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Decaf

by | Nov 4, 2020

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Our decaf is the healthiest and most flavorful caffeine-free coffee that you can get anywhere. Processed using an ingeniously simple method that uses no harsh chemicals, it roasts up with a nice cherry and chocolate flavor that’s suitable any time of the day.

Origin

Decaffeinated coffee has been, unfortunately, largely left behind during the specialty coffee boom of the last 20 years. The vast majority of decaf coffee in the world is still beans of unknown origin, processed using cheap, harsh chemicals, and dumped into a sack with nothing other than the word “decaffeinated” slapped on the side.

But it doesn’t have to be like that! Our friends at Trabocca Coffee Traders source a few different fine-quality decaf beans, and we selected the one that’s most flavorful and unique. The beans were grown in Ethiopia’s southern Sidamo region, home to more genetic diversity among coffee trees than anywhere else in the world. (It is believed coffee probably first evolved in these same lush forests of southern Ethiopia.)

The coffee cherries are first processed in the same way as any other fine coffee: cherries are depulped to separate the skin, fermented in their own sticky fruit with cold water, washed, and then dried in the African sun. Once in this stable, dry form, they are ready for decaffeination.

There are a few different methods by which you can do this. Historically (and this is still true today), most decaf coffees are processed by putting the green beans in a tank and then flooding them with a chemical agent. Common chemical agents used are trichloroethylene, methylene chloride, and more recently ethyl acetate. Although studies have been ambiguous, there’s reason to believe that some of these agents are carcinogenic. Yikes. Not what you wanted when you were trying to pick a healthy option!

There are also water processes that are much more natural, but which unfortunately leach a good deal of flavor from the coffee, leaving you with that sad “Is this even really coffee, though?” feeling.

The decaffeination process we opted for skips all that and uses simple carbon dioxide. Beans are put into a pressurized tank and pumped with simple carbon dioxide gas. CO2 gas turns to a liquid under pressure, and it bonds with the caffeine molecules inside the coffee beans. Then it’s pumped back out of the chamber where it turns to gas again and releases the caffeine and can be reused.

This method is technically complex because of the pressurization of the tanks, but the huge benefit is that it’s organically simple. No strange or harsh chemicals are used, and the beans undergo a very minimal amount of change beyond losing their caffeine.

The result: pure and flavorful coffee beans with none of the nasty chemicals or waste.

If you’re watching your health — say, if you are pregnant — or if you are just generally sensitive to caffeine, this is the most delicious and healthy way you can still get that lovely, rich flavor of coffee in your cup.

Roasting

We use one single roast for our decaf, optimized for versatility: a straightforward s-curve profile to bring out the fruity sweetness.

Interestingly, if you look at your beans in the bag, they will appear darker than most other coffees. That’s a natural result of the CO2 process. In fact, we do not roast these beans to a higher temperature than average. They leave the roasting chamber and go into the cooling tray around 208 degrees, which is the same temperature that we use for our Ayu espresso blend, for example. But the decaf appears much darker than the Ayu.

Don’t let the appearance fool you though. This is not a “dark roast” flavor. It’s a rich, medium temperature roast with a dark chocolate base, some notes of caramel and, again, a sweet cherry-like fruitiness.

One of our roasting team, Marieke, is a talented coffee taster but she chooses to usually drink decaf for her daily cup. She says it’s the best decaf she has had!

Me on the other hand, I’m a heavy consumer of coffee, drinking lots of caffeinated cups each day. And guess what? I actually agree. It’s the nicest decaf I’ve had in my career in coffee, so much so that it’s made me reevaluate my opinion on decaf. Don’t tell any of the coffee nerds out there, but I actually like it.

Brewing

The versatile roast profile means you can brew this coffee any way you like. It performs very well in a french press, percolator, or pour-over. Use about 15 ml of water for each gram of decaf in any of these methods, and you will end up with a nice, balanced cup that shows the pleasing flavors I talked about.

And in our cafe we also use this coffee to make decaf espresso shots to order. A bit more ground coffee per shot is advisable. We pack as much as 20 grams of decaf into the portafilter to extract around 45 ml of liquid espresso, in a timeframe of 24-29 seconds.

If your machine has smaller portafilters that won’t fit 20 grams, don’t worry! You can just pack a smaller amount and aim to get a smaller shot of espresso, say about 30 ml for a double shot. The flavor will still be just as rich and enjoyable. Drink it on its own, with water for an americano or long black, or add some steamed milk for a cappuccino with all the milk chocolate and cherry flavor, and none of the sleepless nights.

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