Everything You Need to Know About Decaf Coffee

Everything You Need to Know About Decaf Coffee

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant found in the leaves, seeds, and fruit of many plant species, including coffee. If you're a part of the 83% of US adults that enjoy starting the day with a comforting cup of coffee but want to reduce your daily caffeine intake due to personal preference, sensitivity, or pregnancy, decaffeinated coffee may be an excellent choice for you.

Kauai Coffee is decaffeinated with the Swiss Water® Process. This guide will help you understand decaffeination methods and what to look for on labels to buy high-quality, great-tasting, chemical-free decaf in stores and online.

A caffeine molecule diagram sits on top of a blue background with a white mug full of coffee.

Decaf Coffee Chemistry

To understand how caffeine is removed from coffee, it is important to know a little about its chemical nature. Caffeine is a naturally occurring alkaloid found in plants. Alkaloids are organic compounds containing at least one nitrogen atom that psychologically affect humans and other living creatures. Caffeine acts as a stimulant in humans but can also serve as a plant's natural defense against bugs and animals.

The amount of caffeine in a single serving of coffee depends on the type of bean and preparation. For example, Robusta coffee tends to have a higher caffeine content than Arabica Coffee. Caffeine content can also vary from about 40 milligrams in a single shot of espresso to more than 200 milligrams in a strong cup of coffee brewed via drip or French press. It's also important to know that decaf coffee does not mean caffeine-free. Decaf coffee may still contain a few milligrams of caffeine per serving.

Decaf Coffee History

German chemist Friedlieb F. Runge is often considered the godfather of caffeine because he was the first scientist to isolate caffeine from coffee in 1820. In 1906, a German coffee salesman, Ludwig Roselius, patented the first decaffeination process for commercial use, which involved steaming green coffee beans with water and various acids and then using Benzene as a solvent to dissolve the caffeine. However, Roselius's method is no longer used because Benzene, an organic chemical compound, is now recognized as a carcinogen.

three bags of kauai coffee decaffeinated coffee sit on a wooden table. a blurred image of the na pali coast is visible in the background.

How is Decaf Coffee Made?

Caffeine is removed from coffee beans while they are still green. Green coffee beans have been harvested, removed from the fruit, and dried but have yet to be roasted. Once green coffee beans are ready for decaffeination, several methods are used to remove caffeine. For example, solvent-based methods use Ethyl acetate or Methylene chloride to remove caffeine, while the Swiss Water® process requires just water, time, and temperature.

Solvent-Based Decaffeination

Solvent-based decaffeination utilizes Ethyl acetate (found in ripening fruit and alcohol), or Methylene chloride solvents applied directly or indirectly to green coffee beans to dissolve the naturally occurring caffeine. The US Food and Drug Administration has determined that neither solvent poses a health risk. Still, some coffee connoisseurs find that coffee decaffeinated with a solvent-based method has less flavor and depth than coffee decaffeinated by other means. If you see the words "naturally decaffeinated" when you buy decaf coffee online or at the store, it is likely that it was decaffeinated using Ethyl acetate.

The Swiss Water® Process - No Added Solvents

Not to be confused with Swiss Mocha or coffee flavoring, the Swiss Water® process is a method for decaffeinating coffee that was created in Switzerland in the 1930s and scaled for commercial coffee production by the 1980s. The Swiss Water Company, headquartered in Burnaby, BC, Canada, is the only decaffeination facility that is certified organic and Kosher. Our decaffeinated 100% Hawaiian Coffee is grown and harvested on Kauai and sent to the Swiss Water® Company facility for chemical-free decaffeination.

kauai coffee medium roast decaf 24 oz.

How Swiss Water® Process Decaffeination Works

The Swiss Water Process relies on caffeine solubility (dissolvability) and osmosis to remove caffeine from green coffee beans. First, green coffee beans are soaked in hot water to dissolve the caffeine. However, caffeine isn't the only water-soluble substance present in coffee. Sugars and other chemical components that create the flavor and aromas of coffee we love can also dissolve in water.

So, how do you decaffeinate coffee and retain the flavor profile of your favorite beans? After soaking, the water from the first round of green beans is passed through a charcoal filter. Caffeine is a large molecule and gets trapped in the filter while the sugars, oils, and other chemical elements in coffee that impart flavor and aroma pass through and stay in the water to create what is called Green Coffee Extract. This green coffee extract-infused water is then used to soak the next batch of green beans. Since the Green Coffee Extract already contains the other flavor elements, those substances won't dissolve from the beans; just the caffeine is removed. It may sound complicated, but the result is decaffeinated coffee that is high in flavor and free from additional chemical solvents.

a woman drinks coffee out of a large white mug with the red kauai coffee logo on the side

Decaffeinated Kauai Coffee

At Kauai Coffee, we promise to deliver high-quality, 100% Hawaiian coffee from our 'ohana to yours, no matter how much caffeine you like to intake. That's why we only use the Swiss Water® process to decaffeinate our 100% Hawaiian Coffee. Our Swiss Water® decaffeinated coffee is guaranteed to be at least 99.9% caffeine-free, and we have options for every coffee drinker.

If caffeinated coffee is your usual order, but you want to add decaf to your lineup, try our decaf whole bean Estate Reserve.

If you love our medium roast, you can get the same great 100% Hawaiian coffee without caffeine here. If you prefer our tropical-flavored coffee options, you're in luck! Our famous Vanilla Macadamia Nut and Coconut Caramel Crunch coffee comes in decaffeinated varieties! We also use the Swiss Water® process on our half-caffeinated coffee.

Buy Decaf Kauai Coffee online now or look for the Swiss Water® logo on your favorite bean to ensure you're buying decaffeinated coffee without added solvents. Tell us your favorite way to enjoy your decaf Kauai Coffee, mention @kauaicoffeeco, or hashtag #kauaicoffee on Facebook or Instagram.

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