A Better Cup of Joe

While at the library last week I picked up a copy of Christopher Kilham's Whole Food BibleIt's been an interesting read and is perfect for life with a 3 year old because it's read and absorbed best in small sections.  Yesterday I read the section on beverages and wanted to share some important and new-to-me info about coffee.  Being about 7 months pregnant, I've gotten used to starting my morning without that glorious brain fuel that regular coffee is.  I now spend most mornings fueling up on water and juice, but every now and again I'll order a decaf somewhere and think that I'm getting a real treat.  Turns out I should just be buying my own decaffinated beans and brewing it at home again.

According to Kilham, the process that is most often used to extract caffeine from coffee beans uses the toxic solvent methylene chloride.  While most of the toxic substance is removed along with the caffeine, residues remain.  Back in the mid 80s the FDA stopped the use of methylene chloride as an additive in hairsprays because it caused cancer in animals, but here we are today still drinking the stuff in our decaf coffee.

What's a coffee lover wanting to avoid caffeine to do?  Spend a little more and get the good stuff.  Yep, there are methods that remove caffeine from coffee without toxic solvents.  A process called the Swiss Water Process uses water to remove 97% of the beans' caffeine and then runs that water through a carbon block filter to remove it without removing the flavor.  The water is then added back to the beans before they're dried.  A process called the CO2 method has a much more scientific technique that I don't quite understand using carbon dioxide to extract caffeine from moist beans several times until it reaches a point where it is deemed to be 99.9% caffeine free.  Both of these methods result in decaffeinated coffee that is solvent free.

While we're on the topic, and as an obvious side note, organic and fair trade coffee is always best.  Unlike some products that "require" few pesticides, coffee beans are grown in areas that are heavy on the pests and therefore get sprayed a lot.  Additionally, the dioxin that is used to bleach most coffee filters is one of the most toxic cancer causing agents around.  Better yet, forgo the energy sucking coffee maker and use a french press or take it strong like the Italians and go for espresso!

Where to find clean decaf (if you know of other brands, please share):
Longview Coffee Company
Equal Exchange
Coffee Bean Direct
Summit Coffee

If you really want to feel good about your decaf (or regular) coffee purchase, visit the Just Love Coffee Store and help our amazing neighbors as they continue on their journey to adopt two young boys.  All of the coffees listed at Just Love are 100% fair trade and help to unite orphans across the globe with their forever families here in the US.

p.s.  Decaffeinated teas are  processed the same ways, so don't think you're safe there either (bummer, huh?).


  1. Have you seen those gold coffee filters? Reusable for forever. We have a French press, but Linda usually uses it for her coffee. It works great but is kind of a pain to clean.

  2. AnonymousJune 25, 2010

    Great info. Glad I don't drink coffee though , so I don't have to try to give it up. Sounds like no matter which way you go , it is unhealthy. :)
    As an aside...not saying anything bad about your neighbors, great for them adopting. I wonder why not adopt in the U.S. and help all of US out a bit? B

  3. Thanks sooooo much for the info. We drink decaf mostly and I try to buy organic and fair trade coffee as much as possible. But, this is very useful info and I will look more into buying decaf that is solvent free! Thank you Thank you Thank you!!!!

  4. Alyssa, thanks for mentioning The Swiss Water Process! Just to let you know, our decaf is indeed 99.9% caffeine free. If you, or your readers, would like to learn more about us you can visit our website at

    We also have a blog and mentioned you and the Whole Food Bible in one of our posts. Hope you don't mind, thanks again.

  5. @anonymous:
    Domestic adoptions have some drawbacks that most of us are not aware about. For one there is a multi-year waiting list for adopting new-borns from US parents - so the demand continues to outpace supply. Perhaps the biggest drawback for some adopting parents is the fact that biological parents have the right to take their children back out of their adopted home if they change their minds. Imagine being a first time mom with an adopted child & being told - love it, cherish it, treat it as your own, just don't get too attached b/c the parents that didn't want this child may change their minds.
    Foreign orphanages are full of children who are unwanted by anyone & spend their entire adolescent lives institutionalized, which is obviously healthy. These children deserve better, but there are fewer people willing to adopt them in their home countries. All children deserve a loving family.