Best Decaf Coffee Beans, Caffeine Content and Is Decaf Bad For You

Best Decaf Coffee

best decaf coffee

We often see people searching the internet for where they can buy the best coffee in the world. Often times, this leads them to some random review of popular coffee brands. The review will then lead them to places like Amazon where people are then tricked into buying a random bag of decaf coffee beans that aren't actually the "best." 

If you want to buy the best decaf coffee beans, it is important to understand how decaf coffee is made and it is important to educate yourself on what types of features to look out for and which to avoid. If you are searching for a sustainable, healthy and 100% transparent option, our Swiss Water Processed Colombian Single Origin is simply the best choice of decaf coffee beans.

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What Is Decaf Coffee

We all enjoy a fresh cup of coffee, it’s what helps most of us get through the day. However, not all of us enjoy the side effects that caffeine can bring with it. Some people are highly sensitive to caffeine and require a decaffeinated solution, while others may need to avoid caffeine for health reasons. In decaf coffee, the caffeine has been extracted from the bean prior to roasting.

Since caffeine naturally exists within coffee beans, many coffee aficionados and hardcore coffee enthusiasts, claim that it is unnatural for the beans to undergo the decaffeination process. Personally, we find it just as natural as offering a pulp free glass of orange juice. Yes, we do enjoy the boost of energy that we receive from caffeine, but there are times when a decaffeinated option is better suited.

How Do They Make Decaf Coffee

how do they make decaf

Despite how simple coffee beans appear, they are quite complex when you break them down. There is an exact science behind the magical elixir we drink every day, the perfect concoction of chemicals that exhibit the aroma and flavors we all enjoy.

It is extremely easy to alter the original concentration of chemicals within the bean which inadvertently manipulates the flavor, usually for the worse. This makes the decaffeination process difficult. Many people claim that the decaffeination process causes the bean to become bland and lose most of its flavor.

There are 4 main methods used for making decaf coffee. One was proven deadly, one is still used but consists of using unhealthy chemicals (most popular), one is incredibly expensive and the final method is the answer and what we use!

Although this may have been true in the past, it is not the case anymore. We have engineered the process in a way that makes it nearly impossible to detect the difference between a regular and a decaffeinated bean from the same source.

Still, there are many decaffeination methods being used, some of which are better than others. Some of which are healthier than others. You may be shocked to learn that places like Dunkin' Donuts are using less desirable methods because they are more profitable.

So, let’s break down the methods!

Roselius Process (Deadly)

One of the first methods of decaffeination was introduced in the early 1900s. A German coffee merchant, Ludwig Roselius, wanted a solution that would remove the caffeine from coffee. He felt that the caffeine within coffee had poisoned his father.

Ironically, his process of removing the caffeine involved steaming the beans with a solution of salt water and then using benzene to extract the caffeine. This is ironic because benzene is a human carcinogen. Needless to say, this process is no longer used!

Solvent-Based (Added Chemicals)

This widely used method involves adding a solvent, such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, to the coffee beans. These solvents can be introduced directly to the beans or directly to the water that contains the caffeine from the already soaked coffee beans.

Whether the solvent is introduced directly or indirectly, small traces of the solvent may exist within your cup of coffee. According to studies, this amount of solvent is not harmful, and most are eliminated within the roasting and brewing process. Still, I tend to air on the side of caution and avoid this method when possible.

CO2 (Expensive)

This newer method is more expensive, but it is a healthier alternative to the previously mentioned methods. In this process, CO2 is blasted through the water-soaked coffee beans which removes most of the caffeine. You are essentially left with the flavorful coffee beans in one tank and a highly caffeinated CO2 compound that is extracted and reused in another tank.

Swiss Water Process (Best Choice)

This is the only decaffeination process that does not directly or indirectly add chemicals into your cup of coffee. Instead, this method uses a healthier version of science thanks to our friends, solubility and osmosis! We will cover it a bit more below. It is also worth noting that the Swiss Water Process coffee is similar to any other water processed decaf.

Swiss Water Process

swiss water process

Since the Swiss Water Process is the best decaf coffee you can buy, we wanted to explain how it is achieved. To put it simply, Swiss Water Process is the technique in which caffeine is removed from green coffee beans through caffeine solubility and osmosis. This is achieved with hot water and a charcoal filter which we will explain the process below.

1. Soaked in Hot Water

Beans are soaked in scorching hot water solution (this solution is created from a previous Swiss Water Process) to dissolve the caffeine from the beans. Once the soaking has been completed, the flavorful hot water is removed and sent to the next step. The first batch of beans are discarded, which you'll find out why below.

2. Passed Through Charcoal Filter

This highly caffeinated, and flavorful, water is then passed through a charcoal filter. Since the filter is too porous to remove the tiny oil and flavor molecules, only the caffeine is removed from the water. You now have a tank of flavorless coffee beans and a tank of highly flavored (caffeine free) water. This water is often called Green Coffee Extract.

3. Green Coffee Extract Used on New Coffee Beans

New caffeinated and flavorful beans are brought into the picture to undergo a similar process to that of step one. The flavor rich water is reused as the “hot scorching water” that was mentioned above. Through osmosis, the caffeine is removed from the coffee bean again, but the flavor this time is not removed because an equilibrium is reached.

