There are two people groups in the world - the Cafs, and the Caf-nots. The Cafs love their caffeine and the buzz it provides. To the Caf-nots, the buzz is anywhere from annoying to debilitating - and problematic, since it is multi-present - in teas, coffee and colas.
The challenges became surmountable when producers discovered that liquids could be decaffeinated. The Caf-nots could embrace such items as decaf tea and decaf coffees, but there was a price – the addition of chemicals.
In 1980, the first decaffeination of coffee in water, without direct chemical application, was implemented. Now the choice for non-caf coffee drinkers was between caffeine, decaf using chemicals, or water-decaf coffees. For the health-conscious, the water-decaffeinated coffees won, despite the loss-in-flavor side effect.
The major breakthrough, the 1991 implementation of a process developed in Switzerland – coincidently called the Swiss Water Decaf method - was begun by a British Columbia company. Ever since, the Caf-nots can have their coffee and drink it too- without chemicals and without caffeine.
The Swiss Water Decaf process is relatively simple, though time-consuming. Green beans are soaked in pure hot water until the caffeine dissolves out into the water, along with the soluble flavor components. The caffeine in the liquid is filtered out by activated carbon filters. The remaining flavorful water is used to soak the next batch of beans.
Because this water is full of flavor components, it does not draw out the flavor from the beans. Only the caffeine is dissolved and removed by the carbon filters. The twelve-hour perfected process gives the Caf-nots everything - flavorful coffee without caffeine.
The Swiss Water Decaffeination Process is a proprietary one, patented and offered only by the Canadian company. Other water decaffeination methods basically work the same way. The main difference is that the generic water process uses one of two chemicals to remove the caffeine from the water before it’s re-used to soak more beans. These solvents are usually methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. Because ethyl acetate is found in fruit, many consider it “natural”. Regardless, the solvents are used only on the water after the beans are removed; they don’t contact the beans directly, unless trace amounts remain in the caffeine-less water which is re-used for soaking more beans.
Today, though the Swiss Water Decaf Process might add a few pennies, the Caf-nots can have it all.