Lately a specimen of the coffee tree has been found that has almost nil caffeine naturally. Till the time that variety lands up into commercial usage, we have to content ourselves with the current practices of discarding the unwanted caffeine from coffee. But in which way does these practices influence the quality of our beverage.
When blind taste tests were conducted it was seen that people could hardly tell any difference between regular and decaf, on condition that both types were processed rightly and the liquid finely brewed. But here is it for those who know the difference.
One of the processes of removal caffeine from coffee is treating it boiled water and then washing in methylene chloride.
May be you were not aware that your coffee had already been under water before it reached your coffee makers? Well, not once, but many times. The berries are washed after they are picked so as to soften the outer fruit for removal, then washed again for the elimination of the flesh that remains.
Moreover, it may also have escaped you that your beans had paid a visit to the swimming pool before you got it. So what if the water of the swimming pool is really hydrochloric acid and not methylene chloride. Do not let a chemist spoil the pleasure of a neat sentence!
Hence, the difference in taste is more likely to be from the rest of the chemicals used in processing and whether they have done away with components that produce flavor as from the absence or presence of caffeine.
Chemically removing caffeine from unroasted, green grounds begins by heating them in steam or hot water. This helps in the opening of the pores. Now the beans are washed in methylene chloride, which sticks to the caffeine and is then rinsed away.
Another method is to soak the beans in hot water for a few hours. Through this the caffeine is leached out into the liquid. The beans are removed and methylene chloride is put into the water. Now it binds itself to the caffeine and not the flavored elements that have flushed out of the bean. The beans are put into the bath again where they again absorb the flavor components.
There is another alternative process called the Swiss method that also keeps the beans in hot water for many hours but there is no use of methylene chloride. In its place, the caffeine is flushed away by filtering the water through charcoal that is activated. Very close to pure carbon, the structure of molecules of activated charcoal has been changed to give a big surface area for other molecules to bind themselves in the empty space.
The first procedure is less costly and therefore preferred by the majority of producers. And without surprise, there are of course debates that rage on about whether taste is degraded in the process. Needless to say, quality of a product is the biggest bet of any manufacturer and it should not be compromised. But, there are even systems that the individual can follow to reduce the intake of caffeine.
Lets consider the taste. This is something very subjective and personal where individual liking for a particular taste overrides any presence or absence of chemicals. Because caffeine has nothing but a bitter taste most consumers can make it whether its there or not. It is entirely a situation of personal taste whether decaf is good or bad.
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Kurt Schefken works almost entirely for www.coffee-espresso-maker-tips.com , a website with topics around gevalia coffee . One can find his contributions on gevalia coffee and gevalia coffee makers here.
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