Decaf Coffee: How does it work?
Get to know decaf coffee and the miracles of CO2 decaffeination. The first thing that comes to mind, apart from dogshit, when thinking about decaffeinated coffee is: “...why?” After all, caffeine is the reason why coffee is even popular in the first place. The origin story of coffee goes a little something like this:
“Once upon a time, in Ethiopia, a goat herder who may or may not have been banging his goats, ventured into unknown lands. His goats started feeding on some berries (coffee fruit), which he had never seen before. After a while, the goats were high as fuck, and the herder went to try some of the fruit for himself. And thus, coffee was discovered”.
So, it was caffeine that started this whole thing. It was only after many years that the current way of consuming coffee was established. And so, more and more people were attracted not just because of the natural, healthy high that coffee offers- but because of its delicious flavor and fragrant smell. Unfortunately, not all of us are fond of that buzz,,or are even medically able to, and thus; the quest for caffeine free coffee began.
Decaf Coffee: A Short History
Being the cradle of modern science, the first attempts of decaffeination were carried out in Germany during the 19th century. A famous poet, Goethe, asked his chemist friend Runge to perform experiments on coffee… Because that’s how things worked back then.
While Runge didn’t have much success, it set a precedent. The notion of caffeine-less coffee had been birthed, and it became somewhat popular in Germany until finally it was commercialized, in 1903.
...With just a small problem: benzene was the main agent used to get the caffeine out the beans. Benzene is on the bad chemical list as it is highly flammable, causes cancer, and can usually be found in gasoline and street drugs. (Big shout out to “tenner bag tommy” and his tennis ball; sized tumor.) So, benzene was a big no-no for most customers, who didn’t really wake up to the dangers of benzene until the 1920s. By then, scientists were beginning to experiment with other methods to extract caffeine.
The solution they came up with was to use water. The beans are soaked in water instead of benzene or other noxious solvents, and little by little, between soaking and drying, the caffeine is taken out. This was the leading way of producing decaffeinated coffee for decades, despite the fact that it tasted like fresh dog eggs. It was still used, but the search for a better method waged on.
CO2, or carbon dioxide for those who aren’t fresh out of Miss Twats chemistry class, is a gas. It is odorless and has very little flavor; only at high concentrations it acquires a flavor reminiscent to that of carbonated water.
This gas can be turned liquid, and used as a solvent to extract the caffeine from coffee. So far, liquid CO2 seems to be the better option: it’s healthy, lacking the alarming side effects of other solvents like benzene and it barely affects the taste and aroma of the coffee bean, which is a big issue with water-based decaffeination methods. In other words, it leaves all the good shit unmolested, apart from the caffeine.
Fortunately for all of us, this method is being adopted by more companies every day, which means that, in the near future, decaffeinated coffee will not be synonymous with bland or plain coffee.
We have already opted to use the CO2 method -which also goes by the incredibly cool name of Supercritical carbon dioxide- to decaffeinate our coffee without losing any of its properties. The process is expensive yes, and we have to charge slightly more yes, but this is some of the tastiest decaf you’ll ever have. And we love it. Midnight coffees are a good thing.