If the water is more flavorful than the bean, the bean would inherit these flavors and visa versa. However, since the batch size remains constant, the water extract is usually equally flavorful as the coffee beans, resulting in no flavor changes. This process is repeated over and over.

Best Tasting Decaf Coffee Beans

best tasting coffee beans

If you are searching for the best tasting decaf coffee beans, you'll want to find a coffee roaster that is sourcing fresh, Arabica coffee beans, that are carefully roasted in small batches. If you choose a major coffee corporation for your decaf coffee beans, you will end up with bland coffee that is most likely stale, low quality and quite plain.

When you source from a local coffee roaster, you can almost guarantee that the beans are of high quality and were expertly roasted with care and love! At Black Ink, we make sure that we only source current crop decaf coffee beans, and roast them to order. This ensures that our customers are getting the freshest coffee possible.

If you aren't sure what the best tasting decaf coffee beans are, we have you covered! We are confident that our decaf coffee offerings are some of the best, high quality specialty coffees that you'll ever try!

While decaf coffee loses a lot of flavor in the decaffeination process, we make it back up through a careful and meticulous roasting process.

Does decaf coffee have caffeine

Although the decaffeination processes have been worked and perfected over the years, it's nearly impossible to truly remove every bit of caffeine from regular coffee to create the best decaf. Since we can't simply put the coffee bean under a microscope and pick out every caffeine molecule to create decaffeinated coffee, there is often a trace amount of caffeine left in any decaf blend. The real question is: just how much caffeine is in the decaf cup of Joe you're pouring for yourself?

How much caffeine in decaf coffee

how much caffeine in decaf coffee

First up, let's discuss how much caffeine is in a typical 8oz. cup of regular coffee, whether you're enjoying a single origin or your favorite blend from a local roaster. On average, an 8oz. cup of brewed arabica coffee beans contains 80-100mg of caffeine. 

Just for fun, let's add tea into the mix. The average cup of plain black or green tea contains about 30-50mg of caffeine per 8oz. cup.

Yes, decaf does have caffeine, but not much!

Now, let's talk caffeine content in decaf coffees. As we stated above, it's virtually impossible to remove every last bit of caffeine from decaf coffee, even with the improved methods of decaffeination that have been developed over the years. On average, an 8oz. cup of brewed decaf coffee contains about 2mg of caffeine. Yep! You read that right, only 2mg. So, while decaf coffees aren't exactly 100% decaffeinated in the sense that they don't contain 0mg of caffeine, they're pretty dang close!

Unlike regular arabica beans, the range of caffeine in the best decaf coffee beans doesn't seem to change as much in the roasting process. There simply isn't enough caffeine in the beans to measure whether or not that 2mg is really changing whether you have a light roast, medium roast, or dark roast decaf blend.

Is decaf coffee bad for you

is decaf bad for you

The overarching answer to the question of whether decaf coffee is bad for you is "no." However, when considering what one may think of as "bad" vs. "good" there may be cons to decaf coffee vs. regular coffee.

First and foremost, when one begins to switch their energy charged coffee for decaf, they may experience some negative side effects to ditching the caffeine. Many of us have probably experienced the headache that comes along with switching to decaf. In addition to a headache, many people experience moodiness when they're missing that morning boost.

Our decaf coffee is Swiss Water Processed which means it was decaffeinated safely and tastes delicious!

When also considering whether or not decaf is bad for you, let's talk about the method used to create the decaf blend. As discussed above, swiss water decaf is the cleanest option when it comes to making coffee decaf. The solvent options (methylene chloride or ethyl acetate) are said to be safe, but the final product may contain trace amounts of chemicals. In this case, it comes down to opinion as to whether or not you think any amount of these solvents are considered "bad" to consume.

Finding a company that uses the swiss water method and purchasing fair trade, quality decaffeinated coffee is the best route to take to ensure your decaf is in no way bad for you. Sure, it may be bad for your head and your relationship for the first few days, but health wise, there's nothing to fear when going from regular coffee to decaf.

Is Decaf Coffee as Good as Regular Coffee

is decaf as good as regular coffee

The answer to the question of whether decaf coffee is as good as regular coffee is simultaneously complex and simple. The very simple answer is: yes, it can be.

Through all methods of decaffeination, the coffee beans will lose some flavor. This is simply due to the fact that it's a multistep process that involves removing and re-adding the flavor into the beans.

The first step to finding a decaf coffee that tastes as good as the medium or dark roast caffeinated blend you're used to is finding quality decaf beans. As we've mentioned six thousand times already, this starts with arabica beans that have been decaffeinated using the swiss water process.

With more businesses switching to Swiss Water Processed decaf, it is nearly impossible to distinguish decaf from regular coffee. Well, aside from the lack of caffeine.

Since the swiss water process is all natural and only involves using water in order to create the decaffeinated coffee beans, it is the least likely culprit to creating dull, flavorless decaf.

Next up, find yourself a roaster who cares about the quality of decaf arabica beans they're importing. Specialty coffee roasters who focus on fair trade practices and create both single origin and blends of coffees are usually a safe bet. These guys are focused on creating a high quality product for their customers, including their decaf options.

