Decaffeinated coffee has a bad reputation. Even though we are much more health conscious nowadays, suggesting decaf instead of regular coffee tends to get a negative response. There are a number of reasons for this. Some are concerned about chemicals used in the process of removing the caffeine. Others have heard stories about nasty side effects of decaffeinated coffee. The main reason though, is that usually decaf coffee just doesn’t taste very nice. Traditionally, decaf coffee is weak and watery and bears no resemblance to a real cup of coffee.
The good news is that decaf coffee has improved a lot over the last few years. I originally started drinking decaf coffee because my partner was concerned about my caffeine intake. I like my coffee really strong and my cold drink of choice was coke so it was a reasonable concern. It seemed sensible to limit drinking regular coffee to the mornings and to switch to decaf coffee for the rest of the day. However I really struggled to find any kind of decaf coffee that wasn’t disgusting. I even tried coffee substitutes such as chicory and barley but they were equally revolting. So when I managed to find a decaf coffee that tasted good I was thrilled and told everyone about it.
Decaf coffee has massively upgraded its quality recently and there is much more choice. Below is a list of the decaf coffees I would recommended and answers to some of the concerns people have about decaf coffee.
- Our Top Recommendations
- Best Decaf Coffee 2021
- 1) Cafédirect Decaf Machu Picchu Fairtrade Ground Coffee
- 2) Spiller & Tait Sparkling Water Decaffeinated Coffee Beans 1kg Bag
- 3) Decadent Decaf Costa Rica Ground Coffee
- 4) AROMISTICO | Rich Aroma Swiss Water Decaf Medium Roast
- 5) Simmer Down Decaf Medium Roast, Organic Decaffeinated Coffee Beans, Marley Coffee, from The Family of Bob Marley, 1kg
- 6) Lavazza Caffe Decaffeinated Ground Coffee
- 7) Brown Bear Cool Brazil, Decaffeinated Coffee Beans, 1 kg
- 8) Cafe Don Pablo Decaf Gourmet Coffee Colombian Decaffeinated Medium-Dark Roast Whole Bean 907g Bag
- 9) Union Decaffeinated Blend Coffee 200 g
- 10) Moreish Decaf Coffee Bags – Swiss Water Decaffeinated (50 Coffee Bags)
- 11) Taylors of Harrogate Decaffe Coffee Bags – 10 enveloped bags (Pack of 3, total of 30 Coffee Bags)
- 12) Black Donkey Coffee Roasters – 50 ESE Coffee Paper Pods 44mm (DECAF)
- 13) NESCAFÉ AZERA Decaffeinated Americano Instant Coffee Tin, 100 g (Pack of 6)
- 14) Douwe Egberts Pure Decaff Instant Coffee 95 g (Pack of 6)
- 15) Nescafé Gold Cappuccino Decaf, Total 48 Sachets
- Buying Guide
- Is decaffeinated coffee healthy?
- Why do people drink decaf coffee?
- Is decaf coffee really decaf?
- What is the difference between decaf coffee and regular coffee?
- Is decaf coffee full of chemicals?
- What are the side effects of decaffeinated coffee?
- Is decaf bad for blood pressure and your heart?
- Is decaf bad for cholesterol?
- Does decaf coffee affect kidneys?
- Can decaf help with weight loss?
Our Top Recommendations
Best Decaf Coffee 2021
This is a guide to the best decaffeinated coffee. We have included a range of different coffee types, including whole bean, ground and instant. Details are given of which process is used to decaffeinate the coffee. Full information about the different decaffeination processes is given further down the page.
1) Cafédirect Decaf Machu Picchu Fairtrade Ground Coffee
This decaf coffee is so good that if you don’t tell people it’s not regular coffee they won’t realise. This coffee is made from handpicked Arabica beans and medium roasted. It tastes the way you would expect South American coffee to taste. There is a nice depth to the flavour with dark chocolate undertones and a hint of citrus. The methylene chloride process has been used to decaffeinate this coffee.
