Is Decaffeinated Coffee Safe to Drink?
Despite on-going improvements in the quality of decaffeination process, not all decaffeinated coffees taste quite as good as regular caffeinated coffee. With my special roasting process of decaf coffee you will have a tough time telling the difference. Nonetheless, some fifteen to twenty percent of coffee lovers elect to drink flavored deacf and regular decaf to avoid the stimulating affects of caffeine.
What is the level of caffeine in coffee depends on a number of factors including such as degree of roast, type of grind, and brewing method. For example, arabica beans, the primary variety used in specialty coffees, contain approximately 75 to 120 milligrams half the caffeine of robusta beans, which is about 130 to 250 milligrams more common in grocery store canned coffees. All things being equal, darker roasted coffees have lower levels of caffeine. Finer grinders and slower brewing methods tend to lead to greater extraction, which results in higher caffeine.
Decaffeinated coffee must have a minimum of 97% of its caffeine removed. The amount of caffeine in a five-ounce serving of regular coffee ranges from 50 to 150 milligrams, meaning decaffeinated coffee contains 2 to 5 mg. of caffeine per five-ounce serving. As a point of comparison, a twelve-ounce serving of a caffeinated soft drink like a cola contains from 30 to 72 mg.
There are a variety of methods for removing caffeine from coffee but only a couple are widely used commercially. The two broad categories are the direct solvent extraction method and the indirect water extraction method.
The European process, or known as the direct solvent process, unroasted green beans are steamed in a rotating drum for about a half hour to open the pores of the beans. The beans are then repeatedly rinsed directly with a solvent, typically methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, for up to 12 hours, during which time the caffeine is extracted from the beans. Next, the beans are extracted from the solvent and steamed for another eight to twelve hours to evaporate the majority of the remaining solvent. Finally, the beans are dried to reduce the moisture levels appropriate for roasting.
Another direct processing method similar to the one above often described as the "natural process," uses a decaffeination agent called ethyl acetate, a compound found in fruits such as apples, peaches, and pears. But because of the impracticality of gathering natural ethyl acetate, the chemical used for decaffeination is synthetic. In the indirect extraction process, often loosely referred to as the "water process," green beans are soaked for about 10 hours in a near-boiling water solution saturated with coffee flavor components. Caffeine, which is water soluble is removed from the beans, along with other critical coffee oils and flavor elements. The solution is drained and methylene chloride is added to absorb the caffeine. The solution, is returned to the coffee beans so that most of the key flavor components can be reabsorbed.
Popular indirect process is called the SWISS WATER PROCESS because it was originally developed by a Swiss company in the 1930s. This method is similar to other indirect methods, but it is activated with charcoal, not solvents, removes caffeine from the soaking solution of hot water. When all the caffeine and coffee solids are released into the water, the beans are discarded. The water then passes through a carbon filter that traps caffeine but lets the coffee solids pass through. The resulting solution, called "flavor-charged" water by the company, is then put in a similar filtration device, and new coffee beans are added. The end result is the coffee is 99.9% caffeine free. This process, along with the ethyl acetate direct process, is preferred by environmentalist because of the potentially damaging affects of methyl chloride on the ozone layer.
In my personal opinion I fell that SWISS WATER DECAF PPOCESS is the safest of all the process offered, this is the only decaf we sell at Talk N Coffee. If you are looking for ways to reduce your caffeine intake without giving up coffee or sacrificing that great taste, there are a couple alternatives to decaffeinated coffee. Try blending regular coffees naturally low in caffeine with a decaffeinated coffee to create your own favorite low-caffeine coffee. Try mixing one part of a distinctive, full-bodied regular Arabica which is already lower in caffeine such as
Kenya, Yirgacheffe, Sumatra, or Java with two parts of a mild decaffeinated coffee such as
Costa Rica or Colombian. The result of blending will have less caffeine per cup than popular grocery store coffees.