Often considered a four-letter word amongst Baristas and patrons alike, decaf has had a bad rap for a long time. For the most part, its poor reputation has been deserved however this is slowly changing. For a while now there has been a chemical-free method to remove the caffeine from the green beans. This method originated in Switzerland in the 1930’s and is aptly called ‘The Swiss-Water Decaffeination Process’. In a nutshell, the process goes like this…
A batch of green (unroasted) beans is soaked in hot water, releasing caffeine. When all the caffeine and coffee solids are released into the water, the beans are discarded and the water is passed through a carbon filter that traps caffeine but lets the coffee solids pass through. The resulting solution, called “flavour-charged” water is then put into a similar filtration device, and new coffee beans are added. Since the flavour-charged water cannot remove any of the coffee solids from the new beans, only the caffeine is released. The process repeats, filtering out all the caffeine until the beans are 99.9% caffeine free. These beans are removed and dried, and manage to retain most if not all of their flavour and smell. In fact the only change in flavour is due to the absence of the caffeine which has a natural bitter flavour.
Decaffeinated beans do present a slight challenge to the roaster. Because of the saturation process they go through, they arrive at the roastery slightly darkened meaning the master roaster can’t necessarily rely on the darkening of the bean as an indicator of roast readiness. Luckily, there are many other indicators available to ensure that the decaffeinated beans are roasted to an ideal flavour point.
When the freshly roasted decaffeinated beans arrive at the cafe it is imperative that they are subjected to exactly the same rigorous measures used on regular coffee – freshly ground, properly tamped and extracted. There is therefore no reason why a good quality decaffeinated coffee should taste inferior to any other good quality coffee. In fact, at Bang we go a couple of steps further. Our decaf has undergone a Mountain-Water decaffeination process which is identical in process to the Swiss-Water method but uses natural mountain spring water. In addition, our decaf is grown organically and is Rainforest Alliance certified, no wonder we’re so proud of it.