Decaf Coffee Brewing & History

Just like any good Indiana Jones adventure, delving into the deep dark world of decaf coffee takes you into the world of weird decaffeination processes, Nazis, and the color orange. See how a series of remarkable events transformed the world for those who like drinking coffee without caffeine.

A Plan Born In Germany

German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge

Our story does sound like it could be the sub-plot of a really cool Indiana Jones movie, but is in fact, very true. It was in 1820 that a German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge learned that he could decaffeinate coffee beans using a method that involves soaking them in Benzene. The result was a dramatic decrease in caffeine and the process was patented. Although Friedlieb was just an amateur chemist, the results were not studied at all.

It wasn’t until 1905 that Ludwig Roselius, the son of a German merchant, went on a quest to examine the dangers of caffeine.

He firmly believed his father had died from the consumption of caffeine and decided to try to remove this “poison”from all coffee beans.

While he began his experiments, it was an accident that motivated him to see how caffeine could be removed.

It seems that his shipment of coffee had become soaked with seawater on the trip to Germany. The first thing that he noticed was the beans had been cleansed enough to remove some of the caffeine, but were also affected by the taste of seawater. This freak incident eventually led him to steam the bean beforehand and used Benzene to remove the remaining caffeine. He later went on to patent his process that same year.

The Birth of Caffee HAG

After that, Ludwig had formed the company Caffee HAG and marketed his new innovative caffeine-free coffee to the luxury-class citizens of Germany. It wasn’t until the 1920s and 30s that the German Weimar Republic was at its peak. He took advantage of the newfound craze for fitness and health. This was further exclaimed in his decaffeinated coffee that it could cure the nerves and was healthier for the heart.

Decaf Coffee & the Nazi Party

how decaf became popular
Unknowingly, Ludwig’s innovation was also the perfect propaganda tool for the large Aryan population within Germany through the Third Reich. It was widely enjoyed at Government meetings filled with Nazi high staffers. Ludwig also enjoyed further promotion of his newest kid’s drink Kaba that was chocolate flavored. It was reported that it was served to over 42,000 members of the Hitler Youth in 1936 at a rally in Nuremberg.

Caffee HAG was hailed by the Nazi party and the propaganda which drove many in Germany to reject all things that were considered unhealthy. It seems that this Socialist agenda that drove these claims also had the entire nation getting hooked on highly addictive drugs.

Everyone from factory workers to housewives had become addicted to chocolate laced with methamphetamine, as this wasn’t considered a harmful drug at that time.

Birth of Sanka

Yet somehow, Caffee HAG had escaped any of the stigmata that often attached itself to anything related to the Nazi Party. Despite Ludwig being a member of the Nazi Party, some historians believe he did this to stay in good standing with the Government and the ruling party. It was so popular that General Foods bought the brand in 1923 and produced the US version called Sanka!

vintage ad for decaf coffee

By the early 1950s and 60s, Sanka was heavily featured on television as a sponsor and often within the TV show itself. Among the more famous hits included The Andy Griffith Show, The Twilight Zone, and I Love Lucy. Had the American public known that Sanka was being served to Nazis, the backlash and outcry would have devastated the General Foods brand name! But they were smart and invested everything into this new decaffeinated coffee.

The Clockwork of Orange

Caffe HAG coffee cup on wood table

If you’ve ever been to a family diner or restaurant and ordered coffee, you’ll notice that there are usually two types of coffee being served in a glass carafe. The first is rimmed with a black handle and pour spout. We all recognize this as being regular drip coffee, while the other is the familiar orange rim. Everyone who sees this will know right away that it’s decaf. But the reasoning for this is all part of the plan that separates brands.

When Ludwig Roselius finally started to market his Caffee HAG, he wanted everyone to know his product was different. Regular coffee was identifiable by their label and this would make his product disappear among the types of coffee offered at that time. Since he was marketing his product towards Germany’s upper-class, he needed a color that would stand out.

Caffee HAG prominently used a bright orange life preserver so people immediately knew this was his brand. sample of logoSome conspiracy nuts might go so far as to say that the Swastika can be seen in their logo. All joking aside, Caffee HAG cheered the ruling of the 1939 AD council who sent a cafe shop owner to prison for falsely serving caffeinated coffee in a Caffee HAG carafe with their logo printed on it.

Was our friend Ludwig merely following the necessary politics to stay afloat and in the good grace of a Socialist country in late 1930s Germany? Or was Ludwig just another cog in the wheels of pre-war Germany? Evidence of this can be seen in the Caffee HAG promotional work film entitled: Coffee: How It Grows and How It Comes to Us, where their original factory still stands today. Notice the bright orange bricks and rooftops…

The Decaf Brewing Method

Despite the rumors and alleged involvement with Nazi Germany, Both brands with Caffee HAG and Sanka come in the same form. They are all roasted and pre-ground, so they are all instant coffee drinks. Regardless of this, some recipes use Sanka in many popular brewing methods.

The Sanka Method

The Sanka method illustration

  • 1 teaspoon Sanka instant
  • 1 cup of hot water

Instructions:
Warm up your water in a coffee mug in the microwave for one minute. Then add one teaspoon (or more) to your heated water and mix with a spoon. You can add cream and sugar as you like. This is as simple as it gets…

The Lazy Eye

The Lazy Eye illustration

  • 2-3 shots of espresso
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) Sanka instant

Instructions:
Brew up 2 or 3 shots of espresso using a machine or Moka pot. Heat up your water using one-half cup of water inside the mug in a microwave. After it’s heated now add one teaspoon (or more) of instant Sanka and mix until it’s blended. Now you can add three shots of espresso to this and further mix this with your spoon. Add cream and sugar to suit your taste.

Whipped Sanka (Dalgona Style)

Whipped Sanka (Dalgona Style) illustration

  • 1 tablespoon Sanka instant
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoon hot water

Instructions:
Combine instant Sanka, sugar, and hot water in a small cup and use a frothing mixer to whip together these contents. When you get a nice whipped cream texture it’s done. Now grab a cup of milk and add ice cubes, Scoop the whipped Sanka on top and mix it a little into your ice milk. Now you can be the first to post this on TikTok!