Swiss Water Process Decaf

What the hell is it? 

Why should I care? 

Quite often I will be sat watching TV in the evening and get a craving for a delicious, hot cup of coffee. Now unless it is a Friday or a Saturday night, this is a problem. Getting out of bed at 6am for work is hard enough, without being awake until 2am high on caffeine. This is where a handy cup of decaf comes in; all the comforting flavour, none of the shakes.


There are a few different ways to extract caffeine from coffee beans; in the UK the majority are decaffeinated by the ‘solvent method’. Typically, this is not advertised or explained on any jars or sachets, so people remain unaware of what they are buying and potentially consuming.

As the method suggests, green (unroasted) coffee beans are soaked in different solvents. These solvents bond with the caffeine molecules. The beans are then steamed to evaporate off the solvents. As the solvent evaporates, so is the caffeine. The beans are then roasted, just like a regular batch of coffee.

 The issue with this method is the type of solvents used. In the 70’s trichloroethylene was the solvent of choice. A large study showed that this was linked to causing cancer and this has been slowly phased out. However, it has now been replaced with Methylene Chloride (Dichloromethane). A quick Wikipedia check of Methylene Chloride can bring up some startling information, and immediately raises concerns as to why it is used in a consumable food product.


 The swiss water method only uses water and green coffee extract (GCE) to decaffeinate the beans. No chemicals, just good old H2O.

 The green coffee beans are soaked in near boiling water. This extracts the caffeine, oils, and flavour compounds from the coffee beans into the water. The water is then passed through ‘Activated charcoal’ which strips the water of all the extracted caffeine. Luckily the oils and flavour compounds don’t bond with the charcoal and therefore remain in the water. The extracted coffee beans are then re-added to the water and GCE mix to re-absorb all the flavours and oils.

 Of all the decaffeinating processes, the Swiss water process removes the most caffeine. SWP decaf coffee is 99.9% caffeine free.

 So that’s what Swiss water decaf is, and that’s why you should care.

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