What is Swiss Water Decaf?

Decaffeinated coffee is just coffee that has had nearly all of the caffeine content removed from the beans before roasting and grinding. In the best forms of this process it retains all of the flavour and aroma you would expect to find in a regular cup of caffeinated coffee. Swiss Water Decaf is the pinnacle of the decaffeination process. It’s considered one of the best methods of removing caffeine from coffee. Find out why below.


You may not know but a typical cup of coffee contains on average up to 140 milligrams of caffeine, but despite the fact there are two modern processes to remove the caffeine from the green beans before roasting and grinding some coffee companies are still using old solvent-based caffeine extraction processes, which as it happens certainly isn’t good for you or for the environment. Which when you consider that as shoppers we are more conscious than ever about the provenance of our food and drink, as well as the health benefits or lack of in relation to what we consume that really can’t be a good thing!

Why? Well, the direct solvent-based process involves steaming the beans and then soaking the beans in solvents like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to either directly strip out the caffeine, before being steamed, again, dried and then roasted. The indirect solvent extraction means that the beans are soaked in hot water, solvent is then added to remove the caffeine before the flavours extracted I the water are returned to the beans. Inevitably both processes meant that the beans absorbed some of the chemicals during the process. The chemicals used are pretty serious, methylene chloride is the main constituent in paint stripper and ethyl acetate is used in glues and nail varnish remover unsurprisingly both have been identified as causing serious illness.

(Image by @florian_gretillat on Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/zj_9WewVEw0)


Farrer’s don’t buy coffee that’s treated in this way, we choose decaf coffee that has either been treated naturally using carbon dioxide or increasingly treated using the Swiss Water Process.

The Swiss Water Process is an entirely chemical free process, which was handily developed in Switzerland in the 1930s, but for several reasons it wasn’t used commercially until the 1980s. The process is 100% natural, and removes caffeine in four simple steps: separate, filter, soak, and dry.



Essentially coffee beans are immersed in scalding hot water to extract the caffeine.



The liquid is then passed through a series of special charcoal filters designed to trap caffeine molecules and allow coffee oils and flavour molecules to pass through to and be collected. After the filtering process, a caffeine-free, flavourless, green coffee bean extract remains. This residual water is known as Green Coffee Extract (GCE), this liquid rich in coffee oils and flavour molecules is kept and used to wash a new batch of beans.



As a new batch of beans passes through the GCE they can’t lose their oils or flavour molecules as the liquid is already totally saturated and can’t absorb any more. At this point, the remaining extract is filtered through charcoal once again to remove the caffeine and is then set aside for future batches of decaf coffee. The result is beans that have been decaffeinated but remain rich in flavour and coffee oils, which can then be dried and then sent to be roasted and ground.


4. DRY

The soaked raw coffee beans are then dried, after which they are roasted and ground ready to be brewed as a cup of delicious decaf coffee.

Not only is Swiss Water decaf coffee 99.9% caffeine-free, but it also retains all of the beneficial antioxidants that makes a brew good for you! So, when choosing a decaf coffee pick one from the Farrer’s range that carries the Swiss Water Process logo or states the use of the Swiss Water Process on the label. For the best results choose coffee beans that are grown using organic methods where possible. The secret is also in the roast choose a light to medium roast also ensures your decaf is as full of beneficial antioxidants as possible.