Short answer is yes, all caffeine is extracted from coffee with solvents. In order of their usage, the solvents are methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide and water. Methylene Chloride is still the solvent of choice for specialty coffee because it produces the best decaf flavour profile.
In the 1980's, the use of methylene chloride in paint strippers and aerosols caused concern with researchers. This event motivated the industry to build new facilities that used solvents other than methylene chloride and ethyl acetate. Hence the commercialization of water and CO2 processes.
Companies involved in new constructions leveraged the negative publicity of methylene chloride to promote their products as a healthier alternative to traditional decaf. This was the dawn of "fear mongering " approach to decaf sales.
30 years later, the facts on the subject are well documented. More than two thirds of the worlds decaffeinated coffee are produced using methylene chloride and ethyl acetate. The solvents have been researched and studied extensively and the United States Department of Agriculture has assessed several studies relating to methylene chloride. The conclusions support beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is not only safe when used to decaffeinate coffee but that there is no risk to humans. (read more)Back to top
All of the chemicals in the chart below have been approved for use to decaffeinate coffee. Which one would you prefer to be used to decaffeinate your coffee? No matter which one you choose, all are safe and pose no risk to your health.
|Dihydrogen monoxide||Dichloro-methane||Ethyl ethanoate||Methane-dione|
|Contributes to Acid Rain||YES||NO||NO||YES|
|Contributes to the “Greenhouse effect”||YES||NO||NO||YES|
|Fatal if inhaled at 40 deg C and above||YES||NO||YES||NO|
|Contributes to landscape erosion||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|Can cause electrical failures||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|Accelerates corrosion in iron||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|Found in tumors of cancer patients||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|in nuclear power plants||YES||NO||NO||YES|
|in the production of Styrofoam||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|as a fire retardant||YES||NO||NO||YES|
|in many forms of cruel animal research||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|in the distribution of pesticides||YES||NO||NO||NO|
|as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products||YES||NO||NO||YES|
|Decaffeinated Coffee Characteristics:|
|Flat neutral taste||YES||NO||NO||YES|
Most likely you chose the second column and with good reason. The chemical found in the first column is clearly one to stay away from; or is it?
Well, DiHydrogen MonOxide or DHMO, also known as Hydric Acid, Hydronium Hydroxide, is usually called just plain water. The common names for all the chemicals shown are: Water, MC, EA and CO2 respectively. First-year University Chemistry students have made laboured jokes about water's chemical properties for years.
But, here's the point about misinformation, or disinformation.
You can give people this totally accurate (but emotionally laden, and sensationalist) information about DHMO. Then survey these people and about three-quarters of them will willingly sign a petition to ban it and it doesn't matter where in the world you do the survey.
We live under the illusion that we understand the world around us, but in reality, very few of us can change a car's spark plugs or the memory or hard-drive in our computer. Back in 1997, Nathan Zohner from Eagle Rock, Idaho, won a Science Fair Prize for his project. It was called, "How Gullible Are We?"
Perhaps the answer is, "Pretty gullible", depending on our particular field of ignorance.Back to top
Yes. Like all decaf processes, (including all the water processes) chemicals are used. The difference between all other processes and our DFE Decaf Process is our process uses green chemistry.
The new process takes place by dissolving the caffeine with water. Methylene Chloride is subsequently used to perform a liquid-liquid extraction of the caffeine from the water. Methylene Chloride is a magical chemical and when used correctly can be controlled like a brain surgeon manipulates his scalpel.
The limited use of Methylene Chloride is credited to the remarkable precision in which our proprietary Target Specific Extraction Technology (TSET) can separate the caffeine from the extraction water. As an added bonus our TSET also captures and removes any herbicides, pesticides, moulds and fungus typically found in all coffee. No other water process can make that claim.
