Coffee is not only a drink to be experienced, savoured and enjoyed but it is also a very social drink and if you enjoy coffee but perhaps caffeine doesn’t agree with you then switching to drinking decaf coffee will allow you to experience all of the decaf coffee benefits without having to give up coffee completely.
Drinking decaf coffee means you don’t have to be adversely affected by the natural caffeine in coffee beans if your body doesn’t like caffeine but you still get to drink coffee every day and benefit from the properties contained within the beans.
Decaf is, of course, short for decaffeinated but no-one ever orders a decaffeinated coffee and it’s too hard to spell anyway so we will be sticking with decaf from here on in.
For most people, one of the biggest benefits of coffee is the caffeine that it contains. Caffeine stimulates the brain and provides an energy boost or “buzz” that is a welcome nudge to get us going in the morning or push us through the afternoon after lunch.
Caffeine is also completely safe and you can comfortably consume 6 or more cups of coffee without it adversely affecting your health but just because it won’t cause you any harm doesn’t mean that it is agreeable with everyone.
We are all different and for some, the spike of energy from a caffeine boost can then be followed by an unwelcome low.
If you have an unusual sensitivity to caffeine then it can give you the jitters and may cause anxiety if you feel as though it’s making your heart beat faster.
Coffee in the morning has become as much as a ritual for most people as brushing their teeth before bed so what if you don’t want to give up your favourite drink but you feel as though you are being adversely affected by caffeine.
Coffee has been proven through long term scientific studies to have properties that have health benefits so when the caffeine is taken out of coffee does it also remove some of the flavour and other things as well?
Is decaf coffee as good as regular coffee?
Coffee without caffeine is certainly not something new. The process was discovered 200 years ago so we have had plenty of time to work out how to do it so that the original flavour is retained but does not carry any of the effects of caffeine.
Coffee connoisseurs will tell you that decaf coffee is not as good as regular coffee but we would challenge anyone to tell the difference in a blind taste.
It’s all about the quality. Bad coffee is going to be bad regardless of whether it contains caffeine or not so if you choose to go down the road of decaf coffee then consider organic coffee.
Coffee that is free from artificial pesticides and chemicals is always going to be of a higher quality and better tasting than the lower quality beans that are used for most instant coffee’s that you find in a jar on the supermarket shelf.
Learn more about Organic coffee in this article:
Find out in this article why you should steer clear of instant coffee if you want to enjoy a good cup of coffee every day:
To get a great tasting cup of decaf coffee all you need to do is buy organic coffee and don’t buy instant coffee.
If you stick to those two rules then you will find that not only will you not be able to taste the difference between decaf and regular but if you have been drinking instant coffee up until now then decaf will taste better.
How to make decaf taste better than regular coffee
The most important thing is to buy fresh decaf coffee beans and grind them yourself just before brewing.
It’s difficult enough to get decent whole coffee beans from any supermarket let alone organic and you have no chance of getting decaf organic.
You will need to look for a speciality coffee shop near where you live and if you don’t have one you can find a good selection on Amazon.
Here is an example of a good organic whole bean decaf coffee.
It’s not cheap but it’s going to taster much better than most regular caffeinated coffees.
It’s super easy to grind your own beans and it’s very inexpensive as well. You can pick up a coffee grinder for as little as £10.
A blade coffee grinder will chop up the beans ready for brewing.
For a more refined grind and consistency of grind fineness, you can opt for a burr grinder. They are more expensive than blade grinders but will contribute to a better coffee experience because they crush the beans rather than chop them up like a blade grinder.
Once you have ground your coffee then you can simply use a cafetière that you can pick up for as little as £10 to brew up some decaffeinated coffee that will taste better than any regular instant coffee you will ever buy from a supermarket.
Offer a cup to anyone that thinks they are a coffee aficionado, don’t tell them that it is decaf and they will never know the difference.
There are of course many different ways to brew a quality cup of decaf coffee. Find out what all of the different options are in this article:
How is caffeine removed from coffee beans?
Caffeine is naturally found inside coffee beans and so to remove it the beans have to go through a process of caffeine extraction.
Coffee beans start their life green and get turned brown through the process of roasting them at a high temperature until they turn the lovely shade of brown that we are all familiar with prior to grinding and brewing.
The caffeine removal takes place when the beans are still green and before they are roasted.
Caffeine will no longer be present in coffee beans if they are soaked in water for a period of time but when left in water all of the good stuff that creates the flavour also gets extracted from the bean so the caffeine removal has to take place in such a way that only the caffeine is taken out and everything else is left in.
The easiest and cheapest way to do that is to use a chemical that only removes the caffeine and nothing else.
There are a number of different methods and techniques but two of the most popular are:
Direct solvent technique
There are a number of solvents that can achieve this with one of the most popular being Dichloromethane.
The unroasted green beans are steamed and rinsed in the solvent until most of the caffeine is removed.
A tiny, tiny fractional amount of the solvent remains after the caffeine removal process is complete but it’s so small (10 parts per 1 million) that it’s not going to cause any harm to anyone.
However, if you don’t like the fact that your decaf coffee beans have been rinsed in a chemical then you have another option that is more expensive but it doesn’t use chemicals.
Swiss water process
The name is a little confusing because it does use water but it doesn’t use water from Switzerland, it’s called the Swiss water process because it was invented in Switzerland.
First, you add water to the beans and the caffeine gets removed but as mentioned above by soaking the beans in water all of the good flavours also get removed from the beans so you now end up with beans that have virtually no caffeine but also none of the lovely coffee flavour that we all want.
The beans are removed from the liquid that contains all of the caffeine and coffee flavours and then the clever bit takes place.
The liquid is then filtered through charcoal and the that traps all of the caffeine but let’s all of the good stuff through.
It all gets very scientific after that but basically the liquid (known as green coffee extract) is then added to a new batch of fresh coffee beans and the process gets repeated several times.
You end up with coffee beans that have all of the flavours of regular coffee beans but are 99.9% free of caffeine.
It’s a lot more labour intensive than the chemical method but you do end up with coffee that has not been treated with solvents and is almost completely caffeine-free.
Here is a video that explains the caffeine removal process using all of the different methods:
It’s worth knowing that most but not all of the caffeine is actually removed in this process. Depending on the method between 0.1% and 3% of the original amount of caffeine will remain in the bean.
If you need to avoid caffeine altogether because you have an allergy to it or something like that then you cannot rely on “decaffeinated” coffee to be completely free of caffeine.
Decaf coffee before bed
I don’t have any adverse reactions to caffeine so most of the time I drink regular caffeinated coffee but caffeine is a stimulant and it is likely to stop you getting to sleep if you drink a cup of coffee within a few hours of going to bed.
It can take 6 hours or more for the caffeine in a cup of coffee to fully expel itself from your body so I tend to not drink regular coffee after 4 pm.
If I ever fancy a coffee after dinner then I always go down the decaf route with beans decaffeinated using the Swiss water method.
Is decaf coffee bad for you?
Now you know that the caffeine is extracted some of the time using chemicals it’s reasonable to think that decaf coffee could be bad for you in the long run.
We can confirm that this is not the case.
There are very strict regulations on the level of solvent that can remain in coffee beans after the decaffeination process and any coffee beans that you buy in the UK will have almost non-existent amounts of chemicals in them and well below the safe guidelines for human consumption.