by David Muñoz on Feb 21, 2023


Surely you have ever wondered how caffeine is extracted from coffee? Well, there are several methods that have been modified and perfected over the years. The main ones are: Decaffeination by chemical solvents, decaffeination by water, and decaffeinization with supercritical fluids: CO2.

In most decaffeination processes, the caffeine is extracted from the green coffee, before it is roasted and ground. Nowadays, the processes have evolved a lot, reaching 99% caffeine extraction. To get a good decaffeinated coffee, we must start from a good grain of equal quality.

A good decaffeinated starts from a quality bean. Low-quality coffee is still just as bad with or without caffeine.

Processes that do NOT use chemicals


Let's think about the homemade method to make bleach-washed jeans (the horror of the 80s) and we'll get an idea of ​​what this process is like. We put the pants in water with a good jet of bleach and wait long enough until they start to fade and we see the blue water.
Well, substitute bleach for food-safe methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, your favorite jeans for green coffee (which swells with water and makes it easier to extract) and the blue of the jean for the extracted caffeine. Repeat the process several times and we have it. As in the pants, it is possible that traces of solvents may remain adhered. They are removed through the use of steam and subsequent drying to recover the initial levels of humidity.
Advantages : good extraction performance.
Disadvantages : a certain bad feeling as there are minimal traces of solvent in the coffee, although experts and health authorities certify that there is no impact on health. It is also necessary to have very well controlled technical installations to avoid accidents.
50% of world production is made using this method.
Although all the processes in some of their steps use water, Mountain Water and Swiss Water Process , are the two methods that are classified as decaffeinated "by water". In both cases, the water hydrates the green coffee bean, expanding the cell structure, which facilitates the extraction of caffeine. Caffeine - which is water soluble - is extracted from the water and captured through a filter. Swiss Water uses a patented activated carbon filter that specifically traps caffeine. Mountain Water, as Cafetalera Sanroke de México called the process, also uses a filter to capture the caffeine.
Advantages : it is a natural process free of chemical elements. It has no handling risks and has no environmental impact.
Disadvantages : It is more expensive and the extraction yields are lower.
22% of world production is made using this method.


Competing in the cool name category with Swiss Water , we have this process with supercritical fluids . CO2 is the most common supercritical solvent, although others exist. At a given temperature and pressure it behaves partly like a liquid (solvating power), partly like a gas (diffusing power). The process is the following:

The coffee beans are soaked in pure water. In this way, the pores open and the caffeine molecules begin to move. Carbon dioxide (100% natural) is then added at 100 atmospheres of pressure to the water, creating sparkling water. The carbon dioxide acts like a magnet and attracts the caffeine molecules. When the caffeine is captured, carbon dioxide is removed from the water. This element is very selective and does not affect the carbohydrates and proteins of the grain. After the extraction process the seeds are dried naturally. The carbon dioxide is then recycled and the caffeine is sold for commercial uses.

Advantages : extracts caffeine very effectively. It does not use chemicals in the process, even though it is a direct contact method. It does not affect the proteins and carbohydrates of the grain. It is a natural method and 100% recyclable.

Disadvantages : cost of the process due to the initial investment in machinery and subsequent maintenance.

20% of world production is made using this method.

So far a quick overview of the main methods to extract caffeine from the grain. It is essential to be clear that the starting point is always quality coffee . And that sometimes...

Maybe "dead before a decaf" wasn't the best catchphrase for him.