What is the Swiss Water Method?

If you’re a big coffee drinker, you might have heard of the Swiss Water Method. Decaffeinated coffee has long had a reputation for tasting bitter and having a chalky texture, causing many coffee lovers to stick with caffeinated coffee despite the jittery and unpleasant side effects.

This is due to caffeine often being removed from coffee beans using chemical solvents such as ethyl acetate and methylene chloride, drying them out and leaving that often unpleasant taste that lacks the freshness and fullness that we’ve come to expect.

Where the Swiss Water Method differs is that it is a completely chemical-free and sustainable process that removes 99.9% of caffeine using only water. This means that the aroma and flavour of coffee that we love remain intact, with the only difference being the lack of caffeine.

This method was created in Switzerland in the 1930s and became scaled for commercial production in the 1980s, and is now the preferred decaffeination process for coffee lovers all over the world. But how exactly does it work? Find out below!

Step 1: Green coffee extract is created

To get started in making Swiss Water speciality coffee, green coffee extract (GCE) is created by soaking the beans in pure water which contains all the water-soluble components of coffee, except for the caffeine. This process is done only once, as the extract is reused to reduce water wastage.

Step 2: Green coffee is rehydrated

After this, the coffee beans are rehydrated prior to their decaffeination to ensure they have the ideal moisture levels for the process. In this step dust, silverskin and dirt are also removed.

Step 3: Caffeine is filtered out using a carbon filter system

Next, The GCE is circulated around the green coffee for between 8 to 10 hours, until 99.9% of the caffeine has been removed. The caffeine is then extracted using a carbon filtration system, and the carbon gets sent to a furnace where it’s regenerated to burn away the caffeine and be reused.

Step 4: GCE is renewed

Throughout this process, the GCE is routinely being refreshed and renewed. The GCE is constantly being monitored to make sure its quality levels are consistent and able to operate at its highest level. This is done so that a new batch of GCE doesn’t need to be created for every new batch of green coffee.

Step 5: It gets delivered to customers all around the world

Once the decaffeination process is complete, the 99.9% decaf-free beans are ready to be dried, bagged up and shipped all over the world.

The Swiss Water team is made up of coffee roasters, taste testers, scientists, engineers and more whose job it is to perform constant quality control and ensure that every coffee bean is up to par.

Although the core ingredients of water, heat and time have not changed since the 1930s, the Swiss Water team are constantly tweaking their method so that they can have the smallest impact on flavour and aroma as possible. Creating an even better experience for decaf lovers is always the end goal, all while remaining environmentally responsible. This is why they’re recognised as industry leaders who are changing the decaf game for good.

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Felix Chietra

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