Decaffeinated Coffee: Decaf

For those who like the taste of coffee but don't like the jittery way makes it makes them feel, drinking decaffeinated coffee is a good option. But does it taste as good? Removing the caffeine from coffee does alter the taste. Caffeine lends it a more bitter, acidic flavor. So decaf can be somewhat milder. One should note that the food and drug administration does not have regulatory authority on the way coffee is labeled; so coffee can be purchased that is labeled decaffeinated which actually has between two and 13 mg of caffeine in it. People who are not supposed to consume caffeine should beware of labels.

Since coffee naturally has caffeine, in order to make decaf the caffeine must be removed. There are two processes that can accomplish this.

The Swiss water process is the method used for higher-end coffees and coffees found in organic food stores as well as gourmet shops because it does not use chemicals. This organic method of extracting the caffeine typically removes about 95% of the caffeine while retaining the compounds that make the coffee tastes good. Unroasted beans are soaked in hot water, releasing the caffeine and other coffee flavors. The liquid is then passed through a carbon filter where the caffeine is separated out. New beans are then soaked in the caffeine-free, coffee-flavored liquid. Since the liquid has the same coffee flavors as the beans, but without the caffeine, only the caffeine is released from the new beans. The new beans are then caffeine-free.

A chemical solvent method also may be used in which chemicals such as highly pressurized carbon dioxide, ethyl acetate, and methylene chloride are used to coax the caffeine out of the beans. After the beans are soaked in this chemical mix, they are rinsed, steamed, and then roasted. Most or all of the chemical solvent is removed by these three processes. The chemical solvent method removes more of the caffeine than the Swiss water process, getting about 97%.

The decaf version of coffee has many of the health benefits of caffeinated coffee. Nevertheless, recent studies show that only the decaffeinated version may cause an increase in "bad cholesterol" because it increases a particular blood fat. Even so, the negative effects are small, and at the time of this writing remain hypothetical.

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