Decaffeination Explained: The processes to decaffeinate coffee

Just good decaf coffee

Coffee is one of the most wonderful beverages on the planet. But for some of us, the caffeine content can be a little bit problematic. Maybe our bodies are sensitive to caffeine. Or maybe we like coffee after dinner or along with dessert without wanting to stay up all night. 

Luckily, decaf coffee is a thing! So let’s learn a little bit about the Swiss Water Decaf Method and other modes of decaffeination. This environmentally friendly method is truly fascinating and vastly superior to some of the other methods out there. Keep reading to learn more about Swiss Water, Mountain Water, and other types of decaffeination.

What is decaf?

 Just to mention right off the bat, decaf does not mean "zero caffeine". Decaf does still contain some caffeine but a very, very low amount. The way to “decaffeinate” coffee beans often involves soaking the caffeine out and adding the flavours and aroma back later. 

Does this mean decaf is “false” advertising? No, of course not! That is because it is coffee beans with the coffee’s caffeine taken down a notch rather than “no caffeine” or “caffeine-free” which the beans are not! That being said, decaf won’t be keeping you up and energized the same way fully caffeinated beans will. This way you can enjoy the social aspects of sharing a pot of coffee or the taste and aroma of coffee even late at night, or if you are sensitive to caffeine. But now, how do the Swiss Water, Mountain Water, and other methods work?

Methods of decaffeinating coffee

There are several ways to remove (most) of the caffeine from coffee beans. Today we will look at the Swiss Decaf Process, CO2 decaf, Triglyceride process, and more. All these processes begin with green coffee beans. Green you ask? Coffee beans aren’t green! Ah, so coffee beans when they are first harvested and before they are roasted are thick, hard, dense, and green. But the roasting process darkens them the more they are exposed to heat. They are also packed with caffeine. But now let’s see how these three processes work!

CO2 Process

Also known as the Supercritical CO2 process, this mode of decaffeinating coffee beans uses high concentrations of CO2 to extract the caffeine from the beans. It goes a little something like this; the green beans are steamed in supercritical CO2 which extracts the caffeine out of the beans. Then they are added to a highly pressurized vessel with water and CO2 at high speed, too. This process removes a good deal of caffeine and leaves a good deal of flavor intact, too. 

Triglyceride process

This process begins by soaking the green beans in a solution of hot water and coffee to allow the caffeine to get drawn to the very surface of the beans. Next, the beans are placed in a container of coffee oils where they are allowed to soak. The beans are essentially steamed in this solution for a few hours where a naturally occurring acid called triglyceride removes the caffeine from the beans. The flavor remains but the caffeine gets sapped out. The beans are removed and dried while the caffeine is removed from the remaining natural oils. These oils are then used to pull the caffeine from other batches of beans. 

Swiss Water

The Swiss Water process begins by steaming the green beans to make them permeable. The next step involves the beans being soaked in water that is saturated with soluble components of coffee that is without any of the caffeine. The special tank is separated with a special membrane that utilizes osmosis which helps sap the caffeine out of the green beans.
Water Decaffeination Explained

The beans are then put in a cylindrical dryer that helps to remove more than 90% of the caffeine in the beans. The water from the first two steps is sent through a charcoal filter so it can be reused. This is an important aspect of this process because it comes from a philosophy based on sustainability as opposed to some of the other decaf methods out there. The pure caffeine is separated and used for other things, while the water and some of the soluble components are reused in step 1.

Mountain Water Process 

This process, also known as MWP, this process takes place high up in the nutrient and mineral-rich waters of Mexico’s highest mountain, Pico de Orizaba. Known as an indirect process, this style goes a little something like this; the green beans are soaked in the pure mountain waters. Then, the water is run through an impressive filtration system that helps to remove most of the caffeine but leaves the flavor and aroma of the beans. Though this process sounds pretty basic it is very sophisticated and results in some stunning decaf beans.

Sugarcane Decaf Process 

The Sugarcane process is another natural process that includes soaking the green coffee beans in water mixed with EA. EA is short for ethyl acetate. This is a compound that is a naturally occurring compound that is derived from molasses made from sugarcane. Hence the “sugarcane process” moniker. As the beans soak, EA is filtered through the water. It binds with the caffeine and extracts it from the beans. After most of the caffeine is sapped out, the beans get a nice steam to clean off the sugary residue and they are good to go.

Chemical solvents 

We mentioned that some naturally occurring chemicals and oils get used to getting the caffeine out of coffee beans like ethyl acetate. But another one is methylene chloride. This chemical is not naturally occurring and is often used as a solvent for paint-stripping formulations. The method used to decaffeinate coffee beans using methylene chloride includes steaming the beans and then continually washing them with the chemical solvent. 

But which ones do we prefer? 

Here at Blue Goose coffee, we prefer to opt for green, sustainable, and earth-friendly modes of coffee. Thus, we would like to nominate Swiss Water and Mountain Water for our processes of choice. 

In fact, we just so happen to offer some incredible coffee beans highlighting both styles. Our Organic Peruvian Coffee beans undergo the Swiss Water process and feature a smooth body along with a flavour palette starring nutty, dark fruit, and cacao hints and notes. We also feature beans from Mexico that have undergone the Mountain Water process and sport some complex flavours and superb aromas.

We hope you have learned a bit about the decaffeination process for coffee beans. Not only that but we hope we have piqued your interest in regard to our Swiss and Mountain Water beans, too! Happy brewing and we hope you only enjoy good coffee.

Works Cited

  • “All about Decaffeinated Coffee.”,
  • “What Is the Swiss Water Decaf Coffee Process?” Blue Goose Eco Coffees, 21 Dec. 2020
  • “Swiss Water® Decaf - a Better Choice in Decaf.”
  • Wikipedia Contributors. “Decaffeination.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 19 Dec. 2019,