The Best Decaf Coffee : Updated for 2021

You love the taste and aroma of your favourite brew, you want to enjoy it as often as you can. But you also want to be as healthy as possible, and are reluctant to consume too much caffeine.

So you ask yourself is decaf coffee any good?

Previously the best decaf coffee you could hope for would be a watery, chemically flavoured cup of dark slop. Although things have improved dramatically over the years, if you buy the wrong decaf coffee today, you could still be stuck with that old style horrid brew.

In this article I will reveal the ultimate buying guide you need when shopping for caffeine free, to ensure you will never be disappointed again. You will not be able to tell the difference between them and the best coffee beans

Plus a panel of trusted coffee drinkers, connoisseurs and myself also went on a serious caffeine detox, just to bring you our favourite caffeine free options.

The Top 3

For those of you that just want some trusted recommendations to try, instead of reading the full article. Here are the top 3 decaf coffees

Best Swiss Water

Organically grown and no chemicals used to decaf. This is pure decaf coffee

Best Buy

Coffee with a conscience just tastes better. Cafe Direct return 50% of their profits to the farmers

Best Premium

Credited with raising the standard of decaf coffee. This really is premium Decaf

The 10 Best Decaf Coffees

As I mentioned myself and a selection of my previous colleagues from the industry, went completely decaf for just short of 6 months.

Why did we do this to ourselves you ask?

Well, firstly it is not the chore that first springs to mind, we are not in the 80’s anymore. No you can get some seriously good decaf varieties these days.

But secondly and most importantly, so we could bring you the list of the best ones available today, so you can buy with confidence.

So here goes :

Decadent Decaf Coffee Co. Decaffeinated Colombia

Highlights

  • Flavour : Sweet Nuttiness
  • Beans : Single Origin Arabica
  • Roasted : Medium
  • Method : Swiss Water

The Decadent Decaf coffee co, was formed by industry heavy weights who like many of us were sick and tired of the constant poor quality options available in the UK. So they decided to change it, and change it they did.

Using only the chemical free process of the Swiss water method, they produce an outstanding cup of coffee every time.

They offer a full range of coffee from around the world, but the Colombian Coffee is my favourite.

If you are serious about decaf then make sure you give their coffee a go, I promise you wont be disappointed.

CafeDirect Machu Pichi Decaf Whole bean

Highlights

  • Flavour : Dark Chocolate, with a hint of orange
  • Beans : 100% Arabica
  • Roasted : Medium
  • Method : Co2 and Spring Water washed
  • Great Taste Award – Gold ’09

CafeDirect is a fair trade coffee producer that re-invests 50% of their profits back into the farms they work with. This is on top of their fair trade commitments.

Machu Pichu is one of the UK’s and Cafe directs best selling ground coffee, and is now available in decaf form.

It produces a rich and smooth coffee, with a dark chocolate flavour and just a taste of orange.

This is a low caffeine content coffee that coffee drinkers love. It’s almost impossible to even tell it is decaf.

Brown Bear Cool Brazil, Decaffeinated Ground Coffee

Highlights

  • Flavour : Dark Cocoa and hints of Walnut
  • Beans : Blended Arabica
  • Roasted : Medium
  • Method : Swiss Water Processed

A Swiss water processed coffee which is medium slow roasted in limited quantity, to produce a smooth and creamy body.

Tastes of dark cocoa and hints of walnut will please the palate, and a subtle acidity will be refresh.

The brown bear company strike a great balance between real high quality and a price that means it can be enjoyed as your daily morning coffee. Plus 5% is donated to a bear sanctuary.

Rounton Coffee Roasters 100% Arabica Decaf

Highlights

  • Flavour : Dark Chocolate, Cherry, Brown Sugar
  • Beans : Arabica
  • Roasted : Medium Dark Roast
  • Method : Co2 / sparkling water

Based in North Yorkshire (UK), Rounton Coffee Roasters are a micro roaster with a focus on being extremely selective with the beans they buy, even if it adds to their costs base. This not only refers to the quality of the green coffee they source but also the farms and supply chain they come from.

All of the roast coffee they produce is excellent, and their decaffeinated coffee is as good as any full caffeine option. They use the chemical free co2 process to remove the caffeine.

Presto - Light Roast Decaf Coffee Beans

Highlights

  • Flavour : Honeyed Peanut and Floral Flavours
  • Beans : 100% Arabica from Peru
  • Roasted : Light Roasted
  • Method : Swiss Water Process

This ward winning Arabica coffee bean blend made with beans exclusively from Peru, has been decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Method, which is chemical free.

They have then been lightly roasted at the perfect temperature for just the right amount of time, to produce a balanced taste of honey, nuts and a floral undertone.

Presto supply a handy guide on how to grind the beans depending on your preferred brew method.

Illy Classico Decaf Ground Coffee

Highlights

  • Flavour : Caramel and Orange
  • Beans : 100% Arabica
  • Roasted : Medium Roasted
  • Method : Naturally Decaffeinated

Illy’s low caffeine ground coffee is everything you have come to expect from one of the best known espresso coffees going. Roasted to a medium darkness it offers a lingering sweetness, delicate caramels and floral hints, and is every way as good as their full offerings.

All Illy coffee is packaged in airtight, pressurised tins that will preserve its oils, aromas and flavours for a perfect coffee every time.

This is a true Italian staple in decaf form.

