Mountain Water Process vs Swiss Water Process – What’s the Difference?

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If you’re a decaf coffee drinker, you may have heard of the Mountain Water Process and the Swiss Water Process for decaffeination. Both of these decaffeination methods are chemical-free and remove nearly all of the caffeine content from coffee. In this post, we’ll examine Mountain Water Process vs Swiss Water Process coffee and list the differences and pros of each.

Cup of coffee

What is the Mountain Water Process?

The Mountain Water Process uses water from glaciers atop the tallest mountain in Mexico, Pico de Orizaba. To begin, the coffee beans soak in hot water in order to dissolve the caffeine. However, the hot water also dissolves other components of the beans that create the flavors and aromas we love about coffee. 

So how are the flavors and aromas added back in? After soaking, the water passes through a charcoal filter. Caffeine is a rather large molecule and is caught by the filter. But the other components of the coffee such as the oils are able to pass through.

The process continues until 99.9% of the caffeine is removed. The caffeine-free water is then reintroduced to the beans which allows all of the oils and flavors to be soaked up by the coffee beans. Then the beans are roasted, packaged, and sold to consumers.

What is the Swiss Water Process?

The Swiss Water Process was created in, you guessed it, Switzerland in the 1930s but wasn’t scaled to commercial production until the 80s. It’s similar to the Mountain Water Process in that it uses only water to decaffeinate the coffee beans. No chemicals! 

And how it works is pretty neat. To begin, the coffee beans are soaked in hot water in order to dissolve the caffeine. However, just like with MWP, the hot water also dissolves other components of the beans that create the flavors and aromas we love about coffee. 

After soaking, the water is passed through a charcoal filter. Caffeine is a rather large molecule and is caught by the filter while the other components of the coffee such as the oils are able to pass through. 

What’s left is called Green Coffee Extract, or GCE. The GCE is reintroduced to the beans and the process continues until almost all of the caffeine is removed. You can read more about this process here.

Advantages of MWP and SWP coffee

Still full of flavor

Part of the issue that some people have with drinking decaf coffee is that it tends to not be as flavorful. Unfortunately for chemical decaffeination processes, some of the flavor and aromas are lost due to the chemicals used. 

A lot of what makes a good cup of coffee enjoyable to drink is all of the flavor notes and varying acidities between different varietals. Because the Mountain Water Process and the Swiss Water Process use only water, only the caffeine is removed, not the taste.

No chemicals

Unlike some other decaffeination methods, both Mountain Water Process and Swiss Water Process coffee use only water to decaffeinate the coffee beans. The most common method of decaffeination involves a chemical solvent, methylene chloride. Methylene chloride has been determined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to be safe to use in the decaffeination process. However, some people may choose to avoid it. 

If you’re someone who feels you may be more sensitive to chemicals or you try to avoid them for other reasons, Mountain Water Process or Swiss Water Process coffee is a good choice. If you’re curious and want to read more about how other decaffeination methods work, we have a post explaining those here.

Very low caffeine content

Mountain Water Process and Swiss Water Process coffee has the lowest caffeine content you’ll be able to find. They’re both 99.9% caffeine-free. Other decaffeination methods have a decaf percentage of approximately 96-98%. It may not seem like a very big difference. But even a few percentage points can have an adverse affect to someone who is very sensitive to caffeine.

Mountain Water Process vs Swiss Water Process

Mountain Water Process and Swiss Water Process coffee are very similar. They’re both chemical-free and rely on water as the only added ingredient. The biggest differences between the two is the water used and where the process takes place.

Like we mentioned earlier, Mountain Water Process coffee uses water from glaciers on top of the tallest mountain in Mexico. Coffee beans are sent by the coffee companies/suppliers to be decaffeinated. The decaffeination process takes place at a facility in Mexico called Descamex.

Despite the name, the Swiss Water Process doesn’t use water specifically from Switzerland. At their processing facility in Canada, they use purified water to decaffeinate coffee beans. Just like with the Mountain Water Process, coffee companies/suppliers send their coffee to this facility to be decaffeinated.

Our top MWP and SWP picks

If you’re debating between Mountain Water Process vs Swiss Water Process, they’re both so similar that you won’t be able to distinguish between them in terms of taste. They both have an extremely low caffeine content but they’re still full of flavor. We have a few recommendations below:

Primos Coffee Co. (Mountain Water Process)

What we love: Simple and subtle flavors. This Mountain Water Processed coffee from Primos Coffee Co. is ideal for anything from drip coffee brewers to French press. This coffee is perfect for those who prefer a mild flavored coffee over bold and complex. They offer a dark roast and medium roast. Plus you can choose between medium and coarse grind. 

Volcanica Coffee (Swiss Water Process)

What we love: Variety! The Swiss Water Process decaf coffee from Volcanica Coffee tops our list because of the great selection they offer. There are over a dozen decaf options to choose from and even a half-caffeine blend. If you're a fan of cold brew, most of their beans are a medium roast which are great for making cold brew. They also have a couple of espresso dark roasts to choose from if you enjoy a more bold and rich cup.

Fresh Roasted Coffee (Swiss Water Process)

What we love: Freshness. Fresh Roasted Coffee has fresh right there in the name. And they really mean it! Their coffees are roasted to order and immediately packaged. That means you can enjoy your cup at home at peak freshness and quality. They have a wide variety of roast types in whole beans and grounds. Plus a very good selection of single serve coffee pods for use in a Keurig. Their coffee pods are also recyclable! Whatever brewing method you prefer to use, they have something to suit you.