- New pack design - We have launched our new designs and packaging may vary with orders
- Fairtrade 100% Arabica decaffeinated coffee
- Great Taste Award - Gold '09
2) Spiller & Tait Sparkling Water Decaffeinated Coffee Beans 1kg Bag
Another great decaf coffee good enough to fool most people. This coffee comes from Peru and is roasted weekly in small batches in the UK. It’s 100 % Arabica beans and they have used the Sparkling Water process for decaffeination. It has a well balanced smooth taste, plenty of dark chocolate undertones with hints of nuts and caramel.
- GREAT TASTE – bright and clean, with a delicate nut and chocolate notes finish. Great full-bodied flavour - you would never know this was a decaf
- FRESHLY ROASTED – certified Fairtrade Arabica beans from Northern Peru. We roast regularly in small batches. But, occasionally bags can be held in an Amazon Warehouse for longer than is ideal. If...
- CHEMICAL FREE – decaffeinated without the use of chemicals using the “Sparkling Water” process to achieve 99.9% caffeine free beans
3) Decadent Decaf Costa Rica Ground Coffee
Another South American coffee and another good decaf. It’s available in both ground and whole bean. The company take their coffee seriously and tell you the exact area of Costa Rica that their beans are grown in. They use the Sparkling Water process to decaffeinate the Arabica beans. You get a smooth, well rounded coffee with strong hints of dark chocolate and nuts.
- Decadent Decaf specialises in the finest single origin Swiss Water Decaf process coffees in the world
- Costa Rica SHB is selected from coffees grown above 1200 metres in the Costa Rican province of San Jose.
- A famous all-rounder; a crisp and clean aromatic cup, a balanced body with subtle chocolate and nutty tones.
4) AROMISTICO | Rich Aroma Swiss Water Decaf Medium Roast
This coffee is made by an Italian company from a blend of 80% Arabica beans from Honduras and Central America and 20% Robusta beans from Vietnam. It’s available as whole bean, ground and Nespresso compatible pods. The beans have been stripped of the caffeine using the Swiss Water method and roasted in small batches. This coffee is a medium roast with a strong distinct taste with intense undertones of chocolate, smoke and spice.
- RICH, AROMATIC, FULL BODIED, LIGHTLY SPICY and COCOA-LIKE - Swiss Water DECAFFEINATED - Naturally decaffeinated using water and steam only, no dissolvents or chemicals / Also available as GROUND/...
- ITALIAN ARTISAN GOURMET HAND-ROASTED COFFEE BEANS, ROASTED IN SMALL BATCHES IN LAKE GARDA, ITALY - @Aromistico is a proud artisan producer member of The Guild of Fine Food / Buying a coffee gift? You...
- CRAFTED WITH DECAFFEINATED ARABICA FROM THE RAINFOREST OF HONDURAS AND CENTRAL AMERICA, WITH AN ADDED HINT OF SPICE FROM BEANS GROWN IN THE ALTITIDES OF VIETNAM. Using carefully balanced and crafted...
5) Simmer Down Decaf Medium Roast, Organic Decaffeinated Coffee Beans, Marley Coffee, from The Family of Bob Marley, 1kg
I did wonder if the link to Bob Marley was just a marketing gimmick but this is genuinely good coffee. It’s a medium roast so it’s not a strong taste. They use 100% Arabica beans and it is decaffeinated using the Swiss Water method. It has a chocolatey, nutty flavour with a hint of spice. You have a choice between buying this coffee ground or as beans to grind yourself.
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6) Lavazza Caffe Decaffeinated Ground Coffee
All Lavazza coffee is fantastic and their decaffeinated is no exception. They have been decaffeinating this coffee at their Mokadec Factory in Pozzilla, Italy since 1991 using the carbon dioxide method. It’s a medium roast using a blend of 100% Arabica beans from South America, Africa, South Asia. It has a lovely rounded flavour with a hint of sweetness that most drinkers won’t realise is decaf. It’s available as both whole beans and ground.
