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Decaffeinated Coffee Processes – How it is done

Green Coffee Beans - used in making decaffeinated coffee

If you say the words “Decaffeinated Coffee” to many coffee lovers, you are often met with some antagonism or even flat-out disgust. Some coffee connoisseurs even consider that decaffeinated coffee goes against the natural order of things, as caffeine occurs naturally in coffee, writes Coffee Confidential, one of our favourite publications about coffee. There are, however, a lot of people who love to enjoy coffee, but prefer not to have the stimulating effect of caffeine.

For those people (estimated to about 10% of coffee drinkers), there is decaffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated coffee is not necessarily 100% caffeine free, but the USDA requires coffee to be only 97% free of caffeine to be classified as caffeine free. This means that you would still get about 3% of the caffeine that you are trying to avoid in your favourite serving of decaffeinated coffee.

What all decaffeination processes have in common

There are four main ways to decaffeinate coffee, and they vary greatly in the way the process is done, but all decaffeination processes have some things in common:

  • Water is used in all decaffeination processes.
  • Coffee is always decaffeinated in its green (or unroasted) state.
  • All decaffeination processes use a decaffeining agent.

Four main methods to produce decaffeinated coffee

The first commercially successful process, called the Roselius process, was invented by a German coffee merchant. Ludwig Roselius developed the process in 1903. He was motivated that his father died of caffeine poisoning by drinking excessive amounts of coffee. This process is no longer used today, due to the fact that benzene is now known to be a human carcinogen. Benzene was used to extract caffeine in this process.

  • Indirect-Solvent Process
  • Direct-Solvent Process
  • Swiss Water Process
  • Carbon Dioxide Process

In solvent-based methods, a solvent such as methylene chloride is used. The solvent can be used directly (the beans are soaked in the solvent) or indirectly (the caffeine-laden water is transferred to a separate tank and then treated).

The two main solvents used to decaffeinate coffee are methylene chloride and ethyl acetate. There are other solvents, but they are not approved any more due to health risks associated with them. Coffee Confidential has a very complete explanation of these solvents, and various other aspects we will only touch upon.

The Indirect-Solvent Based Process

This process is very popular in Europe, and uses methylene chloride. It is also sometimes known as “The European Method”, “Euro Prep” or “Methylene Chloride Method”, among others.

  • The beans are soaked in near boiling water for several hours, which extracts the caffeine as well as other flavour elements and oils from the beans.
  • The water is transferred to a separate tank where the beans are washed with the solvent, which selectively bonds with the caffeine.
  • The mixture is then heated to evaporate the solvent and caffeine.
  • The beans are added to the liquid again to reabsorb most of the flavour elements and coffee oils.

The Direct-Solvent Process

This process is also known as “The Natural Decaffeination Method” or “Ethyl Acetate method”.

  • The beans are steamed for about 30 minutes to open their pores.
  • They are then repeatedly rinsed with the solvent.
  • After about 10 hours, the caffeine-laden solvent is then drained away.
  • Once drained, the beans are steamed again to remove any residual solvent.

The Swiss Water Process

This method is also referred to as the SWP Method, Activated Charcoal Decaffeination or Dihydro-oxide Process, among others. it is a chemical free process pioneered in 1933 in Switzerland and became commercially viable in 1980. It is almost exclusively used to decaffeinate organic coffee.

  • It relies on solubility and osmosis to decaffeinate the beans.
  • The beans are soaked in very hot water to dissolve the caffeine.
  • Next, the water is then drawn off and passed through an activated charcoal filter.
  • This filter captures the larger caffeine molecules, while allowing the smaller oil and flavour molecules to pass through.
  • This results in the beans being totally flavourless and caffeine free
  • These beans are then discarded, but the water is reused to remove the caffeine from a fresh batch of beans.
  • The water is saturated with flavourants, so the flavours in the fresh batch cannot dissolve. This means that the caffeine is removed without a massive flavour loss.

The CO2 Process

The CO2 Process is the most modern method. A scientist of the Max Plan Institute, named Kurt Zosel developed it. It is also known as the Liquid Carbon Dioxide Method and the Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Method. It uses liquid CO2 in place of chemical solvents that acts only on the caffeine and nothing else.

  • The beans are placed in a stainless steel container called the extraction vession.
  • The vessel is then sealed and liquid CO2 is forced into the coffee at very high pressue.
  • The CO2 acts as the solvent to dissolve the caffeine, and thus leaving the flavour molecules behind.
  • The caffeine-laden CO2 is then transferred to the absorption chamber where the pressure is released. This returns the CO2 to its gaseous state.
  • This process is expensive, and used primarily to decaffeinate large quantities of commercial grade, less-exotic coffees.

Conclusion

It is unfortunately very difficult to make a good cup of decaffeinated coffee, because a lot of the flavour compounds that give coffee its taste are damaged. The decaffeinated beans also roast unevenly. Therefore, if you want the best cup of coffee, it is recommended that you keep the caffeine in, providing you do not have a caffeine sensitivity.

 

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Instant coffee drying processes, benefits and disadvantages

Instant coffee - drying processes, benefits and disadvantages

What do you do when there is no time to brew a steaming pot of filter coffee, or when you don’t have access to an espresso machine? You drink instant coffee, of course.

