Decaffeination is achieved by completely removing this substance from the coffee bean before it is roasted. This is the alternative to regular coffee for those who are particularly sensitive to caffeine but do not want to forgo the taste and aroma of a good cup of coffee.
Caffeine is an alkaloid, and there are between 50 and 150 mg of it in a cup of coffee; the average quantity is 80 mg, depending on the kind of coffee and the preparation method. This alkaloid is responsible for many of the effects that coffee has on some of the functions of our body, and as a result large in-depth studies have been conducted on it.
Though it has been considered a “culprit” for many years, caffeine has now been reconsidered because of certain beneficial effects that have been observed in humans. It is now known that it acts as a stimulant, diminishes the sense of physical fatigue, helps keep us alert, and promotes the digestive process. In the field of cosmetics, it is also used as an active substance in many beauty creams.
Caffeine is an alkaloid. This alkaloid is responsible for many of the effects that coffee has on some of the functions of our body.
The search for methods to remove caffeine from coffee goes back many years. At the beginning of the twentieth century (1902-1905), Ludwig Roselius decided to try making coffee porous using steam, and by utilizing organic solvents, he perfected the first system for extracting this alkaloid from coffee beans.
The word “decaffeinated” must be used with care, and legal provisions must be observed. The different decaffeinating methods must meet the parameters set by US or EU regulations, which stipulate that the maximum residual caffeine in green coffee must not exceed 0.1%.
Today, caffeine can be extracted using three processes, all of which are performed on green coffee that has not been roasted yet:
- organic solvents (dichloromethane, ethyl acetate)
- carbon dioxide (CO2)
Decaffeination with carbon dioxide (CO2)
As opposed to the first two decaffeination methods, which eliminate caffeine but also some of the flavour, the process using carbon dioxide – which is the same substance used to make beverages fizzy (e g. sparkling water and soft drinks) – makes it possible to maintain all the aromatic characteristics of coffee. This is the best method because it is not only highly selective but also avoids the use of any “chemical” solvent.
During the first phase of the process, the beans are moistened with steam and/or water until they reach a humidity level of 30-50%. They are then placed in an extraction cylinder, in contact with gas in a “supercritical” condition. This condition is achieved when the temperature and pressure that are reached are such that the gas acquires the characteristics of both a gas and a liquid. Thus, it spreads out like a gas, but since it also has the solvent properties of a liquid, it facilitates the extraction of caffeine. At operating pressure and temperature conditions, the carbon dioxide begins the selective extraction of the caffeine, which will then be separated from the alkaloid by water. The cycle ends with a process to dry the coffee, which is now completely free of caffeine.
Decaffeinated coffee benefits
1. Being healthy
You’ve made the shift. Choosing free-range and organic, eating in-season, and paying closer attention to what goes in your body. And, what doesn’t. So it makes sense that reducing caffeine is a part of your healthy lifestyle. But many people are surprised to learn that to decaffeinate coffee, some producers use chemical solvents to remove the caffeine molecules. Be sure you know what you’re drinking.
2. When you’re expecting
It’s important for pregnant women and nursing moms to not overdo it. Babies have different tolerances and while some may show no adverse reaction to caffeine, others can be bothered by even minute amounts. Your baby’s body can’t easily break down and eliminate caffeine like an adult, so over time it may accumulate in their system.
Keep in mind that caffeine is present in sources other than coffee including tea, soft drinks, “energy” drinks, and chocolate. Caffeine also shows up in herbal products and over-the-counter drugs, including some headache, cold, and allergy remedies. Therefore, limiting caffeine consumption where you can is important. Accept no substitutes. Make sure you’re drinking coffee decaffeinated with the 100% chemical-free process.
3. Aging gracefully
All women experience life’s natural transition of menopause, however, the symptoms associated with this can differ greatly for each woman. Studies show that many menopausal symptoms are aggravated by the prolonged consumption of caffeine. It has also been found that high caffeine consumption can bring on menopause at an earlier age than average. Caffeine hinders absorption of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron which are vital to a woman’s well being.
A high intake of caffeine is also linked to lower bone density, elevated stress hormones and an increased intensity of hot flashes. Switching to decaf is a consideration.