When Swiss Water Decaf Coffee Looks Dark, It Doesn't Mean It's Dark Roasted
If you have ever ordered a Swiss Water Process Decaffeinated coffee from Sagebrush coffee, you might notice some distinct differences between it and any other coffee you’ve purchased in the past. While most Sagebrush coffee beans range in color from light brown to a rich, dark brown, with variation of color throughout the bean, our decaf coffees are not like this—they are quite dark brown, with little to no variation in color within the bean. We admit it can be a surprising difference to see! In fact, many of our customers become concerned that we have over-roasted their decaf coffee beans, something we try very hard not to do! However, we understand the confusion and would like to try and explain why the SWP decaf beans look so unique.
Swiss water process beans look different from other coffees, because they are different from other coffees. The aim of the Swiss Water Process is to gently remove the caffeine until the coffee beans are 99.9% caffeine-free while maintaining the bean’s distinctive origin and flavor characteristics. SWP coffee uses water and not chemicals, so the flavor profile stays completely intact and sometimes improves. While the flavor stays the same, there are changes that happen to the bean. The decaffeination process weakens the outer shell of the bean and causes it to pick up color far more quickly than other coffees. This change in bean formation ultimately affects how heat is transferred along the coffees’ cells, and therefore affects how we must roast the SWP coffee.
Normally when you roast a coffee, you do it by measuring the time and temperature and by watching the color, listening for the cracks and smelling the coffee move through the Maillard reaction. For a decaf, you lose a lot of that, because the color change over the course of the roast isn’t as distinct, and the cracks are nearly silent. The aroma isn’t nearly what a regular coffee is either. Other factors we must consider include the change in color and overall density of the decaf coffee beans. These differences demand a change in the roasting process, but often roasters make the mistake of using the same roast profiles for regular and decaf coffee. But not at Sagebrush! Every time we receive a new decaf coffee to sell, we do sample roasts to figure out the unique roast profile needed to allow the characteristics of their specific origins to shine through.
Because of the uniqueness of the SWP beans, every decaf we offer looks dark roasted, but rest assured, it is not. At the end of the day, decaf coffee is still coffee with or without caffeine. The roast profile of SWP beans is still determined by its origin, altitude, variety, and flavor profile just like any other bean. Just because it appears dark does not mean that it is dark-roasted. Since the coloring of the beans will appear dark no matter the type of roast (light, medium, dark), it is more important to pay attention to the color consistency of the grounds. According to the internal color of the bean and flavor of the brewed coffee, you should be able to distinguish the different roast profiles. Decaf coffees often get a bad rap in the coffee community for being packed full of chemicals (which some definitely are) and for lacking the energy boost and flavor we often desire in a cup of coffee. We at Sagebrush Coffee know that there is more to coffee than whether or not it has been decaffeinated, and we strive to only serve and roast the best.