How Decaffeinated Coffee Is Made

Today I found how caffeine is removed from coffee to produce the decaffeinated version of the world’s most popular drink.

There are several different methods used that can make coffee relatively decaffeinated. The drawback (or advantage, depending on your preference) of all of these methods is that they generally make the coffee flavor milder due to caffeine being one of the components which gives coffee its bitter, acidic flavor.

The general decaffeination processes includes soaking the still green coffee beans in hot water (160-210 degrees Fahrenheit) and then some sort of solvent or activated carbon is used to extract/dissolve the caffeine. The solvents typically used are methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. Unfortunately with this process, the first batch of beans loses most of its flavor to the water and is often thrown out. However, once the dissolving liquid is saturated from the first batch, the subsequent batches retain much of their flavor.  In some methods, the coffee beans from the first batch will be re-soaked in the water solution to reabsorb some of the flavor compounds, minus the dissolved caffeine, so that they can eventually be used for making decaffeinated coffee.

The first such process, as described above, for decaffeinating coffee was invented by Ludwig Roselius in 1905. This method used benzene, a potentially toxic hydrocarbon, to remove caffeine from presoaked green coffee beans. Coffee was steamed in brine and then benzene was applied to the beans. Nowadays, this method is considered unsafe and no longer used.

Another method is where the beans are steamed for half an hour, rather than immersed in water, and then rinsed with solvents – ethyl acetate or methylene chloride to extract and dissolve the caffeine from the beans. Ethyl acetate is an ester that is found naturally in fruits and vegetables such as bananas, apples, and coffee. The solvent is first circulated through a bed of moist green coffee beans and then recaptured in an evaporator while the beans are washed with water. After the chemicals are drained, the beans are steamed again. Usually the solvent is added to the vessel, circulated and emptied several times until the coffee has been decaffeinated to the desired level. The coffee is said to be ‘naturally decaffeinated’ when ethyl acetate derived from fruit or vegetables is used. The advantage of using these solvents for decaffeinating, is that they are generally more precisely targeted to caffeine and not other components that give coffee its distinct flavor. Up to 96% to 97 % of the caffeine from coffee can be extracted this way.

Another method, is known as the Swiss Water Process  and employs a charcoal filter. The charcoal is normally used in conjunction with a carbohydrate solvent (highly compressed CO) so only the caffeine is absorbed. In this method, first, the green coffee beans are soaked in hot water and then the first batch of coffee beans is discarded. The caffeine is then stripped from the solution by activated carbon filters.  This leaves the solution saturated with flavor compounds which is then reused to soak a new batch of decaffeinated green coffee beans. This method extracts up to 98% of the caffeine. Carbon dioxide is also a popular solvent because it has a relatively low pressure critical point.

Another method known as the sparkling water decaffeination process is similar to the CO2 method, but instead of removing the caffeine with activated carbon filters, the caffeine is washed from the CO2 with sparkling water in a secondary tank. This type of solvent consists about 99.7% compressed carbon dioxide and 0.3% water.

Bonus Facts:

  • The coffee industry in the United States alone is valued at about $19 billion annually.
  • It takes five years for a coffee tree to reach full maturity. After that, each tree bears 1-2 pounds of coffee beans per growing season.
  • A six-ounce cup of coffee typically contains approximately 50 to 75 milligrams of caffeine. This amount varies depending on the method of preparation and the type of coffee. Unfortunately for people who are sensitive to caffeine, as little as 10 milligrams can cause discomfort making caffeinated coffee unpalatable for them.
  • There are 1,200 different chemical components in coffee with more than half of them contributing to the flavor of coffee.
  • Decaffeinated coffee still contains a small amount of caffeine, thus decaffeinated coffee is not technically caffeine-free.
  • Today, decaffeinated coffee accounts for approximately 12% of total worldwide coffee consumption.



How to Make the World’s Most Expensive Cup of Coffee

According to a 2013 survey, over eighty three percent of Americans drink coffee in the morning and the average citizen drinks multiple cups per day. Between the dark brew, the flavored lattes, the frozen caffeinated treats, and the whirling gadgets, coffee is now a thirty billion dollar industry. Coffee is big business and companies like Starbucks, Peets, and Folgers have spent gobs of money to get people to drink more of it. Despite all of that, the most expensive coffee probably can’t be found in your downtown coffee shop. No, the most expensive coffee in the world lives alongside feces in the intestinal gut of an Asian palm civet.

