The Best Decaf Coffee: An Ultimate Guide. Great decaf coffee, the best decaf coffee
I feel like people look at me differently when I tell them I drink decaf coffee. Why is that? People associate all decaf as being bad, but that’s just not the case! There are a ton of great, quality decaf options, and I want to share them with you.
Whether you drink decaf because you can’t have caffeine or simply don’t want it (or both!), the reason is likely the same: you drink it because you love coffee.
Coffee is an experience. Waking up in the morning, that fresh smell of coffee brewing. Holding the warm cup in your hands and taking your first sip. It makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?
I wanted to create this review guide full of amazing coffee brands that all offer quality decaf with great flavor. Back in the 70’s, the way companies made decaf left the beans tasting like chemicals. In fact, the first person to decaffeinate coffee in 1903 used a carcinogen called benzene that is now known to cause cancer. Obviously that’s not a thing anymore.
So much has changed since then! There are multiple (100% safe) ways to decaffeinate beans now (which I’ll discuss shortly) that leave the flavor of the beans fully in tact. No more bitter and gross decaf!!
There are plenty of reasons why people choose to enjoy decaf!
- Simply not wanting caffeine
- Trying to conceive, pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Caffeine sensitivity (metabolizing caffeine faster than normal)
- Caffeine headaches
- Late in the day cups
- Regular coffee produces negative side effects for you such as anxiety, increased heart rate, acid reflux, etc.
Benefits of Decaf
- Less anxiety/stress
- Better quality sleep
- High levels of antioxidants that fight cancer, prevent mental decline and reduce the risk for diabetes
- Caffeine has been linked to heart conditions
- Decaf can help the brain metabolize energy (source)
What is Decaf?
Decaf is short for decaffeinated. It means the caffeine, which is naturally occurring in coffee, is removed from the beans. As mentioned above, there are multiple ways to decaffeinate beans now, all of which leave the original flavors behind while removing the caffeine.
The process isn’t 100% effective, however. While it does remove most of the caffeine, there is still a little bit left. The average cup of decaf has 0-7 mg of caffeine, compared to regular coffee which can have anywhere between 70-140 mg per cup.
How it’s Made
There are a few different ways to decaffeinate coffee beans. Before coffee is coffee, it starts out as green beans. It’s not until later in the process when they’re roasted that they become the brown color we’re used to. Here’s a quick breakdown of the ways used to make decaf.
Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination: Sounds intense, but it’s not. The green beans are soaked in water and then put in a pressure vessel. Carbon dioxide is then pumped in at a very high pressure (about 1000 psi). The CO2 removes the caffeine but leaves the flavor fully in tact. The CO2 is removed from the vessel after a few hours, leaving the fully flavored but decaffeinated beans. This process removes 99.9% of the caffeine!
Swiss Water Process: The beans are soaked in extremely hot water to make them more porous and draw out the caffeine. This also draws out the flavors, so the water is run through a charcoal filter which removes the caffeine but leaves the flavors behind. The water is then returned to the beans so they can soak the flavor back up. There are no chemicals involved here.
Indirect Solvent Method: Green beans are soaked in water to open the pours. This removes the caffeine but also some of the flavor. The water is then treated with a solvent called methylene chloride and soak for about 10 hours. This separates the caffeine from the flavor of the beans. The beans are then heated to evaporate the solvents and caffeine away. Like Swiss Water Process, the water is then returned to the beans to re-soak up the flavors.
Direct Solvent Method: Commonly known as the “naturally decaffeinating” process, this is the most common way decaf is made. This process is the same as the above method involving soaking the green beans in water and adding a solvent but instead of using methylene chloride, this process uses ethyl acetate which is derived from fermented sugar cane. After 8 hours, the water is added back to let the beans soak up the flavor.
Coffee Terms to Understand
There are plently of new words in the language of coffee. These are some common ones and their descriptions. All of these are important to the quality and taste of the coffee and make a huge difference in the way the beans are grown, harvested, bought and sold.
Single Origin: Coffee grown in a single location, such as a particular farm or a specific region or country. The other option is a blend of beans from a variety of places (ex: House Blend).
Fair Trade: Coffee certified to have been produced to Fair Trade standards. This particularly benefits the farmers who grow the beans and makes sure they are getting fair prices for their product.
