Decafino opens the coffee world to decaf drinkers on-the-go

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

A single pouch is designed to work on up to 16oz of coffee and remove 200mg of caffeine.
A single pouch is designed to work on up to 16oz of coffee and remove 200mg of caffeine.

Related tags Caffeine Caffeine content tea drinks Coffee consumption Coffee preparation start-ups

A pouch that can decaffeinate brewed beverages like coffee and tea has been developed by a chemical engineer from the University of Washington. Decafino’s commercial launch is planned for May of 2020 in the US.

The Decaf Pouch looks like a tea bag, and is used in a similar fashion. Dunking it into a hot brewed beverage like coffee or tea will decaffeinate the drink in about five minutes. The ingredients and materials are natural, making the pouches biodegradable and environmentally friendly.

The pouches are filled with small beads that act as magnets that attract and bind with caffeine through a physical process called adsorption. Plant extracts and earth minerals are the main ingredients.

“We have analyzed the coffee on a molecular level to isolate caffeine molecule from thousands of other flavor and aroma compounds,”​ Decafino said.

Other brands have attempted a similar model in the past, but the technology was either too expensive or not scalable, Andy Liu, founder and president of Decafino, told BeverageDaily.

He developed the technology after finding that existing decaf options were of lower taste quality and hard to find on-the-go.

Green solutions for cafés and home brewing

Considering himself health and environmentally-conscious, Liu wanted to explore a better solution than current decaffeination technology, which can use chemicals to extract the caffeine from coffee beans.

He is putting the company focus on selling the Decaf Pouches directly to cafés and coffee shops for use in their existing caffeinated products. Liu said it will cut back on a lot of logistic issues, because only about 10% of a café's daily coffee sales are decaf.

Even thought they only account for a small proportion of sales, decaffeinated beverages require a separate coffee grinder and equipment, which takes up physical space and is an added cost. By comparison, using the Decaf Pouches would be cheaper and allow customers to order anything off the menu as decaf.

A single pouch is designed to work on up to 16oz of coffee, and multiple pouches can be used for preparing larger quantities. But Liu also envisions the pouches used direct-to-consumer, for those who want to keep a few pouches on hand when they have no decaf options available.

At home, coffee and tea lovers could use Decafino at night or with high-end, single origin coffee that does not come in a decaf version.

Understanding US coffee culture

The company is driven toward the coffee consumer, but Liu said the pouches are proven to work with any caffeinated beverage. They have been tested in teas and sodas, though he expects them to be less popular use categories than coffee.

The Decaf Pouch can remove up to 200mg of caffeine in about four minutes, and the amount of caffeine removed is flexible through using multiple pouches, waiting longer, or stirring the beverage more thoroughly.

Liu said that decaf accounts for about 16% of the total coffee revenue in the US, and 1 in 4 people drink decaf coffee at least occasionally. The quality of craft, premium coffee is getting better, but now it’s common for people to want to cut back on caffeine, or get it from a more natural source.

“Coffee is a very diverse culture that brings people from different parts of the world together, and I think that is an invaluable experience,”​ Liu said.

Decafino’s Kickstarter campaign​ is now active, and contributors will pre-order the Decaf Pouches for release in the second quarter of 2020.

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