Kopi Luwak is the Indonesian pronunciation for what is called “civet coffee,” a beverage made from the beans of coffee berries that are eaten and, then, defecated by the Asian palm civet. Kopi Luwak is literally a type of coffee made possible thanks to a jungle animal’s poop.

Asian palm civets, sometimes referred to as toddy cats, are small, furry, long-tailed, tree-climbing mammals who are native to Southern and Southeast Asia. They tend to be nocturnal and feed on a diet of berries, pulpy fruit, and seeds. One of their favorite foods is the coffee berry, or coffee cherry. Inside of this berry usually sits two coffee “beans” (though of course they aren’t really beans).

Civets will scour for days looking for this tasty treat. When found, they will sift through the berries to find the ones that are the best, the tastiest, and the ripest. Slashing through the berry with their fangs, they will eat both the berry and the coffee seeds inside. Fortunately for us humans, the civet can’t digest the seeds and when they, well, poop, the seeds come out nearly completely intact. From there, expert civet trackers gather this excrement, separate the seeds from the feces, wash and then dry them out. And then, viola, you have the world’s most expensive coffee seeds!

So who first thought it would be a good idea to try to brew up a cup of Joe from these fecal covered seeds? The story behind the discovery of Kopi Luwak lies in Europe’s long history of colonialism. As Spain, England, Portugal, and the Dutch extended their reach into Asia, they most often “settled” lands that were quite rich in natural resources and farmland. The Dutch became the first large-scale importers of coffee when they discovered the seed in Yemen in the 16th century. Early in the 17th century, the Dutch began to smuggle it out of Yemen, despite a ban by the country on exporting national resources. They planted coffee seeds on the islands of Sumatra and Java in the Dutch colony of Indonesia.

Dutch Indonesian plantation owners grew the coffee seeds out of their rich soil, so that they could sell them back home. To help with this, they hired many locals to work for them as low paid farmers. Curious what all the hoopla was about, prohibited from picking the coffee berries, and too poor to buy them themselves, the farmers were forced to find other avenues to try out coffee. They began to realize that certain species of the civet ate the berries, but the undigested seeds would remain in their droppings. At some point, a few brave souls collected the droppings, plucked the seeds out of them, then cleaned and roasted them for their beverages. The aroma and taste were so distinctive, it soon became a favorite not just among the farmers, but the plantation owners as well.

Coffee experts argue that the reason these coffee seeds brew such a good cup of coffee is due to two reasons: civet selection and digestion. The civets are good at choosing the best coffee berries to munch on, which means the coffee seeds they are digesting are generally of the highest quality. Additionally, while the seeds are making their journey through the civet’s digestive tract, they are absorbing some of the acids and enzymes within the animals digestive tract. Fermentation is occurring. This creates a distinctive “flavor profile” that apparently gives it a taste that has been described as “smooth, chocolatey and devoid of any bitter aftertaste.”

The price for these coffee seeds can reach astronomically figures. Dean and Deluca, a chain of very upscale grocery stores, is currently selling Kopi Luwak that was collected from wild civets in Thailand in a fifty gram bag for seventy dollars, which converts to about $635 per pound. At Funnel Mill, a well-known celebrity hang out coffee shop in Santa Monica, California, they serve a cup of this coffee by appointment only, for eighty dollars, and with no cream or sugar.

Of course, with any expensive or cost-prohibitive item, there will be those who will always try to find a way to produce it cheaply. Sadly, this has been very much the case with Kopi Luwak. Civet farms have been proliferating throughout Southeast Asia recently, causing much concern among animal right activists. Civets are being captured by entrepreneurial farmers, held in wooden cages or, more often, a battery cage system (much like what egg-laying hens are held in), and force-fed the coffee berries.

