About Caffeine

My darker roasts are lower in caffeine!

Caffeine is an odorless, virtually tasteless substance found in coffee and many other plant species. The amount of caffeine in coffee varies by the variety of the coffee tree, the growing location and conditions, the preparation of the green beans, the roasting, and the brewing. I roast only arabica beans which have a fairly uniform caffeine concentration. I also roast my coffees longer and deeper; this fuller roast drives out more of the volatile caffeine from the beans, so my darker roasts actually have less caffeine than a comparable ‘brown roast’ coffee.


How Much Caffeine?

After acknowledging this variability, you can expect a 6 ounce cup of my coffee might contain 90 -100 milligrams of caffeine; an 8 ounce mug would contain about 120 -135 milligrams. By contrast, a cup of tea will usually contain half the caffeine, about 50 milligrams on average. The typical cola drink also contains around 50 milligrams of caffeine. To view a good chart of actual caffeine measures, visit http://www.cspinet.org/new/cafchart.htm.


What About Decaf?

Many of us appreciate the slight lift we get from caffeine (in moderation, of course!), though at times we would rather enjoy a cup of coffee without the caffeine. For those occasions, we want a decaffeinated coffee.

A good decaf must begin as a good green coffee. All the decaffeination processes are a bit rough on the coffee, so if you don’t start with a good bean, you can end up with a particularly flat, uninteresting cup.

Caffeine is removed from the green coffee beans before they are shipped to roasters. There are several processes, though the coffees I buy are decaffeinated using the CO2 method or a water process. In the CO2 method, the green beans are exposed to liquid CO2 which dissolves and adheres to the caffeine. In the water process, the green beans are soaked in warm water which dissolves the caffeine. The water is then passed through a charcoal filter to remove the caffeine, and the beans are returned to the water to reabsorb the remaining elements. The beans are then dried and packed for shipment. Naturally, some of the more volatile elements of the coffee are lost in the process leaving the finished product somewhat lacking in the full spectrum of coffee flavors and fragrances. The decaffeination process doesn’t remove all the caffeine, though typically 95-99 percent is extracted.

I am continuing to study the issues around decaf, though I personally believe that the current, legal methods of decaffeination leave no residual elements (either useful or harmful) in the roasted, brewed cup. I think we need to be concerned more with what might be in our water than what might be in our decaf coffee.