What is water processed decaffeinated coffee?
Decaffeinated coffee has grown significantly in popularity in recent years as consumers want to enjoy the classic taste of coffee without the caffeine kick. There are several different methods that can be used to remove or significantly reduce the amount of caffeine in coffee beans. However, some of these use chemicals that ultimately end up taking away or negatively impacting the flavour of the coffee as well as removing the caffeine.
The most effective method of creating decaf coffee is water processing. We’ll be exploring exactly what water processed decaffeinated coffee is and the steps involved in its production.
What is water processing and how does it differ to chemical decaffeination?
Most decaffeination methods employ chemical solvents, like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, which extract the caffeine molecules from coffee beans. Although this is a widely adopted practice, it doesn't always provide the desired level of decaffeination.
Sometimes quite a lot of caffeine can still be left behind, which means further processing is required. The end result might ultimately be minimal caffeine, but if it is affecting the flavour too it’s not the best way to decaffeinate coffee beans. With the cons often outweighing the pros with this approach to caffeine removal.
If we look at coffee decaffeinated with water on the other hand, it is much more successful at creating caffeine-free beans without compromising their flavour. The process uses mountain water to gently remove the caffeine until 99.9% of it is gone and each bean’s distinctive flavour profile and original characteristics are kept intact.
Water decaffeination does not use chemicals of any kind and is used by the most informed and professional roasters to create decaf coffee that meets the high demands of consumers.
How does the water decaffeination process work?
In order to create water decaffeinated coffee, there are two methods that can be used. Mountain water processing originated and is still carried out in Mexico, using water from the Pico de Orizaba Mountain. The other, more common, process is the Swiss Water, which was discovered in a small Swiss plant in the 1930s.
Today, this method of processing is mostly associated with a facility close to Vancouver, Canada, using water from coastal mountains. Even though the latter is more well known, both methods follow similar steps.
The green, un-roasted beans first need to be completely submerged into warm filtered water. This will extract all the soluble caffeine from the beans as the pores on the beans expand to make it easier for the caffeine to be extracted.
Next the water solution is filtered through carbon to ensure the caffeine compounds are separated from any aromatics that were removed during the extraction.
From there the beans are immersed in a caffeine-free solution. So, they can reabsorb and maintain their original flavours and features just minus the caffeine.
The beans simply need to be dried and then they are ready to be distributed.
There are different standards across the world for what percentage of caffeine needs to be removed before it can be labelled as decaffeinated. Generally, the minimum is 97%, but the many standards require 99.9% to be removed before it can claim to be decaf.
Does the decaffeination process affect the coffee?
Water processing is often praised not only for being environmentally friendly and chemical-free, but also for its ability to maintain the flavours of the coffee beans whilst removing the caffeine. However, when you’re brewing a decaf coffee, you may want to use a bit more coffee than you normally would or a finer ground. This is because without the caffeine, the coffee has less water-soluble compounds to extract and as a result the strength of flavour in your brew could be weaker.
Therefore, if you want to enjoy a decaf coffee that has the flavour of a normal brew, only a minor adjustment needs to be made. Whether your preference is using a bit more coffee or changing the grind, you can still achieve the same goal.
The process of decaffeinating coffee has come a long way since its initial invention with today’s water decaffeinated coffee sharing all the same benefits and great taste as normal coffee. Whether you want to avoid caffeine because of pregnancy, sensitivity, or just generally want to cut down. Coffee that has been decaffeinated with water is definitely the way to go to get that normal coffee feeling.
At Pumphreys we have a number of high-quality decaf coffees available to satisfy your coffee craving. Explore our range of products today and feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Our team are passionate and knowledgeable about all things coffee and are happy to help.