The result is a decaffeinated coffee which contains trace amounts of extraction solution well below the FDA environmental limits and as a result QUSAC had to purchase a special instrument (very expensive instrument) to detect parts per billion (PPB).Back to top
The United States has not established a maximum level of residual caffeine. Instead they only provide a guide line of 97% of the original caffeine must be removed to be recognized as decaffeinated. The problem with the guideline is the starting caffeine content is not specified. (read more)Back to top
Food and Drug Regulations (C.R.C., c. 870)
B.05.003 [S]. Decaffeinated (indicating the type of coffee)
(a) shall be coffee of the type indicated, from which caffeine has been removed and that, as a result of the removal, contains not more than:
(i) 0.1 per cent caffeine, in the case of decaffeinated raw coffee and decaffeinated coffee, or
(ii) 0.3 per cent caffeine, in the case of decaffeinated instant coffee; and
(b) may have been decaffeinated by means of extraction solvents set out in Table XV to Division 16. (read more)Back to top
At this time it is not a requirement. In 2005 we had our facility certified both Kosher and Halal. Years later, in 2010, we implemented our proprietary TQMS system. TQMS stands for Total Quality Management System. The system is electronically driven with electronic time and date stamps on every transaction in the system. From the office to the production, the system provides all workers with a paperless platform to interact and record every action within our facility.
After extensive review of various HACCP and other quality management programs we determined that the SQF 2000 Level 2 was the best and most complete program for our operations. In 2013 we passed our first audit with flying colours and became the first and only decaffeination company to this day to obtain SQF certification.Back to top
The Canadian Food Inspection agency has a clear definition as to how the word “Nature” and “Natural” may be used when referring to foods and food ingredients. An excerpt from the relevant section reads as follows:
“Foods or ingredients of foods submitted to processes that have significantly altered their original physical, chemical or biological state should not be described as "natural". This includes such changes as the removal of caffeine.” (read more)
The USA has a different definition. The following summary was extracted from Wikipedia:
“In the United States, neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has rules for “natural". The FDA explicitly discourages the food industry from using the term. The Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits labelling that is false or misleading, but does not give any specifics. The USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has a standard for organic food.>
Because there is no legal definition for natural foods, food manufacturers can include ingredients that may not be considered natural by some consumers.
The poultry industry has been criticized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest for labelling chicken meat "all natural" after it has been injected with up to 25% of its weight with a saline solution, but there is no legal recourse to prevent this labelling.
Although there is no legal U.S. definition for natural foods, there are numerous unofficial or informal definitions, none of which is applied uniformly to foods labelled "natural".
In conclusion the use of “Natural” will be entirely up to the roaster in his choice of labelling practices.Back to top
Actually the statement is nonsense and very misleading. No product can be "100% Chemical Free".
The Royal Society of Chemistry reclaimed the word "Chemical" from the advertising and marketing industries.
They determined that "Chemical" has been misappropriated and maligned as synonymous with "poison".
The truth, as any right-minded person will say, is that everything we eat, drink, drive, play with and live in is made of chemicals - both natural and synthetic chemicals are essential for life as we know it.
In 2008 the RSC offered a £1 million pound bounty to anyone that could deliver to them any material that could be consider 100% chemical free.
If the public believes materials can be "100% chemical free", the RSC will soon be inundated with examples from people wishing to claim the £1 million pound bounty.
To this day the bounty remains unclaimed.Back to top
There are laws that require truth-in-advertising and many of them should be directly applicable to “chemical free” cases. The Federal Trade Commission has explained its policy for how it judges whether or not it will act on potentially deceptive ads as follows:
Certain elements undergird all deception cases. First, there must be a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer. Practices that have been found misleading or deceptive in specific cases include false oral or written representations, misleading price claims, sales of hazardous or systematically defective products or services without adequate disclosures, failure to disclose information regarding pyramid sales, use of bait and switch techniques, failure to perform promised services and failure to meet warranty obligations.
Second, we examine the practice from the perspective of a consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances. If the representation or practice affects or is directed primarily to a particular group, the Commission examines reasonableness from the perspective of that group.
Third, the representation, omission, or practice must be a “material” one. The basic question is whether the act or practice is likely to affect the consumer’s conduct or decision with regard to a product or service. If so, the practice is material and consumer injury is likely, because consumers are likely to have chosen differently but for the deception. In many instances, materiality and hence injury, can be presumed from the nature of the practice. In other instances, evidence of materiality may be necessary.
Thus, the Commission will find deception if there is a representation, omission or practice that is likely to mislead the consumer acting reasonably in the circumstances, to the consumer’s detriment.
So, there are three major criteria for an ad to meet: (i) it must be deceptive, (ii) it must have an impact on a “reasonable” consumer and (iii) it must induce a material change in behaviour on the part of a consumer. Any product which advertises itself as “chemical free” easily meets these three criteria.
