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Does Decaf Coffee Taste Different?

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For coffee drinkers, the regular vs decaf debate is never-ending. Sure, each brew has advantages and disadvantages but for most, the taste is the real issue. Anyone who sits down to have a nice cup of coffee, whether it be hot or cold, wants a flavorful drink they can enjoy. Luckily, for those who have issues with high amounts of caffeine, decaf coffee isn’t as bad as people make it sound. It can taste quite good.

If you’ve considered making the switch to decaf but are on the fence due to the rumors of how terrible it tastes, read on below to learn more about the differences between regular and decaffeinated coffee and whether you’ll be able to taste the difference when trying out this type of coffee.

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Why Do People Drink Decaf Coffee?

People drink decaf coffee to avoid issues with large amounts of caffeine. Coffee is legendary for its ability to wake us up in the morning and keep us moving throughout the day. For people who have a sensitivity to caffeine or would prefer not to deal with the effects it can have on the body, decaf is the best answer.

In a normal cup of coffee, you may find up to 140 mg of caffeine according to the brew. If you are avoiding high levels of caffeine, drinking several cups of regular coffee in a day isn’t the smartest choice. For those who wish to have their favorite drink without caffeine, decaf coffee is the best alternative.

In a cup of decaf coffee, you may find up to 7 mg of caffeine. When compared to the amounts of caffeine in a regular coffee, the difference is substantial. Decaf coffee allows you to enjoy coffee throughout the day without issues with jitteriness or other side effects of high levels of caffeine.

Caffeine sensitivities aside, decaf coffee is also ideal for those who enjoy a late-night or after-dinner cup of coffee. We all know regular coffee’s ability to get us buzzing in the morning, and it has the same effect as the day wears on. If you’d prefer a good cup of coffee in the later hours of the day without staying away all hours of the night, a cup of decaf may quickly become your new best friend.

woman drinking coffee
Image Credit: Ketut Subiyanto, Pexels

The Flavor Is in the Bean

If we’re being honest with ourselves, most people haven’t tried decaf coffee. When offered this less caffeinated version of our favorite brew, most coffee drinkers turn it down. This comes from the stigma decaf coffee faces.

The taste of coffee comes from the coffee bean and the way it is processed. Have you ever tried a brand of regular coffee you didn’t like? Of course, you have. It happens. A regular coffee bean goes through a certain process to make its way into your home. Decaf coffee beans receive a little more attention to help rid them of their levels of caffeine, or as much of it as possible.

Coffee is graded due to the amount of time it is roasted. The levels of grading are light, medium light, medium, medium-dark, dark, and very dark. This grading is how we determine the flavor of the coffee beans we buy. According to your preference, you can choose the grade of coffee you enjoy most. The darker the roast, the richer the taste.

Decaf coffee doesn’t make it to this stage. To create decaf coffee, it’s best to start when the bean is still green. This process can be considered a bit expensive and in most cases isn’t done by the same company or farm that raised the original beans.

green coffee beans
Image Credit: Schmucki, Pixabay

The Process of Decaffeination

There are three main ways of decaffeinating coffee. The most common method involves soaking the beans in a solvent. Methylene chloride and ethyl acetate are the solvents used in this process. Methylene chloride is a solvent known for degreasing and paint stripping while ethyl acetate is a natural fruit ether that is also used in certain nail polish removers.

coffee beans being soak in water
Image Credit: StoryTellers.lt, Shutterstock

When using solvents, the coffee beans are first soaked in water then the solvents are added to draw out the caffeine. The water is then reused several times to pack it with coffee flavor. By the end of this process, your decaffeinated coffee bean is almost as flavorful as it was when first harvested.

Another method of decaffeination is the Swiss water method. During this process, the coffee beans are once again soaked in water but instead of using solvents, the water is filtered through activated carbon to take out the unwanted caffeine. Like with the solvent method, the flavorful water is used to provide the bean with flavor when the process is finished.

Another process of decaffeination is to place the water-soaked beans into a stainless-steel extractor. Once sealed inside, CO2 is used at high pressures to bind with the caffeine and remove it from the coffee beans. Unfortunately, this method is considered quite expensive and may not be used by most companies.

The Benefits of Decaf Coffee

As we’ve mentioned above, decaffeinated coffee is great for those who have caffeine sensitivities or monitor their intake. But what exactly can high amounts of caffeine do to the human body?

Caffeine is a stimulant. This is one of the main reasons people drink coffee. It is great for waking up in the mornings and giving you those extra boosts needed to make it through a hard day. Unfortunately, excess amounts of caffeine can be harmful.

Caffeine is known to raise blood pressure. Having high blood pressure most often means you’ll be required to use medications to keep it under control or step away from caffeine. This is where decaf coffee comes in. If you want to control your blood pressure, avoid heart disease and other deadly issues, switching to decaf and monitoring your caffeine intake may be helpful. Symptoms of too much caffeine may include anxiety, increased heart rate, insomnia, digestive issues, and even fatigue.

Decaf coffee will not eliminate your caffeine intake. Several other foods and drinks contain levels of caffeine. With the effects of excess caffeine being so dangerous, taking small steps to limit how much you consume is a beneficial health decision.

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The Truth About the Taste

Does decaf coffee taste different? It’s impossible to tell. Some people may turn their nose up at the mere mention of decaf coffee while others will gladly switch and never say a word. The differences in the tastes of decaf and regular coffee are quite small. Most coffee lovers would be hard-pressed to notice if their coffee was accidentally switched. The best advice when it comes to the tastes of these coffees is to choose the one that suits your taste palette the best and enjoy it.


Featured Image Credit: nile, Pixabay

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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