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What Is Decaf Espresso, and How Do You Make It?

It’s a few hours after lunch, and the donuts you bought this morning are calling your name. And after all your hard work, you deserve a cappuccino too. But if you drink a cappuccino now, you won’t get any shut-eye until after three in the morning. What’s a cappuccino connoisseur to do?

You could make some decaf espresso. Keep reading to learn more about what it is and how to make it.

how to make decaf espresso

What Is Decaf Espresso?

Decaf espresso describes any espresso shot pulled using decaf coffee beans. If you see coffee beans labeled as espresso beans, it’s because they are roasted in a way that is optimal for espresso – usually a medium or dark roast. But espresso is a brewing method, not a type of coffee bean, so you can use any coffee whose flavor you enjoy.

Does Decaf Espresso Have Caffeine?

Coffee is decaffeinated through Swiss water processing, ethyl acetate, or supercritical carbon dioxide (CO2) extraction (1). 

While decaffeination is very effective, it only removes 99 percent of the caffeine. So even decaf coffee contains traces of caffeine.

Moreover, these decaffeination processes alter the beans’ natural aroma and taste. So if this is your first time drinking decaffeinated espresso, your coffee may be less aromatic or taste different than your regular brewed coffee.

What Is Caffeine Anyway?

Caffeine is a mild stimulant commonly found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and as an additive in soft drinks and energy drinks (2). In coffee plants, caffeine keeps away predators and attracts pollinators. In our bodies, it boosts our focus and energy, along with numerous other health benefits, but it can also cause jitteriness, anxiety, and stomach upset in some. 

What is the Point of Decaf Espresso?

Coffee is one of the primary sources of antioxidants in the standard Western diet (3). As much as 79% of our antioxidants are absorbed in beverages like coffee, compared to only 21% coming from food.

While many people consume caffeinated coffee drinks to get their antioxidants, decaf espresso contains almost all the nutritional benefits of coffee without the caffeine buzz.

Related: Pros and Cons of Decaf Coffee

Who Should Drink Decaf Espresso?

Decaf espresso is an excellent option for pregnant women, anyone suffering from insomnia or anxiety, and those with sensitive stomachs due to conditions like IBS. If you have questions about whether you should consume caffeine or how much you should limit your intake, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor.

How to Make Decaf Espresso

As with caffeinated espresso, a well-pulled decaf espresso shot starts with the best decaf espresso beans. You’ll also want to use a quality espresso machine. Read our guide on how to choose a good espresso maker to learn what you should be looking for in an espresso machine.

Once you have great decaf beans and an espresso machine, pull an espresso shot just as you would with regular espresso. Start with finely ground coffee, correctly tamped and polished into a coffee puck. Then pull your shot for 20 to 25 seconds.

Onyx Coffee Lab has this to say about the perfect decaffeinated espresso shot:

If our shot pulls too quickly, it’s going to be really sour, astringent, and lacking sweetness. When decaf…is a well-balanced shot, it’s a sweet, smooth cup of coffee.

You can watch them pull a shot of decaf espresso in this video:

Once you’ve dialed in your grind size and extraction time, you can start making all kinds of great decaffeinated espresso-based drinks like lattes and cappuccinos.

Final Thoughts

In the coffee world, you can have your cake and eat it too. Decaf espresso is a great way to enjoy all the aroma and frothiness of an afternoon cappuccino without the jitters and sleepless nights. It even contains many of the same nutritional benefits as regular coffee.

Have you found any other ways to enjoy your decaffeinated espresso? Tell us about it in the comments.

FAQs

Yes, you can make decaf cold brew. As with decaf espresso, you can use the same recipe as regular cold brew, but replace the caffeinated coffee beans with decaffeinated beans.

You can buy decaf espresso from your local coffee shop, the grocery store, or online from reputable roasters. Like when buying caffeinated coffee beans, the best-tasting decaf coffee comes from roasters who roast their beans to order.

No, decaf espresso doesn’t raise your blood pressure. In fact, a study found that consuming decaffeinated coffee may even lead to lower blood pressure (4). Of course, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before making any changes to your diet.

  1. Case Study: Removing caffeine from Coffee. (2019, February 23). Chemistry LibreTexts. https://chem.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Physical_and_Theoretical_Chemistry_Textbook_Maps/Supplemental_Modules_(Physical_and_Theoretical_Chemistry)/Physical_Properties_of_Matter/States_of_Matter/Supercritical_Fluids/Case_Study%3A_Removing_caffeine_from_Coffee
  2. Caffeine. (2020, July 30). The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/caffeine/
  3. Coffee and Antioxidants: Everything You Need to Know. (2019, February 20). Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coffee-worlds-biggest-source-of-antioxidant
  4. van Dusseldorp, M., Smits, P., Thien, T., & Katan, M. B. (1989). Effect of decaffeinated versus regular coffee on blood pressure. A 12-week, double-blind trial. Hypertension, 14(5), 563–569. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.hyp.14.5.563
Iris M. Pang
One of my first childhood memories of coffee was in Montreal, Quebec. Every time my family and I walked through the mall, the aroma of fresh, brewed coffee and Belgian waffles permeated all the stores. Whatever that delicious smell was, I had to have it. And the rest is history. When I'm not writing or touring local coffee shops, you'll find me on social media, trying out different ethnic cuisine at local restaurants, and having deep discussions over coffee and pastries.

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