The 10 Best Decaf Coffee Beans of 2018 [Reviews + Top Picks]
If you’re going to have coffee, it’s got to have caffeine, right?
Otherwise what’s the point?
Besides, doesn’t decaf coffee just taste awful? Isn’t it loaded with chemicals from processing?
Well, if you’re one of those people who has been told to limit your caffeine intake, then decaffeinated may be your only choice.
The good news?
Low-caf is now a much better option than it used to be.
We’ve reviewed some of the best decaffeinated coffee for you here, so you can brew your own with confidence.
TOP PICK: House Blend - DECAF (Volcanica)
Volcanica has created a gorgeous Decaf blend using South and Central American beans with is prized for its sweet bold flavour and full, satisfying body.
Decaffeinated using the SWISS WATER method only, and roasted AFTER you order, means you're getting some of the cleanest and best tasting decaf available online.
Things you should know when choosing Decaffeinated Coffee
If you’re not already a low-caf convert then you might wonder why you should give it a try.
If you are, you may have noticed that most decaffeinated blends are Arabica based (robusta has more caffeine) so what’s the difference between them?
Read on to find out more.
How is coffee decaffeinated?
Once upon a time (in 1905), a man named Ludwig Roselius decided that he wanted to decaffeinate some coffee.
He theorised that if he moistened the beans to make the caffeine accessible, and then soaked them in benzene to draw the caffeine out, he’d have his wish.
Those were the first decaffeinated coffee beans.
You can only imagine how they tasted.
Until recently, chemical extraction was the main method used.
The chemicals inevitably left an aftertaste that affected the coffee’s flavour, giving decaffeinated its bad name.
However, this spurred the development of other methods. You’ll now find coffee proudly calling itself ‘naturally decaffeinated’.
In all methods, the beans are moistened, just like Ludwig did over a hundred years ago.
Then they’re either soaked in a bath of the solvent (chemical or a mixture of water and green coffee), repeatedly rinsed in water or blasted with jets of carbon dioxide until the caffeine surrenders and abandons the bean.
The very cool sounding ‘supercritical carbon dioxide decaffeinated’ coffee has less caffeine than beans that have been through Swiss Water decaffeination, but the purest flavor comes from treatment with simple H2O.
Listen to Dr John Douillard talking about the health implications of the different decaffeination processes.
Why drink decaf?
As many as 10% of us now buy reduced caffeine coffee rather than full-blooded coffee. Why? This can partly be explained by the fact that women are advised to limit caffeine intake during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.
As a life without coffee is too cruel to be imagined, decaf coffee beans can be a good compromise.
But doesn’t it taste different?
It depends on the way the coffee has been decaffeinated. Water decaffeination doesn’t alter the flavour profile as much as solvent based methods.
Of course, any process that your coffee goes through changes the flavour to a certain extent, but it’s probably not as noticeable now as it was years ago (or for poor Ludwig).
You can see a live taste test by watching the (unintentionally hilarious?) YouTube video below.
CAUTION: Contains disturbing scenes of someone drinking instant coffee.
Decaf doesn’t mean Nocaf
No process can remove all the caffeine from coffee beans.
In the USA, the Food and Drug Administration requires 97% of the stimulant to be removed from the coffee before it can call itself decaffeinated.
In a recent study it was found that most of the brews tested contained as much as 10% of a regular cup of drip.
The standards are a little tighter in Europe, with EU regulations requiring more than 99.7% of the caffeine to be removed to be called decaffeinated.
However, the amount doesn’t need to be stated on the packet, so your innocent brew could contain as much as 5g per cup.
If you go into a coffee shop and order a latte with an extra shot you could be drinking as much caffeine as there is in a can of coke.
If you’re caffeine sensitive, the best brew to choose is one that’s been decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Method as that is the most effective process, removing 99.9% of the caffeine.
Which beans are best for decaffeination?
The majority of coffee plantations in the world either grow Arabica or Robusta varieties.
