Decaffeination Nation

 

Decaffeination Nation

Posted on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 4:45pm By Michael Harwood

Decaf Colombia green bag

I won't lie. I am not typically a fan of decaf. Most of the decafs I've tried taste more like tennis balls and musty sacks than specialty coffees. There have been a few exceptions along the way and thankfully, quality seems to be trending up; but why are so many decafs flavor duds?

Let's face it - decaffeination removes some of a coffee's essence. Look at how the green seeds are processed - getting soaked with water, hit with chemicals, or gas-blasted. This isn't to be critical of those who decaffeinate or those who enjoy it - the custody chain is doing its best with the technology and processes we have (and many of us don't want/need the caffeine all the time!). At the end of the day though, decaffeination seems to subtract some inherent goodness from the coffee.

Before last month, I hadn't tried a brew that tasted as if the decaffeination process actually added something positive; but when we cupped a Colombian coffee that had undergone the Sugar Cane E.A. process, I was happily taken aback. The profile of the coffee tasted intact - there were distinct flavors, a lively acidity, and full body. On top of that, the coffee was quite sweet, if a touch savory. I quickly researched what this coffee and process are all about.

Decaf House Colombia Tasting Board

It turns out that Sugar Cane E.A. processing (aka "The Natural Decaffeination Method") starts by fermenting molasses derived from sugar cane to create ethanol (which you'd find in adult beverages). This alcohol is then mixed with acetic acid, which you'd find in vinegar, to create the compound ethyl acetate. In Colombia, where a lot of sugar cane is grown, it makes sense to use this naturally occurring solvent to complement their thriving coffee growing/processing industry. E.A. may sound scary, but you find it in wine, beer, fruit, vegetables, and other food and beverage.

First, the coffee is steamed to open up its pores. Next, the E.A. is applied via water, which dissolves the caffeine in the green seeds. Then, the caffeine is separated and filtered from the tank. Finally, the now-decaffeinated seeds are steamed again to remove any residual E.A. before being dried and shipped. This method avoids excessive heat or pressure, which can radically disrupt a green seed's cellular structure. One downside of this process is that since the pores of the seed are opened up through steaming (think of the pores on your skin in a sauna), the coffee does tend to age more quickly (both as roasted and green) than our regular offerings. You may notice this via the "sweaty", darker appearance of the roasted seeds. Don't worry, it doesn't taste roasty and though sweaty, is still delicious!

Decaf Espresso Colombia Tasting Board

The coffee itself is a washed varietal blend sourced by our friends at Cafe Imports from high-quality farms across southern Colombia. Coffees from this area often display lovely balance and full bodies. This selection is no different. As a filter coffee, it gives us root beer aromatics with candied bacon and pear in a sweet, full-bodied cup. The slightly-more-developed espresso roast gives us root beer aromatics and hickory-smoked (pear balsamic) shrub syrup with a creamy caramel sweetness and body. You can find both here: http://store.ceremonycoffee.com/coffees/ If you don't know what a shrub syrup is, look it up - http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/06/cocktail-101-how-to-make-shrub-syr... . You don't know what you're missing!

We're really excited about this change and hope you are too! No longer is decaf an exclusive refuge for those of us who would prefer to sleep! Bring us your refined palate and we'll show you an amazing coffee.

Until next time, happy brewing!