What is decaf coffee?

Decaffeinated coffee is obtained by separating the caffeine in the structure of coffee beans by applying a special process. The distinctive intense aroma of coffee is preserved as much as possible during these processes, but for those who cannot do without coffee, the phrase ‘decaffeinated’ is generally not very welcome.



A cup of coffee contains approximately 70-140 milligrams of caffeine. It is considered normal to consume 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, that is, it is predicted that approximately 5-6 cups of coffee can be consumed in a day. However, caffeine, which is only one of the 1200 chemical components in the structure of coffee, can cause heart palpitations, sleep disorders, nervousness, which we know as the harmful effects of coffee. It can also cause conditions such as stomach ailments. At the same time, it is not recommended to consume caffeinated beverages during pregnancy and breastfeeding, especially considering the health of the baby.



If you don’t want to consume caffeine for any reason, but you can’t give up coffee, decaffeinated coffee is the only option. I reluctantly turned to decaf, as it increased symptoms of essential tremor and Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) . As a coffee lover who squints at any ‘decaf’ label, thanks to information I’ve gathered from published research and publications on decaf coffee, I am fortunately convinced that decaf coffee may not be so bad after all. Here’s what I found:



How to get decaffeinated coffee?


It was first thought of Ludwig Roselius in 1905 to separate the caffeine in the content of coffee. Roselius, who chemically treated the coffee beans using benzene and hydrocarbons, found that the caffeine content decreased, but since this method was found to be seriously toxic, its lifespan was not very long.



Today, different methods are used to separate the caffeine from coffee beans, which are definitely healthier than what was first discovered. In the direct decaffeination method, the coffee beans are exposed to steam and then repeatedly rinsed with chemical solvents such as ethyl acetate and methylene chloride. In the indirect method, chemicals do not come into contact with the coffee beans at all, the caffeine-laden water in which the coffee beans are soaked for hours is purified, and after the solvents and the caffeine in this water are separated, the water containing the bean’s own essence is reintroduced to the beans, allowing the oils and flavors to be reabsorbed.



In both processes, chemical solvents are removed from the coffee bean and then completely evaporated by the roasting process. In other words, only traces of these solvents that are considered safe for consumption can be found in decaffeinated coffee beans on the market.



Another method, known as the Swiss Water Process (SWP), relies solely on water and carbon filtration. The coffee beans are first dipped in hot water, where they release their caffeine and flavored components. These beans are discarded, leaving only the flavor-rich water known as “green coffee extract”. This water, in turn, is passed through a carbon filter sized to capture the caffeine molecules, and the decaffeinated green coffee extract is used to wash and filter the next batch of coffee beans. Thus, caffeine is filtered from the beans without resorting to chemicals and without the beans losing most of their flavoring components. The SWP method is the primary method used to decaffeinate organic coffee beans

There are two types of coffee beans most preferred in the world: Robusta and Arabica. Since Robusta is the type with the most intense aroma, decaffeinated coffees are usually obtained from Robusta type coffee beans, which can still retain their intense aroma when processed.



All these processes result in the separation of the caffeine component in the coffee, but it is a well-known fact that no matter what process is applied, only 97% of the caffeine can be separated. In other words, a cup of decaffeinated coffee can contain up to 7 milligrams of caffeine.



How about decaf coffee?


Considering that so much processing is done on coffee beans, and considering that coffee’s energizing feature is taken out of coffee, it is natural for coffee lovers to grimace when they say ‘decaffeinated coffee’!



However, the coffee beans, which are decaffeinated using advanced methods, are purified in such a way that they retain their strong aromas, and moreover, the coffee is not only processed until it reaches us. The fact that it is then roasted using special methods is one of the most important factors affecting the aroma of coffee. So, if you’re consuming a quality coffee, the fact that it’s decaffeinated doesn’t mean you have to compromise on its flavor.



We feel comfortable about its taste, but we still cannot give the same advice about its effects, because when caffeine is removed, coffee’s sleep-inducing, energizing and ‘soothing’ properties are unfortunately lost.



What about the placebo effect? Can decaf coffee make me sleepy?


The answer is yes. In a comprehensive 2011 study, participants showed better cognitive activity after drinking coffee they didn’t know was decaffeinated, proving that the effect known as the placebo effect also applies to coffee. Another study conducted in the USA confirms these results





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