Not only do these two varieties have different flavour profiles, they’re also pretty different in the caffeine stakes.
Robusta can have twice as much caffeine as Arabica.
That’s why you’ll find that most low caffeine coffee is made from the latter.
Show it some respect
Low-caf has been the poor relation of coffee for a long time. One of the reasons the brews are usually so terrible is because they aren’t given the same love and reverence as their more stimulating cousins.
If you want the best decaffeinated coffee then you need to show it the same respect that you do your regular brew.
Be picky about your beans, your grind and your brewing method and you’re giving the low-caf alternative a fighting chance.
The Swiss Water Method
The Swiss Water Method of decaffeinating coffee originated in Switzerland in the early 1930s.
Since then, the Swiss Water Method has been developed into a certified organic process that naturally removes 99.9% of the caffeine.
Not only that, but the process is designed to keep ALL of the coffee bean flavors as unadulterated by the process as possible.
Here’s how the Swiss Water Method process works:
On average, roughly a quarter of each coffee bean is made of soluble materials that comprise the flavor, oils, and caffeine content. The first step in the process is to clean and pre-soak the green coffee beans in order to open up the pores. After that, an initial batch of beans is immersed in hot water and all of those soluble elements are removed.
Note: This process is always done with green coffee beans. It’s not until after the caffeine has been removed they are ready to be roasted.
Once this is done, the initial batch of beans – now flavorless and dull – is discarded. It’s a sad loss, but a necessary one to help keep the use of chemicals out of the process.
At this point, what is left is a liquid called green coffee extract. This extract is all of the soluble flavors, oils, and caffeine of the coffee without the bean itself.
The green coffee extract is then run through a carbon filter that has been specifically designed to catch caffeine particles. When the extract has finished going through this filter, the overwhelming majority of the caffeine particles are removed, but — and this is a crucial “but!” — the flavors and oils remain, making it now a caffeine-free green coffee extract.
A fresh batch of green coffee beans is then cleaned and pre-soaked, enlarging the beans and opening up their pores. They are then immersed not in hot water, but directly into the green coffee extract.
This extract is still saturated with the flavor and oils, but importantly is lacking any caffeine.
This allows the caffeine in the new batch of green coffee beans to migrate into the extract, while the flavors and oils remain virtually untouched.
After this process has been completed (it can take hours to fully extract the caffeine to the exacting Swiss Water Process standards), the beans can be removed — now sans their caffeine, but still possessing all of that flavor and pizazz! — and the process can be repeated on a fresh batch of green beans.
It’s a natural, safe, and affordable way to organically remove the caffeine from coffee without compromising the flavor!
The video below has a great visual summary of the process.
In addition, if you’re interested in a more thorough (and rather unctuous) breakdown of how this all works, this video has many great visuals… and a guide who is apparently from the 1940s to help walk you through it.
Decaf Coffee FAQs
Here we’ve done our best to answer a handful of the most common questions regarding decaf coffee.
What are some decaf coffee benefits?
The biggest factor here, obviously, is that you won’t suffer from any side effects as you would from larger doses of caffeine. However, there are many other great benefits that come along with the package!
First off, decaf coffee can give you that same coffee flavor fix you’re craving without raising your blood pressure, a factor that’s a distinct possibility with a fully caffeinated cuppa. So, if you suffer from high blood pressure, keep decaf in mind!
Thankfully, many of the same health benefits that regular coffee is known to have, continue to be just as relevant with decaf options. Coffee, decaf or not, is reportedly a good preventative for everything from Type II diabetes to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and even to prostate cancer.
This article by Gary L Wenk, Ph.D. explains why decaf coffee is just as effective as your regular java.
What are some decaf coffee side effects?
If it’s naturally processed (think Swiss Water processed or CO2 processed), the beans should be pretty clean, as these are organic processes that leave little to worry about.
However, the more common decaffeination processes using synthetic solvents can have an effect not just on the overall flavor, but on the health factors as well – even if the overwhelming majority of the chemicals are gone by the time the beans have been roasted.
