Decaffeinated coffee, or decaf coffee, is basically the uncle in the attic nobody talks about, and when they do, it’s never a good thing.
People are quick to jump to the defense of caffeinated coffee and attack the personal choice of another connoisseur.
The truth is, there’s a shroud of doubt and myths surrounding decaf, and it’s time to set the record straight.
Caffeine has seven major myths that surround it on a constant basis.
If you’re considering switching to decaf, these bursts of information will tell you everything you need to know about leaving caffeinated coffee in the rearview mirror.
Don’t worry; you can still enjoy tantalizing coffee, you’ll just find out a few reasons as to why it’s better to brew it at home as opposed to getting it from a coffee shop.
Myth #1: Decaf Has a Burnt Taste
If you’ve ever had bad decaf coffee from a coffee house or a QSR spot, then you probably have that bad taste in your mouth while reading this.
Decaf coffee doesn’t have a burnt taste by nature, and you can prove that right now by brewing decaf coffee at home.
Instead, it’s often neglected by staff because it makes up such a small amount of the coffee drinker demographic.
Many coffee shops have what is called an insulated carafe.
If you’ve gotten decaf from your favorite coffee house before, you’ll notice that they have a special metal carafe instead of the pots on the burner or the reservoirs on the wall.
It’s meant to retain heat without cooking the coffee any further, but that’s not exactly what happens.
Normal coffee has a certain shelf life, and for most big brands, that’s usually between eighteen and twenty-one minutes.
Decaf coffee, however, can have a shelf life of up to sixty minutes.
Even though there’s no direct heat underneath it, the reflective interior is still holding enough heat that you don’t notice a vast temperature difference.
In that pot, the coffee can still oxidize, which causes it to go stale, sour, or deliver that burnt flavor to your taste buds.
It’s not the decaf, it’s the way it’s handled (or mishandled for that matter).
Sometimes it’s not always worth it to wait around for a new batch of decaf, but if you have a few minutes to spare, you can ask your barista to brew a fresh pot anyway so you know you’re getting a fresh, quality cup.
Myth #2: Decaf Has Zero Caffeine
Decaf coffee has caffeine in it! Surprised?
Caffeine can’t be completely removed from the coffee, but it’s branded as decaffeinated (though that’s a blatant lie) because it sells better, and it’s “good enough.”
It’s similar to how we have safe drinking water, but only by FDA standards, where other world health organizations would disagree on the quality of our water.
So it flies under the radar.
The good news in all of this is that the presence of caffeine in decaf coffee is usually extremely minute, as little as 3% to 5% in a standard eight-ounce cup.
That means that you’re getting maybe about 5 milligrams of caffeine, compared to about 95-105 milligrams of caffeine in the same-sized cup of standard Arabica coffee.
Myth #3: Decaf Keeps You Up at Night Anyway
Now that we’ve identified the amount of caffeine in decaf coffee, and understand that there is some, you need to understand how caffeine affects your mind and body to comprehend why it doesn’t keep you up at night, except for very specific situations.
There’s a chemical in your mind that starts production in the morning and doesn’t stop being produced at a rapid rate until nightfall.
It’s called adenosine, and it’s perfectly normal for your brain to create it. It’s like a response from your body saying, “Hey, we’re getting pretty tired and need to recuperate.”
Here’s the thing: caffeine blocks the receptors in your brain that interact with adenosine.
It’s what keeps you alert and awake, aware of your surroundings and with a newfound wind in your sails to tackle that extra task.
If you were told that something was 5% effective, and 95% ineffective of doing something, where would you put your money?
Well, 5% of the amount of caffeine that you would be having is hitting those receptors, and causing a very minor stimulation that doesn’t last for long.
If you have a hypersensitivity to caffeine, it can act as an adenosine blocker for longer, but it’s not going to give you the jitters as normal coffee would.
The lack of caffeine means you also won’t incur the blood pressure spikes, symptoms of insomnia or paranoia, or most of the other negative health effects of increased caffeine consumption.
Caffeine isn’t the devil, but if you’re sensitive to it, then decaf is your best option.
Myth #4: Decaf Coffee Has no Health Benefits
The health benefits of coffee don’t exclusively come from caffeine.
As a matter of fact, most of the long-term benefits don’t come from caffeine at all.
Coffee doesn’t lose everything when it goes through its decaffeination process (which we’ll touch on in another myth). Most of the health benefits of coffee come from chlorogenic acid.
Even decaf contains a high amount of these powerful antioxidants.
Antioxidants help fight against free radicals in your body, which are most popularly known as the cancer-causing cells. Yes, coffee helps fight cancer.
Chlorogenic acid also has a few other health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, insulin regulation and maintaining blood sugar, cardiovascular disease, and anti-inflammatory properties that help treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
There’s also a link to preventing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Coffee is healthy, even if there’s no caffeine in it.
You just won’t receive the same immediate (and short-lived) cognitive performance improvements.
Myth #5: Decaf Coffee is Made from Dirt
We don’t know who started this rumor, but it aged about as well as what everyone was saying at the lunch table during senior year.
This is a short myth debunk because it is so easy to disprove.
Decaf beans are made from regular or green coffee beans and are soaked in solvents and solutions to remove the caffeine.
There’s no such thing as coffee beans that grow without caffeine, and it’s not made out of dirt or fallen coffee beans.
Myth #6: Decaf Coffee is Prepared the Same as Regular Coffee
Decaf coffee is processed entirely differently than standard caffeinated coffee beans.
Decaf undergoes one of four different processes, two of which can damage the beans.
There are indirect and direct solvent solutions, where the beans are soaked in a saltwater solution, and then benzene which helps to extract the caffeine.
Benzene is linked to cancer and AML, though the levels in any coffee are not enough to create a rapid growth of cancer cells in the body.
Then there are less invasive methods of removing caffeine from coffee beans.
There’s the carbon dioxide process, and the sought-after Swiss water process, which is ultra-effective at removing caffeine.
This uses, as you might imagine, water and nothing else.
Through soaking the beans, osmosis is achieved to extract the caffeine, as best as can be done.
You’ll still see similar caffeine levels of 3% to 5% in decaf coffee that has been prepared through the Swiss water method.
Myth #7: Decaf Tastes the Exact Same as Regular Coffee
There’s been a lot of love for decaf in this post, but it’s just not going to measure up to the same flavor profile as a standard cup of full-caffeine arabica coffee.
That’s because it undergoes different treatment, has a different aroma (which is proven to impact taste) and is stripped of caffeine, which does have its own unique flavor variants to add to coffee.
As a result of all of this, it’s much more difficult to craft a good tasting cup of decaf coffee than it is to make a great standard cup of coffee.
Everything has to be tweaked just right, with very little room for error (if any at all). Additives, like creamer and sugar, will also impact the flavor in an unpredictable way.
Since many decaf drinkers like their coffee black, bean quality and brew temperature is even more critical.
What’s Your Preference?
Passing the question off to you, what’s your take on decaf coffee and its effects?
We can reasonably assure that nearly all of the same benefits as standard coffee are present, as well as a good quality of flavor.
It’s a little more difficult to hone, but the lack of jitters and late nights could be enough of a reason to switch.