Do You Take Methylene Chloride In Your Coffee?

From the co-founder of Starbucks, Jerry Baldwin, a pro-science defense of decaf. Specifically, a defense of decaf coffee produced using (gasp!) chemicals. Balwin points out that our awareness of scary, long-named chemicals in some products isn't always due to altruistic popularization of careful science. Decaffeinating with dihydro-oxide (that's H2O, or water, for you English majors), isn't safer than a similar process with, say, methylene chloride. No matter what the scaremongering ad copy says:

Please suspend any chemo-phobia you may have while reading this. Don't let the technical words for chemicals put you off, and don't play into the hands of the irresponsible scare tactics of unscrupulous advertisers of Swiss Water-process decaffeination....

The old standby water decaffeination company, Swiss Water (the only attempt to brand a process), of Vancouver, Canada, is doing all the advertising while others are improving their process. We prefer the cup quality of other companies, and I deplore the marketing tactics of Swiss Water.

In the late '80s... I decried their deliberately misleading advertising. Here they go again. They are falling back into advertising tactics that assume the ignorance of the audience. Their attempt to associate the chemical names of the other processes with some chemo-hysteria is unethical.

Personally, I like the half-caf: Maximum chemical intake, plus the jitters. Better living through chemistry.

Via Jacob Grier

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  • wingnutx||

    Some crazy person was trying to convince me that caffeine is a chemical.

  • ||

    Caffeine is drug! Shouldn't the FDA regulate it? Kids might take it! It's sold by unscrupulous corporations using kid-friendly packaging like "Mountain Dew" (EXTREME!!!!!!), "Rockstar", and "Pepsi". Won't someone please think of the children?

  • kilroy||

    Why is KMW the only Reason blogger who knows how to use the alt tag?

    bean BS

    I like it!

  • jtuf||

    Unfortunately, most people prefer things that are 100% natural, like hemlock.

  • Stop DHMO||

    DHMO is scary stuff.

    http://www.dhmo.org/

  • Hugh Akston||

    Personally, I like the half-caf: Maximum chemical intake, plus the jitters. Better living through chemistry.

    Plus, you get to sound like a world-class douche when you order it.

    Why is KMW the only Reason blogger who knows how to use the alt tag?

    No. Just a few days ago I noticed Matt Welch display his awesome mastery of the inter-tubes in a like manner.

  • BakedPenguin||

    I thought they started using ethyl acetate to decaffeinate coffee and tea.

  • wingnutx||

    Just put a few drops of visine in your coffee, and it'll take care of your jitters.

  • Hacha Cha||

    caffeine is a chemical, its a xanthine alkaloid, but that isn't a bad thing. everyone ingests chemicals in their daily diet.
    they can use ethyl acetate instead of methylene chloride. there is also a carbon dioxide decaffeination process as well as a process that uses coffee oil/triglycerides to extract the caffeine.

  • Syd Henderson||

    Methylene chloride would be problematic as an environmental chemical (i.e., you wouldn't want to inhale it every day), but I don't know if that's a problem here.

    Ethyl acetate shouldn't be a problem at all. You drink some every time you drink wine.

  • JoshBax||

    Nowhere on that Swiss Water® Process 101 graphic does it mention methylene chloride, so the scare-mongering attack is a sort of unjustified.

    That said, Jerry is right. Methylene chloride burns away at 104 degrees F. Coffee beans are roasted at 400+ degrees, leaving no trace of the (justifiably) nasty chemical in your coffee cup.
    Also, a significant amount of coffee flavor is lost from the Swiss Water process.

  • alan||

    Never got 'decaf'. The purpose of coffee is so I don't have to waste my blow on pepping me up in the morning.

  • ||

    check out http://bastardobama.blogspot.com

  • MattXIV||

    Ethyl acetate is mentioned in the article as being tired but not working as well. I'm not suprised it doesn't work as well as dichloromethane, since there are esters are common flavor molecules and acid and water catalyze their breakdown and recombination. Diethyl ether would probably work better that ethyl acetate since ethers are more stable than esters and somewhat more non-polar, but it's more expensive and harder to work with.

