Let’s Talk Decaf!

Decaffeinated coffee causes such a debate in the coffee world with many customers believing that it’s pointless, drinking a coffee without caffeine. As a result it is often deemed a sub-standard coffee. We would like to challenge this view!

Winchester Coffee School took a trip to our decaffeination factory based in Bremen, near Hamburg, Germany. We wish to share this amazing experience with you and help you choose a decaffeinated coffee which we promise will taste as good as the regular caffeinated coffee!

It’s all about green! Our Green coffee beans are usually shipped straight from origin to the ports in the UK. However, with decaf the green beans take a detour via Germany to one of the leading green coffee processors worldwide, the decaf factory in Bremen – CR3-Kaffeeveredelung M. Hermsen GmbH. CR3 have over 80 years’ experience in coffee with an annual volume exceeding 140,000 tons!

We have noticed two main challenges with decaffeination, the process at the factory and then the café making it.

Factory challenge; to separate only the caffeine from the coffee beans while leaving the other chemicals at their original concentrations. This is not easy since coffee contains somewhere around 1,000 chemicals that are important to the taste and aroma of this wonderful drink.

Café challenge; there are still some cafes who do not freshly grind their decaf and often buy pre-ground which affects the quality of the coffee. Simply they do not give the decaf the same loving care in making it as the caffeinated.

Let’s look at the decaffeination processes on offer:

Methylene Chloride

Mainly used with the big manufacturers and coffee chains because it is the fastest decaffeination method.

This is a solvent based decaffeination process and removes around 95 – 96% of caffeine.

Coffee beans are soaked in near boiling water then washed in methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. This extracts the caffeine, but it also extracts all other flavour elements and oils from the beans.

The downside of this method is many do not like the solvent based approach plus the process removes everything from the bean meaning that coffee oils and the flavour elements have to be reintroduced into the beans.

Swiss Water Decaf

This is a synthesised-free water decaffeination process and removes 99.9%

Soaking a batch of beans in very hot water in order to dissolve the caffeine. The water is then drawn off and passed through an activated charcoal filter. Beans however end up with no caffeine and no flavour in one tank, and caffeine-free flavoured water in another tank. The flavourless caffeine-free beans are discarded, but the flavour rich water is reused to reintroduce and retain flavour when decaffeinating future batches of coffee. So, the result is decaffeination without a massive loss of flavour.

Natural Co2 (also known as sparkling water decaf)

This is also a natural decaffeination process and achieves 99.9% decaffeination and the choice for Winchester Coffee Roasterswhen it comes to our decaf coffee!

This is a gentle process, where the liquid co2 targets the caffeine in the coffee and guarantees a high retention of coffee components providing that all important aroma and taste. This process is all natural and certified organic. This process does however take the longest at 6-7 days. But it is worth it.

The caffeine extracted from coffee is refined into pure anhydrous caffeine and sold mainly to the soft drinks industry.

We love our decaf coffee and make it with the same loving care and accuracy of all our other caffeinated coffees. This means the standards are kept high and many of our customers cannot taste the different between our Peru single origin coffee and our Peru decaffeinated coffee.

When we do compare decaffeinated with caffeinated and go through our tasting process, we can say that decaffeinated does taste a little sweeter. Caffeine as a raw material is naturally very bitter in taste, therefore without the caffeine we do get sweeter notes of flavour and aroma coming through.

My only recommendation is simply, come in and give it a try!