Caffeine / Coffee Drinking / Cold Brew

Yes It Is Okay to Drink Decaf Coffee

People who know me understand I love coffee and have a good amount of coffee each day. But I fight some battles in ongoing medical concerns and prevention for ones I’m prone to.

This means I drink some half-caffeinated coffee and some decaffeinated coffee as my total daily coffee intake. This is because caffeine is a stimulant. A good stimulant overall, but like chocolate, it’s good for you in moderation.

Some of us need to moderate it more than others.

Much of my personal writing is geared towards people like me, who want to drink the coffee and take care of their health at the same time. Some with medical conditions. Some without. My writing is made to work for all people, except for those rare few who have extreme reactions to caffeine and can’t even have a small amount of it.

Recently, a coffee business I had followed and admired spoke up about decaf coffee. They were professional, yet the article did not set well with me.

Forgive me. I am not citing the article here. This is a good company, with an excellent product, so do not want to tarnish their name.

What got to me wasn’t that they were informing people that there’s still caffeine in the decaf coffee. It was the attitude that decaf coffee cannot be as good as regular coffee.

I’m here to declare “Decaf Coffee Is Coffee Too.” And that those of us who have to watch our caffeine intake, count also. We should not be talked down to, or excluded from the “premier coffee drinkers club” of the world.

The bean is more than the caffeine. In the old days, before people knew how to use a good bean and a good brewing method, it was just about the caffeine. The taste was acquired, not necessarily “good”.

We actually NEEDED the stimulate for the hard labor we had to do. Ranching long hours on horseback, pushing through to the enemy lines in battle, plowing the fields with oxen, etc…

We believe we need caffeine as a stimulant today, but if we were honest with ourselves, we don’t. We have advanced knowledge of diet and exercise to help us through the stress and laziness of our now cushy lives. (Cushy in comparison to the older days.)

Nowadays, coffee tends to stimulate us in other ways. Coffee has become a very personal experience versus just being a stimulant.

  • Stress relief for meeting our day. Yes, some of that is the caffeine at work, but I’ve observed from coffee drinkers that it’s the dependable routine and total experience of it. The warmth of the cup, the aroma that fills our nostrils and relaxes us while perking us up at the same time, the atmosphere we habitually create to enjoy this cup of coffee in fuels our mind and body.
  • We connect with others. For many, coffee is socialization time. Farmers and ranchers meet every morning at their local coffee venue for a cup of brew. Friends go out for a cup of coffee every now and then. Lonely freelancers get out of their isolated office to work around people and feel “human” again. After church coffee time. The list goes on and on.
  • A healthy boost to our day. When done right, coffee is full of antioxidants and other health boosting items we need. Numerous studies show how beneficial drinking coffee can be.

There’s a few points I want to make through this article:

  • There is a chemical free method for decaffeinating coffee.
  • How to count a cup of decaf coffee in your daily intake.
  • How to ensure you’re drinking the best tasting decaf cup of coffee.

A few pieces I read around the internet by coffee writers are written specifically to influence people to drink coffee for the caffeine. They are biased against decaf coffee focused on how decaffeination of the coffee bean is a chemical process. How it alters the bean.

It’s true. There are methods that use chemicals to take caffeine out of coffee. And they want you to believe this degrades your coffee, tastes bad, and is bad for you.

Maybe it is bad, maybe it isn’t.

Still, if you’re like me, you do wish to avoid chemical processing. I am sensitive to chemicals, so I feel this is wise. If you’re one of my regular readers about healthy coffee drinking, then it may be wise for you too.

There is another method: the water process. As the name suggests, it lets water do the work rather than chemicals.

Luckily, many roasters feel this is the best decaffeination method and it is easy to find decaf coffee beans created by the water process. Just ask your roaster about their decaf. Read packages on decaf coffee. Chances are, if it uses the water method, it will say.

Click here for an article on different methods of decaffeinating coffee at Scientific American. 

Click here to learn about Swiss Water Process.

Click here for information on the decaffeination processes at Specialty Coffee Association’s website.
Decaf coffee is said to have 96-99% of the caffeine removed from the bean.

During the decaffeination method, most of the caffeine is removed from the bean. This means your cup of decaf coffee can have 5mg or less of caffeine in it.

Still, that is misleading. Based on method, processing, and size of drinks this amount varies. Consumer studies have found amounts in decaf coffee at establishments ranging from 2mg to 20mg. If you’re watching your caffeine intake, be aware fo where you get your coffee and find out the verified caffeine content of their drinks.

Once verified that the decaf coffee amount is low, this is great for those who have to watch their caffeine intake. The amount is minute.

For people like me who drink a lot of cold brew coffee, be aware of how much concentrate you use in your drinks. My decaf cold brew lattes tend to be made strong at a 1 part coffee concentrate to 1 part milk/water. For my average drink, it makes the latte have about 14mg of caffeine.

Just a note: watch out for your friends. If they’re one of the unlucky ones who cannot have any caffeine whatsoever, don’t let them mistake decaf coffee for something safe. Unless directed by their doctor, they should avoid all decaf coffee also.

Many factors go into making the best cup of decaf coffee.

As with any cup of coffee, a good bean source is essential. Quality beans, preferably free trade. A good roaster will know everything that makes a quality coffee bean from the source from whence it’s grown, to how it’s harvested, to how it’s decaffeinated, and then to how it’s roasted.

Check out this article by Verana Street Coffee on knowing where your coffee comes from.

Some claim coffee decaffeinated with chemical processing does lose taste quality. I don’t doubt that. Hard to imagine any process using chemicals would not affect flavor.

However, water processing to decaffeinate the coffee bean does not sound as taste damaging. I drink a lot of water processed decaf, along with fully caffeinated coffee, and I agree. The flavor is just as good.

How you store your coffee matters too.

This article by Verana Street Coffee says it best.

And how you brew your coffee matters. Follow the instructions for your brewing method. Choose the brewing method according to your own personal preference.

Don’t feel locked into the trusty home brewer. There are so many options to explore and try nowadays. Brewing coffee is an art and once you find the brewing method you love the best, coffee becomes a personal experience rivaled by nothing else.

If you’re looking for a place to start experimenting with different brewing methods try:

  • Cold Brew.
  • The Aeropress.
  • Pour Over Method.

So, go out, or stay in, and proudly have that cup of decaf coffee if you want. You’re not alone. I’ve found many unverified reports stating how decaf drinkers can make up 10-12% of the coffee drinkers.

I’m hoping my professional source has the official information and can verify this for me at our next meeting.

This does not seem unreasonable, judging by how often I see people declare online they drink decaf, or how many times I witness someone buying decaf for home. Or how the roaster I get mine from seems fairly busy selling it.

Starbucks can use decaf espresso for your lattes if you request it. They don’t do enough business to carry decaf cold brew, it seems though.

Unfortunately, there is evidence that Starbucks only has one decaf coffee made with water method: the decaf Sumatra. These statement are a few years or so old, so I cannot confirm that the decaf espresso you get at Starbucks cafes are made using the direct chemical method.

But I have not been able to find current statements saying otherwise either. It is possible that their decaf method is not healthy, by the standards of those of us wanting to avoid the direct chemical method of decaffeination.

For this reason, I only ask for decaf lattes if I’ve met and exceeded my caffeine allowance for the day already. Know your personal limits, choose your decaf coffee wisely, and break the rules sparingly for the better of your health.

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