What is Decaf Coffee: Everything You Need To KnowPublished Date:
What is Decaf Coffee?
One of the major benefits of decaf coffee is that it contains significantly less caffeine than a regular cup of coffee. Decaffeinated does not mean caffeine-free, though! The two are not the same. Caffeine-free means there’s zero caffeine content, whereas on the other hand, it is not possible to completely remove caffeine from coffee once it’s already there.
About 95% of the caffeine in decaf coffee can be removed from the beans. It depends on the method being used, but that’s a pretty general estimation for a decent batch of decaf coffee.
Is Decaf Coffee Bad For You?
Decaf coffee isn’t bad for you when you drink a healthy amount. Moderation is still key!
Once you’ve made your brew, you might consider adding some creamer or sugar. That’s where the potentially bad stuff can come from. If you use low-quality ingredients, they may also be riddled with artificial ingredients and extenders.
If you simply must add some sweetener or creamer to make your cup perfect, consider what kinds are available and get more natural and organic ingredients to lean on the healthier side.
It’s also worth mentioning that the sugar might wake you up and give you a rush - not exactly the result you’re looking for when drinking decaf coffee!
This leads us to the next decaf coffee benefit of note - no jitters! No buzz or burst of energy, just good-tasting decaf coffee.
Caffeine In Decaf Coffee - How Is It Removed?
There are three ways to remove the caffeine in decaf coffee. The first one is through the use of chemicals, the second one uses supercritical carbon dioxide, and the last uses water to extract the caffeine in decaf coffee. Let’s look into each one!
What is decaf coffee if not decaffeinated coffee? The commonly used method involves soaking the coffee beans in solvents like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. Methylene chloride, if you didn’t know, can actually be used as a paint stripper.
Is decaf coffee bad for you when it’s made using this process? It’s not certain from our perspective, but some tests by the FDA say that there are basically no traces (just a microscopic amount) of methylene chloride in decaf coffee.
The mixture that contains the solvent is used and reused. It’s not just for making one batch of coffee. The beans themselves are able to retain their flavour because of this.
This decaffeinating process has been used since the 1970s. The CO2 used isn't the same as the one plants use. This supercritical carbon dioxide is highly compressed. It’s environmentally-friendly, but not exactly non-hazardous.
This process involves soaking the coffee beans that haven’t been roasted yet (i.e. green coffee beans) in supercritical carbon dioxide for around 10 hours.
The supercritical carbon dioxide method is actually effective at removing the caffeine in decaf coffee. At best, you could get about a 95% to 99% removal rate.
This method solely relies on water to remove caffeine in decaf coffee. No solvent or compounds… just water. This makes it time-consuming and, therefore, more expensive.
This process uses green coffee beans (unroasted coffee beans) and hot water. The water allows the green coffee beans to release the caffeine and solids. The mixture is then strained or filtered and the first batch of beans is discarded. The initial mixture is reused to wash and filter the next batch of coffee beans. The beans retain their flavour and the caffeine can then be filtered away.
You’ll find that decaf coffee made using the Swiss Water Method come with a higher price tag. Considering that this particular decaf coffee’s benefits are its high quality, it may well be worth it.
Is Brewing Decaf Coffee Different From Regular Coffee?
Generally speaking, yes! Brewing will be somewhat similar, but the brew time might vary. Take cold brewing, for example. Steeping the beans takes longer than regular coffee. The sweet spot of regular coffee is around 12 to 18 hours of steep time. Decaf coffee steeping times range from 12 to 24 hours.
Also, you may want to use more coffee than usual. A regular ratio is 1:4, but the water to bean ratio for a decaf cold brew will be 1:5. It also depends on the barista, but some suggest getting a finer grind of coffee if you’re using decaf.
Why do you need different grinds when using decaf coffee? Again, this depends on who you’re talking to. But the general idea is that caffeine is water soluble. When you remove caffeine, the water solubility is greatly diminished. A coarser grind means that it will take more effort to steep decaf coffee. That also means you won’t get a better brew in terms of strength.
The grind you choose will ultimately affect how easy it is to filter your coffee, especially for cold brewing. The coarse grind is just recommended because it makes it easier to filter.
Decaf Coffee Debunked
Gone are the days when decaf coffee meant bad coffee. Also gone are the days when people would ask “What is decaf coffee?” It’s very popular and it’s easy to see why.
Nowadays, there are plenty of high-quality decaf coffee brands. If you stumble upon cheap decaf coffee, chances are that it will taste cheap! Also, cheaper may also come in the form of instant decaf coffee. We won’t necessarily say instant coffee is bad right out the gate but, when it comes to coffee, you tend to get what you pay for.