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Colin Salotti

Professor Pam

Chem 2125-003

March 21, 2017

Isolation of Caffeine

The goal of this lab was to isolate the compound caffeine from tea bags, through means

of extraction. This lab uses many different skills and techniques that I have learned and have

been developing in the past few lab experiments. After the caffeine was extracted, I used a thin

layer chromatography (TLC) test to confirm that the caffeine was pure. The retention values (Rf

value) for both the extracted caffeine and the pure caffeine control came back the to be the same

at 1.72. This helped identify that the caffeine that I extracted was pure. The amount of caffeine

recovered after the rotovap process was very miniscule and was not deemed worthy of


The isolation of caffeine from tea bags can be achieved from a process known as

extraction. In chemistry, extraction refers to the selective dissolution of a compound into an

appropriate solvent, used as a means of separation. Before I was able to extract the caffeine from

the tea I had to extract tea from the 6 tea bags I was provided with. If I was using technical

terms, the process of tea steeping into water would be considered extraction. This extraction

process was painless, because it included placing tea bags in boiling water. This experiment

specifically uses boiling water to separate caffeine from tea. When you are performing the

second extraction process, you use a separatory funnel along with a beaker to contain the

different layers that the funnel creates. These layers are known as organic and aqueous layers. In
this experiment, the aqueous layer is composed of tea while the organic layer contains the

extracted caffeine along with the organic solvents. This process of extraction is completed

multiple times because a small percentage of tea is left in the organic layer. With each trial the

amount of tea left behind becomes less, and less. After the caffeine has been properly extracted

and the aqueous layer has been discarded, using anhydrous sodium sulfate. I took the organic

layer to a machine called a rotary evaporator (rotovap). The rotovap helps evaporate the organic

compound (ethyl acetate) from our extracted caffeine. Once the pure caffeine is by itself, I put it

together with a few milliliters of acetone to create an aqueous solution that can later be tested

with thin layer chromatography (similar to what I have done in previous labs). The class was

given a pure sample of caffeine to use as a control and test our extracted caffeine against on the

TLC test.

The results of the TLC plate test that compared pure caffeine to the caffeine extracted

from tea, came back without any problems. Something I did a little bit different during my TLC

test was, I did not wait for the mobile phase to move all the way to the mark I had set for it to

reach. I made a new mark on my TLC plate and used that distance for to calculate my Rf values.

The Rf values for both the pure caffeine and the caffeine I extracted were both the same value at

1.72. There were no other marks on the TLC plate in the column for the extracted caffeine. The

biggest difference from my lab and the procedure was that I never was able to measure the mass

of the extracted caffeine, therefore I was unable to calculate the percentage of caffeine that was

extracted from the tea leaves. The lab procedure stated that if enough solid were isolated then

then it could be recrystallized. In my situation I did not think there was enough caffeine

recovered to make it worth recrystallizing.

I was able to to come to a few different conclusions from this experiment. The first is that

the caffeine that I extracted was pure or very close to being pure. The TLC plate test and the Rf

values of each compound helped me identify that this is true. Something else that I concluded

was that there was very little caffeine in the tea leaves, I was able to conclude this from visually

looking at the beaker after it came out of the rotovap. With this being said, if I wanted to buy tea

based on strictly caffeine concentrations, I do not think that I would purchase Shoprite brand tea