Coffee Explained: What is Sugar Cane Decaf?

So you’re feeling a little bit buzzed, had a few too many cups of coffee and you think – maybe I should switch to decaf? Ease off on the old caffeine for a bit, rebalance the humours, but then you start thinking about all the chemicals and industrial processes – the half remembered documentaries and articles that definitely said that deaf was not good, full of carcinogens and even worse - foul tasting coffee.

But I’m here to tell you that it ain’t the case! There are natural decaffeination processes and Sugar Cane Decaf is one such process -it’s a natural, chemical free process that provides a circular economy for the coffee and sugar cane farmers.

So how does it work?

First the green coffee beans are steamed at a low pressure, this removes their outer ‘silver skins’ and allows the beans to be better penetrated by hot water.

As the beans swell and soften it prepares the coffee for the hydrolysis of caffeine – now this is when things start to sound technical but the process is surprisingly straightforward.

When fermented, sugar cane produces a natural ethyl acetate, which is the extractor used to remove the caffeine from the green beans. The green beans are mixed with the ethyl acetate and the molecules of this extractor selectively bond with the molecules of the caffine inside the coffee beans – essentially plucking the caffeine from within the beans.

The ethyl acetate is then recirculated through the beans until around 97% of the caffeine is removed. The beans are then cleaned with low pressure steam before being dried in vacuum drums.

When the beans have reached between 10-12% humidity they are left to cool to ambient temperatures and the process is complete!

Pretty straightforward huh?

first published — 26 November 2020
last updated — 26 November 2020