THE HISTORY OF DECAF COFFEE: AN ERA OF CAFFEINE-FREE

by Brendon Bonacci

The History of Decaf Coffee: An era of Caffeine-Free

Have you ever wondered what went into making that cup of decaffeinated coffee you buy, or better yet, how we even got here in the first place? Many coffee drinkers are shifting towards decaf versions of their favorite brew, especially those who want to keep their caffeine intake in check. The process behind decaf coffee, however, is as fascinating as it is complex. So, let's explore the intriguing history of decaf coffee and its journey to your coffee cup.

In 1820, Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge first isolated caffeine from coffee beans at the request of German poet Goethe. However, the commercial production of decaffeinated coffee didn't begin until almost a century later, thanks to German merchant Ludwig Roselius. 

In the depths of the early 20th century, Ludwig Roselius, a pioneering German coffee merchant, had a story intertwining with the broader strokes of world history. His method, the first successful commercial decaffeination process, was ironically born out of an accident involving a shipment of coffee beans soaked in seawater, unwittingly stripping them of their caffeine content. As the First World War raged, the same process found itself repurposed to serve the disturbing goals of the Third Reich's eugenics program. The premise was as chilling as the times - the belief that caffeine could potentially dilute their perceived 'purity' of bloodline.

And the dark undertone wasn't just metaphorical - Roselius's method involved steaming coffee beans with various acids or bases, then using benzene, a recognized carcinogen, as a solvent to remove the caffeine. This dangerous process gave birth to the product we know today as decaf, a brainchild of a tumultuous era and a distressing reminder of how even innocuous innovations can be subverted for insidious ends.

But as we move to the present day, the story of decaf undergoes a profound transformation. Free from the taint of its inception, and far removed from its hazardous processes, modern decaf emerges as a symbol of health and choice. It promises the rich, full-bodied experience of coffee without the jittery effects of caffeine. It brings the joy of coffee to those who may not tolerate caffeine well, offering an inclusive experience for everyone. Decaf, as we know it today, stands as a testament to our resilience, our ability to reclaim and redefine. A beacon of adaptability and innovation, decaf now brings warmth, joy, and comfort to countless individuals worldwide, symbolizing a narrative of change and positive evolution.

The methods developed by Roselius still inform much of our current decaffeination techniques, especially what is known as the direct organic solvent method. Today, instead of benzene like Roselius initially worked with, which was later recognized as a carcinogen, solvents like the current Sugar Cane Process (Ethyl Acetate) acetate are used to extract caffeine from unroasted coffee beans, a method which has been scientifically proven to be incredibly safe and is used in many food processes you enjoy on a daily basis.

An offshoot of this process, known as the indirect organic solvent method, involves soaking coffee beans in hot water before treating them with solvents. This method earned the name "water-processed" and has seen continuous refinement to reduce the use of organic solvents.

A testament to the drive for safer, cleaner decaffeination processes is the Swiss Water Process. Conceived in Switzerland in 1933, this method uses only water to extract caffeine from coffee beans. Green coffee extract (GCE) serves as the caffeine extraction mechanism, resulting in a cleaner, more 'natural' decaffeinated coffee. Today, you can find "Swiss Water Process" around the world producing some of the best and safest decafs you can drink.

Food engineer Torunn Atteraas Garin, as well as Kurt Zosel from the Max Planck Institute, made significant contributions to decaffeination methods. The Triglyceride process developed by Garin uses coffee oils to remove caffeine, while Zosel's method leverages supercritical carbon dioxide, showcasing the ongoing evolution and innovation in this field.

Ensuring a low caffeine concentration in decaf coffee is vital for maintaining product quality. In the United States, standards dictate a caffeine content reduction of at least 97%. In Canada, the caffeine content in decaf coffee should be less than 0.1% and less than 0.3% in decaf instant coffee.

There are several testing methods to ensure compliance with these standards. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) is one of the most accurate but also costly. Consequently, some coffee companies have turned to faster, cheaper, and more user-friendly methods like near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy.

Interestingly, decaf doesn't mean zero caffeine in some cases. A study in 2006 showed that some caffeine remains even after decaffeination, and it would take 14 to 20 cups of such decaf coffee to get the same caffeine dose as one regular coffee cup.

So, the next time you sip on your decaf coffee, remember the remarkable journey it has made, from the first isolation of caffeine to the modern, sophisticated methods employed to give you a cup that's as full of flavor as it is low on caffeine and incredibly safe to drink.

If you're interested in buying decaf coffee, especially organic decaf coffee, don't forget to check the labels for details on the decaffeination process used. For those seeking the highest quality decaffeinated coffee beans, consider brands that employ methods like the Swiss Water Process for a clean, natural, and flavorful brew.

Now that you're armed with knowledge about the intriguing world of decaf coffee, go ahead and enjoy your next cup with a newfound appreciation!


Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)
Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)
Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)
Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)
Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)
Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)
Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)
Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)

Dark Knight - Decaf Blend (Swiss Water Process)

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Our boldest decaf offering yet. Our Dark Roast Decaf designed to enhance those heavier flavors you love in a strong decaf coffee. (100% Swiss Water Process)

Experience the bold and rich flavors of our Dark Knight decaf coffee blend, specially crafted to satisfy your cravings for a strong cup of coffee without any of the caffeine or bitterness. Our beans are carefully sourced and roasted darker to bring out the intense flavors of silky dark chocolate, walnut praline, and burnt toffee.

 

Origins:

Indonesia - Pondok Baru

Ethiopia - Sibu Region

Brazil - Sul de Minas

 

Tasting Notes:
I'm sipping this decaf now, tasting silky Dark Chocolate and Walnut Praline upfront. The next flavour for me is burnt toffee, imagine the crispy crust of a creme brulee. All of these flavours are layered on top of a distinct Malty/Cocoa base.

 

Before releasing this decaf, the most common question we would receive was "What's your strongest decaf?" our answer was always a split between 2 or 3 options which didn't really answer that question clearly because our general roast style is a Medium roast.

We now have an answer for you, a decaf to please those chasing a bold-tasting brew without tasting bitter and burnt! We wanted to cover all bases of a good dark roast coffee and this is a super tasty place to start!

We also know how much you guys love Swiss Water Process decafs so we made sure we built this blend with that in mind! 

Size
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Customer Reviews

Based on 96 reviews
91%
(87)
5%
(5)
2%
(2)
2%
(2)
0%
(0)
K
Kate (Melbourne, AU)
First time decaf

I love a strong coffee and switching to decaf I was unsure I could still have a strong tasting coffee. This coffee is great and soo tasty!

A
Amelia (Melbourne, AU)
Coffee tastes good, grind too fine.

Ordered espresso grind, waaaay too fine. I’ve gotten espresso grind from multiple coffee shops, I know what it should be, this is like dust - can’t tamp down properly because it is then too tight and dense to extract. Would have contacted customer service expect I received no reply at all when I asked when my order would ship several days after ordering, so I thought why bother.

B
Ben Cross (Melbourne, AU)
Too Bitter!

Its not a terrible coffee for a decaf but no matter much adjustments I made with my machine it still has a bitter finish that takes over the the coffee not smooth as described. Drinkable coffee but no where near a my caffeinated coffee I make unfortunately

d
david

Yummy. The aroma! I was able to sleep well after drinking a hot cup of decaf coffee!! Never before.

d
david parker (Sydney, AU)
Aromatic decaf coffee!

I’m tired of weak decaf coffee in the past. I’m sensitive to caffeinated coffee. I love the aromatic coffee. The smell of coffee beans are the best.

At last dark knight decaf beans fit the bill!

Deaf Dave.