This is the perfect article for those wanting to learn about decaf but aren’t coffee experts.
This is an easy to follow guide that breaks down everything you need to know about decaf in simple terms – no coffee jargon!
Decaf can get a bad reputation, but a lot of the rumours around it are just that… rumours. It can be just as (if not more) delicious than regular coffee, it’s all about finding the right products.
Use the contents section below to navigate through the guide:
- What is decaf coffee?
- The best tasting decaf coffee…
- How do they make decaf coffee?
- Can decaf coffee be processed organically?
- Is decaf coffee bad for you?
- 5 benefits of decaf coffee – why it’s good for you…
- Can I drink decaf coffee while pregnant? Caffeine content and why it’s a safe option
- Is decaf coffee bad for acid reflux? How it affects your body and whether it’s more acidic or alkaline…
- Does decaf have tannins? The difference between tannins and tannic acid
- Does decaf coffee dehydrate you? The truth about tannins and caffeine…
- Tips for buying the best decaf coffee beans and getting a delicious flavour
What is decaf coffee?
Well firstly, let’s look at the definition of decaffeinated…
So, when we refer to ‘decaf’ we simply mean coffee beans that has had the caffeine removed. This is different to caffeine free, which refers to products that are naturally free from this substance.
There are no naturally caffeine free coffees on the market at the moment, but keep a look out for the development of these Brazilian caffeine free coffee plants.
Does decaf mean no flavour? Absolutely not.
Here are the best tasting products…
The best tasting decaf coffee…
There is so much more to this special drink that the caffeine content. Yes, many of us appreciate the exhilarating buzz it gives us, but not everyone has a positive experience with caffeine.
Decaf lovers certainly don’t have to sacrifice on flavour when choosing their perfect brew, it’s all about finding the right product for you.
Delicious water filtered decaf coffee beans
These high-quality beans are packed full of flavour and are a favourite for many decaf drinkers. Experience a smooth and nutty taste paired with a low acidity that creates a pleasant, easy to drink cup.
These beans are decaffeinated using the water process, click here to skip to the processing section.
The best decaf filter coffee
Filter coffee is the easiest way to get consistent high quality, delicious coffee. There are many factors that can affect the final flavour, such as brewing method, amount of grounds and quality coffee.
Filter coffee takes care of all these considerations and creates a premium cup every time. This is the perfect option for businesses that want to continuously impress clients and customers.
Read our ‘How to make the Ultimate Consistent Filter Coffee for your business’ for more guidance on our range of filter coffees.
The decision you make as to which decaf product you try may depend on the various processes involved…
How do they make decaf coffee?
There are many processes for decaffeination, but the four main methods when it comes to coffee include:
- Indirect-Solvent Process
- Direct-Solvent Process
- Swiss or Mountain Water Process
- Carbon Dioxide Process
Here is a brief explanation of each method…
1. Indirect-Solvent Process
Firstly, the beans are steamed in water over several hours as the caffeine is slowly drawn out.
Then, the beans are removed and either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate are added to the water. These chemicals bond to the caffeine molecules.
The mixture is then heated so the caffeine and chemicals are evaporated, leaving just the flavours and oils.
The beans are then re-introduced to the water, so these flavours and oils can be soaked back up.
2. Direct-Solvent Process
This is a much simpler process. The beans are steamed for about 30 minutes to open the ‘pores’ so the chemicals can penetrate the surface.
Then, they are washed with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate for up to 10 hours to remove the caffeine.
The beans are then steamed again to remove any chemical residue.
3. Swiss or Mountain Water Process
The main difference between these two water processes is that the Swiss takes place in Vancouver (originated in Switzerland in 1930) and the Mountain process takes place in Mexico. They generally have the same steps:
- The beans are soaked in very hot water to extract the caffeine.
- The water is put through a charcoal filter that doesn’t allow the caffeine to pass through, leaving water full of flavour molecules and oils.
- The original flavourless green beans are discarded.
- A new batch of beans are soaked in the water. Because this water is already saturated with flavour and oils, no more will be extracted. Only the caffeine will be drawn out, which leaves decaffeinated beans that are still full of flavour.
4. Carbon Dioxide Process
Also known as the CO2 process, the green beans are first soaked in a large tank of water. Pressurized carbon dioxide is added which draws out the caffeine molecules, leaving the flavours and oils in the beans.
The gas is then transferred to another tank where the caffeine is removed so it can be used again for the next batch.
Everyone has a different opinion as to which method they prefer for their coffee. But the biggest question we get asked around decaffeinated coffee… is it organic? Keep reading to find out.
The methods behind organic decaf coffee
First, let’s look at the definition of organic:
So, after reading this definition, many would assume that the solvent methods are inorganic. But, don’t make assumptions too soon…
These solvent methods can be processed with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. If ethyl chloride is used, the process will always be inorganic.
If ethyl acetate is used, there is potential. If the chemical is synthetic, then it is inorganic. If the ethyl acetate comes from natural sources, which is possible, then the coffee can be organic. This is the case for both solvent methods.
The water and carbon dioxide processes are both organic methods as no artificial chemicals are involved. However, just because a coffee is advertised with one of these methods, doesn’t automatically make it organic.
There are many factors that go into obtaining an organic certification, such as handling practices, packaging, roasting and other processing methods. To find out exactly how to get this certification and why these beans are healthier for you, read our ‘is organic coffee better?’ article.
Or, find out below if decaf is healthy for your body…
Is decaf coffee bad for you?
