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Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages.
Many people enjoy drinking coffee, but they want to limit their caffeine intake for personal preferences or health reasons.
For these people, decaf coffee is an excellent alternative.
Decaf coffee is just like regular coffee, except the caffeine has been removed.
This article takes a detailed look at decaf coffee and its health effects, both good and bad.
What is decaf coffee and how is it made?
Decaf is short for decaffeinated coffee.
It’s coffee from coffee beans that have had at least 97% of their caffeine removed.
There are many ways to remove caffeine from coffee beans. Most of them include water, organic solvents, or carbon dioxide.
Coffee beans are washed in the solvent until the caffeine has been extracted from it, then the solvent is removed.
Caffeine can also be removed using carbon dioxide or a charcoal filter — a method known as the Swiss Water Process.
The beans are decaffeinated before they’re roasted and ground. The nutritional value of decaf coffee should be almost identical to regular coffee, apart from the caffeine content.
However, the taste and smell may become a little milder, and the color may change, depending on the method used .
This can make decaf coffee more pleasing to those who are sensitive to the bitter taste and smell of regular coffee.
SUMMARY: Decaf coffee beans are washed in solvents to remove 97% of the caffeine content prior to roasting.Aside from the caffeine, the nutritional value of decaf coffee should be almost identical to that of regular coffee.
How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?
Decaf coffee is not completely caffeine free.
It actually contains varying amounts of caffeine, usually about 3 mg per cup.
One study found that each 6 ounces (180 mL) cup of decaf contained 0–7 mg of caffeine .
On the other hand, an average cup of regular coffee contains about 70–140 mg of caffeine, depending on coffee type, preparation method, and cup size .
So, even if decaf is not completely caffeine free, the amount of caffeine is usually very small.
SUMMARY:Decaf coffee is not caffeine free, as each cup contains about 0–7 mg. However, this is much less than the amount found in regular coffee.
Decaf coffee is loaded with antioxidants and contains nutrients
Coffee is not the devil it’s been made out to be.
It’s actually the single biggest source of antioxidants in the Western diet .
Decaf usually contains similar amounts of antioxidants as regular coffee, although they may be up to 15% lower.
This difference is most likely caused by a small loss of antioxidants during the decaffeination process.
The main antioxidants in regular and decaf coffee are hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols.
Antioxidants are very effective at neutralizing reactive compounds called free radicals.
This reduces oxidative damage and may help prevent diseases like heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes .
In addition to the antioxidants, decaf also contains minor amounts of some nutrients.
One cup of brewed decaf coffee provides 2.4% of the recommended daily intake of magnesium, 4.8% of potassium, and 2.5% of niacin, or vitamin B3 .
This may not seem like a lot of nutrients, but the amounts add up quickly if you drink 2–3 (or more) cups of coffee per day.
SUMMARY:Decaf coffee contains similar amounts of antioxidants as regular coffee. These include mainly chlorogenic acid and other polyphenols.
Decaf coffee also contains small amounts of several nutrients.
Health benefits of decaf coffee
Despite having been demonized in the past, the truth is, coffee is mostly good for you.
It’s linked with numerous health benefits, which are mainly attributed to its antioxidant content and other active substances.
However, the specific health effects of decaf coffee can be hard to determine.
This is because most studies assess coffee intake without distinguishing between regular and decaf coffee, and some don’t even include decaf coffee.
Also, most of these studies are observational. They cannot prove that coffee caused the benefits, only that drinking coffee is associated with them.
Type 2 diabetes, liver function, and premature death
Drinking coffee, both regular and decaf, has been linked with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. Each daily cup may reduce the risk up to 7% .
This suggests that elements other than caffeine may be responsible for these protective effects .
The effects of decaf coffee on liver function are not as well studied as those of regular coffee. However, one large observational study linked decaf coffee with reduced liver enzyme levels, which suggests a protective effect .
Drinking decaf coffee has also been linked with a small but significant reduction in the risk of premature death, as well as death from stroke or heart disease .
SUMMARY: It may also reduce the risk of premature death.
Aging and neurodegenerative diseases
Both regular and decaf coffee seem to have positive effects on age-related mental decline .
Human cell studies also show that decaf coffee may protect neurons in the brain. This could help prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s .
One study suggests that this may be due to the chlorogenic acid in coffee, rather than caffeine. However, caffeine itself has also been linked to a reduced risk of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases
Many studies show that people who drink regular coffee have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but more studies are needed on decaf specifically.
SUMMARY:Decaf coffee may protect against age-related mental decline. It may also reduce the risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Reduced symptoms of heartburn and reduced risk of rectal Cancer
One common side effect of drinking coffee is heartburn or acid reflux.
Many people experience this condition, and drinking decaf coffee may relieve this uncomfortable side effect. Decaf coffee has been shown to cause significantly less acid reflux than regular coffee.
Drinking two or more cups of decaf coffee per day has also been linked with up to a 48% lower risk of developing rectal cancer
SUMMARY:Decaf coffee causes significantly less acid reflux than regular coffee. Drinking more than two cups a day may also help reduce the risk of developing rectal cancer.
