In search of an exceptional decaf

MakoShark

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Nov 23, 2007
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"The way life should be"
I am looking for some good advice on what should be an exceptional decaffeinated coffee. I don't want just an acceptable one. I need something that will grab some attention and delight in a cupping, before anybody knows it's decaf.

I am impressed with the amount of coffee knowledge that exists among the members of this forum. Any help that can be offered is very much appreciated.

Mako
 

LoveJava

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Nov 16, 2007
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Definitely look for one that is decaffeinated with the Swiss water process. It's much gentler on the beans than the processes that involve chemicals. Most places will be happy to tell you what process they use before you buy.
 

ElPugDiablo

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Jul 16, 2004
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Hartford and New Haven, CT
LoveJava said:
Definitely look for one that is decaffeinated with the Swiss water process. It's much gentler on the beans than the processes that involve chemicals. Most places will be happy to tell you what process they use before you buy.
What is more important is the quality of green beans that went into the decaffeinating process. To this end, search out quality roasters, chances are their decaf will be produced with the same care and thoughtfulness that went into their regular roasts.

Swiss water process has come a long way from let's say 5 years ago when it was truly awful. But it is not gentler than Methylene Chloride (MC) chemical processed decaf. In fact it is harsher on the beans due to higher temperature required. It's also not more gentle than water process done in Mexico (Mountain water process). But Swiss sounds better than Methylene Chloride or Mexico, so selling it is easier.

http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/question480.htm
http://www.allbusiness.com/manufacturin ... 175-1.html
 

LoveJava

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EPG - Interesting stuff. I had read a while back (and of course can't recall exactly where) that the Swiss method was the most gentle (and therefore the best for flavor), so good to get a different source for confirmation (or in this case, correction).

I'd agree that source/bean quality is also very important - if I wouldn't drink the "regular" beans I certainly wouldn't even bother with something that required gentle manipulation.
 
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MakoShark

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This is great information. I also have understood that Swiss Water Process for decaf is the most gentle, least offensive method. Where would one go to learn more about other methods?

However, I am looking for referrals to that incredible and distinctive decaf that must be out there. A coffee that will turn heads without first allowing that it is decaf. I've found a couple locally that are decent. But nothing outstanding.

There is a large and silent group of consumers out there, who are left behind by the cafe culture. For many reasons, they can't or won't drink caffeinated coffee. Many would love to, but must accept mediocre brews. So they fall away.

I believe it is possible to bring them back. But the coffee must be exceptional. And the price is not very important, within reason.

Mako
 

ElPugDiablo

New member
Jul 16, 2004
991
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Hartford and New Haven, CT
MakoShark said:
This is great information. I also have understood that Swiss Water Process for decaf is the most gentle, least offensive method. Where would one go to learn more about other methods?

However, I am looking for referrals to that incredible and distinctive decaf that must be out there. A coffee that will turn heads without first allowing that it is decaf. I've found a couple locally that are decent. But nothing outstanding.

There is a large and silent group of consumers out there, who are left behind by the cafe culture. For many reasons, they can't or won't drink caffeinated coffee. Many would love to, but must accept mediocre brews. So they fall away.

I believe it is possible to bring them back. But the coffee must be exceptional. And the price is not very important, within reason.

Mako
Do you like your coffee roasted lighter or darker? If you like it lighter and especially if you drink it black, I'd give terroircoffee.com a try. They have a Swiss Water processed La Magnolia and a MC processed La Lapa. If you like a darker roast, but not burnt, I'd give intelligentsiacoffee.com Black Cat decaf a try. La Lapa and Black Cat are roasted for espresso but you can brew them in dripped as well.

Regarding the decaf drinkers that are left behind by the cafe culture. Coffee beans once roasted has a optimal freshness period of about two weeks, less for decaf beans. Since the demand for decaf is usually less than 10% of the total business, decaf beans are more likely to be staled. Also, coffee once brewed only have a short shelf life of 30 - 45 minutes. Less if the coffee is decaffeinated. Again due to less demand, decaf tend to not sell out in this very short time frame. Some shops will dump what is in the pot after 30 minutes, and many times, the entire content of the decaf pot. Decaf in those shops tend to be at least decent. Unfortunately, most shops will leave the coffee, decaf or otherwise in the pot until the pot is emptied, in those shops decaf, and regular for that matter, is hit or miss, and more likely to be crappy.
 
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MakoShark

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Exceptional Decaf

Excellent, Mr. Pug,

Thank you for the referrals. I will pursue. As to your comments on the marketing of decaf in cafes, I agree that it is a challenge. I'm afraid that you are right in what you describe as the poor practice of keeping it on hand longer than is reasonable.

Unfortunately, this only makes matters worse. It’s why decaf drinkers are so discouraged. Not only are their choices very limited, but thrifty cafe operators will not pour out coffee which is past its prime. Consumers drink coffee that's not hot or that is scalded. This reinforces their belief of the impossibility of finding a decent cup of decaf.

I think the root of the problem is the fact that the majority of operators don't consider decaf important enough to do well. Rather they feel it’s a necessary evil that they have no choice but to offer. Consequently, it is not featured and given the respect as an offering that it should have. Poor quality and poor handling only exacerbate the problem.

I believe the remedy is to do decaf justice. We must risk some loss in all we strive for. We all dump good coffee from time to time. You pay for the pot with the first cup you sell. If it is marketed well by making it a feature, it won't be long before the pot becomes profitable.

As we work to build our businesses and find a larger base of regular customers, I believe we are missing a major opportunity by neglecting decaf drinkers. As you said, decaf typically amounts to than 10% of total sales. To market decaf and gain 10% in overall sales growth will make a substantial impact on any business.

Mako
 

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