Swiss Water Decaf: the only way to skip caffeine

I’m not here to convince you to stop drinking caffeinated coffee. But if you are dabbling in decaf make sure you aren’t still drinking in the dark ages. Traditional decaf coffee has it’s caffeine stripped by solvents such as ethyl acetate and methylene chloride. If you want to skip the chemical extraction thank the Swiss who developed the Swiss water process in the 1930s.


What is Swiss Water Decaf?

Swiss water decaf is the process of extracting caffeine without the use of chemical solvents. Let’s start with the green bean. The raw green coffee beans are soaked in a hot water bath which prepares them for caffeine extraction.

The beans are then saturated with green coffee extract (GCE). The GCE has already undergone a carbon filtration process that removed the caffeine from the extract.

Green Coffee Beans = caffeinated
Green Coffee Extract = no caffeine

GCE and the coffee beans have a very similar chemical make up. Through the process of osmosis the caffeine is pulled out of the coffee beans and into the GCE. Now the coffee beans are free of caffeine and are ready to be dried in a multi-zone dryer which returns the beans to their original size. They are now ready to be packaged and shipped.


What Happens to the GCE?

The GCE that is saturated with caffeine from the coffee beans undergoes a carbon filtration process. Activated charcoal is used to trap the caffeinated particles in carbon screens that are designed to specifically remove caffeine molecules. Once the GCE has gone through the carbon filters it is then reused in the next extraction process on new green coffee beans.

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Image Collage: Alexandra Thomas

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