Decaf

In Defense of Decaf by Caleb Savage

“Death before Decaf” is the motto of many baristas and coffee enthusiasts. “Why would anyone want coffee without caffeine?” For many, the thought of starting the day without coffee, or more precisely, caffeine, is unfathomable, but the reality is, a number of people don’t consume caffeine or limit their intake for various reasons. For many who decide to consume less caffeine, coffee breaks and coffee-shop meetings can be frustrating. At Clarity, we try to provide a number of low-to-no caffeine options and work diligently to ensure that those items meet the same quality and care standards we have for the rest of our offerings.

How much caffeine does a barista consume?

“So when you’re working, you’re probably drinking espresso all day, right?” From dialing in our coffees to quality control throughout the day, it’s easy to consume a good amount of caffeine. That being said, an unscientific poll of our team says that on average, they drink about 2-3 servings of coffee on a day they’re working and just 1-1.5 servings on off days. Generally, all of our coffee offerings have the same caffeine content, between about 120-140mg per serving.

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Of course offerings like our sparkling lemonade or a hot chocolate are going to be caffeine free, but what about a green tea or decaf pourover?

We always have an herbal tea available that will be caffeine free. (Our current herbal offering is Chamomile Mint from Urban Teahouse.) With tea, caffeine content correlates with the level of oxidation. The darker the tea leaves, the more caffeine the leaves will contain!

Decaffeinated vs. Caffeine-Free

While it may vary from one process to another, decaffeinated coffee is not completely free of caffeine. Our current decaf offering from Cooperatives in Western Ethiopia is decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process which removes 99.9% of caffeine. That leaves you with about as much caffeine as you would get from a small bite size piece of chocolate.

The Swiss Water Process is a proprietary decaffeination method that removes 99.9% of the caffeine from small batches of coffee without the use of chemicals. By soaking the coffee in a green coffee extract infused water, the process allows caffeine to diffuse naturally out of the green coffee and into the extract. After decaffeination, the coffee is then sent on to the roaster before they end up in the cafe! We’ve written about another common decaffeination process, Ethyl Acetate, here!

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In Defense of Decaf

If caffeine intake is the primary objective for your morning latte or afternoon cold brew, decaffeinated coffee doesn’t make much sense. However, if you are concerned about the amount of caffeine you consume on a daily basis, but enjoy the taste of a great cup of coffee, decaf is the way to go! There’s so much more to coffee than being able to “make it through the day.” For someone who is used to drinking coffee to improve focus but needs an extra boost later in the afternoon, making your regular drink decaffeinated, the ritual of making and drinking a cup may help you trick your mind into a little more productivity without the loss of sleep later on.

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Deciding to limit caffeine intake need not be an end to coffee-shop-hopping. A great decaf like KLLR’s Western Ethiopia Co-ops tastes great in milk, as espresso, or a pourover! If you haven’t tried your favorite drink decaffeinated, stop by and try it today! All of our espresso drinks can be made with decaf and we can do both hot and iced pourovers with decaf as well!

Why does our decaf actually taste good? by Michael Power

Let's talk about something that, in the specialty coffee world, does not get a lot of attention: decaf. Yes, I hear all you "death before decaf" people out there, but let's think about it. There are some wonderful coffee drinkers out there that cannot have caffeine, and people who want to both drink coffee after 4pm and sleep at night. This has created an increasing amount of people who are interested in how decaf is being prepared. So, this week at Clarity, we are going to put the spotlight on our decaf. 

ABOUT THE COFFEE

Los Idilos is a Columbian coffee from the Huila district. This blend of Typica and Caturra varieties is grown between 1500-1700 meters above sea level in partial shade, which plays heavily into the flavor. Then it is fully washed and sun-dried, just like most of the other coffees we have. In fact, it isn't grown in any special way as a decaf coffee. Its caffeine content is the same as any other coffee we might feature. It's only after the cherry is turned into dry green coffee that it is sent not far from the farm to the decaffeination mill, Descafecol, before it is then shipped to Portland to be roasted by our friends at Heart Roasters.

ARE THERE CHEMICALS INVOLVED?

There are multiple ways to decaffeinate coffee. Here's the cool thing about this decaf: a natural compound called Ethyl Acetate (EA) is used to remove almost all the caffeine. This is sometimes called the natural decaffeination process. 

Ethyl Acetate sounds scary, right? Well, it isn't. EA can be found two ways. There is a synthetic EA that is used for multiple household items, and also a naturally occurring EA that is created as a natural product of fermenting sugar cane. This coffee uses the latter, which is our favorite because we like keeping things natural around here. Natural EA is found in beer, wine, vegetables, and fruit. In fact, EA is one of the most common esters found in beer. Bonus: coffee cherries have natural sugar cane present in them, so a lot of farms are repurposing their cherries to create EA to leave a smaller carbon footprint. EA is sweet and a natural solvent, which makes it ideal for decaf coffee.

HOW IS THE CAFFEINE REMOVED?

Now that you understand Ethyl Acetate, here's the process of decaffeinating this specific coffee. 

  1. After the coffee has been picked, depulped, and washed, it is sent to Descafecol, the station that decaffeinates coffee. 
  2. The beans are hit with steam in a chamber to allow the pores to open.
  3. EA is mixed with water and the beans are washed, naturally dissolving the caffeine.
  4. The coffee is hit with steam again to wash off most of the EA before it is packed and sealed. A small amount of EA is left on because EA is a byproduct of sugar cane, so it is naturally sweet. 

All of this leads to a decaf that has definitely changed our perception of what decaf can taste like. Currently, we are getting tasting notes of sweet berries with an extremely clean finish like our favorite fully-washed Ethiopian coffees. 

This coffee is available as both a pourover and espresso.

For more reading, check out this blog post from Ceremony Coffee and this from Sweet Marias.