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Decaf doesn’t deserve the bad reputation it sometimes suffers from coffee purists, whose chief complaint seems to target the processes used to neutralize the amount of caffeine in a batch of coffee beans. Nowadays, safe and effective decaffeination practices mean we can break free from the caffeine buzz and enjoy coffee at our own pace.
Most people drink coffee for two reasons: they like the taste, and they like the boost of energy they get from the caffeine kick in every cup. So intertwined are these reasons for buying, making and drinking coffee that it fuels the entire industry. Not only does the idea of decaf coffee seem pointless, it’s often downright degraded by a significant number of coffee-lovers.
These decaf-naysayers are just posturing, however. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with enjoying a caffeine free coffee. In fact, caffeine free coffee is the only way some coffee aficionados can enjoy their favorite drink.
Chief among the reasons why people choose decaf are health-related conditions that can be worsened by regular caffeine intake. If you have a heart problem, for example, you may need to be extra cautious about your exposure to stimulants like caffeine.
Others have more casual reasons for their decaf preference. Many people just want to enjoy the same comfort and flavor they love from their morning cup of coffee, but at night — and without the risk of losing beauty sleep.
These days, it’s just good manners to let folks enjoy their coffee as they please. If you’ve been waiting to make a switch to decaf for some or all of your daily coffee intake, don’t let the fear of being shamed for liking a “lesser” form of coffee keep you from living your best decaf coffee life!
Before scientists could understand how to decaffeinate coffee, they had to understand how to isolate it as a compound, first. However, nobody set out to decaffeinate coffee from the start — the experiments that led to the isolation of the caffeine compound in coffee beans were used to compare it to belladonna extract.
Even when decaffeination was finally achieved, it was done by pure accident — a shipment of coffee beans became soaked with ocean water. Although most of the caffeine was leached from the beans, the flavor remain unchanged! Eureka!
The earliest commercially viable decaffeination methods used solvents like benzene, which were later classified carcinogenic. Now, coffee can be decaffeinated a few different ways.
Most methods still use a solvent-based decaffeination process, though with food-grade, human-safe solvents. It can be difficult to measure the exact percentage of decaffeination, so always assume there’s still a little caffeine left in the bean no matter what process is used. It’s not uncommon for some enthusiasts to criticize the point of decaffeinating coffee, asking is decaf coffee really decaf if some remains?
Unless you’re cracking open an antique can of old fashioned decaf coffee, you’re not likely to run into any safety issues with regards to carcinogenic solvents. Still, some people like to avoid foods that undergo extra process steps like decaffeination.
As you just saw in the last section, you’re better off assuming all decaffeinated coffee still has some caffeine leftover, no matter what. If your doctor tells you that you must give up all caffeine, every last drop, then your typical bag of decaf from the store will probably need to stay there.
For matters of taste, it’s all subjective, right? Well, it was pretty universally agreed upon that for its earliest inceptions, the flavor of decaffeinated coffee was demonstrably subpar to “regular” coffee. This despite all claims that the decaffeination process did not alter the flavor of coffee beans.
It may have been a trick of the mind, however, considering how intertwined the love of coffee’s jolt is with its flavor. Modern decaf brands manage to balance safe, effective decaffeination processes with maintaining the flavor profiles enthusiasts love the most.
If you want organic decaf coffee, you’ll need to shop for brands that use what’s called the Swiss Water Decaf method, which doesn’t use any solvents. This is the only decaffeination method that’s certifiable as organic, even if other organic methods do exist.
Which is one reason why Stumptown uses it to craft their Trapper Creek blend. Theirs is a brand known for focusing on the unique flavor profile of each of their offerings, so a decaffeination process that doesn’t impact the integrity of the coffee’s flavor is essential.
You can grind this fine enough to use as espresso or keep it to a medium grind size for regular drip-brew methods. The roaster’s description of its flavor lists fruitier notes, like raisins, alongside nuttier components like butter and caramel.
You’ll see a lot of coffee sellers describe their decaf as a roast, but it’s not quite accurate. Decaffeination has nothing to do with the roasting process, and it should not have any impact on how a batch of coffee beans roasts, either.
In the case of Lifeboost, they take their founding business philosophy — produce coffee free of mycotoxins, a microscopic form of mold they say can be found in cheap quality beans — and make a fine low caffeine coffee line. Their decaf comes in a variety of roast depths and natural flavors.
Most coffee brands flaunt a wide selection of regular coffee blends and roasts, but toss one decaf offering out as if that’s enough. Lifeboost has a dozen or so choices, all decaf, with some focused on a seasonal flavor, like pumpkin spice, and others on the roast quality itself.
It’s pretty common for coffee brands to choose a medium roast for the decaf versions. On the whole, medium roasts seem to please more palates than a light or dark roast does. Light roasts tend to have fruitier, more citric-inspired flavor profiles while dark roasts focus on those chocolaty, nutty taste-makers.
Verena’s decaf hits that sweet spot right in the middle of all that. Any good medium-roasted coffee will give you a pleasant twang on the tongue, but finish smooth and mellow instead of bitter or bold.
Not only does Verena use the Swiss Water decaf process, they also source from Rainforest Alliance certified farmers and receive Kosher certification from the Orthodox Union. Sustainability and accessibility practices like these are the mark of a truly authentic roaster.
Using a blend of coffee beans from a selection of Central American farms, the Librarian’s Blend from Intelligentsia is a thoughtfully roasted treat with a chocolate-forward flavor profile.
