Five Lies About Decaf You Probably Believe

There have been few beverage categories as vilified as decaffeinated coffee, and for no good reason. Decaf drinkers, after all, might be considered true coffee purists, who drink coffee not for it’s stimulating effects but its delicious flavor. We’ve found a shocking number of people believe these five lies about decaf.

Decaf Tastes Bad

In fairness, most decaf is pretty terrible. But that’s probably not the fault of the decaffeination process. Most decaf is made with cheap, commodity-grade coffee that, quite frankly, was pretty terrible before it was decaffeinated. Modern decaffeination techniques are pretty sophisticated. Programs like Cafe Imports’s Origin Select Decaf have proven that if you start with excellent, specialty-grade coffee, decaf can taste fantastic.

Decaf is Made With Dangerous Chemicals

Decaf is usually made with chemicals that have scary names, like Ethyl Acetate or Methylene Chloride, but don’t worry, your cup of decaf isn’t going to kill you. Ethyl Acetate is a naturally-occurring ester of ethanol and acetic acid. It occurs in fruit, wine, and is often used in perfume. Any residual Methylene Chloride is completely burned up in the roasting process. Still not convinced? Water-process decaf, while more expensive and less efficient, can be certified organic.

Decaf is Caffeine-Free

The decaffeination process removes the overwhelming majority of the caffeine from coffee, but a 8 oz. mug of decaf can still have up to 5 mg. of caffeine. If you’re really sensitive to caffeine, you might want to consider switching to a naturally-caffeine free beverage like chamomile tea.

Baristas Never Drink Decaf

Baristas at quality-minded cafés have to taste a lot of coffee throughout their shift, which means by the time their break rolls around, the thought of any more caffeine can be physically repulsive. Likewise, professional coffee tasters usually spit when doing quality control, but a lot of caffeine is still absorbed. So don’t be surprised if that cup of coffee your barista is quietly nursing between rushes is actually decaf.

Dark Roast Has Less Caffeine

Okay, this myth isn’t about decaf, as much as caffeine levels in regular coffee, but it’s very prevalent (and odd-numbered listicles get more clicks for some reason). Although roast degree affects levels of organic acids like citric acid and malic acid, caffeine levels are not affected.

6 thoughts on “Five Lies About Decaf You Probably Believe

  1. Hold up, Mike. I love your work, but this one is a head scratcher. Of the five lies about decaf, one is sorta true, one isn’t about decaf, and one is a generalization of a global profession? Well, the title got me to click. But I would love to read more about the chemicals used to make decaf, and how levels of caffeine are actually measured. Maybe next time.

  2. Hey Michael, very interesting. I’m cutting down on coffee because I think it was making me run to the loo too much, so a decent decaf might be a nice middle-ground. Previously I would have subscribed to all diet and decaff drinks are rubbish.


    Big John

  3. I found out that Decaff coffee, or regular coffee does cause irregular heartbeat, and does cause palpitations. I know a lot of people say it doesn’t, but in fact it actually does. My boyfriend has been on blood pressure meds, and been on them for a year and a half with no problem. He`s had problems with regular or decaff coffee, and or tea for about two years. If he stays away from all caffeine he’s fine. The minute he has any caffeine, his heart starts to beat out of sync. So in my eyes all coffee, and tea, soda with caffeine is bad. I will leave that as food for thought!

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