“For those avoiding the caffeine hit”
Decaffeinated coffee is definitely a positive thing for many people, particularly those with certain health concerns and for those who just don’t like the effect it has on you. Although there is trace of caffeine left in decaffeinated coffee, the process is generally very efficient and effective.
The taste of decaf coffee
It’s a pity to say it, but decaffeinated coffee is not yet as good as the originally, fully caffeinated coffee that it came from. The heavy duty processing means that some of the aromas and flavours will ultimately be lost in the final outcome after roasting. The coffee itself is frequently lighter bodied and lacking depth and can seem sweet and cloying. Having said that, if you decaffeinate bad green coffee, then the decaffeinated coffee will be bad too, so it’s vital to decaffeinate well sourced, quality coffee in the first place.
At Grumpy Mule, we will only roast and offer the best examples of decaf coffee that we can find.
Roasting decaf beans
Decaffeinated beans are much more delicate than normal coffee beans, and much harder to roast as a result (the colour and the way they roast inside are noticeably different and there’s a danger of leaching out too many precious coffee oils that harbour the coffee’s aroma). Roasting decaf coffee requires more patience, control and careful application of heat to get the desired outcome.
Decaf coffee in the future
Daterra, the pioneering coffee farm in Brazil, has developed an Arabica coffee called “Opus 1” that is naturally low in caffeine, though still not caffeine free. It has involved many years of research and crossing different strains of Arabica to achieve the results, all without Genetic Modification.
Decaf coffee processing
There are three main ways of decaffeinating coffee, all of which involve taking the coffee in its green (unroasted) state to decaffeination facilities (usually in Germany or Canada).
Swiss Water Process™
From a marketing and consumer position, this is one of the best methods of decaffeination and is also one of the two best methods from a quality perspective. It uses a principle of “flavour charged” water where all elements of the coffee (flavour and caffeine) are leached out into the water before carbon electrodes attract the caffeine. The beans then re-absorb the flavour elements. A coffee can still be intrinsically good using this method and it is also acceptable for decaffeinating organic coffees.
For more details see www.swisswater.com
Super critical carbon dioxide process
Here the carbon dioxide, a naturally occurring gas, acts as the agent to remove the caffeine from the beans. Generally, the results are quite good so it’s often used to decaffeinate speciality coffees and is also acceptable for decaffeinating organic coffees.
Traditional or “Natural” method
Regardless of the homely sounding name, this is not the decaf to go for as it achieves decaffeination through the application of chemical solvents – often methyl chloride after steaming the beans. If there is no announcement on the pack of coffee that it has been decaffeinated by the Swiss Water or CO2 method, then assume it has been subject to the chemical method. It is cheaper, and with a poorer quality outcome, and therefore more appealing to the cost conscious roaster. Grumpy Mule decaf coffees do not use this method. Organic coffees also cannot be subject to this method.