How Is Decaf Coffee Made?

Decaffeinated coffee, simply known as decaf coffee, has been a popular type of coffee for many people who want to enjoy the flavors that come with coffee but are sensitive to caffeine or can’t take caffeine for various reasons.

woman drinking decaf coffee.

There’re several processes involved in removing caffeine content from coffee. Today, most caffeine removal techniques involve water decaffeination. Water decaffeination is viewed as the safest caffeine removal technique.

An early decaffeination method resulted in a decaffeinated instant coffee brand known as Sanka. In this method, coffee is steamed in brine. Thereafter, benzene is applied to the coffee beans. However, this method is currently considered unsafe. Benzene, being a harmful chemical, is not safe for ingestion. Sanka coffee has since stopped using this method.

Another direct decaffeination method works by steaming coffee beans for about 30 minutes. Thereafter, the beans are rinsed with methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. Once the rinsing chemical is drained, the steaming process is repeated. The ethyl acetate used in this method is sourced from vegetables or fruits. As such, the coffee beans are naturally decaffeinated.

Rather than steaming the beans, the indirect decaffeination method or water decaffeination method works by soaking coffee beans in clean water. Next, the water gets drained completely and methylene chloride or ethyl acetate is added. The beans are thereafter exposed to intense heat such that the chemicals evaporate. The beans are soaked again in the water that was drained in the first step. The water is reused since it’s believed to contain essential coffee oils and flavors. The water decaffeination method is typically preferred by most decaf coffee brands, although some coffee lovers argue that it interferes with the taste of coffee.

An alternative method to the indirect/water method uses a special charcoal filter rather than chemicals to remove caffeine from beans. The charcoal filter comprises a special carbohydrate solvent coating and water. The coating prevents the charcoal in the filter from absorbing coffee flavors during decaffeination.

Another alternative technique uses carbon dioxide. Using carbon dioxide to decaffeinate coffee is believed to be highly reliable and effective. In this method, coffee beans undergo a steaming process. Thereafter, they’re soaked in highly carbonated water. Next, the carbonated water is drained via a special charcoal filter.

Another decaffeination technique involves soaking green beans in a coffee and water solution.

Final Thoughts

Several organic food stores boast of stocking naturally decaffeinated coffee that uses the charcoal or water method to remove caffeine. If you must avoid caffeine, it’s worth noting that decaf coffee contains some residual caffeine. Generally, decaffeination reduces caffeine content in coffee by up to 97 percent. As such, decaf coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free.


Related Articles

What Is Decaf Coffee?

Benefits of Decaf Coffee

Does Decaf Coffee Dehydrate You?

Does Decaf Coffee Have Less Acids?

Decaffeinated Coffee When Pregnant

About the author

Hi I'm James and coffee is an integral part of my routine: from waking up to getting ready for work in the morning, to spending time with friends after work in the evening hours. It’s not just about being caffeinated; it's about enjoying every single moment of your day with that perfect cup of joe! At, our goal is to provide no-nonsense, clear and up to date information about coffee.

James Black

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}