Organic Coffee without Caffeine

If you like your cup of Java, but not the jitters, how about organic coffee without caffeine? The health benefits of coffee are largely from the antioxidants so what’s to lose? How do they make decaf organic coffee? And how do you know the entire process is certified?

Indirect versus Direct Methods of Decaffeination

There are two methods for removing caffeine that use solvents. The direct solvent method soaks coffee beans in the solvent and the indirect solvent method beans are soaked in water and the caffeine rich water is treated with a solvent. When you purchase regular decaffeinated coffee it may have made this way. But there is no organic certification for either of these processes.

CO2 Method of Decaffeination

This is a new high tech approach to making decaf coffee. Coffee beans are placed in a very strong stainless steel tank where liquid CO2 (carbon dioxide) is introduced until the pressure in the tank is 1,000 pounds per square inch. The carbon dioxide selectively dissolves caffeine and leaves the other constituents behind. The CO2 is drawn off and allowed to return to a gas form releasing the caffeine which allows the re-liquefied CO2 to be used again and again.

This is a very pricey way to decaffeinate coffee unless done on a huge scale. Thus it gets used for processing of large quantities of ordinary decaf coffee for grocery stores. None of this is certified organic.

Finally, Certified Organic Decaf Coffee

The Swiss water method does not use solvents to decaffeinate coffee. It was invented 80 years ago but required decades for technical improvements to make it cost effective. The company that does this is in Vancouver, B.C. and their process for making decaf organic coffee is certified.

To remove caffeine, coffee beans are soaked in hot water. The water passes through a large-pore activated charcoal filter with pore size such that larger caffeine molecules are trapped and smaller molecules (oils, antioxidants) pass through. The remaining water contains flavor elements but not caffeine. Then the first batch of caffeine-free beans is discarded.

Now new beans are soaked in the new flavorful but caffeine free water. Osmosis causes caffeine to leech out of the beans because of the difference in coffee concentration between bean and water. The flavor elements, antioxidants, etc. remain in the bean because there is not concentration difference between bean and water.

All batches are tested to guarantee that their coffee is 99.5% caffeine free. And decaf coffee made this way is always labeled as Swiss Water decaf.

There are lots of great organic coffees and there are decaf organic coffees made without processes as well. The question is if you are going to the trouble and expense of buying decaf organic coffee shouldn’t you be looking for a certified organic process for the last step. Remember that organic certification should include every step from the coffee farmer to you. If a coffee roaster or decaf maker uses the same equipment for both regular and decaf or stores in the same bins without cleaning in between you have broken the organic coffee certification chain. Our advice is to look for the Swiss water label if you are looking for organic coffee without caffeine.

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