Decaf Coffee – Good or Bad? ( Pros, Cons & Health Benefits)

With a cup of freshly-brewed coffee – this is how a lot of people start their day. From its robust flavor to its intense aroma, coffee has complex characteristics that make it one of the most popular beverages in the world.

However, not everyone loves coffee. Caffeine, a natural stimulant, is also responsible for many side effects. It can cause insomnia, restlessness, vomiting, and nausea, among others. To avoid such, there is one potential solution – drink decaf coffee.

While decaf is a great way to minimize the potential side effects of caffeine, it isn’t necessarily problem-free. Some may not trust the decaffeination process, as well as the chemicals involved in the production.

So, is decaf coffee good or bad for you? Read on and we’ll settle the debate!

What is Decaf Coffee? How Is It Made?

Decaf is shorthand for decaffeinated coffee.

In a nutshell, decaf coffee is made from beans with 97% of its caffeine removed. So, it is technically not caffeine-free. Instead, it has an extremely low level of caffeine. It is made from the same beans used in regular coffee.

On average, one cup of regular coffee contains 95 mg of caffeine. On the other hand, when it is decaf, the caffeine content is significantly reduced to 2 mg.

With the minimal amount of caffeine in decaf coffee, it does not affect many people too much. Nonetheless, others may be extra-sensitive. As such, even the smallest amount of caffeine can have a corresponding consequence.

Curious about how decaf coffee is made? It is an extensive process that requires advanced methods and equipment. It is accomplished through different processes, including the following:

1. Solvent Method

The process of decaffeinating coffee requires agents, and that includes solvents. A chemical solvent is a popular choice. It can be added directly or indirectly. In turn, it selectively removes most of the caffeine in green and unroasted beans.

A common problem with this method, however, is that the chemicals are potentially carcinogenic. To lessen the health risks, it is paramount to use the right chemicals.

Among others, one of the most popular chemicals used in decaf coffee is methylene chloride or dichloromethane. The Food and Drug Administration rules that these chemicals do not pose health risks. Up to ten parts per million of methylene chloride can be used in decaf coffee safely.

Ethyl acetate is another chemical used in this decaffeination method. It is a naturally occurring chemical, which is the same that you will find in ripening fruits. More so, it is a highly volatile liquid, so traces of such cannot be found in brewed coffee.

The solvent method of decaffeinating coffee can be further categorized into two:

Direct Solvent-Based Process

This is the process done in decaffeinating more than 70% of coffee.

It starts by steaming the beans, which is done for at least half an hour. This is an important procedure as it is responsible for opening the pores.

After steaming, coffee becomes receptive to solvents. It is rinsed for ten hours repeatedly for the removal of caffeine. It will use either ethyl acetate or methylene chloride.

Next, the solvent is drained. After which, the beans will be steamed once again. This is an important procedure as it eliminates any residual caffeine.

Indirect Solvent-Based Process

During the indirect solvent method, the beans are first soaked in water at near boiling temperature. This process will take several hours, which will extract flavors and caffeine from the beans.

It is followed by the separation and transfer of water into another tank. This is where the beans are washed for ten more hours. Chemical solvents are used, which will bond to the caffeine molecules. It is then heated, which will evaporate not only solvents but also caffeine in the beans.

To conclude the procedure, the beans will be placed in water. It is vital for the re-absorption of flavors and oils, adding depth and character to coffee.  

2. Non-Solvent Method

As an alternative to decaffeination methods that use chemicals, non-solvent methods are also worth looking at. It is not as common as the procedure earlier mentioned. This is a response to the growing concerns that coffee decaffeination requires using risky chemicals.

Like with the solvent-based process., there are multiple ways by which coffee can be decaffeinated without solvents, including those mentioned below.

Swiss Method

A popular option for chemical-free decaf coffee, it is a method created in Switzerland in the 1930s. By the 1980s, it became more popular and had shown commercial adoption.

To put it simply, the Swiss method relies on the solubility and osmosis of caffeine for its removal from green beans. It starts with soaking the beans in hot water, which is what will dissolve the caffeine.

After soaking, the green beans will go through a charcoal filter. Caffeine is trapped in the filter. However, oils, sugar, and other elements will pass through, making sure that coffee remains flavorful even after the process.

