today i learned – sun 19th feb 2017

i’m happy to report that, despite multiple glasses of prosecco, gin and a church martini, that ugly beast known as ‘the hangover’ hasn’t reared its head #ideal. due to multiple nights of not much sleep, however, a vast amount of coffee has still been required.

it’s fairly safe to say that coffee is one of my very favourite things…often causing one to drink far too much and therefore never ever sleeping (the silverlining being that i have some sick long exposure shots of the night sky on my phone). 

anyway, this vast consumption of coffee has caused me to delve into the world of decaff – something that i had previously only known as a demonic creation that ruined the great nectar that is, coffee. months into my exploration into the #decaflife, i’ve finally found myself asking the question: “if caffiene is a natural part of coffee beans, how on earth do they remove it?” … enter today’s thing that i did learn! (along with some other coffee based factoids).

if you think about it, decaffiented coffee is actually fairly unnatural – as i mentioned before, you’re removing something that naturally appears in coffee beans. for this reason, you’d assume that decaf-ing something is probably a process that includes lots of nasty chemicals; when in fact, it’s not all that bad (from what i found…i’ve been wrong before).

these days, there are three main methods used to remove caffeine – water processing, the direct solvent method and supercritical carbon dioxide decaffination – the last one sounds sci-fi and badass.

all three are similar in that they all take place before the coffee beans are roasted & ground and all include moistening the beans so that the caffeine becomes soluble and easier to extract.

the difference seems to be the solvent that is used to extract the caffeine: in water processing it’s water (durrrr) and green coffee extract (oils in green coffee extract aid the decaf process). in the direct solvent method, a solvent like methylene chloride (a naturally occurring chemical) is used to dissolve the caffeine – once the process is complete the solvent is removed by washing the beans and then taken down to trace levels through steaming. finally, in the badass sounding method, carbon dioxide is used in the exact same way as the chemical in the direct solvent method. due to the pressure (around 250-300 times atmospheric pressure) that is employed in the decaf-ing vats, the carbon dioxide takes on ‘supercritical’ properties, making it more efficient.

basically, the process is to saturate the green beans, draw out the caffeine using either water or a chemical, remove said water or chemical and then wash the left over beans (which now have a fraction of the caffeine).

from what i read on the internetweb, none of the methods are particularly bad for you – but the easiest, most cost effective and most caffeine reducing method seems to be supercritical carbon dioxide decaffienation. this is due to carbon dioxide being abundant and able to remove 96-98 percent of the caffeine.

that’s another thing that i learned (not today but still) – decaf coffee isn’t actually decaffienated; there’s always at least 5 percent of the caffeine left over. this subsequently means that rather than having around 70-140mg of caffeine per cup, decaf has around 0-7mg of caffeine (although, just like with cleaning products and their removal of 99.9% of germs, i don’t think coffee companies can ever prove if it’s all gone).

another random coffee fact that i learned today is that coffee is actually really good for you – in fact, it’s “one of the healthiest things in the western diet due to the amount of anti-oxidants that it includes” <- i got that from one of the websites i’ve linked below.

the good thing about those three decaffination processes is that they only remove around 15 percent of the good stuff, meaning that it’s just as healthy but you can drink loads and still sleep! one cup of decaf actually includes around 2.4% of your recommended daily intake of magnesium, 4.8% of potassium and 2.5% of vitamin b3.

all-in-all, decaf isn’t the devil that you might think it is! it’s fairly healthy and doesn’t make your heart explode after six mugs. now, this post is a hella lot longer than i had hoped, so i’m going to stop it here. if you do want to learn so more, however, my two sources were these:

authority nutrition – lots of facts about coffee, both normal and decaf.

scientific american – in depth look at how decaf-ing happens.

have a good sunday! #tdil

(random side note: when i had the idea for this blog, each post was going to be around the length of a tweet…so much for that).

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