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Is there a way to extract caffeine from coffee completely?

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    $\begingroup$ In addition to Richard Terrett's nice answer, this little article from my former neighbouring research institute gives some historical background information on decaffeination with supercritical carbon dioxide. $\endgroup$ – Klaus-Dieter Warzecha Mar 20 '14 at 14:53
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Regarding "completely":

The short answer is no.

But for all intents and purposes, yes.

By submitting coffee to several small volume extractions, one can drastically reduce the concentration of caffeine present in the grains. This method of extraction (multiple small volume aliquots) is more effective than a single large volume extraction. The link I shared provides a good discussion.

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Yes, this is how decaffeinated coffee is made. If I recall correctly, this is done commercially by dissolving the caffeine in dichloromethane (DCM), or more recently in supercritical carbon dioxide. This switch is probably over concerns regarding chronic industrial exposure to DCM, which is mildly toxic.

From personal experience, I have extracted caffeine from instant coffee using a separatory funnel with a system of water and dichloromethane. Purification by sublimation finished the job.

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  • $\begingroup$ And how did the coffee taste afterwards? :3 $\endgroup$ – Aesin Sep 22 '12 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Aesin I'm assuming there would be loss of other organic compounds in the process, thus potentially changing the taste so one can discriminate between caffeine-free and the real deal. I've never tasted it either! $\endgroup$ – CHM Sep 23 '12 at 17:55

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