These civet farms have high mortality rates due to the stress put on the trapped civets and the lack of nutritional balance these animals are getting. After all, coffee berries are not the only thing civets should be eating. Even civets that live through their normal life spans in these farms tend to get sick frequently and lose much of their fur. Due to the growth of these farms, an increasing human population, and deforestation, the wild civet population has been decreasing rapidly. There is a fear that the money involved in the Kopi Luwak coffee business will soon make the wild civet go the way of the dodo bird.

Further, coffee connoisseurs believe that there is a huge difference in taste between Kopi Luwak made from wild civets and farmed civets. For one, the natural selection of coffee berries are being taken out of the civet’s claws. Being force-fed the berries give the civets no choice in what berries they should be selecting to eat. Additionally, sick civets and those not getting their normal wild diet don’t have the same level of healthy enzymes and microbes in their stomach, which also could be changing the beans coveted unique “flavor profile.” From this, as you might imagine, it is thought that there are many companies selling farm-raised Kopi Luwak, while passing off their product as wild civet Kopi Luwak.

All that said, many believe that Kopi Luwak is different from other coffee only in price, with the rest all being hype; not unlike how professional wine tasters can’t typically tell the difference between cheap wine and the extremely expensive stuff when put to the test, and that the whole “white wine goes with these foods and red with these others” thing also seems to simply be all in people’s heads. In fact, professional wine tasters can’t even reliably tell the difference between red and white wines when blind tested, at least unless the test is being administered by someone who isn’t interested in trying to fool them.

The key in both the cheap/expensive wine and the red/white wine tests is thought to be that the tasters typically taste what they are expecting to taste and it’s exceptionally easily to manipulate them (such as telling them they are getting two wines to taste when they are really only getting one). But even in the red/white tests where no one is trying to fool them, they only get which is red and which is white correct about 70% of the time, which still isn’t that great an average considering it’s a 50/50 shot to begin with.

In any event, while many think a similar thing is happening with the taste of Kopi Luwak, if you fancy yourself a coffee snob, have a hundred bucks or so burning a mug-sized hole in your wallet, and find yourself craving civet intestinal juices, a steaming cup of Kopi Luwak could be for you.

Bonus Facts:

  • Kopi Luwak is not the only coffee made from the bodily excrements of animals. In Thailand, a Canadian businessman is selling Black Ivory Coffee. The coffee is made from undigested beans in elephant poop. Not only that, there are coffee beans also being sold that were picked out of the vomit of Vietnamese weasels. And if coffee isn’t your thing, what about tea? Yup, there’s even green tea leaves being grown out of panda poop that is being sold for around two hundred dollars per cup!
  • In a similar blind taste test to that performed on professional wine tasters, Jimmy Kimmel told people he was offering them one expensive cup ($7) of Starbucks’ Costa Rica Finca Palmilera coffee and one cup of Folgers and asked them to identify which was which to see if the Starbucks coffee was worth it. In reality, he just gave them two cups of the same coffee, but only one guy noticed this and, much like the wine tasters, tasted what they expected to taste– one expensive cup of coffee where they described in detail how much better it tasted and why, and one cheap. They were the same coffee.



In 2011, it was estimated 8.3 percent of American population have diabetes, 90 percent of them suffer from type 2 diabetes.  While it may not require daily injection of insulin, type 2 diabetes mellitus is a risk factor to other big-ticket diseases such as heart diseases, strokes and renal failure. Now, it seems there’s a simple way to avoid type 2 diabetes, the subsequent complications and related diseases – a few cups of good ol’ Joe, every day.

There are a few catches though; your coffees must be black, i.e. no sugar, artificial sweetener, creamers and even milk. You also need to have healthy Body Mass Index (BMI) which means several cups of coffee daily might not work as effectively on those who are overweight. You must be a non-smoker, exercise regularly and eat healthily too. If you are not, it’s high time to stop smoking, get your muscles moving and add more protein, vegetables and fruit in your diet. As for caffeinated or decaffeinated, it doesn’t matter.