Therefore, when advertising and marketing "100% Chemical Free" decaf you are at risk of a legal action that could cost you not only your time and money but also your reputation. It's just a matter of time before it happens.
Back to top
This is a grey zone in the Organic industry. To maintain the Organic certification a decaffeinator must demonstrate that his process will not change the Organic coffee in any way. Unfortunately, once the Organic certifier has completed his inspection the processor may change the production practices and cross contamination can take place.
The only way to be sure that Organic decaf remains Organic after processing is to purchase from a company with a dedicated production line for that purpose.
In 2015, a situation as described above was uncovered by an Organic Certifying Body and the case is now in the hands of the courts. It's just a matter of time before other cases come to light and the never ending litigation begins.Back to top
At this time any decaf process can claim to be eco-friendly.
With that said, we have been challenged by our management to obtain a third party certification that confirms our initiatives and achievements. That has proven to be a challenge to this date. Our metamorphosis started back in 2005 when “Eco-Friendly” was not the buzz term it has become today. Our initiatives started with a simple recycling program aimed to reduce our impact on landfill sites. Over the years we have reduced our landfill impact to an average of 3,000 Kg’s per year ultimately saving landfill capacity. To put that number into perspective, the average person is responsible for about 750 Kg’s of landfill waste per year.
Today, we continue to find new ways to reduce our consumption of natural resources, reduce our contribution to landfill sites, recovery and recycle our process water and recover and refine compounds from our decaffeination waste stream and heat recovery program all while increasing the extraction efficiency and producing the best tasting Eco-Friendly decaf on the market today.
We have identified a short list of third party certifiers. We will complete the process in 2017.Back to top
The two are the same. In the 1980's, the industry faced with a movement to disrepute Methylene Chloride. The scientific community determined that methylene chloride was possibly connected to cancer based on the results of research on lab animals.
Once the findings made public, consumer protection groups pounced on the opportunity to connect the lab study findings to how your decaffeinated coffee could possibly cause cancer.
It didn't take long for non solvent based decaffeinators to exploit the opportunity provided by the scientific publication. They began to promote their decaf as the “safe choice” for consumers.
Once the facts had been revealed it was clear that the lab findings had no correlation to coffee decaffeinated with methylene chloride. Unfortunately, the damage was done and the industry needed to find an alternative method to describe the process. Hence the birth of the European Process.Back to top
Research scientist like to discover limits of various chemicals. The methylene chloride studies are performed on lab animals to determine the limits that a chemical will cause an adverse affect. With methylene chloride studies determined that in certain lab animal species under extreme conditions certain animals developed tumours.
The question is; what makes up "Extreme Conditions"? For methylene chloride decaffeinated coffee the extreme conditions equated to humans drinking more than 12 million cups of coffee each day over the consumer's lifetime. Safe to say the consumer has no risk of consuming methylene chloride decaffeinated coffee.Back to top
The simple answer is lack of education and sensationalization by the media. A headline stating "your decaf could cause cancer" has a much higher shock factor than "all decaf is safe for consumption".
In an attempt to clear up any misrepresentations in the media and in an unusual act, the FDA published a paper stating that regardless of the laboratory findings a consumer has essentially no risk of heath concerns when drinking methylene chloride decaffeinated coffee. Unfortunately, the media didn't run the statement.Back to top
The term that I hear over and over by certain industry companies is "perception is reality". Unfortunately, sensational news stories falsely connecting methylene chloride decaffeinated coffee and health risks have become somewhat of an urban legend. Some unscrupulous people continue to perpetuate this urban legend to personally gain monetarily from misinformed consumers.Back to top
It starts with the sampling of a variety of decaf products. As with many things in life the most expensive is not necessarily the best product for you. With a little bit of taste testing you will find the right decaf to fit you taste profile. Keep in mind the process used to decaffeinate is irrelevant. What is truly relevant is how the decaf tasted to you.Back to top
Historically the decaf industry served as the trash can from the regular coffee industry. So what does that mean? Simply put if a coffee was good enough for regular consumption it would be sent for decaffeination. We've all heard the expression "garbage in - garbage out". In the world of decaffeination this couldn't be more true. Industry experts agree that a quality decaffeinated coffee will be hard to differentiate from its non-decaf counterpart.Back to top