Also, decaf doesn’t mean “no-caf”, so don’t assume you won’t have any caffeine. If you drink enough or if you’re particularly sensitive, you very well might feel it!
And finally, just because it’s less caffeine doesn’t mean the drink can’t still be addictive. Make sure you’re not ingesting too much!
How do you brew decaf coffee?
If you’re wondering if decaf beans have any different brewing rules, the short answer is “yes and no.” Frustrating, right? But the detailed answer really isn’t all that complicated.
If the coffee has been Swiss Water processed or CO2 processed, chances are you won’t have to change your brewing method much at all. All of the flavors and oils that make up the coffee profile should still be present and ready to dive into the cup.
If, on the other hand, you have coffee that’s been decaffeinated using chemicals (please don’t!), there are some things you can try to improve the taste that is often compromised by the harsher decaffeination process.
For example, make sure you’re getting fresh beans that have just been roasted, consider using more coffee in each pot or grind it slightly finer. You can also increase the water temperature slightly.
You can read into all of these options in further detail here.
How does “Half-Caf” factor in?
Some coffee fanatics eschew half-caf blends as a pointless middle ground that doesn’t commit one way or the other.
However, while you can never be quite sure if a true “half-caf” is ever genuinely “half” since even decaf coffee usually has some residual caffeine in it, half-caf can certainly be a great way to at least reduce your caffeine intake.
This article has a great break down of some of the other benefits you can get when drinking half-caf coffee.
What are safe decaffeinated coffee brands?
If you’re looking for safe, naturally decaffeinated coffee brands, this store locator on swisswater.com is a great tool to find local beans that have been put through this reliable method.
While you’ll still want to check where each brand of beans is coming from, you can rest assured that if they have the Swiss Water Method seal on them, the original beans will have been minimally tampered with.
However, if you can’t find a good local source of beans, you can check out Volcanica, Koa Coffee, Jo Coffee, and Kicking Horse, all of which are “top of the heap” brands that use safer decaffeination methods.
What is the best Swiss water process decaf coffee?
While this is obviously a subjective question, our choice for the absolute best Swiss Water coffee on the market is from Volcanica Coffee’s large collection of decaf coffees. Volcanica is an extremely conscious coffee company that is committed to quality on every level of their business.
This means when it comes to their decaf coffees, they only use the Swiss Water method.
Our recommendation is their Decaf House Blend Coffee. This stuff is extremely affordable and utterly delicious.
You can read the full review for this delectable decaf option in the review portion of the article. However, if your mind is already made up, you can place an order here and get some of the good stuff shipped right to your door.
What is the best CO2 decaf coffee?
While the CO2 method tends to be more expensive to do in smaller batches than the Swiss Water Method, there are still good CO2 decaf coffees out there if you’re willing to hunt for them.
CO2 decaf coffee still maintains that naturally processed uniqueness, leaving the beans largely untainted by the decaffeination process and allowing you to enjoy all of the flavor profile without any chemical or washed out taste.
If you’re a fan of a good Colombian coffee, you may want to consider this CO2 Decaf Colombian from Coffee Bean Direct.
CBD is an excellent online coffee provider that is committed to more than just getting you caffeine. They look for amazing coffees and strive to provide them with the best convenience and pricing available in the modern era. These particular beans are popular for their medium body and sweet taste, and have received nothing but positive, raving reviews, along with a straight five-star rating on their site.
The Best Decaf Coffee Beans 
After a lot of research on your behalf (you can thank me later) here are the low to no-caf brews that make it to the top of our list.
|Cafe Don Pablo||
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|Wild Coffee Lonestar||
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|House Blend - DECAF (Volcanica)||
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|Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Decaf Coffee (Volcanica)||
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|Colombian Supremo Decaf Coffee (Volcanica)||
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|Costa Rica Decaf Tarrazu Coffee (Volcanica)||
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|Sumatra Mandheling Decaf Coffee (Volcanica)||
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|Kicking Horse Decaf Coffee||
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|Koa Coffee Swiss Water Decaf||
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#1 - The Cafe Don Pablo
Processed using the Swiss Water Method, these Arabica Beans promise to taste just like the loaded version.