- 8 x 250 g packs of decaffeinated coffee with medium roasting, a light taste and a level 3 intensity
- This decaffeinated blend has a full-bodied flavour with notes of dried fruit
- This ground coffee can be used with a moka pot, filtered coffee machines or a French press
7) Brown Bear Cool Brazil, Decaffeinated Coffee Beans, 1 kg
If you are wondering why a British coffee company has used ‘Brown Bear’ for their company name, it’s because these guys really like bears. They donate 5% of all of their sales to Free The Bears UK, who rescue vulnerable bears in South East Asia. This coffee is available as both beans and ground. They use the Swiss Water method of decaffeination. The taste is medium roast with a definite nutty taste on top of creamy chocolate. Highly recommended, even if you’re not that fond of bears.
- Smooth, creamy body with notes of dark cocoa and hints of walnut.
- Decaffeinated using the unique Swiss Water Process, which uses water to decaffeinate the beans and is certified 99.9% caffeine free.
- 5% of sales donated to Free the Bears UK Charity with over 950 bears rescued & bear sanctuaries across SE Asia.
8) Cafe Don Pablo Decaf Gourmet Coffee Colombian Decaffeinated Medium-Dark Roast Whole Bean 907g Bag
If you want to treat yourself then this is the coffee for you. It’s more expensive than most but it is the strongest decaf coffee I have tasted. It’s made from 100% Arabica beans and roasted in small batches to order. It has a smooth toffee and chocolate flavour with a citrus tang to offset the sweetness but without being acidic. They are so confident in their coffee they offer a refund if you don’t like it!
- All Natural Swiss Water Process decaffeinated Colombian Supremo
- Caramel and cocoa with a hint of citrus. Smooth, clean finish with low acidity
- Medium-Dark Roast - Whole bean Arabica Coffee - GMO Free
9) Union Decaffeinated Blend Coffee 200 g
Union offer Rwandan and a Peruvian decaffeinated coffee beans but usually I prefer this blend which combines the two but is somehow a stronger flavour. They use the CO2 decaffeination process on 100% Arabica beans. They hand roast small batches at a time for freshness. The flavour is rich and full bodied with treacly undertones and a hint of spice.
- Cafetiere grind, 100% Specialty Arabica Union Direct Trade coffeeOur decaffeinated coffee doesn't compromise on flavour or character This coffee is indulgent, rich and full bodied with hints of dark...
- 1 star 2015
- OUR STORY:San Francisco, the 90s The rumblings of a café culture revolution The smell of freshly roasted coffee lingered in the air
10) Moreish Decaf Coffee Bags – Swiss Water Decaffeinated (50 Coffee Bags)
If you haven’t tried coffee bags yet then these are a good place to start. You use them just like a teabag and you can have a great cup of coffee in just a few minutes. This coffee is made from 100% Brazilian Arabica beans and decaffeinated using the Swiss Water process. You get a medium roast, full flavoured coffee with a sweet, nutty taste.
- Great tasting Brazilian coffee without the caffeine
- Swiss Water Decaffeinated
- All of the flavour, none of the kick - guilt-free
11) Taylors of Harrogate Decaffe Coffee Bags – 10 enveloped bags (Pack of 3, total of 30 Coffee Bags)
Taylors are better known for their tea but they also sell coffee. Their decaf is made from 100% Arabica beans sourced from Brazil and Central America. They use a version of the Swiss Water Method to produce their decaffeinated coffee. It’s a medium roast but not weak with a well-rounded flavour with hints of toffee. Coffee bags are not instant coffee but they are put in cup of hot water like a tea bag. They make a drink similar to filter coffee and if you like a stronger or weaker taste you can adjust how long you leave the bag in. I like my coffee strong so I tend to leave the coffee bags in about 5 minutes and I squeeze it several times. I wasn’t sure about coffee bags as a concept at first but I was quickly converted. They are an easy, quick, mess free way to get a decent cup of coffee.
- Taylors of Harrogate Decaf Coffee Bags
- Our clever individually-wrapped bags brew right in your cup, for proper coffee with no fuss
- This coffee has all the flavour without the kick - it's smooth and malty with a guilt-free note of caramel
12) Black Donkey Coffee Roasters – 50 ESE Coffee Paper Pods 44mm (DECAF)
If you are not familiar with ESE pods they look like a flat teabag and can be used in most espresso machines (but check the manual). Black Donkey ESE pods are full flavoured and good value for money. These ESE pods are made from mainly Robusta beans sourced from Columbia, Brazil, Kenya, Ethiopia and India and roasted in small batches to maintain a strong flavour. While Robusta beans are traditionally regarded as inferior to Arabica this is a great smooth coffee, with hints of toast and cocoa.