Regular coffee has several advantages over decaf
Coffee is probably best known for its stimulant effects.
It increases alertness and reduces feelings of tiredness.
These effects are directly linked to the stimulant caffeine, which is found naturally in coffee.
Some of the beneficial effects of regular coffee are directly attributed to the caffeine, so decaf should not have these effects.
Here are some benefits that probably only apply to regular coffee, not decaf:
improved mood, reaction time, memory, and mental function
increased metabolic rate and fat burning
enhanced athletic performance
reduced risk of mild depression and suicidal thoughts in women
much lower risk of liver cirrhosis or end stage liver damage .
However, it’s worth mentioning again that the research on regular coffee is way more extensive than what’s available for decaf.
SUMMARY:Regular coffee provides many health benefits that do not apply to decaf. These include improved mental health, increased metabolic rate, enhanced athletic performance, and a lower risk of liver damage.
Who should choose decaf over regular coffee?
There’s a lot of individual variability when it comes to tolerance for caffeine. For some people, one cup of coffee can be excessive, while others may feel fine with more.
While individual tolerance may vary, healthy adults should avoid over 400 mg of caffeine per day. This is roughly the equivalent of four cups of coffee.
Increased consumption can lead to increased blood pressure and lack of sleep, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke
Excess caffeine may also overwhelm the central nervous system, cause restlessness, anxiety, digestive problems, heart arrhythmia, or trouble sleeping in sensitive individuals.
People who are very sensitive to caffeine may want to limit their intake of regular coffee or switch over to decaf or tea.
Those with certain medical conditions may also require caffeine-restricted diets. This includes people who are taking prescription medications that can interact with caffeine .
Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to limit their caffeine intake. Children, adolescents, and individuals diagnosed with anxiety or who have trouble sleeping are advised to do so as well
SUMMARY:Decaf may be a good alternative to regular coffee for people who are caffeine sensitive.Pregnant women, adolescents, and individuals taking certain medications may also want to choose decaf over regular.
The bottom line
Coffee is one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
It’s loaded with antioxidants and linked to reduced risk of all sorts of serious diseases.
However, not everyone can drink coffee. For some people, the caffeine can cause problems.
For these individuals, decaf is an excellent way to enjoy coffee without the side effects of too much caffeine.
Decaf has most of the same health benefits as regular coffee, but none of the side effects.
There’s a whole lot of hubbub around decaf coffee these days. Some believe it’s the arch-nemesis of high-quality coffee, others believe it’s unhealthy to consume no matter what.
In fact, we believe specialty decaf coffee is worth falling in love with.
There’s some truth to the rumors about decaf coffee, but we’re not talking about just any decaffeinated beans in this blog. We’re talking about beans that have been grown, processed, decaffeinated, roasted, and brewed with care and passion.
Let’s take a look at why high-quality specialty decaf is worth exploring.
1. It’s Decaffeinated Without Chemicals
Nobody likes cancer-causing coffee, for obvious reasons. That’s why trichloroethylene, one of the first chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee, has fallen out of use since it was discovered to be a cancer-causing agent in the 70’s.
However, the two modern chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee, ethyl acetate and ethylene chloride, don’t have spotless records either. Though the research is less conclusive with these two, would you just rather avoid them and not have to worry about it?
This innovative approach to decaffeinating coffee doesn’t use any chemical other than good ol’ H2O. That’s right—only water. This method is a patented process by Coffex, a Swiss coffee company, though the actual decaffeination facility is in Canada.
Green coffee beans are soaked in the water to create a sort of “green coffee extract” that has all the flavors, oils, acids, and even caffeine. That extract is sent through a carbon filter that catches the caffeine but lets everything else through. The beans then reabsorb the extract and flavors, but this time without caffeine.
Swiss Water decaf coffee is now the standard in the global specialty coffee industry. It’s clean, it produces very little waste, and it uses no chemicals whatsoever.
2. You Can Drink It At Night
Don’t you hate that tension of wanting to drink coffee at night but also wanting to have a good night’s rest? You can’t have them both—unless you’re drinking decaf coffee.
The effects of caffeine on your sleep are well documented. Basically, it ruins our nights if had right before bed, but even a cup of coffee 4-5 hours before going to sleep can cause you to lose sleep quality.
However, to legally be labeled ‘decaf coffee’, the beans have to lose at least 97% of their caffeine. So while they’re not exactly 100% caffeine-free, they won’t be causing you to toss and turn for a few hours at night.
Now you can enjoy a coffee nightcap. No guilt required.
3. It’s Good For Sensitive Stomachs
Does the acidity of coffee ever upset your stomach? That’s a bummer, but decaf coffee can help you here.
You see, the stomach acid issue isn’t actually because coffee has too much acid. The issue arises because your stomach produces extra acid when it comes in contact with caffeine.
So yes, it is often an excess of acid that causes upset stomach after coffee. But no, it’s not because of the coffee acids themselves. It’s the caffeine. But is there a way to enjoy coffee without the discomfort?
