The Best Decaf Coffee Beans: reviews and buying tips
‘Decaf coffee; doesn’t that taste just awful?’ Well, not anymore.
With speciality coffee taking off in the last years, gone are the days of settling for foot sole tasting decaf options. Low-caf is now a much better option than it used to be, with reputable coffee brands such as the ones you’ll see below all producing high-quality, safely processed decaffeinated coffee beans.
And, of course, buying regular coffee or whole beans and then grinding them yourself right before brewing makes a world of difference! We’ve reviewed the best decaffeinated coffees for you, so you can brew your own jitter-free java.
At A Glance:
Top 9: Best Decaf Coffee
Homegrounds has already told you about the best overall coffee beans, but we saved decaf for this list. After a lot of research, here are some great decaf coffee beans on the market. All options have been Swiss-water processed.
We’ve excluded chemically decaffeinated options, such as the Eight O’Clock Whole Bean Coffee, which is processed with methylene chloride – known in your local hardware store as ‘paint stripper’. It might be safe or it might not, but hey, why take the risk?
|Caravan Coffee El Carmen||
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|Marley Coffee Simmer Down Decaf||
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|Pact Coffee Casa Loma||
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|Clumsy Goat Peruvian Decaf||
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|Decadent Coffee Indonesia Sumatra||
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|Neighbourhood Coffee I Can’t Get No Caffeination||
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|Vero Coffee House Brazil Decaf||
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|CRU Kafe Organic Coffee Pods||
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Caravan Coffee has maintained a longstanding relationship with the El Carmen cooperative in Colombia, which allows them access to this impressive decaf. The co-op sources arabica beans of the Caturra and Castillo varieties from over 300 small farmers across the famous Huila growing area to make this flavourful brew.
It’s decaffeinated in country using the sugarcane process, which takes advantage of a byproduct of sugarcane fermentation to remove caffeine from the green beans. This is a nice option for sustainability as it removes waste from the chain and keeps more money in the local economy.
The resulting coffee tastes just as you’d expect from a high-end washed Colombian medium roast. You’d never guess it’s decaf. It’s clean and sweet, with low acidity and a heavy body. The dominant flavours are chocolate, caramel, and nuts, with an unusual buttery pastry note in the finish.
If someone mentions Bob Marley, you’re more likely to be thinking of music than coffee. But you take the time to think, it does make sense. After all, Jamaica is not just the birthplace of the internationally renowned reggae star, it’s also home to one of coffee’s great treasure – Jamaica Blue Mountain. Bob’s son Rohan founded the company in 2007, saying that his father had always planned to farm with the same passion that he had applied to his music.
Marley Coffee do stock the famed Jamaica Blue Mountain, but they also do a great range of Rainforest Alliance or Certified Organic blends. The Simmer Down decaf is one of their organic blends, that’s complemented by the chemical-free Swiss Water Process. As you might expect from the name, it’s blended for a low-key flavour profile, with gentle, warming notes of cocoa and spices.
For the perfect classic medium roast, look no further than the Pact Coffee Casa Loma Decaf. It’s everything a medium roast should be; it just happens to be without caffeine.
The washed processed Colombian beans have bold flavours of dates and milk chocolate, with a pronounced caramel sweetness and bright apple acidity. The mouthfeel is rich and creamy. This is a result of the arabica varietal chosen, Castillo. It’s famed for being disease resistant and, more importantly, for winning a number of national tasting competitions.
Like any good medium roast, this is a versatile decaf coffee you could drink all day long. It’s equally delicious as a filter brew, French press, or even a rich espresso.
Clumsy Goat Coffee stands out for their commitment to sustainable and ethical sourcing, and this holds true for their decaf coffee as much as any other.
In this case, the Fairtrade and Organic certified coffee beans are sourced from the Cenfrocafe Cooperative in Northern Peru, where the Fairtrade programme has brought significant economic benefit to the area. They are decaffeinated via the Swiss Water process, which many consider to be the gentlest and most natural way to remove caffeine without affecting flavour.
This is a dark roast decaf, with bold flavours of peanut and chocolate backed by mild citrus fruits. It’s low in acidity, which you’d expect from a dark roast, but it’s also very light in body, which is a bit more surprising. It’s delicious brewed with an Aeropress, or it makes a unique espresso.
Picking this as our favourite organic decaf might be underselling it somewhat. Bird & Wild’s decaf blend is not only certified organic, but it’s also Fairtrade and the brand donates 6% of the price to the RSPB wildlife charity. In fact, since 2017, the brand has donated more than £20,000 to the cause.
Their decaf blend is made from 100% Arabica beans sourced from Central and South America. And it should go without saying they’ve opted for the chemical-free Swiss Water Process. The medium roast and medium strength make it a great all-rounder, as does the balanced acidity. In the cup, you’ll get dark chocolate lifted by bright floral notes for a smooth drinking experience.
Decadent Coffee is the rare coffee company that actually specializes in decaf coffee, which is always a good sign when it comes to quality. All their expertise is focused on getting the caffeine out of the coffee beans and keeping the flavour in, and as a result, they’ve mastered it. They use the Swiss Water decaffeination process, a favourite among high-end roasters for being gentle and chemical-free.
Their single origin Indonesian Sumatra coffee is a fantastic example of Decadent’s skill, just as rich and earthy as its caffeinated counterparts. It even won a 2017 Great Taste Award.
