immersed in water to extract the caffeine and the soluble components, which hold the elements of the individual coffee’s flavor so that the beans maintain their original taste components. After decaffeination, the beans are dried and packed. Since the process can be performed on relatively small lots of coffee, specialty coffee companies, who may not produce high volumes, can take advantage of the process.

 

Making the choice

At Burwell Beans, every choice we make is based on safeguarding our earth and all its living creatures. What is good for you is good for all of us!