Carbon Dioxide Method

While it may not be as popular as the other decaffeination methods mentioned above, it is one thing you must be familiar with. It is a process that involves selective extraction of caffeine from coffee beans.

It starts with washing the coffee cherries. Next, it is followed by exposure to pressurized liquid carbon dioxide. Through its circulation, caffeine is drawn out from the beans.

The process also includes the evaporation stage. It separates carbon dioxide from caffeine. The result is only a minimal percentage of caffeine is left behind. It is repeated as necessary, then the beans are dried until reaching the desired moisture content.

Pros of Drinking Decaf Coffee

Are you looking for compelling reasons to go decaf in your coffee? Below are some of the most notable benefits.

  • Allows people with caffeine sensitivity to enjoy the aroma and flavor of freshly brewed coffee
  • Helps people sleep quicker because it has minimal caffeine that acts as a stimulant
  • Prevent other common side effects associated with caffeine stimulation, such as palpitations and headache
  • Loaded with free radicals that can help fight cellular damage and prevent various diseases
  • Less acidity minimizes the chances that it can induce stomach ulcers and similar conditions
  • Induces a gastrocolic response that delivers laxative effects
  • Reduces the diuretic effect of coffee to minimize peeing
  • Minimizes the chances of developing caffeine dependence

Cons of Drinking Decaf Coffee

Nonetheless, while decaf has its benefits, it is undeniable that there are also drawbacks. Here are some of the problems worth highlighting.

  • Increased likelihood of suffering from inflammation-related chronic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • Can contain different chemicals that can pose various health risks
  • Inconclusive studies note that it has the potential to increase a person’s cholesterol level
  • Might leave biter and artificial aftertaste because of the chemical agents used during the decaffeination
  • Can slow the nervous system, especially if the decaffeination procedure involved the use of methylene chloride
  • Does not offer the same caffeine boost or jolt of energy as a regular cup of joe
  • May taste flat

Health Benefits of Decaf Coffee

Earlier, we talked about the pros of decaf coffee, and that includes its potential health benefits. Below, we dig deeper and provide you with more information on how decaf can be healthy.

Improve Sleep

Caffeine is often associated with sleep problems. No wonder, it is linked to insomnia. It is more commonly consumed at the start of the day when you need energy. At night, when you want to have a good sleep, it is best to avoid caffeine.

If you cannot resist the urge to have a cup of coffee but are afraid that you will have trouble sleeping, consider going decaf. It is also known for its positive effects on stress reduction, which can help you sleep better.

Reduce Anxiety

Because of the low levels of caffeine in decaf coffee, it is a great drink for people who are suffering from anxiety. The main ingredient in coffee that causes anxiety is caffeine. Therefore, because it is significantly reduced in decaf, it can be a healthier choice.

Low Acidity

Because decaf coffee has low acidity, it has numerous benefits, especially for those who have a sensitive stomach. Regular coffee is acidic, which is why a lot of people mix it with dairy to reduce acidic effects. The decaffeination process results in lower acidity, which makes it beneficial for people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn.

Minimize Risks of Cardiovascular Diseases

Caffeine in regular coffee is associated with heart problems, which is a result of the drink’s stimulating effects. It can make you jittery and result in palpitations. Worse, it is linked to cardiovascular diseases. By having decaf coffee, you are lowering the risk of the latter without depriving yourself of a coffee fix.

Loaded with Antioxidants

Like regular coffee, decaf coffee is also a potent source of antioxidants. As such, it is a great way to prevent cellular damage that free radicals might cause. It is packed with good stuff that can help in the prevention of various health conditions.

Better Brain Health

Studies have also investigated the potential impact of decaf coffee on brain health, and the results were favorable. It can help in protecting the brain’s neurons. As a result, it is instrumental in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Decaf vs Regular Coffee – Which is Better?

If you can pick only one, would you grab a regular coffee or go decaf?

We are here to help you decide. Below are some of the most important things to keep in mind.

Caffeine Content

The biggest distinguishing factor between the two is their caffeine content. Regular coffee can have up to 95 mg of caffeine, which can be too much for some people. Decaf, meanwhile, is not completely caffeine-free. Instead, it has significantly reduced caffeine levels by as much as 97%.