- VALUE ✪ 50 ESE Espresso paper coffee pods (50 servings). 44 mm / 7 grams of roasted and ground espresso per serving. IMPORTANT: these are ESE coffee paper pods, NOT coffee bags
- VARIETY ✪ DECAF coffee blend
- EMOTION ✪ DECAF : to enhance its quality as coffee of thousand opportunities we achieved a sweet taste which leaves the right sign between intensity and persistence
13) NESCAFÉ AZERA Decaffeinated Americano Instant Coffee Tin, 100 g (Pack of 6)
This may be instant and decaf but it is a very good cup of coffee. I usually use one and a half teaspoons to get it as strong as I like but it genuinely tastes lovely. A mix of Arabica and Robusta are sustainably sourced from countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, Vietnam and Indonesia. Although it is instant coffee it has 5% ground coffee added to enrich and deepen the flavour of the coffee without being too gritty. This delivers a smooth, full bodied taste with hints of toasted nuts and cocoa. Nescafe use their own non-chemical method to decaffeinate their coffee. Beans are soaked in water to make caffeine rise to the surface which is washed off with a stream of coffee bean oil. Caffeine is removed from the water and oil by a freezing process. The water and natural oils are then returned to the beans after roasting. The only drawback with this coffee is that is a bit more expensive so it is worth buying multipacks online to bring the price down. It comes in a tin which is reuseable in many ways.
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14) Douwe Egberts Pure Decaff Instant Coffee 95 g (Pack of 6)
Douwe Egberts have been making coffee for over 250 years so it’s not surprising that they have got pretty good at it. Their instant coffee is excellent and the decaffeinated version is no exception. They use the dichloromethane method to remove the caffeine from their beans. They use mainly Arabica beans with a small amount of Robusta. It’s a medium roast so not as strong as some but it is a well-rounded consistently good flavour. The decaf only comes is the 95g size and can be hard to find in supermarkets so getting a 6 pack online is the most economical way to buy it. Of course the best thing about Douwe Egberts coffee is the glass jar with a resealable lid. I don’t know if it actually keeps the coffee any fresher but when empty they can be reused in a hundred and one different ways!
- Strength 3– medium roast
- Pure Decaffeinated freeze dried instant coffee
- Made from a blend of the finest quality beans
15) Nescafé Gold Cappuccino Decaf, Total 48 Sachets
If you like the convenience of an all-in-one sachet then this is a good choice. The powder contains skimmed milk and sugar as well as coffee so all you have to do is add hot water. If you don’t like sugar then there is an unsweetened version. It’s not a strong flavour so I have been known to add half a teaspoon of instant if it is handy. It gets a nice layer of froth on top and has a nice creamy flavour. Like all Nescafe coffee it is made from a mix of Arabica and Robusta beans sustainably sourced from countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Honduras, Vietnam and Indonesia and decaffeinated using their own non-chemical process.
- A decaffeinated instant cappuccino with the same great taste
- Flavourful beans that have been decaffeinated using water
- Made with natural coffee beans and fresh British milk
Not all decaffeinated coffee is the same, so to help we have put together a buyers guide to make your life a little easier and ensure you get exactly what you are looking for.
What Is Decaffeinated Coffee?
The short answer is it’s coffee with the caffeine taken out. It is made from exactly the same coffee beans as regular coffee but one of a number of processes have been used to remove the caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in the seeds, nuts, or leaves certain plants.
The most well-known sources of caffeine are coffee beans, cocoa beans, kola nuts, tea leaves and guarana berries. It can also be made artificially and added to things like soft drinks and medicine. It is classified as a drug because it stimulates the central nervous system, causing increased alertness. Caffeine can give most people a temporary energy boost but some people react badly to it. Too much caffeine can also have an adverse effect on the human body which is why a way to decaffeinate coffee was found.
How Is It Made?
