Trivia

Hard

Coffee Was Originally Decaffeinated Using What Toxic Chemical?

Glyphosate
Benzene
Mercury
Sarin Gas
A close-up view of recently roasted coffee beans laying on brown paper.
Pen Waggener/Flickr

Answer: Benzene

There’s a long history of humanity using a compound for something only to discover, oftentimes years after the fact, that the compound isn’t so healthy for us to handle, burn, use on our bodies, or ingest. The history of coffee production is no exception to that rule as the first commercial decaffeination process relied on benzene. Yes, that benzene, the highly carcinogenic crude-oil derived hydrocarbon that is a critical precursor component in gasoline, styrene foam, and nylon production.

In 1903, German coffee merchant and inventor Ludwig Roselius developed the world’s first commercially viable coffee decaffeination process. This process, known as the Roselius Process, involved steaming green coffee beans with acidified water and then washing them with a solvent solution of benzene to remove the caffeine from the beans before the roasting process. Concerns over the use of benzene in the process eventually led to a phaseout and subsequent replacement with ethyl acetate (a low-toxicity and naturally occurring organic solvent derived from fruit) and dichloromethane.

Although it seems quite odd to a modern reader that anyone would wash their coffee beans in what is now used as a gasoline additive and hardly used elsewhere outside of industrial applications, benzene had a brief, but glamorous, life during parts of the 15th through early 20th centuries. People were unaware that it was a carcinogen, and it has a very sweet smell; as such, it was used in a wide variety of non-industrial ways like men’s aftershave, perfumes, and other distinctly bad-for-the-body applications.

Trivia

Hard

Names That Fit With The Personality Or Occupation Of The Owner Are Called?

Trivia

Easy

Throughout The Early 20th Century, Mail In New York City Was Delivered Via?

Trivia

Very Hard

The Greenish Tint Seen On The Edges Of Tempered Glass Is Caused By?

Trivia

Very Hard

The Cinnabar Moth Has Been Actively Introduced To Regions As A Tool For Controlling?

Trivia

Hard

Which PC Game Was The First to Be Flown Into Space?

Trivia

Hard

What Video Game Had The Longest Gap Between Its First Release And Sequel?

Trivia

Hard

What Ornamental Feature Did 19th Century English Aristocrats Keep On Their Estates?

Trivia

Hard

The Smell Left On Your Hands After Handling Coins Is?

Trivia

Hard

The Only Pantone Color Named After A Movie Character Is Named After A Character From Which Movie?

Trivia

Very Hard

What Was The First Interactive Movie Video Game?