T he Houston Plant operates the largest chemical free USDA certified organic decaffeination facility in the world. This state of the art De-caffeination Process uses Super Criti-cal CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) to remove caffeine from coffee beans and can process over 600,000 bags of coffee per year.
The selective nature of the natural CO2 Process leaves the peptides, proteins and other flavonoids inside of the beans and targets only the caffeine. This leads to a superior tasting decaffeinated cup of coffee.
What is Super Critical CO2? I’ll tell you, but let’s start from the begin-ning. CO2 can exist in four different states: Vapor (gas), liquid, solid (dry ice) and super critical. We process our coffee beans using the Super Critical phase of CO2. More specifi-cally, the CO2 behaves as a super-critical fluid above its critical tempera-ture and critical pressure, expanding to fill its container like a gas but with a density like that of a liquid. Mean-ing, the CO2 in the Super Critical phase behaves like a vapor but can be pumped like a liquid. The CO2 phase is changed from vapor/ liquid to Super Critical by increasing its pressure to 1050 psig / 72.9 atm (or higher) and increasing its tempera-ture to 88 °F / 31 °C (or higher).
The moisture of the coffee beans is increased through steaming and a warm spray of water. The beans are loaded into a high pressure vessel reactor) where Super Critical CO2 gently penetrates the beans and constantly removes traces of caffeine. The beans have a 10-12 hour residence time in the vessel before being discharged through a continuous batch process (4000 pounds at a time). The beans are then dried, tested and sent to internal and external customers.