In this article, we are going to tell you everything you need to know to buy the best decaf coffee beans out there.
Decaf coffee has gotten a bad reputation for poor quality. But nowadays, and with the right choices, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Armed with the best decaf coffees, you no longer have to compromise to enjoy a great-tasting brew minus the jolt of caffeine.
So, let’s get this decaffeinated show on the road.
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Best Overall: Lifeboost, Medium Roast Decaf
Decaffeination Method: Swiss Water Process
Flavor: Nutty & chocolatey
Best Instant Decaf Coffee: Waka Coffee, Colombian Decaf
Decaffeination Method: Natural Ethyl Acetate Process
Flavor: Citrus & chocolate
So, in the search for the best-tasting decaf coffee beans, we have done a lot of research and we are pretty happy with the top 11 we have whittled it down to. You can check out what to expect from the recommended decaf coffees and what makes them so good.
Best Organic Decaf Coffee
Lifeboost Organic Medium Roast Decaf Coffee
If you’re looking for a low-acidity, healthy, mycotoxin-free, organic decaffeinated cup of joe then Lifeboost’s decaf coffee is your answer.
From a single farm in the Mt. Kilambé region of Nicaragua, Lifeboost specializes in coffee that ticks a lot of boxes. From an ethical coffee viewpoint, the coffee beans are certified Organic, Fair Trade, and Shade Grown. Plus, your health is prioritized as a third-party tests for mycotoxins and they are naturally low-acid coffee beans. The result is a stomach-friendly, delicious, and healthy cup of coffee.
The farm where Lifeboost’s Nicaraguan coffee is grown is situated 5,700 feet above sea level where it’s shaded by Guava trees. The altitude allows the coffee cherries to slowly ripen and for the delicious complex flavor compounds to develop.
Being a company devoted to healthy coffee, it will not surprise you to learn that they use the Swiss Water method to remove the caffeine from their organic decaf coffee beans.
They’ve recently updated their website to look much cleaner and more professional, moving away from the “crazy health food” look they had previously. The full range of Lifeboost coffee beans is the real deal. They sell a few decafs, but their medium roast is the best organic decaf coffee in the range offering up sweet tropical fruit notes with caramel, nuts, chocolate, and a ridiculously smooth finish.
Kicking Horse Decaf Dark Roast Coffee
Kicking Horse Coffee has one of the best workplace views – the Rocky Mountains. When creating this blend, they had just one mission: to make their decaf coffee taste just like all their other coffees – big, bold, and full of flavor.
They decaffeinate using the Swiss water process to protect those precious flavor oils. Then, the decaf coffee beans are dark roasted to give that caramelized smokey richness that many love from their coffee.
To create that signature, punchy flavor that Kicking Horse is so well known for, they use a blend of Central and South American 100% Arabica coffee beans. All of their beans are also Organic, Shade Grown, and Fair Trade certified so you are not only buying the best decaf coffee for flavor but also for ethics.
As soon as you open the packet, the aroma of dark chocolate and hazelnuts is intensely inviting. When brewed (ideally in a French press or espresso machine), you can enjoy notes of roasted nuts, chocolate, and dried fruits with a mellow finish and just a hint of smoke.
Overall, it is remarkably well-balanced for a dark roasted decaf coffee and makes an excellent decaf espresso.
Best of the Rest
Volcanica – Costa Rica Tarrazú Decaf Coffee
From one of the world’s best coffee-growing regions, this decaffeinated medium roast shows off exactly what makes Costa Rican coffee so irresistible. The rich, clean flavors shine through. And, having used the superior chemical-free Swiss Water Process to remove 99.9% of the caffeine, you can enjoy it right before bed too.
Tarrazú boasts some of the highest coffee farms in Costa Rica. The result is slow-ripening fruit that develops more complex flavors in the coffee cherries.
Renowned for its excellent coffee quality, it was common to see coffee from other Costa Rican coffee regions labeled as “Tarrazú coffee” to increase its value. But, rest assured you are getting the real deal with this offering from Volcanica Coffee.
Flavors of apple, citrus, and orange dominate the taste profile of this Costa Rica decaf coffee, with a full body and refreshing acidity on the finish. The burst of flavor is certainly not held back by being decaf coffee beans.
Stumptown, Trapper Creek Decaf
Stumptown Coffee Roasters have a hard-earned reputation for high-quality coffee beans. And their decaf offering certainly lives up to the high standards.
A blend of Colombian and Central American coffee beans, Stumptown have taken a big swing at their signature decaf blend. Using beans from some of the best coffee-producing countries means you have to treat them with respect. The medium-dark roast and Swiss water process represent the respect they have for these exceptional beans.