There a number of different ways to decaffeinate coffee but they are all variants on three basic methods. There is the Solvent method, the Carbon Dioxide method (also called the Sparkling Water method) and the Swiss Water method. Some companies have developed their own in house variants of these methods but there’s not much difference. Decaffeination is always carried out on whole green beans before they are roasted.
The Solvent method is the original way to extract caffeine from coffee beans. As the name suggests, the green beans are soaked in water and then in a solution containing a solvent such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. The solution is repeatedly washed over the beans a number of times. This repetition creates a kind of concentrated coffee essence so while the solvent draws out the caffeine little flavour is lost from the beans. The beans are then usually steamed to remove the solvent and after drying they are roasted in the usual way.
Carbon Dioxide Method
The Carbon Dioxide method unsurprisingly uses carbon dioxide to extract the caffeine. The green beans are soaked in water and then put in an extraction chamber. Then compressed carbon dioxide is forced into the chamber, usually at a pressure of 1,000 pounds per square inch, and it dissolves the caffeine. The carbon dioxide is then moved to an absorption chamber and the pressure reduced so it turns back into a gas and the caffeine is left behind. The beans are dried and then roasted as usual. The carbon dioxide can be reused but this is an expensive process.
Swiss Water Method
The Swiss Water method uses water to extract the caffeine. The green beans are soaked in water until all the caffeine is dissolved into the water. All the flavour from the coffee beans is also dissolved into the water. The water is then passed through charcoal filters to remove the caffeine but leave the flavour. They call this Green Coffee Extract or GCE. A new batch of green coffee beans are washed and then soaked in the GCE. The GCE is already saturated with the coffee flavour so it can’t absorb any more from this batch of beans. As a result, the caffeine is dissolved into the GCE with little loss of flavour. The beans are then dried and the usual roasting is carried out.
Can You Tell a Difference?
It used to be easy to tell if you were drinking decaffeinated coffee because it was weak and watery and had very little resemblance to a real cup of coffee. Things have progressed and improved and now you can get decent decaf coffee. There are several brands that I think it is impossible to tell the decaf coffee from the regular version. Decaffeinated will always lose a little flavour during processing so it’s sensible to go for a darker roast than you might usually.
Of the three methods of decaffeination, the Carbon Dioxide method results in the least loss of flavour. The Swiss Water method produces a weaker taste but this is usually compensated for during roasting. The Solvent method affects the flavour of coffee the most. Not only does it remove more of the flavour but some people think they can taste the solvents used as well.
So, could you tell the difference between decaf and regular coffee?
Is There Caffeine in Decaf Coffee?
Decaffeinated coffee still contains some caffeine. It’s important to remember this if you are drinking decaf for health reasons. The amount of caffeine varies according to the method used and where you live.
To qualify as decaffeinated coffee in the European Union and the UK your drink has to have 99.9% of the caffeine removed. However, in the USA decaf coffee is only required to have 97% of the caffeine removed. So if an average mug of coffee is 12-ounce (354 ml) then in America it would have about 5.5 mg of caffeine. In Europe, the same size mug of decaffeinated coffee would contain 1.8 mg of caffeine.
If the Swiss Water method has been used to decaffeinate the coffee it guarantees a 99.9% decaffeinated product.
Is Decaf Coffee Bad For You?
It is understandable that many are concerned decaf coffee may be bad for them. The more processed something is then the more chance there is of it containing something that is harmful to us.
One of the main concerns are the chemicals used during the Solvent method of decaffeination. Methyl chloride is a chemical that is also used in paint removers and ethyl acetate is a chemical used in glue and nail polish remover. However, the solution containing these chemicals is thoroughly washed off the coffee beans before they are roasted. There can be trace amounts of the chemicals left but they are so tiny that they will have no effect on the human body. However if this is a concern chemicals can be avoided by choosing a coffee that doesn’t use the Solvent method to decaffeinate the coffee.
Another concern was a study that showed decaf coffee drinkers had higher cholesterol than regular coffee drinkers. The reason for this was that Robusta beans are used in cheap decaf coffee because they have a stronger flavour than Arabica. However Robusta beans have higher quantities of something called diptenes that stimulates fatty acid production in the body and can increase cholesterol. If this is a concern then make sure you choose decaf coffee made from 100% Arabica coffee.
Is Decaf Coffee Good For You?
