Here we will discuss several methods of decaffeination. None of
these methods pose significant health hazards, some pose environmental
hazards, and they all produce good decaf. coffee.
First we will discuss two versions of The Indirect Method.
In the Swiss Water Process for decaffeinating coffee the beans are
soaked in water to decaffeinate the coffee (caffeine is water soluble).
Then the water is run through activated charcoal filters to remove the
caffeine. Any other flavours from the coffee now saturate the water.
This used water is now ready to decaffeinate coffee; since the water
will now remove caffeine but will be unable to remove any more flavour.
This water is then used over and over again.
In the second Indirect Method, called the Water Process, the saturated
water is decaffeinated by mixing it with methylene chloride which removes
only the caffeine from the water. Critics might say some chemical might
be left behind in the water. When the water is reused the traces of Methylene
Chloride will come in contact with the coffee. But the effects will be minimal,
since the roasting process will burn off most of the chemical.
Now for the Direct Methods.
Since Methylene chloride removes caffeine, we can apply it directly to the
coffee beans. Very small amounts of flavour are removed by this method.
Some experts say this method produces the best tasting decaf., but the
methylene chloride does pose a small health hazard and an environmental
hazard to the ozone layer.
Next, we have the "natural process", which uses chemicals that occur in
nature but they are still chemicals (ethyl acetate and liquid carbon dioxide).
The liquid carbon dioxide used as a solvent is considered relatively safe
and is gaining popularity.
I hope this gives you some insight into the decaffeination processes.
Personally, I drink Swiss Water Decaf even though it is a little more
expensive to produce.
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