Updated: Nov 21, 2019
Do you ever drink decaf? Perhaps it’s because caffeine makes you feel a little bit too jittery, or because you still want that sweet taste of coffee after 2PM without lying awake at night. But do you know how decaf coffee becomes “decaf”? And why does it taste so different?
Wonder no longer, read on and you shall be illuminated!
The Tree-to-Cup Steps
To understand how decaf coffee is made, you first need to know a little bit about where (non-decaf) coffee comes from. The first step of the tree-to-cup process is picking the coffee fruit, which is called coffee cherries and looks a little bit like a cranberry. After the fruit part of the coffee is removed (which some of you coffee lovers may know can be done many different ways), the coffee beans are dried in the sun. These dried coffee beans are called green beans. The green beans are what is sent to coffee roasters, who roast the beans. These roasted beans are ground down and used to make your favorite cup of Joe.
The Decaffeination Step
The decaffeination step happens at the “It’s a green bean” stage. Caffeine is removed through a variety of methods, which we will tell you about in a later blog post, but in essence, this process is usually energy and water-intensive, with some methods using harsh chemicals as well, and it ends up being pretty harsh to the bean. True, the caffeine is removed during this process, but some of the other tastes are changed as well. In addition, the bean ends up looking very different from a non-decaffeinated green bean. Imagine a raisined version of a coffee bean: discolored and wrinkly.
Decaffeination decreases the quality of the bean. As a result, not all types of roasts can be achieved with decaf beans, limiting the variety of decaf coffees that are available. A medium or dark roast is often necessary to “mask” some of the icky taste that the bean has acquired during decaffeination (or rather the fact that some of the yummy coffee flavors in the bean have been lost during the process). Decaffeination before roasting and brewing changes the taste of coffee, which is perhaps why many people really don’t like decaf.
This is part of the reason we are introducing the Decaf Pouch, a new way to decaf: at the very last step. After the roasting, after the brewing. This ensures that the taste of coffee, the delicious combination of flavors, is the same as what you’d expect from your favorite, non-decaffeinated roast.
Written by Valerie Bentivegna