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French water process decaffeination.

Yet another player has joined the growing roster of water decaffeinated coffees. Only time and poundage will tell if French Water Process Decaffeinated (FWP) coffee will be a success, but its position as the new star in Cofinco's crown definitely can't hurt.

Cofinco and its president, Tim Horan, were pioneers in the effort to make decaffeinated coffees from Europe, especially Germany and Switzerland, available to small and medium roasters in the U.S. during the 1970's. Horan, with over 40 years experience in the coffee business, is again demonstrating his pioneer spirit by entering French Water Process Decaffeinated coffee into an already crowded and competitive field of water-decaffeinated coffees.

Although Cofinco's name as a decaffeinated house and reputation for quality coffee will go a long way in getting customers to try the product for the first time, according to Ed Wakeham, a coffee trader for Cofinco, the taste and natural processing method will make them repeat buyers. "We bring 100% Colombian coffees to Provence, south of France, to decaffeinate using the natural, underground water found in that area. France is known for its water, and the water we use is nicely balanced with a pH factor of seven; it is perfectly neutral with virtually no acidity."

Wakeham considers the water a plus but he feels the absence of chemicals in the process even more important. The French Water naturally decaffeinated process is performed in successive stages so as to guarantee the re-absorption of the bean's aromatic components and to keep the losses of the coffee solids that give it taste and character at an absolute minimum.

A very simplified explanation of the process is that the beans are soaked in hot but not boiling water for over 24 hours. Water acts as a solvent and leaches out caffeine as well as coffee solids from the beans. After this process is completed, the water is drawn off, the beans are dried and the decaffeination process continues.

As the beans are drying, this water, charged with caffeine and coffee solids, is purified through charcoal, a natural filter which absorbs the caffeine without any chemical reaction with the water. According to Wakeham, "Charcoal has millions of holes in it and a natural reaction occurs between the charcoal and caffeine when the water containing the caffeine and coffee solids is filtered through it. There is a `natural' attraction that causes the caffeine to lodge in the charcoal." The charcoal does not have the same attraction to any other elements in the water and so the caffeine is removed from the water but the coffee solids remain. The caffeine-free water is then reunited with the beans, which have been dried. The dry beans act as a sponge reabsorbing the coffee solids back into them. After this process is completed, the beans are then dried a second time. The process results in beans that are 99.9% caffeine-free.

Wakeham thinks that drying the beans twice is an important point of difference between this water process and others and it would seem to make sense. If the beans are to act like a sponge when reunited with the caffeine-free water containing the coffee solids, it would seem that they could absorb more of the coffee solids back into them if they were dry rather than wet. After all, a dry sponge absorbs more than a wet sponge.

According to Wakeham, another advantage to drying the beans twice is that they will contain less residual water. "Roasters are not buying water weight. Also, these FWP decaffeinated beans are good for flavoring. With less residual water in them, the beans can better absorb flavoring."

Right now, Cofinco is offering only FWP decaffeinated Colombian beans because they feel these beans are consistent and stand up very well to the decaffeination process. If demand dictates, they would consider expanding the selection but, for now, they can guarantee the best quality with Colombian coffees because of their connections in that country.

Cofinco's minimum order for the beans is 25 bags, but smaller amounts are available through other green bean brokers. For more information, contact Cofinco Inc., 99 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10016, (800)992-8887.

Shea Sturdivant is a consultant and writer and can be contacted c/o GROUNDS FOR DISCUSSION, 717 Pratt Avenue, P.O. Box 10061, Huntsville, AL 35801, Tel/Fax (205)539-5237.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:process and advantages described of new decaffeination method
Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Sep 1, 1992
Previous Article:Fine tuning at the Swiss water plant.
Next Article:The ins and outs of CO2 decaffeination.

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