The beans themselves are Colombian (they’ve won awards) and they’re roasted in small batches just prior to packaging.
Cafe Don Pablo brews with a less acidic flavour profile than other low-caf brands. And whereas some beans can leave you with a bitter aftertaste, there’s none of that with Don Pablo.
It’s worth noting that some drinkers find it tastes more like a dark roast than medium.
It's a full bodied, flavoursome brew that busts the myth that decaffeinated can't taste great.
Although the beans are not fair-trade, the company does have their own ‘Sharing Certified’ program and works closely with farmers in Colombia.
#2 - The Wild Coffee Lonestar
Another Swiss Water Process brand, Wild Coffee’s Lonestar Decaf is a low-caffeine coffee that is a blend of 100% Arabica beans sourced from South America.
The coffee is roasted in Austin, Texas (hence the name) and is fairly-traded.
Praised for giving great crema, Wild Coffee makes a selling-point of being ‘mold-free’. This probably explains why they get so many reviews praising their fresh flavour.
Drinkers describe the flavour profile as 'caramel' and 'nutty'.
Lonestar is also organic. The beans are Grade 1 Premium and grown at high altitude. What this tells you is that the company is as serious about their coffee as you are.
The branding is very hipster, a plain brown bag with industrial looking artwork. It wouldn’t look out of place on the shelf in a loft apartment kitchen.
#3 - The Eight O’Clock
Proudly calling itself America’s best-selling whole-bean coffee, Eight O’clock is one of those brands that you’ve grown up with (if you’re from the USA).
Their low-caf is definitely on the cheaper end of the spectrum and you won’t get any of those ‘value-added’ labels like organic, single-origin or fair trade’ but you do get PRETTY GOOD FLAVOUR.
Although it’s not something you’d serve up to aficionados (aka coffee snobs), it’s not a bad everyday brew.
Unlike most of the other coffees on this list, Eight O’clock is decaffeinated using a solvent based method (methylene chloride).
As an established brand, Eight o’clock is a no frills coffee. It’s still 100% Arabica, though, and you may even be able to pluck this off the shelf of a grocery store near you.
#4 - The Volcanica Coffee House Blend
Our top pick comes from Volcanica Coffee, a company that specializes in providing some of the highest quality gourmet coffees in the world – and at some pretty incredible prices to boot! The company is a family-run affair that is focused on an overall quality experience, making personal trips to farms and ensuring that they’re providing the best treatment for everyone involved from the crop to your cup.
Their beans are sourced from the best growing regions around the world, particularly those defined by rich, volcanic growing soil, and usually at fairly high altitudes – both of these factors being renowned for yielding incredibly high-quality beans.
When it comes to their selection of decaf coffees, Volcanica doesn’t skimp, either. Each and every one of their decaf options is exclusively put through the dependable Swiss Water Process.
However, there is one option that simply stands out from the rest: their Volcanica Decaf House Blend. This coffee is an “exquisite” blend of beans from both Central and South America. Medium roasted when you place your order to ensure optimal freshness, these beans deliver a cuppa that has a very full, rich body and is defined by its strong and bold – while simultaneously sweet – flavor profile.
Oh, and did we mention it’s amongst their most affordable options on our list? It is a must-have for any avid decaf drinker.
Best suited for: This coffee is an excellent option for anyone looking for a dependable and affordable “go-to blend” that provides a rich, sweet, and bold cup of coffee.
#5 - The Volcanica Coffee Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Decaf Coffee
Ah, Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. There’s something about getting coffee from the “original” source that makes the experience more exciting.
Of course, when we say exciting, that doesn’t necessarily mean you want to be bouncing off the walls after drinking a cup, which is exactly where a nice decaf option can come in handy.
