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What is MC Decaf? A brief guide to the process

There is lots of different terminology in the coffee industry and although some is self-explanatory, others might be a little more vague, especially for newcomers.

One of these is MC Decaf, which sounds as though it could relate to a DJ. Actually, it's a process – a method of removing the caffeine from coffee.

Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee beans as it is transferred from the plants from which they are picked, but consumers sometimes prefer to enjoy the beverage without experiencing the mild stimulating effects it induces. For instance, they might want to drink a coffee in the evening without being up all night afterwards.

To provide what they want, decaffeination can be carried out in numerous ways, most usually using methylene chloride processing, which is where "MC" Decaf comes from.

This involves using methylene chloride as a solvent to extract caffeine from the raw materials. Firstly, the beans are soaked in water to soften them.

Next, using the direct method, the beans are soaked in MC solution and the resulting solution is siphoned off, taking the caffeine with it and leaving just the coffee product without the caffeine.

Alternatively, using the indirect method, the beans are only soaked in water and then the solution this produces is drained out. To prevent the flavours going with it, this is then treated with MC to absorb solely the caffeine, with the oils returned to the now-decaffeinated product for re-absorption.

The process usually needs to be repeated several times until as much of the caffeine as possible is gone. European legislation states that the residual caffeine content must be at or below 0.1 per cent to be classed as decaf, so producers must be stringent in how they process beans to ensure this.