Coffee & Health

Caffeine and Decaffeinated Coffee

Bean To Cup Process

The major pharmacologically active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, chemically known as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine.


Caffeine was isolated for the first time by Runge in 1819. Caffeine occurs naturally in some 60 plant species, of which coffee, tea and cocoa-beans are the most well known. Caffeine is added to many popular carbonated drinks, and is a component of a number of pharmacological preparations and over-the-counter medication including analgesics (where caffeine assists the pain relieving effect), diet aids, and cold/flu remedies.

Bean To Cup Process

The effects of caffeine have been the subject of considerable discussion and research, due in no small part to the popularity of coffee which is acknowledged as being one of the world’s favourite drinks. Thousands of scientific studies have been published on the effects of coffee and caffeine on health, the overall conclusion of which confirms that coffee drinking in moderation, 4-5 cups per day, is perfectly safe for the general population and may confer health benefits. However, some individuals may choose to consume decaffeinated coffee, tea, or soft drinks, especially later in the day.

The duration of caffeine (the time between the ingestion and the elimination of the product) is 8 hours, with a peak after 5 hours. This explains why drinking coffee at 5 p.m. makes it difficult to sleep whereas coffee drunk just before bedtime will not be a problem. Caffeine is the only soluble element in coffee. The more water passes through coffee and the longer the filtering lasts, the more caffeine is extracted. In other words – and this seems paradoxical – a “short” coffee (espresso) contains very little caffeine whereas a “long” coffee contains much more.

Decaffeinated Coffee

Decaffeinated coffee is coffee which has had almost all of the caffeine removed. To claim the label «decaffeinated», a coffee must contain no more than 0.1 % caffeine. (on dry matter).

The decaffeination process is carried out on green coffee beans and there are three major methods, all these methods safely and selectively remove the caffeine. There are only two factories in Europe that decaffeinate coffee.

  • The traditional method (Direct Method), using solvents (methylene chloride or trichlorethylene) The coffee beans are first steamed for 30 minutes and then rinsed in the solvent for about 10 hours. The solvent is then drained away and the beans steamed for an additional 10 hours to remove any residual solvent.
  • CO2 known as Supercritical fluid extraction the CO2 is kept at supercritical state near the transition from liquid to gas and works in the same way as a solvent.
  • Swiss Water Process using water, which is obviously the most natural method but is expensive.

Some people choose to drink decaffeinated coffee. Caffeine is a mild stimulant, and some people who drink coffee do not always want the mild stimulatory effects. Many consumers drink both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, depending on their mood or time of day.

Caffeine Content of common beverages

In October 2001 the Food Standards Agency published findings of the caffeine content of a range of beverages brewed by consumers Source British Coffee Association

Caffeine Content

Average cup of instant coffee

75mg caffeine

Average mug of instant coffee

100mg caffeine

Average cup of brewed coffee

100mg caffeine

Average mug of tea

75mg caffeine

Regular cola drink

up to 40mg caffeine

Regular energy drink

up to 80mg caffeine

Plain chocolate bar

up to 50mg caffeine – milk chocolate has around 50% caffeine content of plain chocolate