Coffee Decaffeination Process
Decaffeinating coffee is achieved through a variety of decaffeination processes, all of which are relatively harmless to your health, but harmful to coffee quality. Almost every process for decaffeination consists of soaking the beans in water to dissolve the caffeine, extracting the caffeine with either a solvent or activated carbon, and then re-soaking the coffee beans in the decaffeinated water to reabsorb the flavor compounds that were lost in the initial extraction.
The solvents typically used are methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, which both have a low boiling point. Since ethyl acetate is found naturally in fruits you will hear people call this process “”natural.”” In any case the solvent never comes in contact with the coffee bean itself, but only the water solution containing the caffeine that was previously extracted from the coffee bean.
Therefore the water decaffeination process is relatively benign. All methods used to decaffeinate coffee are based on equilibrium principles and solvent/solute properties. As such, neither all of the caffeine is removed from the coffee, nor are all of the flavor compounds returned or left in the coffee. The chemical composition of decaffeinated coffee (or decaf coffee) is altered, and therefore the flavor and aroma are changed.