Once again, it’s our wonderful friends at Volcanica Coffee that come swooping in to the rescue with their Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Decaf Coffee. The beans come from the Yirgacheffe region in southern Ethiopia, which is known for its traditional Arabica coffee plant varietals and the floral and fruity flavored coffees they produce.
The bulk of these beans are gathered from wild coffee trees, and it shows. Dry processed and medium roasted, a cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Decaf is medium-bodied, deeply complex, sweet and fruity, and brings an ever-so-slightly bitter element to the table. Flavors include hints of strawberry, chocolate, cedar, lavender, and a “spirits-tinged finish.”
True to the Volcanica Coffee business model, the beans are both Swiss Water Processed and roasted after you place your order, ensuring that they come to your door as fresh and flavorful as possible.
Best suited for: This one is for the adventurer at heart. If you want a cup that will challenge all of your taste buds at once, while still keeping that caffeine kick to a minimum, a cup of Yirgacheffe is the perfect solution.
#6 - The Volcanica Coffee Colombian Supremo Decaf Coffee
Of course, everyone knows that one of the best places to get coffee in the world is Colombia, and this Colombian Supremo Decaf Coffee from Volcanica Coffee is no exception.
This single origin, wet-processed coffee is grown high up in volcanic soil on the slopes of the Andes Mountains. From its smooth body and medium acidity and finish to its fruity and floral aroma and nutty overtones, this coffee is a great way to end the day. It’s relaxed and yet full of life all at the same time.
Part of the reason that it can deliver such a splash of flavor is, of course, that according to the strict rules that Volcanica Coffee sticks to, the coffee has been decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process.
What makes this Colombian option even more “Supreme” is the fact that it isn’t only well-handled during the decaffeination process – it is also Shade Grown and Rainforest Alliance and Fair Trade Certified, so you know it was grown in optimal conditions and the farmers got a fair price for their labor.
Oh, and once again it falls amongst Volcanica’s cheapest decaf coffee options and is roasted after you place your order. This stuff is just plain amazing!
Best suited for: Loaded with certifications and carefully grown and processed, it’s the perfect option for an environmentally and socially conscious coffee drinker looking for an affordable cup a joe.
#7 - The Volcanica Coffee Costa Rica Decaf Tarrazu Coffee
Central America is a coffee paradise, and Costa Rica is no exception. The country has been a major coffee producer for a long time now, and that experience is on full display with this Costa Rica Decaf Tarrazu Coffee.
Grown in the cooler, high-altitude regions of the Tarrazu mountains, this full-bodied and well-balanced coffee is an excitingly bright, yet delicately smooth cup that is sure to deliver an exciting, flavor-filled experience without overwhelming you in the process.
It has a medium acidity and notes of crisp apple and chocolate that are the perfect accent to a mellow cuppa.
The coffee is Shade Grown, wet processed, and decaffeinated via the Swiss Water Process method. (You’ve got to love Volcanica’s dependency as a source for safe decaffeinated coffee!)
The beans are even Rainforest Alliance Certified, although they don’t seem to formally have the Fair Trade Certification which often accompanies it.
The only criticism we could find on this one was that the taste was “good but not great.” If that’s the worst experience out there, chances are this is a safe bet.
This one also continues the trend of Volcanica Coffees on our list that are both amongst the most affordable decaf options available, as well as guaranteed to be roasted after you place your order.
Best suited for: Bright yet smooth and medium in body and acidity, this is a perfect middle ground for anyone looking for a coffee that stays interesting but won’t get too intense, as some of the brighter, light roast options can have a tendency to do.
#8 - The Volcanica Coffee Sumatra Mandheling Decaf Coffee
One of the most prolific coffee-growing regions on the planet is Indonesia, and one of the biggest hotspots in the island nation is Sumatra. Coffees coming from Sumatra often have a very earthy, rich flavor, and this rare Sumatra Mandheling Decaf Coffee goes right along with that trend.
