Decaf: The Natural Way

Caffeine: it is not just in coffee but in tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and we all crave it for that essential morning eye opener or afternoon slump buster.  Alongside the comforting aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the benefits of caffeine are certainly a welcome bonus.

Decaf coffee, however, has often performed well below par, more so an ‘it’ll do’ compromise, and not something that would generate the excitement in coffee that roasters and baristas crave. And no wonder – the decaffeination process was first invented over 200 years ago using benzine, a harsh chemical which is found in crude oil, so I’ll say no more.

Thankfully, there are fantastic natural decaffeination methods on the market that produce delicious brews that can be hard to separate from the real thing.

One such natural method called the ‘Sugar Cane Process’ is growing in popularity with both roasters and consumers.  It does not compromise the unique flavours or structure of the green bean.

And so, this month we are excited to launch our new E.A. Decaf - Bernardo Echeverry, Colombia which brews a lovely balanced sweetness of pecan pie, chocolate, and walnuts.

This coffee is yet another link in our special Farm Direct relationship with Bernardo Echeverry at  Estrella (see Nikos Blog March 25, 2021).  The sugar cane process occurs just a few hours’ drive of Bernardo’s farm.  In Colombia sugar cane grows in abundance, so it makes economic sense to work in symmetry with the coffee industry.  In fact, Colombia has made a conscious decision to retain the traditional farming methods used to cut down the sugar cane, rather than mechanical methods to ensure employment is sustained.


Here is the science if you like the detail!

What is decaffeination? It is the process of removing caffeine from green beans before they are roasted, and a minimum of 97% caffeine must be removed to classify as decaf.

The Sugar Cane process uses Molasses (sugars) derived from sugar cane, which are fermented anaerobically to naturally produce Ethanol.  This is mixed with Acetic Acid to create Ethyl Acetate (EA), a compound that will only bond with the caffeine molecules in the green bean, not the flavour compounds. 

The green coffee beans are steamed to make the bean porous so the caffeine molecules can be easily extracted.  They are exposed to the EA wash, and as caffeine is water soluble it bonds with the EA – like a magnet and is drawn out.  Beans are then washed and steamed again to remove any trace of EA, then dried to desired moisture content ready for roasting.

What sets this process apart is it leaves the structure of the bean intact retaining the exceptional flavours we want to enjoy and even adds its own unique sweetness. 

I hope you enjoy our new Colombia Sugar Cane Decaf knowing it not only natural and tastes delicious but is supporting our Farm Direct relationship and the wider communities in this region.

 Bermardo Echeverry