How is Decaf Coffee Made?

‘But chicken nuggets just come from a packet… right?’

Remember the amazement felt by your six-year-old self when you realised that your dinnertime chicken didn’t just appear from the freezer?

It’s much the same with decaf coffee. Decaffeinated coffee beans are not grown on specially modified trees or roasted in a different way to remove the caffeine. Nor are they made at night by coffee pixies (although coffee pixies are real. We’ve seen them…).


Coffee cherries


Nope. Instead, coffee beans are decaffeinated by one of four careful methods. Why does this matter? Because two will give you a sub-standard brew, while two others will treat you to dazzling decaf time and again!

Decaf coffee: what even is it?

Another decaf myth to bust: decaf coffee is not coffee without any caffeine. Regardless of which decaffeination method is used, removing all the caffeine from unroasted beans is virtually impossible. As such, decaf coffee is coffee with most of its caffeine removed. US decaf must have 97% of its caffeine removed, while the caffeine content of decafs in Europe cannot exceed 0.1%. This means that a 100g sample of green coffee beans cannot contain more than 0.1g of caffeine. Take a look at the small print (it really is quite small) here.


Measuring green coffee beans


So, how is coffee decaffeinated? Let’s check out the Sparkling Water Process.

The Sparkling Water Process is one of the two high-quality decaffeination methods. We like this method because it preserves all of the original flavour in the coffee bean to give you a decaf that tastes just as good as regular coffee. So good, in fact, that we had trouble tasting the difference.


Landscape shot of coffee farm


A German chemist discovered the Sparkling Water method in 1967. The process works by washing moistened coffee beans in a natural carbon dioxide solution. The moisture causes the beans to expand and gives the caffeine molecules more room to move. As the molecules come into contact with the solution, they jiggle out of the bean and into the sparkling water. This method is organic and chemical-free and only leaves natural, recyclable by-products behind.

You can see why we like it, right?


Swiss Water Method

We also give a big thumbs-up to another type of decaffeination: the Swiss Water method. This method was developed in 1979 by a Swiss coffee company called Coffex and is, like the Sparkling Water method, 100% organic and chemical-free. The process begins by cleaning and soaking the green beans to bring them up to the right moisture level. Next, the beans are washed in a special Green Coffee Extract for 8-10 hours until 99.9% of the caffeine has transferred into the extract. The GCE is cleaned and reused to minimise waste. Top marks!


Latte in a black mug sitting on a table beside magazines


Chemical decaffeination methods (hmmm…)

Here at Two Chimps, we only source beans decaffeinated by the Sparkling Water or Swiss Water methods. Our reason is simple: these methods create top-tasting decaf beans that have minimal impact on the environment.

The remaining two methods are chemical-based, which never sounds nice, does it? The indirect-solvent process soaks coffee beans in very hot water before washing them in a chemical solution. The hot water causes flavour compounds and natural oils to begin extracting, which is why this process leads to a duller tasting final cup. The direct-solvent process is the second chemical-based option and adds the solvent directly to the coffee/water mix.


decaf coffee farm in Mexico


Methylene Chloride and Ethyl Acetate are the most widely used chemicals. The lingering chemical traces are minor, so are not believed to affect your health, but if you want to avoid chemicals, stay organic and drink better-tasting decaf, we’d always recommend a chemical-free method.

Gimme an ‘S’! Gimme a ‘W’! Because it’s Sparkling Water and Swiss Water all the way ?!


the waving goldfish decaf bag PNG - two chimps coffee


Check out our quality decaf range today, and all your decaf dreams shall be answered…


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