The beans were grown in the Mandheling province of West Sumatra, known for strongly aromatic coffees with flavours of brown sugar and cocoa. It’s a full-bodied brew, as you’d expect from this origin, but with a smooth finish that doesn’t feel overpowering. It would be delicious as an espresso or French press.
There are plenty of ways to buy cheap decaf, but GOOD cheap decaf is a much harder fish to fry. If that’s what you’re after, we’ve tracked down this affordable, high-end decaf from Neighbourhood Coffee that will knock your socks off. This is a far cry from the ultra-cheap instant decafs of the past.
This Colombian single origin is so tasty, the roaster claims you won’t even know it’s decaf, and we’re inclined to agree. The dark roast gives it rich, bold flavours of treacle, toffee, caramel, and black cherry. It’s an exceptionally sweet brew that makes an impressive espresso but can equally be used as a filter brew, where it shines with a bit more fruit character.
Coffee bags aren’t going to be the first thing we reach for when seeking out a great cup of coffee, but when it comes to travelling or camping, these things are incredibly convenient. And there’s no reason that decaf drinkers should have to miss out. These bags contain Brown Bears Cool Brazil decaf, a single-origin selection of Arabica beans.
True to the sweet and nutty flavour profile you’ll find with many Brazilian coffees, these grounds offer a smooth drinking cup with notes of cocoa and walnut, with a clean refreshing finish. The bags themselves are made from a home compostable BioWeb material, and the outer packaging is 100% recyclable. And as with all Brown Bear’s coffees, 5% of sales will be donated to the Free the Bears UK charity.
Not everyone has the time or equipment to brew fresh coffee every morning, and for those pressed for time, there’s nothing more convenient than a coffee capsule. These aluminium pods from CRU Kafe are hermetically sealed to keep the coffee at peak freshness, are fully recyclable, and are compatible with all Nespresso Original machines.
This decaf coffee is 100% arabica, sourced from Peru and certified Organic and Fairtrade. It comes from small farmers with which CRU Kafe maintains a close relationship, so they always get the best of the crop.
With this lighter roast decaf coffee, you’ll enjoy a surprisingly bright aroma of lime, while the flavours skew to richer notes of toasted cereals, cashews, and sweet chocolate and honey. It shines best as an espresso or lungo, rather than a milky drink, so you can appreciate the natural sweetness and clean, refreshing flavours.
What Should Be Considered When Buying 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?
Choose the Swiss-Water Method of Decaffeination
There are 4 methods of decaffeinating coffee – with the most popular today being the ‘Swiss water method’. It’s the most effective, and safest method used today. We cover these in detail in our guide: The truth about decaf coffee. Read it out if you really want to get into the science.
The Swiss Water Method (S.W.M. for short) of decaffeinating coffee is a certified organic process that naturally removes 99.9% of the caffeine, while keeping all of the flavours as unadulterated by the process as possible.
Here’s how the swiss water decaffenation process works:
Why Drink Decaf Coffee?
As many as 10% of us now buy reduced caffeine coffee. Why? Partly because some of us just like the coffee taste too much. Others like to drink a coffee after dinner – it’s such a nice ritual, hey? – but they’re wary of sleep problems. By the way, if you have any problems with heartburn, the low acidity of decaffeinated coffee might be a reason for trying it out.
As a life without coffee is too cruel to be imagined, if a decaf coffee can be a good compromise. Or if you want something a little weaker, go for some great tasting instant coffee.
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).
Decaf Doesn’t Mean Nocaf
No process can remove all the caffeine from the coffee. 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 (1) .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.
If you’re caffeine sensitive, the best brew to choose is one that’s been decaffeinated using the SWMS as that is the most effective process, removing 99.9% of the caffeine.
Without further ado, for our money the best decaf coffee is the Caravan Coffee El Carmen Sugarcane. BUT we cannot finish this post without stressing how much we love Clumsy Goat coffee. So, let’s say we have two winners this time.
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. Enjoy your cup of coffee!
Other coffee options can suit your specific needs, whether dietary requirements, environmental concerns, or health benefits. Some of the specialty coffees you can buy are:
1. Organic coffee: certified organic coffee has been grown without chemical fertilisers or pesticides.
2. Low acid coffees: coffees treated or grown to have lower acidity levels, making them more suitable for people with stomach complaints.
3. Strongest coffees: coffees that are spruced or blended have high caffeine levels for an extra energy boost.
4. CBD coffee: coffee blended with CBD (cannabidiol) provides benefits, including pain relief and reduced anxiety.
5. Nootropic coffee: coffee blended with supplements to improve energy, focus, and concentration.
Yes, decaf coffee is healthy, and drinking decaffeinated coffee can even be healthier than regular coffee. Decaf coffee shares many health benefits as regular coffee, including a reduced risk of diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, depression, colon cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The best decaf coffee beans have the same nutritional value as coffee and contain vitamins and minerals beneficial for health, including protein, calcium, and magnesium.
The best decaf coffee for acid reflux is low acid coffee. Low acid coffees are either treated or sourced to be less acidic on the pH scale (we’re not talking about acidic tastes here). You might also want to try Sumatran coffees, which are naturally lower in acid. Another option is to brew your decaf coffee using the cold brew method, which reduces the acidity levels in coffee.
- Jennifer Warner. Decaf Coffee Isn’t Caffeine-Free. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20061011/decaf-coffee-isnt-caffeine-free