The surprisingly crisp freshness of a lime-like citrus note gives the blend just enough sparkle on the tongue to balance out those heavier, sweeter notes. In the end, you’re left with a well-rounded flavor in a cup of coffee that drinks like it’s still fully caffeinated.
The superior quality of Intelligentsia roasts means a decaf blend is in good hands, here. When it’s in stock, pick it up quick, because it’s a popular choice for decaf-loving coffee aficionados.
Jo Coffee means business when it comes to their decaf selection. They already stand by their promise to choose the best of the best raw Arabica beans for each blend, but they also snag all the certifications they can manage.
So when Jo Coffee tells its customers that they use the Swiss Water decaf process, they back it up with a certification from the Swiss Water officials themselves. If you don’t see a trademarked logo in use from roasters who boast about their Swiss Water decaf, then you have good reason to question the coffee’s authenticity.
Any time you see the word blueberry used to describe the flavor of a coffee, you can expect it to have a very mellow fruited flavor. This isn’t going to give your tongue the same zap of a lime-like hint, which is a complement to the milky chocolate body to this coffee.
Colombian-grown Arabica beans make up the blend for this medium-dark roasted decaf coffee. Given the region of origin and the roast veering towards the toastier side of the light-to-dark spectrum for beans, you can expect this coffee to live up to its tasting notes: warm caramel, rich cocoa and just a bit of a citrus tingle.
It also happens to be a low-acid coffee, which is good news for anyone who needs decaf and a lower risk of heartburn. As with many premium coffee brands, Don Pablo uses the certified-organic Swiss Water decaf process.
This is a must-have for decaf drinkers who need to reduce their reflux triggers, but still want the boutique coffee bean experience. This roaster maintains small-batch processes in order to keep the quality consistent and the product as fresh as possible.
The decaf you’ll find offered from Kicking Horse taste like it still has all the kick of regular coffee, and it’ll leave you thinking “Is decaf coffee really decaf if it tastes so much like the real thing?
But that’s the Swiss Water decaf process for you. Like its competitors, it’s clear Kicking Horse knows the all-organic decaffeination process is best way to preserve a coffee bean’s unique flavor characteristics.
This is the brand of decaf to try if you’re looking for that perfect espresso bean replacement. You can get dark Italian roasts in decaf versions, but it’s pretty old-fashioned to use just Italian-style roasts for espresso these days.
We see what you’ve done here, “Fresh Roasted Coffee”. They’ve taken the advice of keeping it simple to heart when it comes to branding, but that means they have more energy to put into making quality coffee.
You’ll find their decaf on par with Intelligentsia and Stumptown. This has that nuttier, more chocolate-flavored taste many coffee drinkers are seeking from a perfect cup they can drink at any hour of the day.
With their focus on a reduced carbon footprint, you can bet this brand is doing everything they can to live up to their Fresh Roasted Coffee name. It’s also one of the few decaf options on our list that claims to use single-origin beans.
This brand’s decaf offerings span a wide variety of regional blends and complementary roasts. The Costa Rican decaf stands out among the rest for having such a crisp, fresh flavor that finishes with a satisfying
This brightness doesn’t wind up twangy like a lemon type of fruitiness, but more like the zing you get when you bite into a fresh, cool apple. It’s undeniably fruity for a decaf, but it doesn’t overpower those more familiar chocolate notes.
Costa Rican coffees are prized for their medium body and balanced acidity, so you can anticipate a coffee like this one from Volcanica to be a likely candidate for best tasting decaf coffee.
Koa Coffee corners the market for Hawaiian-grown whole bean coffee. Since there’s only so much available space across all the islands for coffee estates, these beans tend to be pretty pricey no matter who roasts them or how boutique they are.
They only offer one decaf, and that’s a medium roast. No complaints here, however, since a medium roast is the perfect balance for a coffee been that comes from this region. Just enough roast to get that proper caramel flavor going without burning off all the organic compounds that give coffee it’s fruitier taste.
It’s easy to impress guests with a Hawaiian-grown coffee, and the Koa brand is nearly synonymous with that. If you’re usually in the market for something cheaper, then keep this in mind for special occasions that need a high-quality decaf option.
Latter-day coffee enthusiasts might see this brand and think of older generations enjoying a percolated cup of coffee after a Sunday roast dinner. There’s no denying that this brand has been around a while and targeted the more casual coffee enthusiast.
You won’t win any points with the coffee snobs if you keep a package of this on hand for your decaf cravings, but that doesn’t matter if what you do get is a decent cup of coffee without a lot of fuss or expense. The affordable price point can’t be beat.
This hits the spot without trying to hard. This is a brand that has decided it ain’t broke, so there’s nothing to fix — and they produce a reliable decaf for the middle-of-the-road coffee drinker.
From this list, you can see we have a few clear favorites and some others we include as honorable mentions. Your reasons for choosing a particular brand of low caffeine coffee may center on the flavor descriptions, or they may hinge on the origin of the beans in the blend.
The overall winner, however, has to be Stumptown’s Trapper Creek organic decaf coffee. They’re a trusted brand who pushes the envelope when it comes to setting standards in the coffee industry, so it’s no surprise they put out a quality decaf option. They maintain the integrity of their high-quality raw coffee beans by only treating them to the all-organic Swiss Water decaffeination process rather than a solvent-based one.
We’re confident our list of the best tasting decaf coffee brands has your next favorite on there, just waiting for you to discover it!