The other day at work we briefly discussed how we got decaffeinated coffee. Where did the caffeine go? It turned out to be more complex than I imagined. I had this thing in mind that somehow the caffeine must be siphoned off and ‘put’ somewhere. Well, in a rough sense that’s what happens, except that I had to wade through some scientific stuff to get there. Apparently there are four approaches, all relying on the caffeine molecules, which aren’t very strong, joining up to some other material instead of the coffee bean, or cocoa, or whatever. And then there was another approach where the beans were soaked in a coffee flavoured liquid so that they didn’t lose the flavour at the same time as they lost the caffeine.
The four approaches involve: Methylene chloride, Ethyl acetate, Carbon dioxide or water. Do you still want to drink decaffeinated coffee after knowing this? Doesn’t it rather put you off?
The other part of this conversation was, what do you do with the caffeine once you’ve removed it? Turns out that none of our jocular ideas were much near the mark. Rather prosaically, it’s used to re-caffeinate things like the many soft drinks that now have some degree of caffeine in them. Seems a roundabout way to go, really.
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