This exotic decaf option is as smooth as it gets, and possesses a low acidity that makes it an ideal way to answer that coffee craving without giving yourself an upset stomach and heartburn in the process. The beans have a heavy body and intensely syrupy flavor that ends in a rich, earthy aftertaste.
These mellow fellows are Shade Grown, Rainforest Alliance Certified, and, of course, Swiss Water Processed. Once again, though, they are conspicuously missing that Fair Trade certification. They are medium roasted when you place your order, typically arriving fresh on your doorstep within the next few days.
The only negative comment we found claims that the price was too high for the overall quality of the beans, though this was counterbalanced by many satisfied, five-star review customers who loved the smooth, full flavor.
Best suited for: These beans are an excellent candidate for anyone looking for a smooth, mellow cuppa. The low acidity factor is a tremendous complement to what is already a very low-key decaf cup of coffee.
#9 - The Kicking Horse Decaf Coffee
If you’re a fan of a good dark roast, these decaf beans from Kicking Horse may be just what you’re looking for.
Like Volcanica Coffee, Kicking Horse is a high-end coffee provider that is laser-focused on elements like organic products, Fair Trade, and sustainable practices.
The decaf blend they’ve created is made with beans from Central and South America. It is dark roasted, giving it a deep, earthy, and nutty flavor with hints of chocolate and hazelnuts.
Their brewing recommendations are right across the board, making this a perfect option for everything from a stronger batch of French press or an espresso all the way to a gentler pour over or cold brew. So you know it will fit in to whatever coffee brewing method you’ve already equipped your kitchen with.
And, of course – just in case you aren’t assuming this at this point – the decaffeination is done using the Swiss Water Process, giving you virtually none of the caffeine yet maintaining all of that exquisitely grown and roasted flavor.
The folks at Kicking Horse really do go out of their way to ensure that their coffee is ethically made to as many standards as possible. This particular roast is certified organic in both Canada and the US, is Fair Trade, and is even Kosher!
Be aware, though: the bag is priced affordably but is also pretty small. Just 10 oz!
Best suited for: This is an excellent choice for the ethically minded consumer who is looking for a deep, dark roast experience that won’t keep them up all night. The extreme brewing versatility also fits in with most coffee lover’s brewing styles, from a Chemex to a French press, a cold brew, and more!
#10 - The Koa Coffee Swiss Water Decaf Whole Bean Kona Coffee
These decaf beans come from Koa Coffee, a high-end coffee producer that grows their beans right on the slopes of Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii, giving it that exquisite “Aloha taste” that Kona beans are famous for. And we don’t mean they're famous just from our perspective. Even Forbes has labeled their coffees as some of the "Best in America!”
These decaf beans are painstakingly grown and then medium roasted to perfection. And, of course, you would expect no less considering the price tag.
These are certainly some of the most elite beans in the coffee world, and this batch, in particular, was designed with the late night and caffeine-sensitive coffee drinkers in mind.
They work well for a straight decaf cuppa as well as a half and half mix to cut down on the caffeine in your regular coffee.
Either way, they don’t disappoint in the flavor department. As you can probably guess from the title, these beans are Swiss Water Processed, which means all of those flavors and oils have been carefully preserved just for your cup.
Best suited for: This high quality, pure Kona coffee is some of the best decaf coffee on the market, making it an excellent choice for any coffee fanatic that doesn’t mind the price tag… and doesn’t want to stay up all night with the jitters!
In all honesty, finding accurate reviews for decaf coffee beans is tough.
There seems to be an adjustment period that drinkers go through when they switch from caffeinated to low-caf coffee and many of the negative reviews could be attributed to that.
Complaints about washed out flavour or weak brews are signs that a review was written by someone who hasn’t made the adjustment to low caffeine life yet. When you’re checking our reviews, keep that in mind.
For my money, the low-caf coffee is ...
Your mileage may vary, of course, but one thing is certain; the days when decaffeinated was second-best are well and truly in the past.