Caffeine-free coffee has come a long way since its earlier days, unfortunately it also has an image problem and the very word ‘decaf’ is often associated with flat, tasteless cups of murky brew. For some people, caffeine can cause problems with their health, including sleepless nights and medical conditions such as high blood pressure. Decaffeinated coffee lets coffee drinkers have a late night cup without worrying if it will upset their stomach or suffer insomnia.
The process used to decaffeinate coffee lowers the beans acidity which means people who suffer problems with regular coffee often find they fare much better on decaf. Less anxiety, lower stress levels and better quality of sleep are some of the health benefits, but without the side effects of too much caffeine in regular coffee.
The most obvious difference between regular coffee and decaf is in the amount of caffeine. In decaf, 95% of the caffeine is removed. Some methods used in the past to remove the caffeine would damage the beans and affect the quality of the coffee making it harder to roast accurately. Thanks to modern technological breakthroughs, today’s caffeine-free coffee can more than satisfy the sophisticated palate of even the most discerning drinkers.
The two most popular methods used today are called “The Swiss Water Process” and “CO2 Process”. Both are natural and gentler and do a much better job of preserving the flavour of coffee beans. The “Swiss Water Process” involves soaking raw beans in caffeine-free green coffee extract. The caffeine is drawn out into the liquid and the beans are then dried and bagged. The “CO2 Process” also involves soaking raw beans in water. Placed in a sealed tank CO2 (a natural gas) is pumped into the beans at a very high pressure to remove most of the caffeine.
If your coffee is labelled naturally decaffeinated or Swiss Water Processed, you can be certain that no harmful chemicals have been used. Although decaf is similar in taste and appearance to regular coffee, there is no evidence to suggest that drinking decaf is bad for a person’s health. It may even share some of the health benefits of regular coffee. The flavour of coffee beans are nearly always affected in some way due to the treatment process, however, the industry is light years ahead of where it was thirty years ago. A new breed of demanding customers have helped drive the push towards chemical free methods of production and it is now possible to get some very delicious decaffeinated coffees that are worth every penny.