Very few people really think about the process of getting coffee into its instant counterpart, and some even consider it not to be coffee at all. We wrote this article to give you a summary of how they dry instant coffee, as well as highlight some benefits and disadvantages thereof.

Spray-drying

The most commonly used drying process is the spray-drying process. The coffee extract is sprayed into a stream of hot air at the top of a tall tower. The droplets of coffee falls down this cylinder through the hot air and dries. When they reach the bottom, they have dried into a fine powder that is then ground into granules.

Freeze-drying

The coffee is frozen to about -40 degrees centigrade, and the liquid is then forced from the frozen coffee through chemical sublimation. This chemical sublimation process forces the ice to vaporise without ever going into liquid form. You can then reconstitute the resulting coffee powder by adding hot water. Freeze dried instant coffee preserves more of the natural flavours and aromas of fresh coffee than spray-drying does.

Benefits of instant coffee

  • The first benefit, of course, is that it is instant. All you need is boiling water, and you can have a quick cup of coffee.
  • It has a longer shelf-life than fresh coffee.
  • You can infuse recipes with coffee flavours.
  • A wide variety of flavoured coffees exist.

Disadvantages of instant coffee

  • A lot of the flavour and aroma of fresh coffee is lost during the process of drying, however, freeze-drying preserves them better than spray-drying.
  • Instant coffee allegedly contains relatively high concentrations of the chemical compound called acrylamide, which may lead to health risks.
  • Less antioxidants than fresh coffee.
  • It is possible to have hallucinations due to too much instant coffees. Experts believe this to be around 7 cups [Editor’s note: I have never had hallucinations from coffee before, and have had days where I drank about a dozen cups].

At Coffee Crew, we do not, at the time of writing this article sell instant coffees, but why not try one of our fresh coffee variants?

Sources

 

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4463. Just a number, right? Wrong!

4463 - The number that started it all!

4463

Ponder this number: 4463. Just a number, right?

Wrong!

4463 is a number that epitomises opportunity. A number that opens the door to the world of e-commerce. The number that started it all for Coffee Crew. Now you are probably wondering what the heck I am talking about? Let me explain. Once I have integrated the payment gateway for Coffee Crew, I naturally had to send through a real transaction, using a real credit card. I had to make sure that the system works, and that orders are processed and paid accordingly.

So, I started to swap out the test credentials on Payfast with my real merchant account details, and decided to purchase a test product. I went through the process of entering my real credit card details, and everything just worked. What a relief! Then, my bank sent me an OTP. A number I had to enter to ensure that I have not been victimized by a scam of sorts and that I actually approved the payment. That OTP was 4463. So – I entered the OTP, and the transaction went through. Entering this number did a few things:

  • It completed the payment
  • The payment reflected in my Payfast console
  • The order reflected in my website admin area
  • The payment reflected on my banking statement
  • The order emails flew around to me in personal capacity, and also to the store to notify Coffee Crew of the order.

What a number!

So many things, with just one single little number. 4463.

And no, ladies and gentlemen, although I love this number now, and it has very special meaning to me and to Coffee Crew, it is NOT used anywhere as an OTP or PIN to any service that I use. You’re out of luck there.

We hope that you enjoy the coffees and other products you order through Coffee Crew. We will do our best to never let you down and provide you with the best service possible.

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Wonderful Coffee

Coffe Beans

Wonderful coffee! The founders of Coffee Crew do not know what they will do without their copious amounts of this wonderful brown liquid. We also believe there are billions of people agreeing with this statement. This assumption is not that far fetched, if you consider that 7% or more of some countries’ gross GDP consist of coffee exports all around the world. Popular estimates claim that, in 2015, the coffee export value was more than 30 billion US dollars, with the US importing in excess of 4 billion of that.

Coffee claims

Some coffee claims state that the second most traded commodity after crude oil. There are some of the same claims from coffee merchants to the US senate, and various independent sources too. Then there are also those sources that are debunking it as a myth.

Coffee remains something that is enjoyed by billions across the world every day, regardless of these claims. Wikipedia estimates that about 2.25 billion cups of coffee is consumed every day across the world, roughly one cup for every 3.38 people on average.

Around 65% of coffees sold are specialty coffees, and the other 35% consists of predominantly brewed coffee.

Health matters

There are some health benefits to drinking coffee, according to CaffeineInformer:

  • Protection against cirrhosis of the liver
  • Lowered risk of Type 2 Diabetes
  • Lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Protection against Parkinson’s
  • Lower risk of Multiple Sclerosis

The CaffeineInformer website sites various sources, which gives it some credibility, but WebMD states that excess caffeine intake poses some health threats:

  • Unfiltered coffee can affect LDL and cholesterol
  • Excessive amounts of caffeine, an active ingredient in most coffees, can cause anxiety
  • Some people may experience blood pressure problems.

We are not trying to convince you that coffee is good or bad for you; read the above facts and source and decide for yourself. All that we know is that we love coffee, and that probably is our biggest vice. Now – enough of all these statistics and other stuff. Where’s my coffee?