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If you’re a frequent decaf coffee drinker, you’ve probably heard of Swiss Water Process (SWP) coffee. It has the least amount of caffeine of any decaf coffee and it still tastes great. Plus, it’s a chemical-free process unlike other decaffeination methods. You can use SWP coffee beans or grounds with any kind of brewing method you’d like and retain all the flavors and aromas of a regular fully caffeinated cup of coffee. So you might be wondering which decaf coffees are Swiss Water processed. Below is a roundup of our favorite Swiss Water Process decaf coffees.
What is the Swiss Water Process?
The Swiss Water Process is a process used to decaffeinate coffee beans. It was created in, you guessed it, Switzerland in the 1930s but wasn’t scaled to commercial production until the 80s. It’s unique 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, 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 is passed through a charcoal filter. Caffeine happens to be 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.
How is Swiss Water Process coffee better?
Unlike other decaffeination methods, Swiss Water Process coffee uses only water to decaffeinate the coffee beans. The most common method of decaffeination involves a chemical solvent, methylene chloride.
Although methylene chloride has been determined by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to be safe to use in the decaffeination process, 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, 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.
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 aroma can be 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 Swiss Water Process uses only water, only the caffeine is removed, not the taste.
The Swiss Water Process used to decaffeinate coffee beans is certified 99.9% caffeine free. Other decaffeination methods have a decaf percentage of approximately 96-98%. This makes Swiss Water Process the decaf coffee that has the least caffeine content.
It may not seem like a very big difference, but even a few percentage points of caffeine can affect someone who is sensitive to caffeine. If you’re trying to avoid caffeine, decaf coffee that has undergone the SWP is your best bet.
The best Swiss Water Process decaf coffee brands
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.
What we love: Convenience. While Verve doesn't offer as much variety as some others on this list, in addition to their bagged coffee, they also have instant coffee and a canned flash brew. The coffee purists out there may scoff at an instant or canned coffee. But hey, sometimes you need a cup of coffee quick, especially when traveling or on the go. The flavor notes of their bagged and instant coffee include almond, honey, and cola. Certainly a unique combination that's worth trying!
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.
What we love: A bold brew. For those that love a dark roast that is bold and complex, Kicking Horse Coffee offers just that. This coffee has hints of chocolate and hazelnut (always a good combination). This dark roast is ideal for brewing in your Aeropress or French press to make an espresso-style drink. It has a smooth and balanced body with enough flavor that you'll forget you're drinking decaf.
What we love: Cold brew. If you're a cold brew lover, this Swiss Water Process coffee from Jo Coffee is offered in a coarse ground dark roast, making it ideal for cold brew. But if cold brew isn't your thing, they also have two medium grind options (a medium-dark and a dark roast). Each one has tasting notes of chocolate with fruity aromas such as blueberry and raspberry.
What we love: Full body and flavor. Even if you're drinking decaf, you don't have to compromise on flavor. This decaf coffee from Stone Street Coffee Company produces a smooth and balanced cup that is full of richness. It has an earthy flavor and aroma. If you're someone who doesn't care for chocolate or fruity notes, this decaf is perfect. It has a subtle flavor that isn't too complex.