Caffeine - the beautiful drug
Above is a diagram of the wonderful chemical that imparts so much to one of the most consumed beverages on the planet. A direct quote from Wikipedia I find very neat, "It is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug, but unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world." Coffee is the worlds primary source of caffeine and the main vehicle for it to arrive to us. Naturally around 60 plants produce caffeine in their cells. This ability was developed as an evolutionary adaptation to resist insect infestation and predation, similar to nicotine. Caffeine levels in coffee vary quite a bit. Robusta beans carry more caffeine per gram than arabicas, one of the reasons robusta is used commonly in commercial brands. It can pack more punch with less beans. In our modern world caffeine has become ubiquitous. We can grab it from the counter at any variety store, soft drinks, cold medicines, pills, and more. The vast majority of this caffeine comes from the decaffeination process of coffee.
Caffeine was first isolated in 1819 by the German chemist Freidleib Ferdinand Runge. It took many years though for large scale process to be developed. Caffeine is a water soluble chemical and all decaffeination process use water as the base. The process always takes place in the raw or green bean form, before roasting is done. Originally chemical solvents and fixatives were added to the water to speed up the process and inhibit the leaching of the 1000 other chemicals that make up the flavor of coffee. This chemical process began in 1903 using benzene (Sanka was the N. American brand for this process) Many chemicals have been used over the years, trichloroethylene, dichloromethane and even chloroform, the solvents of choice have become dichloromethane and ethyl acetate. The two later chemicals are the ones used in the majority of decaffeination process now. Ethyl acetate process is often sold under the name brand "Natural Process" as the chemical is found in other fruits, vegetables and foods.
Swiss Water Decaffeination is the only large scale process that uses no chemicals at all. The only organic facility to use this patented method is in Burnaby, Canada as well.
Canada plays a huge part in the decaffeination system globally. The caffeine that is extracted then gets sold on to soft drink companies and everyone else to use in their products. Decaf coffees can be very drinkable and good. As I always like to say you never need to have a bad cup of coffee, whether caffeinated or not.