The internet is full of interesting things to buy. When an unmarked brown box arrived in my doorstep I wondered if I’d been buyng some of its more adult products and hadn’t remembered.
Turns out that it was the clear coffee I’d bought from CLR CFF. You read that right, clear coffee. Let’s be straight here though – it isn’t colourless like it (sometimes) claims to be, it is clear. If you were to look at one of those charts with shades of yellow that says how well hydrated you are based on your urine colour, it would comfortably fit in the “hydrated” section, with a hint of yellow.
I didn’t realise what it might be in the box because it took ages to arrive. I knew this when I bought it because the manufacturers do say on their website that manufacture can’t keep up with demand. I paid £5.99 plus £2.85 P&P for two 200ml bottles and, having typed it, I can’t believe I have. That’s before the taste test too.
I’d seen this product on Instagram and it’s one of those things that you don’t need, which looks over priced but that you want anyway because it looks intriguing, not least because there are some things that just don’t add up with this product for me.
For starters, caffeine is declared on the label as an ingredient. Caffeine is not declared on coffee labels as an ingredient and on the company’s Indiegogo page (that only raised 1% of its required amount) the manufacturers admit that the process they put their coffee beans through strips the caffeine, so they need to add it artificially.
There are only 4 known ways to decaffeinate coffee, and they all happen to green coffee beans before roasting. Two methods use chemicals, which CLR CFF say they don’t do. Another method uses pressurised carbon dioxide which is really expensive unless done in massive quantities. The final way is the Swiss Water Process that takes advantage of solubility and osmosis.
CLR CFF say that they only use freshly roasted Arabica beans, though. If this company has found another way to decaffeinate coffee from roasted beans, I wonder if they could make more money from developing that technology than a product that they don’t seem able to produce in significant volumes.
T’interweb has documented instances of being able to clarify coffee post brewing (usually as a cold brew) using gelatine, eggs and multiple filtrations. This process, though, doesn’t remove the caffeine and I expect that they would have to declare the agent used for solidifying the coffee on the ingredients list.
If the gelatine solutions are filtered from frozen while thawing, you first get super concentrated coffee and, then at the end, really weak coffee that is really light in colour (because pure water melts slower than non-pure water). Slovakian David Nagy who founded CLR CFF with his brother Adam when they were living in London, has said that it is physical processing only and told Buzzfeed that the process takes three hours which rules out cold brewing (depending on batch size, I suppose) and also seems a very short amount of time to hot brew, freeze, thaw, filter and bottle.
As you can see, I’ve spent a reasonable amount of time trying to crack it! My thought is multiple filtration or else they’ve developed a way to produce a coffee concentrate and are then diluting it. That’s the how, but the other part is the why?
The main reason is because regular coffee stains your teeth. However, Nagy said that they also “wanted to make a refreshing ready-to-drink coffee which provides the boost but is low in calories”. I’m pretty sure that the latter has been done before, but whatever.
So, the tasting. Erm… I used to have a great uncle who lived in the same house for most of his considerably long adult life, during which he also smoked pretty much every waking minute. It smells like his house did. You then get a coffee smell, but it’s definitely burnt.
The taste carries on that theme. My ex used to smoke irregularly. She also used to drink coffee. The taste is similar to kissing her after she did both within the last few minutes, which is why I tried to avoid it. It’s wishy-washy and weak (the CLR CFF, not her kissing), like burnt coffee that has been diluted. The are no nuances, no cocoa or citrus notes, no depth.
That in itself is interesting to me, because decaffeinated coffee is difficult to roast without burning at which point it loses its real flavours.
I have to say, the taste hangs around too (for, with no exaggeration, hours) but you get more “burnt” after the “coffee” has long gone. I can’t get away from the smoking taste. To that end, it solves the tooth staining issue whether clear or not because you’ll want to brush your teeth and get some gum after drinking it.
Which begs the question, who would buy it? I’d be interested to know how many repeat orders the company has, especially given its production issues.
CLR CFF is centered around the need for coffee rather than the want, so why not just take a caffeine pill with a bottle of water? Given the taste, this might be preferable. It would also be much cheaper.
I drink my coffee in the morning as a little bit of solace during the rush to get to work. I love the smell as it comes out the machine and I love the time out to savour the flavour. It’s comforting. That’s why you go to have a coffee with friends. You’d never invite someone for a coffee and serve them this, whatever the down sides of the brown stuff.
People will buy this because they’re interested in it, like I was. People who like coffee won’t repeat the purchase because of the price, flavour and delays, but they might buy it again if they want people to be interested in them for drinking it because the most interesting thing about this product is the fact that it is interesting.
As I said, there’s all sorts of interesting things on the internet.
NOTE: CLR CFF haven’t paid me for a review or given me anything at all. It’s completely unbiased. Oh, and Moo didn’t drink any. Don’t give coffee to cats. That’s bad. Look at his little feeties instead.