The biggest concern around decaf is the chemicals that can sometimes be used. However, the amount of solvent left after the process is ‘vanishingly small’ and is deemed safe by European regulations, according to the BBC.
Although decaf isn’t harmful, regular caffeinated coffee does have some advantages over decaf for your health.
This is due to the caffeine content which has a long list of benefits. Some of which include:
- Improve mood, concentration and focus
- Can increase metabolic rate and contribute to weight loss
- Can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Can enhance memory
- Has been shown to reduce the risk and help prevent cancer
Now we’ve covered the potential detrimental effects, here are the benefits of decaf…
5 benefits of decaf coffee – why it’s good for you…
Although caffeine has its health benefits, there’s a reason so many opt for decaf from time to time. Here are the top reasons you may want to give it a try:
- Anxiousness – Some experience nervousness or anxiousness when consuming caffeine, which makes decaf the ideal option.
- Headaches and addiction – Due to the tiny amount of caffeine in decaf, there is no risk of addiction or symptoms of withdrawal.
- Enjoy any time – One big reason why it’s so popular is because it can be consumed at any time of the day. Unwind after dinner in the evening with some delicious decaf without being kept up all night.
- Antioxidants – It is still full of antioxidants and nutrients.
- Better for the heart – For those with existing heart issues, decaf is a much safer option as it won’t elevate heart rate.
Find out if these health benefits can be applied to pregnancy…
Can I drink decaf coffee while pregnant? Caffeine content and why it’s a safe option
Firstly, it’s important to know that research around caffeine during pregnancy still isn’t 100% accurate.
It is difficult to conduct studies as the effect caffeine has on pregnant women is unknown, so testing this could be unsafe or cause complications. However, there is still plenty of scientific research and recommendations that are useful to know.
200mg of caffeine is the daily limit for pregnant women, which equates to around 2 mugs. Although, some choose to cut it out completely and just stick to decaf.
When consuming caffeine, it will pass through the placenta to the baby. While your body will have no issues processing this substance, your babies body is still developing, and it will take a lot longer for them. This means they will feel the effects of caffeine for much longer, which has been linked to low birthweight.
Some women also choose to cut it out due to the acidity. Here’s everything you need to know about the acid content in decaf coffee…
Is decaf coffee bad for acid reflux? How it affects your body and whether it’s more acidic or alkaline…
Acid is a natural substance that occurs in coffee, so whether it is decaf or not, the levels are similar.
This puts both types of coffee at around 5 on the pH scale, which is slightly less acidic than beer or coca cola.
However, decaf may be better for those with symptoms of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) as it causes less acid reflux. This is due to the lack of caffeine.
It is recommended for those who suffer with acid reflux or heart burn to switch to decaf.
To read more on acid in coffee and the tastiest low acid products, take a look at our guide to coffee acidity.
Does decaf have tannins? The difference between tannins and tannic acid
Tannic acid is a specific type of tannin. The two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, which is incorrect as they are separate.
Many refer to the tannic acid content in tea, which is also incorrect as black tea doesn’t contain tannic acid, only tannins.
Regular coffee and decaf contain both tannic acid and tannins… but what’s the difference between these two terms?
Tannins are naturally occurring organic substances known as polyphenols. They are found in many foods and drinks such as wine, tea, cheese, nuts, berries and beers.
They are found in the plant in the first place to protect it being eaten by predators. This is because the tannins give a bitter taste, which can be detected in tea or coffee when it has been brewed for too long.
Tannic acid is used in food and drink, including in decaf, to improve the taste and clarity. Many see acid as a desirable characteristic in coffee and it can be described as a ‘bold’ or ‘bright’ acidity.
Another big question around tannins and tannic acid in decaf is whether it contributes to dehydration…
Does decaf coffee dehydrate you? The truth about tannins and caffeine…
There is still a huge debate as to whether caffeinated drinks lead to dehydration. The initial claim came in 1928 when a study concluded that it is a diuretic, which linked it to dehydration.
However, there has been tons of scientific research since then which shows it has a very minimal affect on your hydration levels.
Decaf coffee won’t cause dehydration, although it should not be your main source of hydration.
But, why does my mouth feel dry when I drink it?
Many drinkers experience a slightly dry mouth when consuming decaf or regular coffee, and this is down to the tannins.
It is just a feeling and is not a sign of dehydration.
Tips for buying the best decaf coffee beans and getting a delicious flavour
Decaf gets a bad reputation for lacking flavour or the magical experience that drinkers look for in coffee, but it is certainly unjustified.
It can certainly be just as (if not more) delicious than regular coffee. As with any beans, the flavour depends on many factors such as the quality, brewing method, harvesting, processing and much more.
Here are some tips to follow for finding and brewing the best decaf coffee:
- The supplier. Always buy from a trusted supplier that sells high quality products. Shop around and read reviews to make sure you’re not getting poor quality beans.
- Check for freshness. Buying from a local roaster is a great way to make sure the beans have been roasted and delivered fresh.
- Grinding your own beans. Speaking of freshness, grinding your own beans is the best way to achieve it. Decaf or not, investing in a grinder will seriously improve the quality of your cup.
- Get the basics right. When brewing make sure you are always using fresh water and clean equipment so that the delicious flavour of your beans isn’t tampered with.
- Try different methods. If you want to taste the various amazing flavours that you can get out of your beans, experiment with brewing methods. For example, if you want a richer, deeper flavour, try using a stove top espresso maker. Read our guide to coffee brewing for expert tips and tricks.