Great tasting decaf coffee without the use of chemicals
Most of our decaf coffees are produced by Swiss Water, a decaffeination processingThe removal of the cherry and parchment from the coffee seed.: Coffee is either wet-processed (also called washed or wet-milled) or dry-processed (also called wild, natural or natural... ...more plant in Vancouver, BC. Their patented Swiss Water process uses only water to remove 99.9% of the caffeineAn alkaloidal compound that has a physiological effect on humans, and a bittering taste. It is found throughout the coffee plant but is more concentrated in the seed... ...more content from coffee. That fact alone is enticing. But in addition, the non-chemical process retains much of the coffees flavor characteristics, which sees us looking to Swiss to process our decafs whenever we can.
We generally don’t buy coffee already decaffeinated, opting to send off coffee from our own stock instead. How do we choose coffee to be decaffeinated? Quality is a big factor. Knowing that flavor will change to some degree from decaffeination, starting with a tasty coffee helps ensure we get a tasty decaf in return.
What’s the Swiss Water Process secret?
In this FAQ, we set out to answer some of the more common questions we get from customers on this chemical-free, decaf method.
What is the “Swiss Water Process”?
The Swiss Water Process is a patented decaffeination method that uses only water to remove 99.9% of a coffee’s caffeine content. Heat and time are also employed, but clean water is the only added ingredient.
How do you remove caffeine using only water?
It’s complicated, but the short answer is, diffusion. Swiss Water explain that the green coffeeGreen coffee refers to the processed seed of the coffee tree fruit. Coffee is a flowering shrub that produces fruit. The seeds of the fruit are processed, roasted,... ...more is soaked in their proprietary Green Coffee Extract (“GCE”) containing all the water-soluble compounds found in coffee, except for the caffeine. The solution is heated so the coffee beans swell, and become porous. The caffeine molecules move out of the swelled coffee and into the GCE through osmosis, while the volatile compounds that affect things like flavor and aromaAroma refers to sensations perceived by the olfactory bulb and conveyed to the brain; whether through the nose or "retro-nasally": The aromatics of a coffee greatly influence its... ...more are left in place. The process is repeated until the coffee is 99.9% caffeine free.
How does it differ from other decaf methods?
The Swiss Water method uses no chemicals whatsoever, whereas many other decaffeination methods employ the use chemical solvents like methylene chloride (“MC” decaf) and ethyl acetateA chemical decaffeination process, but one using a mild type with low toxicity. It sometimes imparts fruity flavors to the coffee. This is a "direct contact method" of... ...more (“EA” decaf – either naturally and synthetically derived).
Are chemical-based decaffeination methods bad for your health?
There is some debate about this and we’ll leave that conclusion up to you. While there are most certainly trace levels of methylene chloride found in both green and roasted “MC” decaf, a recent study shows that the levels are far lower than the EPA limits. Ethyl acetate is often touted as being a “natural process” alternative. However, it’s harmful to ingest ethyl acetate in large amounts regardless if it’s naturally or synthetically derived. Though again, the trace amounts found in coffee are well below the allowable levels set by the EPA.
Do Swiss Water process decafs taste just like the non-decaf coffee?
Decaffeination involves hydrating and re-drying coffee, so no process is immune to changes in flavor. But compared to most other decaf methods we’ve tried, the Swiss Water method is the most transparent in terms of imparting flavor on the coffee’s cup profile. Send off a fruit-forward coffee and you can expect to receive a fruit-forward decaf in return. MC and EA decaf types can taste great too, but we think the Swiss Process decaf method has the least impact on original flavor.
What happens to all the water that is used for this type of decaffeination?
85% of the water that is used for Swiss Water Process decaffeination is returned to the source as clean, community supply water. The other 15% is used up during processing.
What happens to the caffeine after it’s been removed?
After decaffeination, the GCE, containing the caffeine removed from the green coffee, passes through a series of charcoal filters to trap all of the caffeine, and the clean water is then ready for re-use.
How do Swiss Water process decafs roast compared to other decafs?
The Swiss Water process coffees are a lighter shade of brown than those processed using MC or EA methods, making it easier to judge roast degree by physical appearance. The process of caffeine removal can also weaken the celluloseCellulose is the principle fiber of the cell wall of coffee. It is partially ordered (crystalline) and partially disordered (amorphous). The amorphous regions are highly accessible and react... ...more structure when the bean when swelled with water and heat during decaffeination. This may lead to softer, less audible 1st and 2nd cracks. It also means oil is likely to rise to the surface of the bean a few days after roasting.
More tips on roasting decafs here.
How well do decaf coffee beans store?
Compared to non-decaf coffee, most decaffeinated coffees have a shorter shelf life due to the physical changes I mention above, as well as higher water activity levels, also a bi-product of swelling the beans with water. That said, the folks at Swiss Water have refined their process so that water activity remains at a stable level, greatly extending the coffee’s freshness over time.
I tried Swiss Water process a long time ago. Has it changed?
The ingredients – water, with the help of heat and time – have not changed a bit. However, Swiss Water’s team of coffee professionals and scientists continually test and tweak their decaffeination method in order to achieve a process that has the least impact on flavor. We’ve certainly tasted a big improvement in the 10+ years of being a Swiss Process customer!
What else should I know about Swiss Water?
The Swiss Water team is made up of coffee tasters, roasters, baristas, Q graders, scientists, and engineers with a wealth of experience in their respective fields. They check every single coffee that comes into their plant to make sure they’re a good fit for decaf. They taste the coffee before and after processing, ensuring the quality level is up to snuff. And they are continually looking at ways to improve on their clean-water process. It’s no wonder they are widely recognized as an industry leader who churn out some of the best tasting decafs on the market.
Check out our Swiss Water Process selection on Sweet Maria’s, and Coffee Shrub (our wholesale site)
are swiss water decaf coffee beans dyed after being decaffeinated?
They are not! All decaffeinated coffees take on a very different hue from decaffeination. With the Swiss Water method, the organic structure is broken down during the process of steaming the coffee beans, and once redried, the coffee is left with a brownish-green color tone.
Is the Swiss Water Method logo on the decaf. coffee packaging? Lots of coffees on Amazon claim to be SWMethod but have no logo authenticating their claim.
We don’t have it on our bags we send out, but it is definitely on all the bags we receive. Of course we work direct with the Swiss Water factory on our coffees. There has been a lot of use of the name, or variations like “Mountain Water Decaf” which is actually done at a factory in Mexico. So I don’t doubt some of the ones on those sites are not truly Swiss Water. It’s too bad because they really invented the process and when I visited them, their factory is amazing. While really professional, they have really built if from scratch and it shows. They engineer, create and maintain it all themselves, really unique business.
water is a chemical yo.
Good point (H2)yO!