Decaf Coffee Beans

In the past it is fair to say that there were no good decaf coffee beans, but things are changing and if you look carefully you can buy some really good decaffeinated coffee beans.

Of course, for some of us caffeine, a natural stimulant, is part of the reason we love coffee so much. However, many of us are much more sensitive to caffeine and it can have a negative impact on our wellbeing, or it may just be that it keeps you awake if you prefer decaf in the evening.

Key questions we ask in this short article are:



How is Coffee Decaffeinated

There are essentially three different ways that coffee beans are decaffeinated, and each process has a different impact on the final taste.

The solvent process has been used for almost 100 years and involves rinsing the coffee beans in either ethyl acetate or dichloromethane. After 12 hours of rinsing the coffee is steamed and traces of the solvent removed. Sadly, this process also seems to remove a lot of the coffee flavour too.

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A better way of producing decaf coffee beans is known as the Swiss Water Process. This doesn’t use chemicals and is a more natural process. The beans are first soaked in water to open up their cell structure and then a green coffee extract is used to wash out the caffeine.

Finally, carbon dioxide can be used to process decaffeinated coffee beans and it is also considered to be a natural process. The coffee beans are first soaked in water and then placed in liquid carbon dioxide. Over a few hours the caffeine dissolves into the carbon dioxide to produce decaf coffee beans.

Is Decaffeinated Coffee Caffeine Free?

Does decaffeinated coffee still have caffeine? The short answer is yes. The process of producing decaf coffee beans leaves traces of caffeine and therefore no decaf coffee is completely caffeine free. How much caffeine is left is dependent on the process used but you can expect this to usually be between 1% and 10% of the original caffeine left in the decaffeinated coffee beans. Nonetheless many premium decaf coffee beans will say the residual caffeine is even less and we have seen it as low as 0.05%.

Do Decaf Coffee Beans Taste as Good?

If you buy carefully you can get some great decaf coffee beans though you have to remember that the vast majority of decaffeinated coffee beans are not good. This is because old and poor-quality beans are often used, and the beans are roasted for too long.

As the market for decaffeinated grows more and more professional roasters are producing some great decaf coffee beans and coffee blends. We have two tips when buying decaffeinated. Firstly, make sure that a good quality bean is being used (read our guide to types of coffee beans to find out more) and secondly make sure that the coffee beans haven’t been decaffeinated using the solvent process. You should buy decaf coffee beans that have been produced using the Swiss water or carbon dioxide methods. 

What are the Best Decaf Coffee Beans to Buy?

Although this article is about decaf coffee beans, and we always believe that coffee is best when freshly ground, we have put together two lists. Firstly, the best decaf coffee beans you can buy, and secondly the best ground decaf coffee. Click on the link that works for you. 

Remember that whenever buying decaffeinated coffee make sure the coffee has been decaffeinated using a water or CO2 process, avoid the solvent based processes.  If it doesn’t say then we recommend you avoid buying.