Like many scientific discoveries, the road to decaffeinated coffee was happened upon by chance, and then improved over time.
The process to remove caffeine from coffee beans was first discovered by the German merchant, patron of the arts, and Nazi sympathizer, Ludwig Roselius.
He met privately with Adolf Hitler in 1922 and although he applied to join the Nazi party, twice, he was rejected because he promoted “degenerate art” in the section of town he owned. In 1936 Hitler officially denounced the art and architecture in Roselius’ Böttcherstasse.
You can still explore the street and his former headquarters in Bremen, Germany. It has since been transformed into the Ludwig Roselius Museum and displays his personal art collection which spans from the Middle Ages to the Baroque era.
So, as the story goes, in 1903 Roselius purchased a large amount of beans from Latin America which were shipped across the ocean by cargo ship to his warehouse in Germany. During the voyage, the ship was battered by turbulent waters and the cargo hold took on sea water. When the ship arrived the coffee beans had been completely soaked in salt water.
Roselius, not wanting to lose the shipment of “ruined” beans, asked his team of researchers to analyze the beans and see if they could be salvaged. The team conducted a series of taste tests and found that the seawater had removed much of the caffeine without losing much of the flavor. The resulting coffee was quite salty from the seawater but otherwise tasted similar to regular coffee. They refined the process with chemicals and The Roselius Process was born.
Roselius marketed the new product to consumers in Europe and North America and is the first ever offering of decaffeinated coffee.
The Roselius Process is no longer used because one of the chemicals added, benzene, is a known carcinogen in humans. Other processes have been created, most of which use chemicals, but the most natural and chemical-free process is the Swiss Water Process – which are the type of decaf beans we source.
If you’d like to know more about other processes, or specifically the Swiss Water Process, leave us a comment below. We want to write articles you want to read, so let us know when you see something you like.