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Swiss Water Process:
The 100% Chemical Free
Decaf Coffee

By Serena Norr

The patented Swiss Water Process is renowned for its 100% chemical free properties that utilize water to decaffeinate. This organically certified blend is one of the world’s most preferred decaf blends available only from Vancouver, Canada.

Swiss Water Decaf is renowned for its superior origin flavor, characteristic retention and chemical-free properties as well as utilizing their signature “flavor-charged” water to decaffeinate coffee rather than use chemicals solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. This allows the Swiss Water brand to attain a 99% caffeine-free product. Such standards surpass the U.S. guidelines of caffeine removal in compliance with FDA guidelines, which is equivalent to the Canadian/International standard of 99.9% caffeine free. The U.S. guideline, which is actually stricter than the Canadian/European Standard is based on the required amount of caffeine removed from a green coffee bean. Conversely, the international standard is based on the maximum allowable caffeine level remaining in a decaffeinated green coffee bean. While the U.S. guideline is not binding as a formal regulation, it does act as a guideline for regulation of the industry.

Both definitions result in a decaffeinated green bean that contains about the same amount of caffeine and both approaches result in an insignificant level of caffeine being consumed. In order to assure their caffeine-free product regular caffeine levels are audited in to ensure compliance with both removal definitions. The company also customers offers a Certificate of Analysis (COA) for every coffee contract upon request.

Today, the Swiss Water blend is not only enjoyed by the atypical decaf consumer of that has typically been attributed to women and baby boomers but also by premium roasters and consumers looking for ways to improve their health and cut back on products that may be processed using chemicals.

The Decaffeination Method
The concept for a chemical free decaffeination method was discovered in Switzerland during the 1930’s that utilized water. The water process was revitalized almost 40 years later when technology was established that was able to catch up with the original concepts and ideas developed during the 30s.

The Swiss Water facility was built in 1989 near Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a region prized for its pure water. Previously owned by Kraft General Foods, the Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company is a certified organic decaffeinated as well as a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol SWS.UN.

The Decaffeination Process
According to Swiss Water, “The decaffeination process begins when a typical full-flavored green coffee bean is immersed in pure water. The water extracts both the coffee flavor solids and the caffeine from the beans. These beans are then discarded and the caffeine is removed using a carbon filter, which only the leaves the super saturated water with coffee solids. This “flavor-charged” water, is composed of 25% flavor solids.”

This “flavor-charged” water is integral to the Swiss Water process. The beans are first cleaned and soaked in preparation for the caffeine extraction. The beans are then immersed in the flavor-charged water. The water is initially caffeine-free and as a result the caffeine diffuses from the beans into the water. Since the concentration of flavor components in the bean and the water are equal, only the caffeine is removed, leaving the flavor intact. The water then passes through a carbon filter that traps the caffeine. The now caffeine-free, flavor-charged water flows back to the beans to remove more caffeine, which continues for approximately 8 hours, until the beans are 99.9% caffeine-free. Finally, the decaffeinated beans are removed from the water. They are then dried, cleaned, polished, bagged and shipped.

This process involves two types of chemical caffeine removal processes: direct and indirect. According to Swiss Water, “The direct process uses chemicals as the caffeine absorbing solvent used when the beans are soaked and separated during the first two stages. The indirect process involves chemicals that are used in step three to remove the caffeine from the solvent (a liquid composed primarily of water).”

Social and Environmental Initiatives
The company is also a prominent company in the industry recognized for their dedication to social and environmental initiatives. Such standards are reflected in everything they do The company is a supporter of Grounds for Health; an international non-profit organization founded to provide women’s health care services to coffee growing communities in Mexico and Central America. Its primary focus is on the early detection of cervical cancer, a leading cause of death among women in these areas.

The company also follows organic certification, an environmental program defined by the 5R’s (Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Be Responsible, and Respect), company-wide recycling, composting, and recycling of printed materials.

With such innovative standards it is no wonder this healthy alternative is preferred by an overwhelming number of decaf drinkers around the world.

Tea & Coffee - March, 2007

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