If you’re looking to cut back on caffeine, decaf coffee can help you take that step back, while still being able to savor that fresh roast aroma in the morning. Though coffee fuels our days, over time we slowly develop a tolerance for caffeine, which means that more is needed for the same effect. You can reset your caffeine clock by taking a break. And thanks to chemical-free decaffeination techniques, like the Swiss Water® Process, you don’t have to sacrifice flavor and quality – or your health – for less caffeine.
We talked with the team at Swiss Water to clear up the misconceptions and answer your questions about decaf coffee. Read through and you might just add one of our specialty decafs to your coffee lineup.
First off, really, what’s the point of decaf?
The point of coffee is the taste, it’s the aroma. Some people may see it as little more than an efficient way to get their caffeine, but that goes against the fact that coffee has become an experience over the past 30 years.
There’s an argument to be made that decaf coffee drinkers are the true purists of the coffee world. They’re not drinking it for the caffeine, they’re drinking it for the flavor, the aroma.
Who drinks decaf coffee?
About five years ago, we saw research on coffee consumption from the National Coffee Association that implied that millennials were the largest consumers of decaf. We were intrigued and performed our own research and confirmed the NCA’s findings. It’s not baby boomers, not pregnant women, but younger millennials drinking the most decaf.
There are various theories, but many of the people in this group are more aware of what’s in their food, they understand the effects of caffeine, and they appreciate a good cup of coffee.
How do you decaffeinate coffee? Do you process it before or after roasting?
We decaffeinate the coffee prior to roasting. For our chemical-free process, we create a green coffee extract by removing all water soluble solids from a giant batch of green coffee. We dispose of those beans at an organic waste site. What remains is a liquid extract.
Then we run the extract through a highly selective carbon filter that targets and removes the caffeine, leaving the other solids. This caffeine free extract is then circulated through the green coffee beans. Because everything else is equal, except the caffeine, it pulls that out of the beans.
Most other processes use chemicals to extract everything and then the remaining solids are returned to the coffee beans. They may even directly bathe the beans in the chemicals. Our process has more finesse, we target what we want to remove and you end up with a better flavor, a better roast.
Is decaf actually caffeine-free?
There’s no such thing as a 100 percent caffeine-free coffee. It does not exist in nature, and no decaffeination process can achieve it. We process our coffee to the highest international standard of 99.9 percent caffeine-free. A few scientific studies have cited levels at two to seven milligrams per eight ounce cup of decaf coffee. That compares to an average of 80 to 100 milligrams in a regular coffee.
So is it okay to drink a lot of decaf coffee?
You’d need 14 or more cups of decaf to hit what’s in one regular 8 ounce cup. So most people could drink quite a bit. Of course, each person’s caffeine tolerance and health impacts are different so what’s okay for one person may not be for another.
Is decaf coffee better for you?
There’s a lot of research on the benefits of coffee and most studies have found that the health benefits of drinking coffee, e.g., antioxidants, hold true with decaf. For people with negative responses to caffeine, certainly decaf could have positive health benefits. At the end of the day, when you use a high quality decaffeination process, it’s the same, just without the caffeine.
Note: A 2018 study found evidence that coffee, both regular and decaf, could support a longer life, among other health benefits.
In the past, decaf coffee had a reputation of being, well, not so good. Can decaffeinated coffee be specialty coffee?
Producing decaf has additional costs because there’s an additional step in the farm to cup journey. In the past, companies wanted to recoup those costs in a value-price driven market, so they would buy the cheapest coffee and use an inexpensive decaffeination process, which resulted in really bad tasting decaf.
But if you put a great coffee through a high quality process, you’re going to have a great coffee on the other side. With the Swiss Water® Process, flavor is paramount and we’re able to get as close to that original bean as possible.
We work closely with roasters, like Allegro Coffee, to source coffee from their existing supply chains and use the same high-quality beans that are used in their regular line. We cup a lot of coffee and have a team who does nothing but roast and cup. Last year, we tracked well over 4,000 coffees. We always keep some of the original green coffee and compare that before and after.We’ve had a lot of success working with the specialty world to the extent that we’re the primary decaf supplier for specialty coffee.
Allegro Coffee has a deep lineup of decaf coffees. What’s your favorite?
They’re all great, but coffees from Latin America – like Colombia, specifically – typically deliver a balanced sweet body, good acidity. Allegro has a wide range of everything from light to dark roast as decaf, and even single origin coffees, like their Ethiopia Homacho Waeno.
One of the things that makes a difference at Allegro Coffee is that they demand quality first and foremost, but also that the coffee meets organic and social certification requirements. There aren’t a lot of companies of their scope that consistently produce so many different products so nicely. There’s a real concern for the coffee there.
Do you have more decaf coffee questions? Drop us a line.
Whether you promised to cut back on caffeine this year or are just looking for a decaf alternative that tastes great, Allegro has a great variety of blends and single origins, light roast to dark roast. Check out the full selection here.