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Welcome to the chemist solutions series! Chemist tips that make your life easier, better, and healthier! Last week I share my super easy, effective DIY microwave cleaner which everyone has had great reviews on so far!
Today, I am talking about decaf coffee (or tea) because I probably get asked about this the most!
Everyone wants to know, is decaf even good for you?
To answer the question is decaf even good for you, you definitely have to know what exactly it means to remove caffeine from something that naturally has caffeine in it like coffee beans or tea leaves!
When I learned about the method of decaffeinating in college, I was a little surprised to be honest with you! This was back in the earlier 2000s when all the rage was suddenly about being caffeine free. Not for health reasons, but due to some nutritional articles recently published about how bad caffeine was for you!
So, how exactly is a coffee bean decaffeinated?
Believe it or not, decaf has been around for over one hundred years. In the early 1900s, a German coffee merchant, Ludwig Roselius, invented a way to remove caffeine from coffee with a chemical called benzene. For all you non-chemistry people out there, benzene is a fairly toxic chemical and prolonged exposure is linked with an increase in cancer risks including bone marrow failure! Basically…it is not good for humans at all. Even OSHA checks this for potential safety hazards for workers. You can read a little more about the hazard effects of benzene on their website!
Obviously, this method was not good for you at all. I think it is very interesting to note that Ludwig Roselius had a leg amputated from bone cancer at a young age!
But, he did pave the way for the decaffeinating process.
Modern processes do not involve incredibly toxic chemicals, but they do involve processing the coffee bean from it’s natural state.
There are three main ways coffee beans are decaffeinated now. A coffee bean is soaked until it is soft which allows the caffeine to be pulled out.
Once soaked, the bean is then added to a solvent which will basically “extract” the caffeine out.
The three solvents used are either water, carbon dioxide, or methylene chloride.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I would rather not have decaf coffee that has been washed in a chemical! Although these chemicals are not considered hazardous, it still is another addition of a processed material to our diet. In today’s world, we have so enough processed foods we ingest daily.
Most organic decaffeinated coffee uses the water method from most brands I have read about. So, if you really want to go with decaf, definitely choose a non-gmo, organic brand. This brand promotes their use of the water method, which is definitely the way to go!
So, how is tea decaffeinated?
Pretty much the exact same way, although most tea brands I have researched used the carbon dioxide method.
Same goes with tea, if you are drinking a black or green tea that typically has caffeine, choose an organic route for the decaf.
Chemist Tips on Drinking Decaffeinated Coffee or Tea
It is important to know that this decaffeinating process doesn’t actually remove ALL the caffeine. Although the amounts are incredibly smaller, traces of caffeine still remain. Even the certified organic brand will still contain small amounts.
Many people cannot have decaf coffee or tea due to health reasons, so in that case, it is best to steer clear from all decaf! Choose herbal tea or any natural caffeine free teas.
So, to answer the question, is decaf even good for you?
Some of it is, and some is probably best to stay away from. I would definitely choose an organic, non-gmo variety for your decaffeinated coffee or tea. And remember, if you can’t have any caffeine due to your health, ask your doctor about decaf since it will still contain trace amounts of caffeine! If you are doing it to just be healthier, I would stick with the most natural form, which is just the regular coffee bean or tea leaf. When I cut back on caffeine, I drink herbal and fruit teas since they naturally have zero caffeine!
I love my caffeine in the mornings…and occasional I need my afternoon boost too, but I try to limit it to a small amount a day 🙂
Are you a caffeine drinker? Or do you choose decaf?