Sustainably Sourced: Coffee that is grown in a way that conserves nature and helps provide better livelihoods for the people involved. Usually organic and fair trade.
Organic: Grown without use of any chemicals, additives, pesticides or herbicides.
Great Decaf DOES EXIST!
Let me just say when I opened this box, my kitchen smelled like heaven. All three of these coffees are great and offer the option of having a light, medium or dark roast. How nice is it to have options as someone who drinks decaf?! Not only is the coffee great, but I love that Larry’s focuses heavily on being environmentally friendly (even their k-cups are fully recyclable!). They’re also 100% organic and fair trade.
The Magic City is a light-medium roast with hints of pear, brown sugar and peanut brittle. The Decaf Twilight (my fav of the 3) is a medium roast with hints of plum, raisin and chocolate malt. The Sammy Decaf Jr. is a dark roast with hints of dark chocolate, walnut and maple syrup. Use my code NEWFRIEND to get free shipping!
Another one of the few places I found with multiple options for decaf drinkers, Equal Exchange is a worker-owned co-op with a focus on fair trade with small farmers and sustainability. They are one of the *very* few companies that uses the Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Decaffeination process mentioned above and oh man does it show in the flavor.
Their Cozy Cup coffee has notes of honey and caramel with a chocolate aftertaste. Out of all the coffees I tried, the Cozy Cup was my absolute favorite one. It’s seriously delicious. The French Roast is a dark blend with hints of dark chocolate and toasted almond.
Grounds & Hounds
This company has an amazing mission. An impressive 20% of their profits provide a second chance for at-risk dogs. They have a moto: “Happiness can’t be bought, but it can be rescued” and I couldn’t agree more. Their Hush Puppy decaf has a great flavor and was my second favorite of the bunch, which surprised me since it’s a dark roast. It’s got hints of brownie, graham cracker and toasted walnut and is so very tasty. They used the Swiss Water method to decaffeinate their beans.
This company talks a lot about how coffee is an experience, and I couldn’t agree more. Their passion is contagious and it really shows in their coffee. They use the Swiss Water decaf process and the Trapper Creek beans still have their full bodied flavor with just a hint of sweetness. This is a great everyday coffee I’d never get sick of. I really enjoyed the flavor of this coffee. They were also generous enough to send my husband some regular coffee to try which I’ve included below. Stumptown offers free shipping as an added bonus!
Stumptown Non-Decaf Options
So many options! They’re known for their Hairbender coffee (which was Hubby’s favorite), but we also got Holler Mtn, House Blend and French Roast. However, the best thing of all were the Oatly Cold Brew coffees! They are SO good! I tried a sip of them and our favorite was the original flavor. They have such a great taste, I can’t recommend them enough.
Budget-Friendly Decaf Coffees
Great Value Breakfast Blend
I know you’re probably wondering why I’ve included a Wal-Mart store brand coffee in here, but I honestly enjoy this coffee! It’s super affordable and I enjoy the taste of it. This post is about sharing good decaf, and I think this is one. It’s very light and citrusy, great for every day. I’ve gotten some serious judgement from the coffee snobs in my life for this one, but I stand by it. I’ve drank this for years and love it.
This Highlander Grogg coffee by far has the most unique flavor of everything I tried. I had never had Irish Creme flavored anything before but I did quite like it! It’s a strong flavor but very enjoyable. My husband says it tastes exactly like Baileys. It does also have a subtle caramel aftertaste which is very pleasant. I’d say this is a great dessert coffee option.
I tried this coffee while staying with my dad and it was pretty great! This is all he drinks and he’s a life-long coffee lover who recently had to switch to decaf. It comes in a 2 lb bag for only $20. It is Swiss Water Processed and has great reviews. It’s just a basic medium-dark roast whole bean coffee with flavors of caramel and cocoa with a hint of citrus. This bag will give you about 70 cups of coffee! They also offer a light roast option, but I haven’t tried that one.
And there you have it! Proof that there is great decaf out there. If you’re looking for great decaf, I recommend looking for specialty coffee roasters. Typically they put extra love into their coffee and you can tell! I also recommend whole bean if you can since the freshness of grinding it yourself can make a big difference as well.
Hopefully this post helped you not only find a new brand to enjoy but also helped you learn a bit more about the decaf process! Please feel free to reach out with any questions!