Decaffeinated coffee generally has all the same health advantages as regular coffee. The Swiss Water method and the Carbon Dioxide method remove less of the coffee bean’s natural attributes and so they retain most of the health benefits.
Coffee, both decaf and regular, contains a lot of antioxidants and nutrients. These have anti-inflammatory properties which mean they can help lower your risk for a number of diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cancer. An average person gets more antioxidants from drinking coffee than from eating fruit and vegetables.
Decaf coffee contains polyphenols that are good for our gut bacteria and contribute to all the benefits of a healthy gut environment. Research has shown decaf coffee may protect neurons in the brain and so prevent the development of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Decaf can be viewed as better for your health in some ways than regular coffee. Lower acidity means that it causes less tooth damage and less heartburn and indigestions. As well, decaf does not cause some of the undesirable side effects of excess caffeine consumption such as insomnia and jitteriness.
Who Should Drink Decaf Coffee?
Anyone who is concerned about how much caffeine they consume should consider drinking decaf instead of regular coffee. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, particularly younger ones. Pregnant women are also advised to be careful about how much caffeine they have as it can affect their growing baby. The guidelines are less than 400 mgs for the average adult and less than 200 mgs for a pregnant woman.
Is decaffeinated coffee healthy?
Decaffeinated coffee has most of the same health benefits as regular coffee. So it still has all the antioxidants and nutrients that are good for you. In addition, decaf has been found to cause less heartburn and tooth decay.
Why do people drink decaf coffee?
The main reason people drink decaf coffee is because they love the taste of coffee but don’t want the side effects caused by the stimulant caffeine. An adult shouldn’t have more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. So a heavy coffee drinker who has more than four cups a day may want to think about switching to decaf for his fifth cup. Pregnant women are advised to have less than 200 mg of caffeine a day so decaf is a good option.
Is decaf coffee really decaf?
No decaf coffee is completely 100% caffeine free. In Europe decaffeinated coffee has to have less than 0.1% caffeine and in the USA it has to have less than 3%. If the Swiss Water method has been used to decaffeinate the coffee then it will be 99.9% caffeine free.
What is the difference between decaf coffee and regular coffee?
They are both made from coffee beans but decaf coffee has had the majority of the caffeine removed. Cheap decaf coffee tends to be weaker in flavour but high quality decaf coffee can taste so good that it can be mistaken for regular coffee.
Is decaf coffee full of chemicals?
No, decaf coffee is not full of chemicals. If the Solvent method is used to decaffeinate the coffee then chemicals are used for the processing but they are washed off so only trace amounts are left. The chemicals have been cleared as safe to use. If the Swiss Water or Carbon Dioxide method have been used then there are no chemicals involved at all.
What are the side effects of decaffeinated coffee?
Decaf doesn’t really have any extra side effects compared to regular coffee. If you switch from regular coffee you may suffer from headaches and sleepiness due to caffeine withdrawal.
Is decaf bad for blood pressure and your heart?
Decaf coffee is generally considered better than regular coffee as caffeine can raise blood pressure in sensitive people. Decaf coffee can raise blood pressure in people who are not used to it for a short period of time but not in regular coffee drinkers. Not enough research has been done for a definitive answer but some studies have shown decaf coffee does reduce blood pressure levels and heart rates.
Is decaf bad for cholesterol?
It depends what kind of coffee beans are used. Robusta beans can increase your cholesterol. Cheap decaf coffee can be mainly made from Robusta beans as they have a stronger flavour but most high quality coffees use Arabica beans that do not increase your cholesterol.
Does decaf coffee affect kidneys?
According to the National Kidney Foundation coffee consumed in moderation is safe for those with kidney disease. If you are drinking more than three cups a day, especially if syrups and creamers are added, then you may have to watch your potassium levels. The caffeine in regular coffee can cause problems so decaffeinated coffee would be a better choice. In fact, drinking decaffeinated coffee has been shown to lower the risk of kidney stones forming.
Can decaf help with weight loss?
Coffee has no calories if no sugar or milk are added. Scientists have also found that some of the compounds in decaf coffee help with steady weight loss as they regulate blood glucose and reduce fat production.