The result is a rich, full-bodied cup of joe. When brewed, you get a classic profile of dried berries, bitter chocolate, and graham cracker. So if you’re looking for a decaf that tastes like “coffee”, this is an excellent choice.
Out of the Grey – Sumatra Mandheling Decaf Coffee
Mandheling is actually an ethnic group on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, rather than a place. But, for a long time, the name was used to describe particularly high-quality Indonesian coffee.
These days, it’s more about branding than anything else. But a superb quality Sumatra Mandheling decaf coffee – like this one from Out of the Grey – is a breathtaking experience not to be passed up.
To make this specialty coffee, the Sumatran coffee beans are sourced from high-altitude farms between 4,000 and 5,000 feet above sea level. The focus is on getting only the highest quality coffee cherries so they are hand-selected at least twice, and many are triple-picked.
Whilst you can choose this whole bean coffee with or without caffeine, both enjoy the same great flavor thanks to the use of the Swiss Water Process. So, you can brew up a full-bodied, smooth, rich cup of joe filled with spicy, earthy tastes.
Equator Coffees – Eye of the Tiger Blend
In the coffee world, Equator Coffees are one of the good guys. They are B Corp Certified and work directly alongside smallholder farms to pave the way for sustainable farming practices.
This decaf blend is constantly evolving as different coffees come into season. Its current iteration is a stunning mix of heady aromatics and rich, complex flavors. They love this blend so much that they serve it in their cafes.
We recommend brewing this decaf coffee as an espresso. This best shows off the cacao and marmalade notes with pomegranate and roasted nuts balancing out the sweetness. Equator recommends aiming for a 1:2.05 coffee in to espresso out ratio in 27 seconds for the best flavor.
Koa Coffee – Swiss Water Decaf 100% Kona Coffee
Kona coffee is widely regarded as some of the finest coffee you can buy. And the Koa Coffee Decaf Kona does not disappoint.
As a company, Koa Coffee only sells 100% Kona coffee beans, so you know you are getting the real deal. Unfortunately, there are lots of “Kona blends” and other labels that claim to be Kona coffee whilst only containing a small amount from the famous coffee region in the Hawaiian islands. These other imitation blends are far inferior and not worth your time.
The decaf Kona coffee is grown on the slopes of the Mauna Loa Volcano, on the west coast of the Big Island. All the coffee is hand-harvested to ensure only the ripest cherries are selected for the Swiss Water Processing. From there, only the best beans make it into the roaster.
Koa Coffee choose the Swiss Water method for decaffeinating their coffee beans, preserving the natural flavors of this unique growing region. The chocolatey, sweetly fruity, honey flavors are typical of Hawaiian coffees, just without the caffeine.
Volcanica House Blend Decaf Coffee
Single-origin coffee is great. But, sometimes, only a blend will really hit the spot, delivering the full spectrum of coffee notes that really pack a punch. This exciting punch of flavor is sorely missing in the lower-quality decaf coffee market but Volanica is happy to swoop in and right that wrong.
As one of the best-tasting decaf coffee varieties in their range, the Volcanica House Blend Decaf Coffee is a combination of Central and Southern American coffee beans. It is a match made in heaven, combining the big sweet fruit notes of Central America with the full body and bold acidity of Southern American beans.
Using the Swiss Water Process removes 99.9% of the caffeine whilst preserving the incredible natural flavors of the coffee beans. Overall, they create a great-tasting brew bursting with big fruity notes, a full body, and a bright, zesty finish. If you like a full-frontal flavor experience, this is the best decaf coffee for you.
Fresh Roasted – Indian Monsoon Malabar Water Decaf
Monsoon Coffee is a unique processing style hailing back to the days of the British East India Company.
At the time, coffee beans would be subjected to the monsoon rains and winds before being exported. This exposure completely neutralizes the acidity in the coffee giving an incredibly smooth flavor profile, whilst also being bold and often earthy.
From the Malabar coast in Kerala, Southern India, this coffee is similar to Giling Basah (wet-hulled) coffee in Indonesia. What makes them so similar is their full-bodied, earthiness. However, Indian monsoon coffee has almost no acidity giving it a slightly sweeter feel and an incredibly smooth finish.
This unique decaf coffee from Fresh Roasted is rich, intense, and full-bodied. There are flavors of chocolate, earthiness, and dried fruit all with an incredibly soft finish. It truly is a unique coffee style that is a must-try on your coffee drinking exploration.
