How Do They Make Decaf Coffee: The Decaffeination Process

How do they make decaf coffee? Is decaf coffee really caffeine-free? Learn more about the decaffeination process below!

how do they make decaf coffee - a brown cup full of green coffee beans
Decaffeination starts with the green coffee beans

If you are anything like me, you have trouble getting out of bed without your morning Arabica or Robusta cup of coffee. 

Regular coffee has a lot of caffeine that wakes me up in the morning. The smell of roasted coffee is truly something I look forward to every day.

On the other hand, I am also aware of the health risks of the amount of caffeine I am consuming. Therefore, I recently switched to drinking decaf coffee. That got me thinking, how do they make decaffeinated coffee anyway?

What is the decaffeination process? 

Learn more about the process of decaffeinating coffee below! 

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much Caffeine?

First, it is important to take a closer look at how much caffeine is too much. A typical cup of coffee will between 80 and 100 mg of caffeine. According to information published by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you should limit yourself to no more than 400 mg of caffeine daily, which is between four and five cups of coffee. 

You may notice that you develop jitters if you drink too much caffeine. Caffeine can also increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Even though caffeine will block adenosine receptors, preventing you from feeling tired, it can lead to side effects as well.

One of the biggest side effects of regular caffeine intake of caffeine withdrawal. If you have become dependent on caffeine and go for a while without it, you may develop severe headaches. You could also start sweating, develop skills, and have issues controlling your emotions.

If you are looking for a way to reduce your caffeine intake, drinking decaf coffee may be a good choice. How do they make decaffeinated coffee? 

The Process of Decaffeinating Coffee

There are several ways to make decaffeinated coffee; however, some of the most common options include: 

The Solvent Method

Solvent is the most common method for decaffeinating coffee. It involves soaking green coffee beans in a solvent, an agent that removes the caffeine. Coffee producers previously used Benzene, but have since abandoned this carcinogenic substance.

These solvents absorb the caffeine from the coffee beans. Even though this can impact the flavor slightly, the process of roasting, steaming, and drying decaffeinated coffee beans removes their solvents. 

The Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination Method

In this method, green coffee beans are soaked in compressed carbon dioxide. This is liquid carbon dioxide generated from typical carbon dioxide gas. When gaseous carbon dioxide is compressed and cold, it becomes liquid.

After soaking the coffee beans and hot water, high-pressure carbon dioxide acts as a solvent and removes caffeine from the coffee beans. This can impact the flavor of the beans. 

When the pressure is removed, carbon dioxide returns to its gaseous state naturally. This removes carbon dioxide from the coffee beans. 

The Swiss Water Process

Water-soluble methods are used to decaffeinate organic coffee beans because this method does not use any chemicals. First, green coffee beans are soaked in water. Then, caffeine is extracted. 

Instead of extracting caffeine using chemical solvents, activated carbon filters  or charcoal filters do the job. These filters remove caffeine molecules from the beans, leaving flavor compounds behind. 

What Are the Health Benefits of Drinking Decaf Coffee?

man sleeping softly in his bed
Decaf coffee illuminate the side effects of caffeine which helps you get a better sleep

There are several reasons why people may choose to drink decaf coffee. First, many of the antioxidants are preserved despite the decaffeination process. Therefore, a lot of the health benefits of drinking caffeinated coffee remain intact even if the caffeine itself has been removed.

Some people decide to drink decaf coffee to illuminate the side effects of drinking caffeine regularly. Caffeine can overwhelm the nervous system. This can create digestive issues, anxiety, and restlessness.

Furthermore, if caffeine is disrupting your sleep at night, you may want to switch to decaf coffee instead. 

Finally, understand that decaffeinated coffee still contains small amounts of caffeine. No procedure is perfect and a cup of decaffeinated coffee may still have a few milligrams of caffeine. If you see coffee labeled as decaf, approximately 97 percent of the original caffeine content was removed.

This means that decaf coffee may still have two to three mg of caffeine present. Decaf coffee from coffee shops could have more caffeine present. 

The Final Word on How Do They Make Decaf Coffee

There are several methods of decaffeinating coffee.

Some processes use chemical solvents to extract the caffeine from the coffee beans. Other techniques use supercritical carbon dioxide. There are also organic methods that rely on activated charcoal and hot water.

Keep in mind that decaffeinated coffee may still have small amounts of caffeine. Even though it is labeled as decaf, there may be a few milligrams of caffeine present. If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, you may want to avoid coffee completely.

Keep in mind that there are health risks of drinking too much caffeine regularly. If you develop caffeine dependence, you may go through caffeine withdrawal when you try to stop drinking caffeine. 

FAQs About How Do They Make Decaf Coffee

How do I know if I am going through caffeine withdrawal? 

Everyone experiences caffeine withdrawal differently. Some of the most common symptoms include emotional lability, headaches, breathlessness, shakes, and sweating. You may also have digestive issues.

Even though caffeine withdrawal manifests differently from person to person, caffeine withdrawal usually lasts from a few days up to a week.

How much caffeine does decaf coffee have? 

Contrary to popular belief, the caffeine content of decaf coffee is not zero. Check the nutrition facts before you purchase decaf coffee. Decaf coffee you make yourself will probably have between two and three mg of caffeine.

On the other hand, decaf coffee produced commercially may have more than 10 mg of caffeine. If you are unsure of exactly how much caffeine is present, ask to see the nutrition facts before you order.

Author

  • Job experience includes extensive work as a teaching assistant, tutor, and guest lecturer and extensive employment in the healthcare field. Have published multiple research papers and numerous poster presentations on various healthcare research topics.