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In the United States, coffee is the most-consumed beverage, second only to water. The beverage’s popularity can be attributed to its taste, smell, and energizing side effects. Caffeinated coffee makes one more alert, increasing one’s heat rate and metabolism, and gives one more energy. However, some coffee drinkers prefer decaffeinated blends. While the taste and aroma of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee is similar, the preparation of coffee beans differs.
Removing caffeine from tea leaves and coffee beans is referred to as decaffeination. Despite this, most decaffeinated beverages, like sodas and coffee, still contain trace amounts of caffeine, ranging from one to two percent. Regarding coffee, numerous decaffeination methods might be used. These include the Swiss water process, the direct method, the indirect method, and the CO2 method. The decaffeination process typically begins with green, unroasted coffee beans, which are steamed. These steamed coffee beans are then rinsed, and this solvent removes the caffeine while retaining the other essential elements in the beans. This process is usually repeated up to 12 times until the decaffeinated coffee beans meet international standards in which 97 percent of the caffeine is removed. Coffee beans contain more than 400 essential chemicals that impact the taste of the beverage; therefore, only removing the caffeine can be challenging.
In 1903, Ludwig Roselius invented the first commercially successful coffee decaffeination process. In this method, coffee beans were steamed in a saltwater mixture, and then the solvent benzene was used to remove the caffeine. Decaf coffee grew in popularity throughout Europe, and finally reached the United States under the brand name Sanka. However, using benzene as a solvent raised numerous health concerns, and safer decaffeination methods developed.
For example, the Swiss water process is one of the most popular ways to attain decaffeinated coffee. In this method, green coffee beans are soaked in hot water, which releases the caffeine. After the caffeine and other elements are extracted in the water, the beans are dispensed of. Next, the water passes through a filter that traps the caffeine, yet allows the other essential chemicals to pass through. The result, referred to as green coffee extract, can now decaffeinate coffee. New, unroasted coffee beans are introduced to the solution. Because the green coffee extract does not contain caffeine, the only caffeine concentration comes from the newly introduced, green beans. This entire solution passes through a carbon filter, and again the caffeine is extracted. This process is repeated numerous times until the coffee beans are 99.9 percent free of caffeine. Finally, the beans are extracted and dried, which retains most of the coffee beans’ original flavor. Although favored by international coffee producers, the Swiss water process is simple enough to be implemented by local farmers.
Another decaffeination method is the direct process. In this method, coffee beans are steamed for 30 minutes. Then, the beans are rinsed with ethyl acetate for approximately 10 hours. The resulting solvent is drained for 10 additional hours to remove any remaining caffeine residue. This process is considered more natural because ethyl acetate can be found in numerous fruits and vegetables.
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