Caffeine is one of the favourite stimulants in the world. Coffee is very popular thanks to its aroma, taste and caffeine mentioned before. However, not everyone can handle caffeine.
Caffeine – poison or medicine?
Caffeine was said to be a poison to be avoided, however, we have learned it’s an alkaloid, which stimulates our central nervous system in a positive way. Coffee containing caffeine is the favourite stimulants and at the same time one of the most traded commodities in the world. Despite all this, there are coffeeholics between us who need to watch their caffeine intake for various reasons.
When how and why did decaf coffee come to be?
It probably all comes down to the famous German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. When he saw chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge’s demonstration on how belladonna extract causes a dilation of the pupil on a cat in 1819, he’s tasked him with a special request. Goethe has gifted him a small box of coffee beans he got from Greece and asked him to find out why do these small seeds keep him up all night?
A few years later, more specifically in the year of 1820 Runge has managed to isolate and identify caffeine, however, he wasn’t successful about finding out anything about the process of decaffeination, and so he didn’t investigate commercializing it.
Did you know that…? During the 20’s and 30’s of the 20th century, healthy Aryan population was key to the Weimar Republic and later to the Third Reich. Thanks to this, decaffeinated coffee has become a vital part of the state policy and propaganda of the times to keep Aryan population healthy.
The birth of commercial decaffeinated coffee
It was Ludwig Roselius who’s started with the commercial use of coffee decaffeination in the beginning of the 20th century. He believed his father has died prematurely because of heavy caffeine consumption, so, he has decided to find a way to remove this ‘poison’ from coffee beans. As luck would have it, he also has found the solution thanks to an accident, when his delivery of coffee beans have arrived soaked in sea water.
He has patented his method of decaffeination in 1905, which was based on steaming the beans with acids and then extracting caffeine using benzene. This has become industry standard for decades to come, and Roselius was able to sell decaffeinated coffee as a luxury product.
Decaffeination: extracting caffeine from coffee
Even today, the process of decaffeination represents an intense and demanding process carried out by specialized companies. However, before we take a close look we have to say, no decaffeinated coffee is truly 100% caffeine free.
Did you know, that…? Scientists have been trying to grow naturally caffeine free coffee for quite some time. The first success came from Brazil, where, thanks to a genetic defect of the Coffea charrieriana coffee plant, which lacks the gene which is responsible for synthase caffeine. The plant accumulates theobromine, which usually transforms into caffeine. This coffee plant has been patented as Decaffito in Brazil.
It is possible to remove approx. 97% or more caffeine from coffee beans by decaffeination. It means that while a standard cup of caffeinated coffee contains approx. 95 milligrams of caffeine, a decaffeinated one has about 1 to 5 milligrams depending on the strength of extraction and the method of preparation.
The most well-known processes of decaffeination
The most common technologies of extracting caffeine from coffee beans are the Indirect-Solvent Process, the Swiss Water Process and the CO2 Process.
The Indirect-Solvent Process used organic solvents, like chloroform, ethyl acetate etc. The green beans are steamed, to gain volume and surface to better enable the solvents to penetrate the beans. The beans are then soaked in solvents which soaks the caffeine out of them. Finally, the beans are steamed and dried once again, often repeatedly, to remove all remaining solvents out of them.
The CO2 process uses gases, which are used at high pressure when they turn into liquid state and then they work similarly to the solvents. The most used gas for this process is CO2, thus the name of the process. First, they steam the beans at 70 °C and high pressure. Caffeine then binds to the gas element which is then removed from the beans using absorption and gas recirculation.
The Swiss Water Process works primarily with water and activated charcoal filters. The beans are soaked in water which soaks the caffeine out of them, which is then separated using activated charcoal filters. As some of the needed flavour compounds are also soaked out with caffeine, a special brew is made from them, and the decaffeinated beans are then repeatedly soaked in to reabsorb them. Finally, they are dried in special containers.
The health benefits of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee
It’s generally accepted that high quality and freshly roasted caffeinated coffee is healthy. Coffee doesn’t only raise blood pressure but is also beneficial to produce gastric acids. Makes your heartbeat faster, makes using your fat deposits more effective, releases fatty acids into your blood stream, and finally it helps remove fatigue and improves our mental activity.
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Coffee contains many other important substances beside caffeine, e.g., sugars, oils, acids, and proteins. It contains minerals, like potassium, phosphorus, iron, and magnesium. Coffee can have very positive influence on the human body also thanks to the antioxidants, polyphenols, and fibers it contains.
Caffeinated coffee can have, of course, negative effects as well beside its invigorating effect. It can cause insomnia, unrest, stomach aches or even tachycardia. Many can have health restrictions, like high blood pressure or caffeine intolerance, and so they have to watch their caffeine intake.
Did you know, that…? You can get a coffee overdose. The deadly dose of coffee for a person is around 25 litres of coffee, which is around 1000 espressos.
Decaffeinated coffee and our special lo-caf coffee is designed for those, who have to watch their caffeine intake. As both are processed using the Swiss Water Process and are always freshly roasted, they ensure you’ll enjoy a pleasant cup of coffee with a delicious aroma and full taste of chocolate and nuts, depending on the methods used to make them they can even have fruity tones.