Best Instant Decaf Coffee
Sometimes it just isn’t possible to brew with freshly ground coffee – you can’t take your full home coffee set up on a business trip or camping. But does that mean you have to settle for inferior coffee?
Absolutely not! The world of instant coffee is a million miles from where it used to be. Now, you can get instant coffee that isn’t too far from the real thing, even in instant decaf coffee form.
Waka Coffee 100% Arabica Colombian Decaf Instant Coffee
Ok, so instant coffee might not be the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about quality coffee. But not everyone has the time or bag space to really get down to the specifics of grinding and brewing. So, Waka Coffee is leading the charge in quality instant and decaf instant coffee.
They use 100% medium roasted Arabica coffee beans from Colombia that are freeze-dried to lock in all the flavor. All you have to do is add hot water. Et voila – the instant decaf coffee dissolves leaving you with a delicious brew in seconds.
Much lauded across the coffee community for the quality and flavor of their instant coffees, Waka’s Colombian decaf coffee is a superb option for anyone looking for convenience but without compromising on taste.
Freeze drying is more expensive than other methods of making instant coffee but it preserves the flavor much, much better. You can seriously taste the difference. So it’s pretty obvious why Waka is one of the most popular instant decaf coffee brands.
Waka Coffee is also aware of the issues around water usage in coffee production. To combat this, 4% of their profits go to providing clean drinking water to the world’s poorest coffee-producing nations. So, you can feel good about your coffee purchase from more than just the flavor standpoint.
Best Decaf K Cup
Organic Coffee Co. – Gorilla Decaf
If you have a single-serve Keurig machine at home then all this talk about the best decaf coffee beans is a bit redundant. But you also don’t have to settle for poor quality; there are excellent decaf coffee options for your K-cup machine. And, at the top of that list is Organic Coffee Co’s Gorilla Decaf.
Using Central American beans, this decaf coffee blend is Swiss Water Processed as well as being shade grown, certified organic coffee beans.
The pods are also made from plant-based materials so they are certified compostable. So, you don’t need to worry about the environmental damage of a big pile of used coffee pods. Plus, they work in all Keurig machines.
After roasting, the coffee is packed straight away to give the fullest flavor possible – no stale-tasting, bad decaf coffee here. However, being a light roast, it’s a more delicate style that might not be to everyone’s taste.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring organic compound found in coffee seeds. It evolved as a poisonous defense mechanism against insects, stopping them from eating the precious seeds.
So the job of decaf coffee brands is to remove this caffeine for which there are a few complex processes they can opt for.
Before roasting, the green coffee beans are put through a decaffeinating process to remove as much of the naturally occurring caffeine as possible. Depending on the method used, it is usually possible to remove 97-99% caffeine from the beans. But never 100%.
Decaffeinating agents, either natural or synthetic, are used alongside water to facilitate the process. The result is a cup of coffee, free from a morning pick-me-up or any other side effects of caffeine.
Nowadays, specialty coffee companies are getting better and better at removing caffeine whilst retaining the precious flavor components of the beans. As a result, the quality of decaf coffees has increased greatly over the years. So, you no longer have to sacrifice great flavor for a jitter-free slumber.
So, how do you remove that one specific caffeine molecule from a tightly bound bundle of thousands of different molecules? All without removing any of the ones that contribute to the delicious coffee flavor?
In short: with difficulty.
However, there are 4 methods used in modern coffee decaffeination although they are all pretty similar at their base level. It basically involves soaking the green coffee beans in water and using either a synthetic or natural agent. The methods can be separated into 2 categories: solvent-based processes and non-solvent-based processes. To learn more about the science, jump over to our article including an infographic.
In 1903, Ludig Roselius developed the first commercially successful process for decaffeinating coffee beans. He was a German coffee merchant and, as the story goes, he blamed caffeine for poisoning his father. So, he dedicated his life’s work to finding a way to remove the evil substance from coffee beans.
His process involved steaming coffee beans with a brine solution, then using benzene to extract the caffeine. But this old-fashioned decaf coffee process is no longer used as benzene is a carcinogen.
Decaf coffee lovers have a lot to thank Roselius for. But, in all likelihood, drinking coffee decaffeinated this way would not have significantly extended his father’s lifespan.
So, how do you separate the best decaf coffees from the ones best left on the shelf? Here, we break down our top tips to keep in mind next time you are on the hunt for great-tasting coffee that pairs with a good night’s sleep.
Generally speaking, if you want great-tasting decaf coffee beans on par with their fully caffeinated siblings, then darker roasts are your best bet.
