How is decaf coffee made?

How is decaf coffee made? All you need to know is here!

Sometimes I wonder where the things I eat or drink come from. 

One day, while drinking a cup of decaf coffee, I wondered: how is decaf coffee made?

I like to drink a lot of coffee. Not because I need to stay awake. I can do that on my own on 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. When the kids allow me to. 

I drink coffee because I love how it tastes. 

However, after a couple of cups, the caffeine starts to get to me. 

I get that ‘jittery’ feeling or start to feel stressed for no apparent reason. At that point, I know I have had too much caffeine. Have you ever been there?

I could switch to water. Or tea. And I do. But sometimes I crave the comfort of a hot cup of joe, when I know I shouldn’t. The simple solution: caffeine-free or decaf coffee.

How is caffeine extracted from coffee beans?

There are different ways to extract caffeine from coffee beans. However, all decaffeination methods have a few things in common:

  • Decaffeination always takes place before the beans are roasted, i.e., when they are still ‘green.’ 
  • Decaffeination tries to remove only the caffeine from the green coffee beans while leaving the hundreds (or even thousands) of other chemicals that define the taste of the coffee bean in place.
  • Decaffeination methods always use water as part of the caffeine removal process because caffeine is water-soluble.
  • Decaffeination methods always use some sort of chemical as a decaffeination agent to help the water extract the caffeine and to prevent the water from washing out other chemicals.
Those are the basics. Now let’s take a look at the most common decaffeination methods.

what are Coffee decaffeination methods?

The two most commonly used methods are the DCM method and the critical carbonic acid method.

Decaffeination through the DCM method

In this method, dichloromethane (DCM) is used as the extraction agent. This type of DCM is specifically intended for the food industry. The green coffee beans are moistened with water and soaked in the extraction medium for half an hour. This process is repeated several times. When the caffeine is dissolved, the DCM is removed, and the beans are steamed for a long time to remove any residual solvent. The coffee beans are then dried with warm air and cooled with cold air.

Decaffeination through the critical carbonic acid method

The critical carbon dioxide method is a more environmentally friendly method of decaffeination and is, therefore, for most organic coffee beans. The beans are immersed in water, which causes them to swell, and the caffeine becomes mobile. The caffeine is then dissolved with the help of carbon dioxide (CO2) under very high pressure and low temperature. The beans are then dried with the CO2 evaporated.

What is The result of the decaffeination process?

Before decaffeination, coffee contains between 1 and 2.5% caffeine. After the treatment, a maximum of 0.1% of caffeine remains in the coffee. So, there is still a bit of caffeine in decaf coffee. The maximum amount of caffeine that can be in decaf is determined by law. The result of most decaffeination processes is that in a cup of decaffeinated coffee, there is an average of 3 mg of caffeine. In a cup of regular coffee, you’ll find an average of 75 mg of caffeine.

Does decaf coffee taste bad?

No! Not at all!

Many people think that decaffeinated coffee, or decaf coffee, tastes less good than regular coffee. And while that’s perfectly understandable. 

It is incorrect. 

Decaf had a bad name. It is associated with bland or outright nasty tasting cups of coffee. That’s because there is a lot of poorly manufactured decaf coffee in the world. And to be honest, making good decaf coffee is a skill. You need to be careful not to wash out all the good flavor chemicals with the caffeine in the decaffeination process. Also, roasting decaffeinated coffee beans is not easy either. The lack of caffeine turns the coffee beans brown almost immediately when exposed to the heat of the roasting machine. This makes it very difficult for the roasted to gauge when the beans have reached the appropriate level of roasting.

But still, a well roasted, properly decaffeinated coffee bean can produce an excellent cup of coffee.  Proper decaffeinating does not influence the taste because if done correctly, only the caffeine has been extracted from the coffee beans. Furthermore, most of the flavor and aroma substances in a coffee bean are only formed after roasting. So there is no reason a cup of decaf should taste any different from a cup coffee with caffeine.

How to choose a good quality decaf coffee

The process for selecting good quality decaf coffee is much the same as choosing good quality regular coffee. You should go for whole beans and grind them right before use. This ensures freshness. Pre-ground coffee can become stale quite quickly, which no amount of vacuum packaging can prevent. Whole coffee beans are the way to go. Second, choose coffee beans that come from a reputable roaster. If you can get them locally, do so. There are even coffee roasters that roast to order. This means that the coffee roaster only roasts the amount of beans that have been ordered that day. 

Most small scale coffee roaster print the roast date on the package. This allows you to see whether the beans are fresh. Buy them as close to the roast date as possible.

If buying locally is not an option, no worries. Many artisan coffee roasters have scaled up and now sell their products online. The downside is that also a lot of lesser quality decaf coffee beans are sold online, so you have to know which ones to pick.

I have a few favorites you could check out.

Reccomended decaf coffee beans

When my local coffee roaster is out of decaf (he only buys them occasionally), I turn to the web for my decaf fix. After trying many decaffeinated whole bean coffee’s from a multitude of brands. Of these Arbuckle’s is probably my favorite. You can’t go wrong if you go old school : )


Drinking decaf coffee is a great way to enjoy a nice cup of coffee throughout the day (and night) without the troubling side effects of too much caffeine. Moreover, although decaf coffee has a bad name, there are lots of good quality options available.

(de)Caffeinated greetings

Monsieur Coffee

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