Poor decaf coffee can’t catch a break. Coffee enthusiasts often dismiss it as “not real” coffee simply because the caffeine has been removed. But even as the bar for coffee — both regular and decaf — rises, the methods of decaffeinating coffee actually haven’t changed much. To break it down simply: There are two basic methods, chemical or water. Either a chemical solvent directly or indirectly removes the caffeine from unroasted beans, or beans are soaked in water. Both methods are time-consuming and costly, which is another reason good decaf can be hard to come by; it just takes more time to make. Each method has pros and cons as well: The water method removes other flavor chemicals that have to be reintroduced to the beans after the caffeine is removed. The chemical method, on the other hand, darkens the beans, making it harder to roast well since they’re already dark.
And while there are benefits to caffeine, there are plenty of reasons to skip it as well: It can contribute to anxiety and sleeplessness, for starters. Some people find caffeine in coffee helps them feel alert, others find it puts them on edge. And sometimes a coffee lover may just want a late-afternoon or evening cup of joe without worrying about tossing and turning later. With the options out there today, there’s no reason for anyone to abstain from coffee simply because they need to abstain from caffeine.
That said, there is still some caffeine in decaf coffee: generally between 2-15 milligrams per 8 ounce cup. Regular coffee, on the other hand, has 80-100 milligrams. It’s a small enough amount that most people won’t notice it, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are choosing decaf for health reasons. But, generally, people who crave a cup of joe without the jitters can still get it safely and deliciously from one of these brews.
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1. Eight O’Clock Whole Bean Coffee The Original Decaf
No need to splurge on a craft roast — this mass market brand is worth a second look (or taste, as it were). Eight O’Clock coffee are made with 100% Arabica coffee beans, which are valued for their milder, fruitier, less bitter qualities. Their medium-roast coffee is also balanced: not too light, not too dark, in both the decaf and caffeinated options. It’s also a whole bean coffee, allowing you to grind it at home for peak freshness and optimal coarseness for your brewing method.
2. SF Bay Coffee Decaf French Roast Compostable Coffee Pods
Coffee pods offer great convenience — and a whole lot of plastic waste. SF Bay’s coffee pods, however, are 100% commercially compostable and work with K cup-style brewing systems. Their 100% Arabica decaf French roast coffee is dark but not overwhelmingly bitter, and is balanced out with creamy, dark brown sugar notes. It’s also had the caffeine removed with water processes, which is rarer in bigger producers in the U.S.
3. Peet’s Coffee Decaf Major Dickason’s Blend
Dark roast coffee, for some people, is synonymous with coffee: it’s just not the same if it’s not rich and dark. Of course, the matter comes down to preference, but if it’s a dark cup you’re after, Peet’s classic Major Dickason blend is a good one to try. The decaf version is the same as the fully-caffeinated, just treated with the solvent method to remove caffeine. This decaf blend comes ground and is best for drip machines and certain pour-over methods.
4. Cameron’s Coffee Decaf Highlander Grog
Flavored coffee, like decaf, can cause heated reactions. But, like so much with coffee, it all comes down to preference. Cameron’s Coffee allows those fans to have their butterscotch and drink it, caffeine-free, too. The Highland Grog is inspired by some of Scotland’s sweetest tastes: rum and butterscotch. Flavored without sugar or artificial sweeteners, Cameron’s Highland grog is free from any syrupy or artificial taste. Drink it black or add a splash of creamer or milk and never buy pricey flavored creamers again.
5. Kicking Horse Decaf Coffee
This coffee has everything: the 100% Arabica coffee is USDA certified organic, fair trade and kosher. Of course, the one thing it doesn’t have is caffeine. Removed using the Swiss water method, Kicking Horse wants their decaf to be just as rich and flavorful as their caffeinated roast. The coffee also comes whole bean for the freshest cup possible. It’s even dark enough to use in an espresso machine for a decaf latte and more.