Caffeine Extraction 101

Here we look at three caffeine extraction methods:
Extracting caffeine from caffeine pills, from coffee grounds, and from tea leaves/bags.

Caffeine is a stimulant and is found within nature in both the tea bush and the coffee plant. Kola nuts and guarana berries also are a rich source of caffeine. Caffeine is excellent for keeping you mentally alert and for warding off drowsiness. Most cultures the world over ingest some form of caffeine-related beverage or food every day.

However, these extraction methods below are impractical and are only for fun. Caffeine is much cheaper (time and money-wise) to buy in caffeine anhydrous powder format.

Method One – Extraction from Pills

Crushing a caffeine pill may seem like the easiest option. Here’s how –

What you need

A mortar and pestle or a wooden rolling pin
Caffeine pills (any generic kind)
Dichloromethane or other organic solvent such as 95%+ ethanol
Erlenmeyer flask
Fritted glass filter and vacuum pump
Watch glass or other glass cover for the Erlenmeyer flask
Büchner funnel


  1. Begin in a well ventilated area
  2. Crush up the pills until they resemble a fine powder
  3. Transfer the powder to the Erlenmeyer flask
  4. Pour 120mL of DCM (dichloromethane) or ethanol into the flask
  5. Place the watch glass or cover on top and stir manually (or use a stir stick) until the solids sink to the bottom (only caffeine and povidone will be soluble in the DCM)
  6. Let the mixture settle until it forms two layers and wait until the solids form in the bottom
  7. Pour the solution into a fritted glass filter and use a vacuum pump to separate the liquid from the solids
  8. Repeat this process until the filtrate is almost. But use 50mL of DCM (instead of the original 120mL) in the Erlenmeyer flask each time.
  9. Stop this process either after four cycles or once the solution is almost clear
  10. Remove the DCM via distillation. Then break up the left over powder at the bottom of the flask and transfer the powder to a beaker
  11. Recrystallize the powder by dissolving it in hot water. The impurities should remain soluble while heating and the caffeine should drop out of solution.
  12. Let the solution cool and then place in a freezer once at room temperature so that more caffeine recrystallizes.
  13. Pull the caffeine out of the freezer and add it to a Büchner funnel. Once it “deflates”, turn off the vacuum and add cold water.
  14. Turn the vacuum on again. The caffeine should look purer/whiter than before
  15. Repeat this Büchner funnel process 1-2 more times until the caffeine stops becoming whiter
  16. Run the vacuum until the caffeine is dry
  17. transfer the caffeine to a crystallizing dish and heat (at low temp) in the oven
  18. Once dry, crush the caffeine into a fine powder. This is your yielded pure caffeine.

Caffeine Pill Extraction Instructional Video

Method Two – Extraction from Tea Leaves

This method requires several more steps and more chemistry equipment. It’s technically more of an extraction than the caffeine pills, since the pill method was more of a separation process.

This video demonstrates the procedure below.

What you need
6 tea bags
6 grams of Na2CO3 (sodium carbonate)
Filter paper
A Separatory funnel
An Erlenmeyer flask
Dichloromethane (DCM)


  1. Place the tea bags, water, and sodium carbonate while swirling the mixture gently
  2. Bring the solution to a boil for about 10 minutes
  3. Introduce a lid to limit water loss. Remove the lid and let the bubbles settle if it starts overflowing.
  4. Transfer the mixture to an Erlenmeyer flask while keeping the tea bags in the beaker
  5. Add 60mL of water and repeat the process
  6. Add this new batch of tea to the existing batch in the Erlenmeyer flask
  7. OPTIONAL: Filter the tea extract before the separation process
  8. Transfer the tea extract to a separatory funnel and add DCM (dichloromethane) to the funnel
  9. Cap the separatory funnel and shake gently
  10. Allow the layers to settle and drain the bottom DCM layer
  11. Repeat this process three times and use 15mL of DCM each time
  12. Set up distillation to remove the DCM
  13. Remove the crude caffeine from the flask and transfer to a test tube.
  14. Add DCM to the test tube and boil it off until you are left with caffeine crystals.
  15. Vacuum filter the crystals and wash them using cold 95% ethanol
  16. Dry the crystals under vacuum