Flavor and Aroma

The reduction of caffeine in decaf coffee is also the one responsible for the difference in flavor and aroma from regular coffee. Decaf tends to be flat and watery while their regular counterparts are strong and bitter. The overall flavor and taste profile, however, will be influenced by many factors, such as the quality of the beans you are using.

Side Effects

From the things mentioned earlier, it can be said that regular coffee has more side effects. High caffeine can result in palpitations, nervousness, anxiety, and sleeplessness, among others. Nonetheless, that does not mean that decaf is completely safe. Decaffeination methods can rely on various chemicals, which can also pose health risks.

Is It Safe to Drink Decaffeinated Coffee?

Yes., it is safe to drink decaffeinated coffee. Nonetheless, as earlier mentioned, it can also be linked to some health problems, such as increasing the chances of having inflammation-related conditions and raising your cholesterol level.

Most of the dangers of decaf coffee stem from the chemicals that are used. However, if the decaffeination process is right, then there will be no harmful chemicals, or their amount will be insignificant. With such, it is crucial to buy only from trusted brands or do your research to know what chemicals are possibly present.

How Much Caffeine is in Decaf Coffee?

On average, decaf coffee will have up to 2 mg of caffeine, which is significantly lower than what you will find in regular coffee. This lower level of caffeine is responsible for the difference in flavor and aroma. To add, it also delivers some benefits, such as avoiding insomnia and anxiety, which are often a result of caffeine stimulation.

Does Decaffeinated Coffee Taste Good?

Yes, decaffeinated coffee tastes good! A lot of people may not even tell the difference from a regular coffee. It can have a slightly sour flavor profile, but it is not too much. The latter can be a result of processing to remove caffeine from the beans.

The key to enjoying optimal flavor is to find the right decaf coffee. Among others, one of the most important is to find one using beans categorized as robust or bold. This way, even after decaffeination, your coffee will not lose its inherent flavor and aroma.

Is Decaf Coffee Good for Weight Loss?

Yes, decaf coffee is good for weight loss! It has low calories, making it the perfect drink to enjoy if you are trying to lose weight. Nonetheless, this is the case only if you consume it on its own. If you add sugar, creamer, or milk, then the extra calories will offset any weight loss benefit that decaf coffee has.

One of the benefits of decaf coffee for weight loss is that it can increase metabolism rate. It slows down the absorption of food, so you won’t easily gain weight. Additionally, it can also control your appetite and burn fat, which are important things in your weight loss journey.

Does Decaf Raise Blood Pressure?

Regular coffee has high levels of caffeine, which can cause a dramatic increase in blood pressure even if the effect is short. It is believed that this is because of blocking a hormone that widens the arteries. With this, minimizing caffeine, such as in the form of decaf coffee, can help lower blood pressure. So, to answer the question, decaf does not raise blood pressure but lowers it instead.

What is the Difference Between Decaf and Caffeine-Free?

When you say that a coffee is decaf, it means that it has been through a decaffeination process using solvent or non-solvent methods. As a result, the caffeine content is reduced significantly. It removes up to 97% of the caffeine in coffee.

Caffeine-free, on the other hand, means that there is no caffeine at all. It can be flavored or modified to have similar flavors to those with caffeine. However, when it comes to coffee, there will still be a small percentage of caffeine left, and hence, it cannot be technically 100% caffeine-free.

Is Decaf Coffee Bad for Your Kidneys?

Yes, decaf coffee can be bad for your kidneys. Even regular coffee can have the same dangers. This is especially the case for people who have kidney stones. The oxalate content in coffee is the potential culprit. If you drink decaf coffee in moderation, however, it is acceptable, even for people who have chronic kidney conditions.

In Closing

Coffee isn’t for everyone!

Others might like the kick of caffeine, but the latter is also the reason why many people do not drink coffee.

As an alternative, you can go decaf instead! It has less tendency to cause palpitations, insomnia, and anxiety, among other problems associated with caffeine.

Nonetheless, it also has its drawbacks, such as the health risks that can be posed by chemicals used in the decaffeination process.

So, is decaf coffee good or bad? It is mostly good!

Leave a Comment