A detailed explanation of the Swiss Water Process for making Decaffeinated Coffee
What makes the Swiss water process for decaffeination the best extraction method? The most prevalent method for decaffeination is utilising methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to strip the caffeine molecules from the green bean. Whilst effective for the job, is not so good for the humans drinking the product afterwards. With the advent of the Internet, and a growing awareness of health matters, many people prefer to avoid the chemical route to achieving a caffeine free coffee.
Interestingly enough, in the 1930’s, one company founded a method to extract 99.9% of the caffeine from a bean completely chemical free. Here is a brief description of the process:
Green coffee beans are cleaned and pre-soaked using water which hydrates the beans and prepares them for caffeine extraction.
A Green Coffee Extract (GCE) is important to the process. GCE was created by taking a number of containers of Arabica coffee beans and soaking them in water until the caffeine migrated from the beans. The GCE is passed through a carbon filter to capture the caffeine resulting in water that is saturated with soluble coffee solids less the caffeine.
Green coffee is placed in the GCE after a brief pre-soak (to expand the coffee and make it ready for caffeine extraction).
The concentration level and the stability of the soluble coffee components in the GCE are balanced by volume with the green coffee beans – which is absolutely crucial to the decaffeination process.
Careful monitoring of time, temperature, and flow, and high pressure results in an extraction by osmosis of the caffeine only, which leaves the bean intact with all its flavor and characteristics.
The GCE, now saturated with caffeine, moves from the bean holding tanks to a proprietary carbon filtering system which is designed specifically to hold the caffeine molecules solely.
This is a continuous process in which the GCE flows from the carbon filtration system back to the extraction columns until the coffee beans are 99.9% caffeine free. The cycle takes approx. 8-10 hours to complete.
When the carbon is saturated with caffeine it is moved to the carbon regeneration furnace where the caffeine is vapourized. The carbon is revitalized with new carbon added to bring it back to full filtration requirements.
After the beans are decaffeinated, they are removed from the holding tanks, dried, bagged, tagged, and ready to be roasted.
Not only is the final product chemical free, the taste is the closest possible to fully caffeinated beans available. If you long to have coffee but are caffeine sensitive, then the Swiss process is for you.