What’s In Your Decaf?

Coffee beans.

Besides sweetener, milk, or cream, what else do you think is in your decaffeinated coffee? Do you know that coffee beans are often chemically treated to remove caffeine?


To be sure of what your buying, read the label to learn which decaf process was used during decaffeination. If the label doesn’t indicate Swiss Water Process, then you may assume, your bag of decaf was chemically processed. If it says Natural, that may indicate chemicals also, since the main chemicals used in decaffination are also found in natural sources. This type of label can be misleading. If you buy your decaf in bulk, you’ll have to check with the store where you made your purchase.


The chemical process used to remove caffeine in coffee beans, involves soaking them in synthetic solvents known as ethyl acetate, or methylene chloride (dichloromethane).  Because these solvents appear in trace amounts, after the beans are processed, they are considered safe by the FDA. Both solvents have organic origins, but many are produced chemically.

Overexposure to synthetic ethyl acetate and methylene chloride, is associated with irritation of the eyes, nose and throat. Ethyl acetate is used to produce nail polish remover, and glue. Methylene chloride is used in paint strippers.


But maybe you’re super sensitive to anything chemical, even in trace amounts, and the overexposure guidelines don’t really apply to you. If you’ve developed a mysterious cough, try eliminating decaf to see whether your cough has its origin in the chemical solvents used in decaffination, even though the amounts are considered minute.

While it may seem farfetched, eliminating chemically decaffeinated coffee may solve a perplexing, chronic medical condition involving the eyes, nose or throat.