The Swiss Water Decaffeination Process is a method of decaffeinating coffee beans developed by the Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company. To decaffeinate the coffee bean by the Swiss Water method, a batch of green (unroasted) beans is soaked in hot water, releasing caffeine. When all the caffeine and coffee solids are released into the water, the beans are discarded. The water then passes through a carbon filter that traps caffeine but lets the coffee solids pass through. The resulting solution, called “green coffee extract (GCE)” by the company, is now available for decaffeinating coffee. New green coffee beans are introduced to the GCE. Since the GCE is coffee solids without caffeine only the caffeine diffuses from the new beans. The GCE passes through proprietary carbon which captures the caffeine. The process repeats, filtering out all the caffeine until the beans are 99.9% caffeine-free. These beans are removed and dried, and thus retain most if not all of their flavor.
The Swiss Water Process also avoids the nasty chemical used is some decaffeinating process. Although the process was pioneered in Switzerland in the 1930s, today the world’s only Swiss Water Process decaffeination facility is based near Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada. Only Swiss Water coffees can be certified organic.
The decaffeination process can sometimes leave a coffee a bit lacking in the flavor department, so it’s always nice to find a decaf that doesn’t taste like a decaf.