Finally, look at how you're preparing your decaf coffee. While in many ways it can simply be treated the same as your typical coffee blend, there are other ways where it should be treated a bit different. For instance, the grind size for decaf coffee should be slightly finer than a caffeinated blend similar in roast style. Don't be afraid to experiment with various brewing options for decaffeinated coffees the same way you would for caffeinated.

Will Drinking Decaf Make Me Less Manly

manly coffee

Wait....what? Yep, you read that right. Some people seem to think that if they drink decaffeinated coffee rather than a regular coffee, it may somehow harm their manhood or make them look weak. Not only is this false, but you kind of sound like a jerk just for saying something like this.

We for sure do not stand behind the whole "death before decaf" cult, nor do we believe there's anything wrong with going for a decaf roast instead of a caffeinated one. When it comes down to it, caffeine is in fact a drug and you should limit your daily intake.

No, decaf does not make you less manly. In fact, drinking decaf coffee will make you even manlier!

Maybe you simply love the taste of coffee, but you don't love the way caffeine makes you feel. Or, you're super manly and intaking pre-workout several times a day to increase your muscle mass, so you're already getting plenty of caffeine, but still want to enjoy a cup of joe. Maybe instead of a midnight snack you tend to crave a midnight coffee, well my friend let me introduce you to decaf, the coffee roast that won't keep you up for several more hours.

So, no friends, switching your daily coffee (or maybe just one of them) from regular to decaf will do absolutely nothing to your manliness. In fact, it might just make you seem a little more manly for not having to prove something by drinking caffeinated coffee all hours of the day.

Decaf Cold Brew

decaf cold brew

If you have a quality roasted, flavorful decaf coffee and you enjoy drinking iced coffee, you should absolutely start brewing your own decaf cold brew at home. Over the last several years, coffee lovers everywhere have been raving about cold brew coffee. What's better than an ice cold glass of rich, smooth coffee? Not much in our opinion.

Throw in the fact that with decaf coffee there won't be any unwanted side effects like the jitters or the caffeine crash, brewing up some decaf cold brew is simply the right thing to do, but how? There are many methods to brewing cold brew.

  1. First, you have to start with the right beans, you'll want to find a great tasting decaf coffee. Of course, the best place to start is by purchasing high quality, Swiss water processed decaf beans. When planning to make cold brew, you'll want the beans to be ground pretty coarse. We always encourage consumers to grind their own beans for optimal freshness, but if that's not an option, make sure you select coarse ground when you purchase your beans.
  2. Next up, you'll need to decide how you're going to create the liquid gold that is cold brew coffee. The very simplest method of creating cold brew is to use a 1:4 ratio of coffee to water in a mason jar. Simply measure them out, combine them together in the jar, seal it up and let it steep for 24 hours.
  3. After 24 hours, pass the mixture through some cheese cloth in order to remove the coffee grounds. That's it, after that you have your cold brew ready to rock and roll.

Since cold brew tends to mute most flavor nuances, and is used as more of a brewing method to achieve a strong bold flavor, our decaf coffee is exceptionally delicious as a cold brew.

If you're not into the whole homesteading version of creating your decaf cold brew in a mason jar and straining it with cheese cloth, there are plenty of cold brew systems on the market. At Black Ink, we personally use the KitchenAid Cold Brew Coffee Maker. We really like this system because the grounds can easily be removed after 24 hours and the system itself fits nicely in the fridge.

Another plus is the spout system makes it really easy to pour glasses of fresh cold brew without ever having to remove the carafe from the fridge. If you are interested in finding more cold brew coffee makers that we recommend, be sure to check out our coffee makers guide.

Finally, when you're pouring yourself a refreshing glass of Swiss water processed cold brew, you'll want to add water. While we've happily enjoyed full glasses of cold brew concentrate with a splash of milk and it is delicious, most tend to do about 2/3 cold brew and add 1/3 water.

Nespresso Decaf

The Nespresso can provide a quick coffee solution for those wanting an artisan experience at home without spending a ton of time to make it happen.

For those of you who are Nespresso machine fans looking to switch to decaffeinated coffee, you're in luck! Nespresso currently carries several decaf options for their Vertuo and Original machines. However, when looking through the decaf options for the Nespresso, it's not clear whether or not any of their offerings are decaffeinated through the swiss water method.

Using the swiss water method is the preferred process for quality decaffeination, but we cannot be sure whether or not this coffee brand's decaf is swiss water processed. So, we recommend sticking with our coffee to be safe!


decaf coffee

Whether you are new to decaf coffee, or consider yourself a decaf coffee connoisseur, we hope that you found value in reading more about decaf coffee. The key takeaway from this is to find a healthy coffee that has been carefully decaffeinated. Also, there is nothing wrong with drinking decaf. If someone tells you something otherwise, please tell them to come talk to us!

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Parker Russell is a coffee professional and the founder of Black Ink Coffee. As an expert in the field of coffee roasting, cupping (professional Q-Grader) and brewing, Parker has established Black Ink as brand that fuels the grind of dreamers.