    If they wanted to get really fancy, they could do something similar to the Swiss process with a more selective non-polar solvent instead of water and run it through a column of a resin specifically fine-tuned for caffeine relative to the other dissolved molecules. Reusing the "dirty" solvent directly rather than distilling it will mean that it will saturate with the molecules that dissolve in the solvent but have a low affinity for the resin relative to caffeine.

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  • Tim Cavanaugh||

    There's no defense for decaf. It's brown water, just like Letterman said.

  • ||

    there is also a carbon dioxide decaffeination process

    Great, using a known pollutant to decaffeinate coffee. They might as well be using mercury.

  • Ray Gardner||

    Decaf coffee is right up there with ultra light cigarettes, and 2% beer.

    A place called SweetMarias.com has an interesting page on the whole decaf process. I buy my green beans there mostly (I roast my own) and they're very into their coffee, and have more esoteric coffee info than any other place I've found.

  • Hacha Cha||

    Marc you are joking right? sarcasm? if you aren't pull your head out of Al Gore's ass.
    if you are so concerned about CO2 why wouldn't you support capturing CO2 and putting it to use? the carbon dioxide used to decaffeinate coffee beans is RECYCLED and reused! you are a fucking idiot.

  • lunchstealer||

    Better things for better living, through chicanery!

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Hacha Cha,

    If I remember Marc's previous posts correctly, I'm pretty sure he's joking.

  • db||

    there is also a carbon dioxide decaffeination process



    Here is one (supposed to preserve flavor by pre-acidifying the green coffee beans prior to caffeine extraction):

    Supercritical carbon dioxide decaffeination of acidified coffee

  • jigger||

    Never got 'decaf'. The purpose of coffee is so I don't have to waste my blow on pepping me up in the morning.

    ugh, don't remind me.

  • -||

    They are falling back into advertising tactics that assume the ignorance of the audience.

    That's usually a pretty safe assumption.

  • robc||

    Some people so you cant get tone in posts. That sarcasm doesnt come in clear over the intertubes. They are wrong. Its just that most people are idiots.

  • ||

    If I remember Marc's previous posts correctly, I'm pretty sure he's joking.

    You do, and I am.

  • ||

    I lived on half-caff during my pregnancies. Just enough to keep me from falling asleep at my desk, but not enough to make the baby go Mexican Jumping Bean.

    I never even thought about how they go about de-caffeinating my coffee... I just grateful somebody was kind enough to do a half-assed job of it.

  • ||

    I *was*...

    Lordy, lordy. Looks like I need to slow down on my full-caff.

  • ||

    Soon, the FDA will regulate dihydrogen monoxide.

    Better living through chemistry.

    Only by adding two milligrams of alprazolam to your morning cup(s).

  • ||

    The idea of "Flavor-charged water" in the Swiss Water diagram somehow brings classic TV ads to mind. Like the parody of Duff beer going straight to your Q-zone...

  • ||

    A place called SweetMarias.com has an interesting page on the whole decaf process. I buy my green beans there mostly (I roast my own) and they're very into their coffee, and have more esoteric coffee info than any other place I've found.

    Same here. If you're serious about your coffee, roasting your own microlot beans is the way to go.

  • Warty||

    Hey everybody, let's freebase caffeine!

  • ||

    Some decaf facts people:

    The USDA only will tolerate 9 parts per million of residue MC on the decaf. The average decaf imported to the US averages 6 parts per million.

    Methelyne Cloride is a chemical and therefore has a flashpoint.

    Then it is roasted to temperatures above 400 degrees F. MC has a very low flashpoint and is evaporated in the roasting process. It comes out with no trace amounts of MC.

    That's why the FDA allows us to drink it. So drink your MC decaf! Besides it tastes better. Just my opinion.

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