Is There Caffeine In Decaf Coffee?
You might think, given the name, that decaf coffee has zero caffeine. The truth however, is a little more complicated than that. In reality, ‘low-caf’ is a more accurate way to describe these beans. But how much caffeine is really found in decaf coffee? To cut a long story short, it varies.
Coffee is decaffeinated in a number of ways, and some of those methods are more effective than others. If you’ve been advised to cut down on caffeine for health reasons, or you’re just looking for a mellow brew you can enjoy late at night, keep reading to learn more.
Why Is There Caffeine in Decaf?
Regular coffee beans are packed full of the marvel that is caffeine. That’s why they’ve been prized for centuries, with their ability to pep you up and keep you alert. A regular cup of coffee contains between 95 and 200 mg of the pick-me up.
Removing all of that caffeine without removing the flavor is difficult. It was first done over 100 years ago, after a German merchant discovered that coffee beans that had been soaked in sea-water lost their caffeine but not their flavor.
Over the years, several different methods have been developed.
The trouble lies in finding the right balance between removing the caffeine and removing the flavor.
You can probably imagine that even soaking beans in plain water is going to take some of the delicious oils that give coffee its flavor along with it. That’s why most decaf coffee has at least some caffeine. A recent investigation found that most brands have between 8 and 14 mg of caffeine per cup.
Point of Interest: Robusta beans are much higher in caffeine than Arabica. That’s part of why they have such a gutsy flavor. As a result, most decaf blends are made with Arabica beans; so if you’re a fan of the smooth flavor, then you’re in luck.
Following on from those early experiments, there are now several methods of decaffeination.
The earliest brands used solvents such as benzene to remove the caffeine from the beans. These chemicals didn’t really do decaf any favors; although the brews were definitely low-caf, they often had a chemical aftertaste.
If you haven’t had a cup of decaf for a few years, it’s probably worth trying again now. As we all became more interested in natural methods, coffee producers looked for ways they could remove caffeine without affecting flavour.
There are now two major ‘natural’ methods of decaffeination that are commonly used.
Swiss Water Process
In the Swiss Water process, coffee beans are soaked in water to extract the caffeine. The clever part is how they are able to put the flavor back in once that’s been done. They use a special ‘coffee extract’ that pulls the caffeine out. They then use a carbon filter to remove the caffeine, and let the beans re-absorb the flavor molecules.
Watch this promotional video from SwissWater Decaf on their process to learn more!
Super-Critical Carbon Dioxide
Although it may sound like the gas makes negative comments about the beans until they give up their caffeine molecules, this is actually just a case of using this ‘natural’ gas to remove the caffeine.
Because they’re not soaked, the beans don’t risk losing their flavor and the after-taste is negligible.
You will still see coffee on the market that has been solvent-decaffeinated on many store shelves. Coffee that had its caffeine removed by one of the other methods usually boasts about it, so if you can’t see a method prominently mentioned?
Chances are it was the solvent method.
Doesn’t All Decaf Taste Bad?
No! The great news for those of us who want to avoid caffeine without missing out on a great cup of coffee, is that modern brands of decaf taste just as good as their fully-loaded counterparts.
In fact, we did a review of the best brands recently so if you are looking for a great tasting decaf, we’ve done the hard work for you.
Watch the staff from Goodness Direct blind taste-testing coffee here:
If you don’t have time to read the article just now here’s a spoiler. Our favourite brand was Wild Coffee Lonestar Decaf, which ticked the boxes of being full of flavour, low on caffeine and organic, fairly-traded and single origin Arabica. It also has great reviews.
Most coffee brands will have their own decaf product, so if you have a favourite fully loaded brew that’s a good place to start.
If you want to know how much caffeine is in decaf, make sure you read the packaging carefully.
So, Is There Caffeine in Decaf?
Yes. Although the amount varies depending on the beans used and how the caffeine has been extracted.
The Swiss Water method claims to remove 99.9% of the stimulant, so that’s probably your best bet if you really want to go low. If not, then enjoy taste testing until you find your favourite. Leave us a comment below, when you do!