Method Three – Extraction from Coffee

This is basically the same process as the tea extraction.
What you need
Ground coffee
Sodium carbonate
Distilled water
Watch glass (optiona)
Paper coffee filters
Dichloromethane (DCM)
A Separatory funnel

  1. Add 10g of ground coffee, 4g of sodium carbonate, and 60mL of distilled water to a beaker
  2. Place a watch glass on top and boil the mixture for at least 15 minutes. To limit foaming, shake the beaker.
  3. Filter the grinds from the solution using gravity filtration with a paper filter. Place the watch glass on top of the filter to limit heat loss while filtering.
  4. Wash the original flask with boiling water and refilter. Then add another 100mL of water while filtering. Microwave the gravity filter if it becomes too cool.
  5. Transfer the coffee to the separatory funnel and add 15mL of DCM.
  6. Once the caffeine separates at the bottom, pour only the caffeine (the clear layer) into a beaker.
  7. After filtering the first time, refilter with another 15mL of DCM, then a final, third time with 10mL of DCM.
  8. You should be left with a cloudy solution. Pour this back into the filter and add a saturated salt solution to pull out the water.
  9. After filtering, add this solution to a beaker and add a drying agent, such as molecular sieves, to remove remaining water. Do this for 20 minutes.
  10. Add this solution to a clean beaker. Bring this to a boil to remove DCM the solvent. Be careful not to overheat and burn the remaining caffeine. DCM has a low boiling point.
  11. You should be left with brown, crude caffeine. Recrystallize this using 95% ethanol and place in a freezer.
  12. Take the contents out of the freezer and place in a vacuum filter. Dry in the vacuum for 30 minutes. This should yield pure, white caffeine.

Instructional Video


Whichever method you choose to do so, do remember that pure caffeine is extremely potent and it is important to read up on the effects in order to know exactly how much to use in your drinks, baking, and so on.

Fish, Fats, and Memory

Fish has long been touted as a food with impressive health benefits, and it seems it’s the only type of animal-based protein you can convince your doctor to prescribe you. Oily, fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (the good fat, also referred to as n-3 fatty acids), are an important part of our diet since the human body is incapable of producing enough of these essential nutrients on its own.

These essential fats help us maintain our heart health [1], mental wellness [2], and our overall healthy growth and development.

While that recommendation might not require an actual prescription, oily fish high in healthy fats are a dietary “medicine” that individuals should take with some frequency—about the same as the supplements most of us keep our shelves stocked with.

In fact, one serving of seafood should be a part of your diet at least once every week according to studies.

Benefits of Fatty Acids

fish oil benefitsFor five years, researchers followed hundreds of older adults who were free of dementia. At the end of the study they found the decline in cognitive functioning became slowed in the group that reported eating seafood high in n-3 fatty acids, at least one time a week.

The two essential fatty acids found in fatty fish, responsible for the memory protection seen here and in other studies, are eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA, and docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA.

The fatty acid DHA is required for growth and development, especially during childhood, and EPA is most effective at supporting cognitive function. To avoid age-related problems with cognition, both fatty acids should be in your diet [3], and they probably are if you already supplement with fish oils or another fatty acid supplement.

You can tailor the ratio of EPA to DHA to your situation. While it’s not clear whether one form of n-3 fatty acid is more important than the other, one thing is certain: The ratio of dietary omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 fatty acids should be one-to-one to experience all of the benefits of omega 3 supplementation. This will also help you avoid the side effects and symptoms associated with excessive omega 6 fatty acids, like the increased risks of both Alzheimer’s disease and prostate cancer [4, 5]. There are also no studies indicating a higher ratio of omega 3s should pose any risk, so going above the one-to-one recommendation in this scenario should be fine.

What Do You Do If You Can’t Eat Fish Once a Week?

There are plenty of people who don’t get a serving of fish every week. Maybe they’re concerned about contaminants [6], or they find fish difficult to cook or unappetizing. Whatever the case, if you’re one of them, don’t worry, because there are options other than reconsidering your stance on sushi.

Supplementing with Omega-3 acids is as effective as eating fish (if not better in many cases) and you just can’t beat that convenience.