Matt answers your coffee roasting questions: decaf and flavor

This week Matt Hassell, Global Buyer, QC & Sample Management for Collaborative Coffee Source, and former roaster for George Howell Coffee, will answer your roast questions.

Here’s a question from @yet2com:

@collaborativeCS Is there a way to get the same taste out of decaf coffee that you could get with caffeinated coffee? #notodecaf#ccsQandA

— yet2 (@yet2com) December 6, 2017

Matt’s response:

The short answer is – yes. Though, the problem doesn’t come from the roasting process, so much as it comes from how the coffee was decaffeinated. There are a few different ways to decaffeinate coffee.

One of the most common processes is to use a solvent to dissolve the caffeine. Of course, this method is damaging to the flavor because it’s not possible to target just the caffeine. Other positive compounds are also being dissolved in this process and ultimately have a negative influence on the cup. Typically, lesser quality coffees are selected for this method, as the flavor profile is going to be compromised anyways.

Another process for decaffeination is called “Swiss Water Process”. To do this, you take a green coffee extract that has had the caffeine removed, and add it to water to make a solution that still has all the positive compounds found in coffee. Then, you add the coffee that you would like to decaffeinate. The solution will absorb the caffeine through osmosis, and you’re left with what should be the same coffee as before. This method does require a little more cost, and may be the reason why it’s lesser used.

With that said, the decaffeination process does influence how the coffee behaves in the roaster. With solvent based decaffeination methods, it is common practice to roast the coffee darker to add body to a coffee that may be lacking character (due to loss of positive compounds) at lower roast levels. Coffee that has been decaffeinated is typically more porous, and receptive to heat. So, the roasting process is a bit more sensitive. It becomes very easy to influence. Roast levels can also be a bit misleading, as the coffee will appear to be roasted darker than the flavor would suggest.

There are fantastic decaffeinated coffees out there! You may just have to hunt a little.

Matt will be answering your Twitter roast questions until Dec 12, 2017. Post your questions on Twitter to @collaborativeCS and use the hashtag #ccsQandA.