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I decaffeinated tea once as a chem major. Using methylene chloride (a probable human carcinogen), ethyl acetate (which smells like nail polish), and a chromatography column filled with silica gel (do not inhale). I had to wear goggles and work in the hood. There's no wayyyyy I would have considered drinking the beverage that I myself decaffeinated. I recently got to thinking: "How is coffee decaffeinated? Surely not using methylene chloride and ethyl acetate..." So I asked the barista at my local coffee shop. "Swiss water", she said. Wait a second - you mean to tell me that some magical water from Switzerland just strips the caffeine right out of espresso beans? It turns out there are three ways to decaffeinate coffee: 1) the "direct solvent" method, which involves methylene chloride or ethyl acetate (egads) and removes 96-97% of caffeine; 2) the "supercritical carbon dioxide" method, which involves carbon dioxide at high pressure and removes 96-98% of caffeine; and 3) the "water processing" method (developed by a Swiss company), which involves 8 to 12 batches of hot water and an activated charcoal filter and removes 94-96% of caffeine. Um, I think I'll take my decaf using the magical Swiss water method, thank you.


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