Of course, that’s what this whole blog’s about: decaffeinated coffee! 97% less caffeine means your stomach doesn’t respond by creating too much acid. Thus, no stomach ache.
4. You Can Enjoy It All Day, Jitterless
I don’t know about you, but coffee sometimes gives me the shakes. My fingers wiggling uncontrollable and I can’t hold things like pencils still. It’s annoying, it’s embarrassing, and it always follows days when I’ve drunk more coffee than normal.
But sometimes I want to drink coffee all day. It tastes delicious, after all.
Decaf coffee gives you an avenue to enjoy the rich flavors of coffee without having to suffer the consequences of over-caffeination. If you have issues holding back when it comes to coffee (or if you just like an extra cup now and then), give decaf a try. Your fingers won’t be jittering all over the place after the fourth cup.
5. The Flavors Are Delicious As Ever
Ah, the biggest complaint with decaf coffee is that the flavors are never the same. That is true... for most decaffeination methods.
For other methods, like the Swiss Water process and the crazy-expensive CO2 process, it’s not true. Because these processes are so simple and don’t use solvents that cause changes in the coffee’s chemical makeup, they don’t cause much change in the flavor either.
Granted, not every coffee goes through the Swiss Water process and comes out as stellar as it used to be. Some beans, for whatever reason, come out a little on the flat side flavor-wise. But for the most part, Swiss Water beans don’t lose the magic.
How much caffeine is in Decaf Coffee?
Ten years ago there were many different answers to this question. Caffeine content varied a lot depending on the coffee, and method of decafination.
Today, most decaf coffee contains only trace amounts of caffeine. The EU requires 99.9% of caffeine be removed.
The USA only requires 97%, but since modern decaffination processes result in almost zero caffeine. This doesn't seem to factor in to the equation.
Milligrams of caffeine per brew
Does decaf still wake you up?
Yes, while there is almost no caffeine in decaf coffee, the psychological effect of drinking it can still give you a boost in energy and mood.6
Personally, the first sip of coffee gives me an instant boost—even though the effect of caffeine isn't instantaneous.
It also seems that just the smell of coffee is enough to wake you up
Let’s take a look at 8 benefits of decaf coffee down below!
1. Decaf Coffee is Rich in Vitamins
Coffee is a rich source of magnesium, potassium and manganese which all help the body cells to absorb other nutrients. Decaf coffee is rich in Vitamin B3 (Niacin) that helps remove toxic substances generated by stress from the body. It also has Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) that helps to improve the immune system and Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) that all help to break down carbohydrates and keep the body adequately balanced.
2. Decaf Coffee Helps Burn Calories
Decaf coffee contains healthy amounts of resveratrol— which is a plant compound that acts like an anti-oxidant. The resveratrol in coffee is what brings about the bitter taste. Studies have shown that resveratrol influences the enzyme that controls cholesterol production and is essential in burning fat and balancing fat metabolism.
If it’s as easy as drinking coffee to burn calories, why not!
3. Decaffeinated Coffee Reduces Heart Disease
Medical scientists have done research and linked drinking decaf coffee to reduced liver enzyme levels, suggesting a protective effect. Decaf coffee also has Ferulic acid, which is effective at neutralizing free radicals in the body, reduce oxidative damage, and help prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
4. Decaf Coffee Helps Maintain Healthy Memory
Decaf coffee contains phosphorus that helps the brain improve memory while the chlorogenic acid is reputed to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The nutritious elements in coffee have correlated with hindering age- related mental decline.
5. Helps Reduce Inflammatory Arthritis
The University of British Colombia and Harvard Medical School created a report on men and coffee habits that they named “Arthritis and Rheumatism” in May 2007. The study reported that men who drank 4 or more cups of decaf coffee in a day lowered the risk of developing gout as compared to men who did not drink coffee.
If you didn’t know, gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis developed with people that have higher levels of urine acid in their blood.
6. Awake During the Day, Asleep During the Night
The caffeine in regular coffee, when taken in excess, can overwhelm the central nervous system, causing anxiety, restlessness and trouble falling asleep. Switching to decaf coffee eliminates the effects of caffeine, while giving you your morning wake-up call and at the same time, not keeping you up at night!
7. Feeling Queasy Will be a Thing of the Past
Caffeine has different effects on different people. People who are sensitive to caffeine, those with medical conditions, or on prescription pills that may not interact properly with caffeine, should change to decaffeinated coffee. It has a reduced risk of acid reflux and heart burn caused by caffeine. Pregnant women and children are also advised to stick to decaffeinated coffee if they cannot avoid coffee altogether.
8. Reduced Risk of Colorectal Cancer
Researchers at the Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center of Keck Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC) did a study that was published on April 1, 2016, showing that coffee consumption can decrease the risk of getting colorectal cancer.
According to them, the melanoidins generated from the bean during the roasting process have been theorized to improve colon mobility. Diterpenes found in beans called cafestol and kahweol may prevent cancer by developing the body’s defense against oxidative damage.