Leaded or unleaded… how decaf is made
Decaffeination offers consumers who may be sensitive to caffeine an alternative so that they can still enjoy a great cup of coffee. The principals that are utilized to decaffeinate coffee are similar, with some variances occurring between manufacturers depending on the decaffeination agent and manufacturing process that is employed.
To make decaffeinated coffee:
- green beans are soaked or steamed in water;
- beans are then exposed to a decaffeination agent (carbon dioxide, coffee oil, ethyl acetate, methylene chloride or water) which extracts the caffeine from the bean;
- beans are removed from the caffeine-rich solution;
- in some cases, the caffeine is removed from the solution through a filtering system;
- the caffeine-free solution may be reintroduced to the beans to add flavour which has been inadvertently extracted;
- decaffeinated beans are dried and are ready for roasting.
The term “naturally decaffeinated” refers to the decaffeination agent that is used. Currently, water, coffee oil and carbon dioxide are decaffeination agents, which are considered to be part of a natural process and may therefore use this term. It is impossible to remove all the caffeine from green coffee beans, as it is a natural component. Health Canada has established regulations which stipulate maximum amounts of caffeine permitted in decaffeinated instant and decaffeinated roast and ground coffee. Specifically, decaffeinated roast and ground coffee cannot contain more than 0.1% residual caffeine and decaffeinated instant coffee cannot contain more than 0.3% residual caffeine. The guidelines ensure that consumers of decaffeinated coffee are free from the effects of caffeine.