Funny image of two people pondering whether there's caffeine in decaf

Decaf has gotten a pretty bad wrap over the years for a myriad of reasons ranging from it being useless to just tasting like garbage. To be fair, the "tasting like garbage" criticism isn't wrong. Historically speaking, decaffeinated coffees have been pretty lackluster and often of poor quality, but a lot of that has to do with the various decaffeination processes being used at the time. Some of these processes can be harsh and negatively impact the quality of the coffee in question. Knowing this, most producers would opt to designate lower quality coffees for destination decaffeination. This way they don't really lose anything (aside from anyone wanting to buy the horrible swill). Thankfully, a lot has changed in the coffee world and decaf no longer has to be an insufferable cup of hot garbage. In fact, it can be most pleasant (shameless plug for our own Decaf Colombia Excelso). If you're tasting coffees and can pick out the decaf, you're doing it wrong. Anyway, that's enough of a history lesson...

One question that I get asked frequently is whether or not there is any caffeine in Decaffeinated Coffee. To put it simply, the answer is yes. Decaf does contain caffeine; albeit, a very small amount when compared to it's fully-caffeinated counterpart. I typically estimate that most decaf is about 90% caffeine free. Most coffees will actually range from 95-99% caffeine free, but for nice round numbers, I like using 90% as a guide for estimating my caffeine consumption with decaf.

So what's up with it not being 100% caffeine free? Seems a little weird, right? I know, it's a bit misleading. Actually, I think there are a number of things about decaf that people tend to find mysterious. For starters, we currently don't have any coffee that is naturally caffeine free. That means, every coffee that's going to be designated as a decaf will have to go through some processing to remove the caffeine from the beans prior to them being roasted. This typically means the coffee will be shipped to a decaffeination plant to undergo various processes (not all of which are created equal). Some decaffeination processes rely on chemical solvents to remove caffeine and can be harsh on the coffee and the environment while others are more natural and gentle. One of the most popular decaffeination processes is known as the Swiss Water Process. There are also a number of variations marketed as Mountain Water Process and etc.

As always, if you have any questions, or would like to know more... leave a comment below!


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