The study in question was conducted for a period of 13 years on 400,000 adults around the age of 50 to 71. The researchers discovered every couple of cups of coffee, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was down by 12 percent, (11 percent if they were 2 cups of decaf coffee) add another 2 cups and the percentage increased to around 22 to 24. We did mention a bit about the topic in our previous article; on how coffee apparently increases sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that may improve body’s tolerance to glucose by boosting metabolism or improving its tolerance to insulin. For people with prediabetes, another study that ran for 8 years on 900 adults shown caffeinated coffee had mitigate risk of getting diabetes by 60 percent than those who didn’t drink coffee.


But, what if you already have type 2 diabetes? So far there are only just a few studies done on this matter. But it is advisable for you to shy away from caffeinated version. Caffeine will probably interact with your medication, rendering them ineffective. They also might spike the blood sugar level, postprandial. As for decaf, the effect is not conclusive. It depends on your body, if it can tolerate the coffee then it might be safe for you. Or you can opt for other hot beverages, like green tea or white tea just to be on the safe side.



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The Herald-Dispatch, access December 26, 2013


Diabetes Care, access December 26, 2013, access December 26, 2013


American Diabetes Association, access December 27, 2013


Diabetes Self-Management Blog, access December 27, 2013





Selfridges stops selling luxury cat dung coffee after campaign over treatment of animals in rainforests of Indonesia


  • Kopi Luwak coffee, £60 a cup, is made from excrement of civet cats
  • Felines found to only feed on the finest of coffee beans in the wild
  • Discovery has led to the animals being kept in battery farm-style cages

A cup of Kopi Luwak coffee is considered the height of luxury and can cost as much as £60, however the price in animal welfare has left a bitter taste.

Now Selfridges has decided to remove the exclusive and highly prize coffee from shelves following concerns about the impact on the civet cats that are crucial to its production.

Bizarrely, the coffee, which is said to have a uniquely smooth taste, is harvested from the excrement of the civet cat.

Historically, plantation workers in the forests of Indonesia discovered that the civet cats in the wild would only eat the finest coffee beans.

They collected the part digested beans excreted by the animals and made coffee that had a unique flavour.

It was believed that the quality of the beans, coupled with the effects of the part digestion in the animal’s body were needed to develop the taste.

As the coffee became known around the world, so a market developed with the result that farmers captured and caged the wild cats to ensure a plentiful and ready supply.

However, animal welfare campaigners found the conditions in the tiny battery farm style cages are often cruel, filthy and inhumane.

Undercover video footage by welfare campaigners found the tiny civets exhibiting neurotic behaviour such as incessant pacing, spinning and head-bobbing – indications that the wild-caught animals are going insane from boredom.

One farmer explained civets are generally kept caged for around three years.

Another compared civets eating too many coffee berries to humans smoking, as their health deteriorates during captivity because of a lack of vitamins and nutrition.

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has campaigned to highlight the suffering with the result that Selfridges has decided to remove the coffee from sale.

The move follows an earlier decision by Harrods to stop selling coffee produced from caged civets.

However, a number of UK websites are currently selling the controversial coffee for between £180 and £300 a kilo.

The WSPA has launched a campaign for an independent certification scheme to ensure the coffee only comes from civet cats that are not held in cages.

It has contacted a series of retailers in the UK and around the world asking what steps they are taking to verify whether their coffee is from farmed or wild civets.

The animal charity has met with the Rain Forest Alliance and UTZ Certified, two organisations working across the world to certify that food products such as coffee meet responsible animal welfare standards.

Dr Neil D’Cruze, the head of wildlife research  at WSPA, said: ‘Retailers all over the world have committed to only obtain civet coffee from guaranteed ‘cage- free’ sources and it is clear that this is the animal friendly product that consumers want.

‘We are encouraged by the dialogue we have had with these leading international certification bodies which we hope will result in retailers and consumers being able to make an informed and humane choice, preventing the cruel capture and confinement of hundreds of civets.’

Despite the controversy surrounding its production, the civet cat coffee still retains an air of luxury and mystery.

It recently featured in the Hollywood move, The Bucket List, where Jack Nicholson’s terminally ill character chose it as one of the experiences he must try before he dies.

A spokesman for Selfridges said the company previously sold civet coffee from a small sustainable supplier, however it has now decided to permanently remove it from shelves.

There is no evidence that the coffee it was selling came from mistreated animals.
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