No, I don’t drink decaf. But Mom does, since the good doctor suggested it. Ever the good son, I suggested trying another doctor. Meanwhile, I picked up some “green” decaffeinated coffee beans and roasted a batch. I’m told it was good… and Mom made a point to add, “it’s all gone.” So I’m roasting more…

Decaf coffee beans are an odd lot. They are a muddy gray-brown and could be mistaken for having been roasted, but that they clearly haven’t gone through the popcorn-like explosion of first crack… all a result of the very curious process of decaffeination. The most curious part, I suppose, is that there’s any flavor left in a decaffeinated bean at all.

Decaf coffee stinks as you roast it. Stinks. This is not the vaguely grassy stuff of roasting coffee… it’s something altogether different. It’s the smell of something that’s hotter than it wants to be… hotter than it should be, maybe. Like burning tires. Or red-hot iron.

First crack is not what you’d call percussive, so much as the occasional pop and crackle from the fireplace. Second is similarly muted… there’s really very few coffee divots popping off — the effect is more like stress fractures that appear at the seams of the bean. The best way to know when decaf coffee is done roasting, I’m advised, is to note when it stops stinking. I suspect I over roasted the first batch… it didn’t quite smell like coffee yet. And till it’s cooled a bit, it won’t. And then, only a little.

There is very little caffeine in quality arabica coffee… pound for pound half of what you’d find in a pre-ground can of Folgers or Yuban. So if some good doctor tells you to drop caffeine from your diet, get a second opinion. Preferably from a roaster. 😉

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