Lighter roasts show off more of the natural flavors of the coffee bean. But, as you go darker, the roasting process imparts more flavor. Since decaffeination alters the chemical makeup of the beans, there will be a slight difference in taste – one that isn’t so easy to mask with a light roast.
As decaffeination takes place before roasting, the darker roasts will taste just as great as regular coffee beans.
HOW YOUR DECAF COFFEE IS MADE
Until recently, the process of decaffeinating coffee beans relied on chemical extraction which left a nasty aftertaste and changed the coffee’s flavor.
So, new methods were developed. And, today, there are 4 main methods used for decaffeinating coffee beans. Of these, two use chemical solvents. If your decaf coffee beans don’t state the method used, it will most likely be one of the solvent-based methods.
For the best decaf coffee beans, look for the Swiss Water Method – it’s the most popular process so it’s easy to find decaf coffee brands using it. It’s the superior choice as it removes 99.9% of the caffeine whilst leaving the flavors unharmed.
Psst.. Want to understand exactly how decaf coffee is made? Check out our easy to follow guide including a handy infographic on the science behind the different decaffeination methods:
Whilst there are a number of different processes used to remove caffeine – and they do remove a very large proportion – it’s not possible (yet) to completely eliminate it. And, to be labeled as “decaffeinated”, the USDA only requires 97% of the caffeine to be removed.
So, if you’re looking to completely remove caffeine from your diet, I am very sad to say that even the best decaf coffees aren’t an option. But, if you are just looking to enjoy coffee without worrying about the negative effects of caffeine, you’ll be absolutely fine.
There is no evidence that decaf coffee is any worse for you than its full caffeine sibling, as concluded by the BMJ in 2017.
All of the decaffeination methods used are safe for consumption. After processing, the finished decaf coffee beans are washed and roasted at high temperatures which eliminate any of the decaffeinating agents used. The FDA tests coffee beans regularly to ensure that no more than 10 parts per million of the agent remain in the beans – a one-thousandth of a percent.
But, it is clear that drinking coffee is associated with many health benefits. And these benefits aren’t turned off by switching from regular to decaf coffee beans. The reason is that the benefits are not linked with caffeine but with other compounds in coffee.
That said, drinking too much caffeine could be harmful to you by increasing cortisol and altering other hormone levels.
One important thing to keep in mind is that these studies are observational. This means it’s only possible to say that drinking coffee is associated with the noted health benefits, not that it caused them.
Improved Liver Function
It has long been believed that drinking coffee has positive outcomes on liver health. But, there was limited research as to whether this was down to caffeine or one of the 1,000 other molecules in java.
But recent studies by both the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and UK Biobank suggest a positive effect from drinking any type of coffee, including decaf. Their separate studies show lower levels of liver enzymes and decreased instances of chronic liver disease.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
It doesn’t matter if regular or decaf coffees are your brew of choice as they’ve both been linked with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. There are even suggestions that each daily cup could reduce risk by up to 7%. However, this doesn’t mean that by drinking 15 cups per day, your risk is zero sadly.
According to a 2013 study, coffee – not caffeine – appears to protect against mental decline and neurodegenerative diseases in the elderly. This is great news for the decaf coffee lovers out there.
There are suggestions that this may be due to chlorogenic acid in coffee, rather than caffeine. Although, there have been more extensive studies into the link between caffeine and the prevention of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s in later life.
Reduced Acid Reflux and Heartburn
Heartburn is a common complaint among coffee drinkers. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons that many people have to give up their beloved daily cup of joe. If this sounds like you, decaf coffee shopping is the way forward.
Decaffeinated coffee has been found to reduce the symptoms of heartburn by up to 48%. So, there’s no need to give up coffee entirely.
Reduced Risk of Rectal Cancer
Drinking 2 cups of coffee per day, either caffeinated or decaffeinated, has also been associated with a greatly reduced risk of rectal cancer. For decaf coffee drinkers, it could even be as much as a 52% lower chance of developing rectal cancer.
Thanks to the Swiss Water Process, you can get decaf coffees where no chemicals have touched your beans during decaffeination and most of the flavor compounds remain intact.
Don’t get us wrong, there is still a difference in flavor compared to regular caffeinated coffee. Not necessarily a bad difference, but a difference nonetheless. But some of the best decaf coffee beans are so close in taste, it’s pretty darn hard to tell the difference.
So, if you’re looking to reduce your caffeine intake for your health, sleep, or just because you want to, it couldn’t be a better time to drink decaf coffee. There are so many choices available from single origins to blends from every corner of the globe. Hopefully, these recommendations will kickstart your decaf coffee journey.
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