Millions love the taste of coffee, but are allergic to caffeine or cannot tolerate it
This has been a major impediment to increase sales and starting s early as the 19th century, European coffee merchants have invested considerable amounts of funds to find a way to remove caffeine from coffee beans.
Ludwig Roselius, a major German coffee importer around the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries, was looking for processes to remove caffeine from beans.
The discovery, as in so many other cases, came about by an accident.
A coffee shipment from Nicaragua (Germany is the best and largest coffee importer of Nicaraguan coffee) was water logged during transportation. When the “green coffee” arrived at Roselius’ warehouses, his researchers determined that water had dislodged a good portion of the caffeine without affecting the taste except a slight saltiness.
After more research and much experimentation, Mr Roselius’ team came up with a decaffeinating technique. The coffee was marketed as Kaffee Hag in Germany and still is to this day, but in France marketers decided wisely to use an abbreviation of sans caffeine – sanka. This is the brand name most familiar to North American consumers.
Green beans are soaked or steamed, then left in water, or treated with solvents to remove caffeine. Some companies use methylene chloride, which is ultimately removed from the beans before roasting, except an extremely small amount. There are strict limits to the use of methylene chloride due to its toxicity.
Other decaffeinated coffee processors employ ethyl acetate, another solvent. Here again, permissible levels are strictly prescribed and controlled due to the toxicity of ethyl acetate.
By means of comparison, it is important to note that considerable amounts of ethyl acetate are found in ripe fruits. This is deemed natural, and government agencies seem not to be concerned about restricting fresh fruit consumption.
There are other decaffeinating processes. One involves running hot roasted beans into alcohol, or percolating hot beans in the same way, as ground coffee is prepared, but replacing water with alcohol. Alcohol leaches the caffeine. The liquid is then used for coffee liqueur production.
One of the most popular decaffeinating processes is the Swiss Process in which green beans are soaked in hot water. The beans, now “sans caffeine”, are discarded. The caffeine-rich water is run through filters to remove the active ingredient but not flavouring agents. Then an untreated batch of green beans is added to the flavour-saturated, but caffeine-free water. The caffeine is absorbed into the water, and the flavour remains in tact.
Using pressurised carbon dioxide in a specially deigned chamber is the newest but most expensive method of decaffeinating. Only a few processors use it.
The most effective method is the Swiss water process, and using solvents to remove caffeine.
According to those familiar with decaffeinated coffee , the best is the Swiss water process.
Regardless, the first person that thought of creating caffeine free coffee was Ludwig Roselius, and we owe a lot to him.
Considering that Germans consume considerable amounts of quality-coffee and love both the taste and “buzz” of it, Roselius’ thinking of removing the “buzz” is nothing short of genial.