Simmer Down Decaf Medium Roast, Organic Decaffeinated Coffee Beans

Highlights

  • Flavour : Nutmeg and Spice
  • Beans : 100% Arabica
  • Roasted : Medium
  • Method : Swiss Water Processed

The Marley Coffee company is a small batch Jamaican coffee company from the family of Bob Marley. With a focus on sustainability and nature, all their coffee is grown organically and on family run small holdings.

Their decaf follows these principles and is made using the Swiss Water Process which is completely chemical free.

Medium roasted at low temperatures this offers subtle aromas of cocoa, nutmeg, and spices.

It is ideal for cafetiere/French press, bean to cup, espresso or filter coffee machines – Just grind to the appropriate size.

Pelican Rouge Decaf Coffee Blend

Highlights

  • Flavour : Caramel Sweetness and Toasted Almonds
  • Beans : Arabica and Robusta
  • Roasted : Dark roasted
  • Method : Swiss Water Process

Benelux outfit Pelican Rouge have produced a quite exceptional blend, most suited for Espresso and Bean to Cup machines.

Dark roasted, it is full flavoured and has a thick delicious crema. Its not very often I can say that about a decaf.

Expect a caramel sweetness and hints of toasted almonds

Spiller & Tait Sparkling Water Decaf Coffee Beans

Highlights

  • Flavour : Cocoa and Nutty
  • Beans : Arabica (from Northern Peru)
  • Roasted : Medium/High Roast
  • Method : Carbon Dioxide / Sparkling Water

Spiller & Tait are a small batch coffee roaster who deal exclusively in fair trade 100% Arabica beans grown in Northern Peru. Roasted in small batches they have complete control throughout the process.

This level of control results in a decaf coffee with a full bodied flavour that is indistinguishable from the full caffeine option.

Expect delicate nut and chocolate notes.

Lavazza Caffe Decaffeinated Coffee Beans

Highlights

  • Flavour : Full Bodied with notes of Honey
  • Beans : 100% Arabica
  • Roasted : Medium
  • Method : Naturally Decaffeinated

Lavazza are one of the biggest player in the coffee world and regularly attract great reviews for the coffee. Their caffeine free option is just as good.

Made from a blend of 100% Arabica beans sourced from trusted farms in South America, Africa and South Asia which are expertly treated and then roasted in Italy.

With a full bodied and rounded flavour, you will enjoy taste of honey and a floral aroma. This is a great all round coffee suitable for all brewing methods from cold brew to bean to cup.

Decaffeinated Coffee Buying Guide

What is Decaf Coffee?

Decaffeinated (or decaf as its known) is coffee that has had the caffeine removed.

Apart from the lack of caffeine, decaf coffee and regular coffee should be nearly identical. The nutritional values, antioxidants and flavour should be the same as before the process took place.

What Decaffeination Method to Choose?

The decaffeination process always takes place prior to roasting, when the coffee beans are still green. This is standard and does not change depending on process.

There are four main methods used commercially today, and these can be split into two processes.

Solvent Based Processes

Solvent based processes involve using a chemical solvent such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to remove the caffeine.

Indirect Solvent : The caffeine is dissolved in water first, and then removed from the water using solvents. The coffee’s flavour and other elements are then re-added back to the bean by evaporating the water around the beans. The solvent never touches the bean.

Direct Solvent : The coffee beans are soaked directly in the chemicals to remove the caffeine. They are then steamed to removed any remaining chemical residue

Non-Solvent Based Processes

Swiss Water Process : This a very clever process and involves no chemicals. Basically a batch of beans is soaked in hot water to dissolve the caffeine. This process will also cause some essential oils and flavour molecules to also dissolve. Read more here

The water is then passed through a charcoal filter which has been sized to capture only the caffeine molecules, allowing the oils and flavour to pass through it. This leaves an oil and flavour rich solution.

Now for the clever part, the original beans are completely discarded. And a second batch is then soaked in the oil rich solution left over from part one. This time it is different however, as the water is already saturated with oil and flavour, only the caffeine is extracted.

This leaves a reduced caffeine bean in the second batch.

Carbon Dioxide Process : In this method the water soaked beans are placed in an extraction chamber, which is then filled with liquid Co2 at extremely high pressure. The Co2 acts in the same way as the solvents and draws out the caffeine. However unlike the solvents it doesn’t draw out any oils or flavour.

This method is only viable on huge quantities of beans and as such is really only used on the decaf instant coffee brands found in supermarkets.

While all 4 methods are perfectly safe and widely used today, most people argue the Swiss Water Process is the one to go for, it is a more gentle method and will preserve more of the flavor profile.

What Type of Roast to look for?

All of the above methods will affect the composition of the beans, so it is essential to adjust the roast to get the most from your coffee beans. So what should you look out for with regards to the roast?

Basically decaf coffee beans are not as solid anymore, so you need to look for more gentle roasting. This should happen at lower temperatures for a slow roast.

Also the colour of the beans will be different to normal, so you cannot just look at the colour to see if it is a dark roast or light roast.

Look out for small batch roasters who treat their decaf beans differently to normal beans. You want avoid anyone roasts all their beans the same.

How Much Caffeine Does Decaf Contain?

The caffeine content of decaf coffee is very very small. The processes described above will remove a minimum of 97% of the beans caffeine content.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Drink Decaf Coffee?

Coffee on a whole is actually very good for you (despite what people used to claim), and is in fact the biggest source of antioxidants in the average western diet.

Some people are unfortunately sensitive to caffeine, it may cause an upset tummy, or it makes them anxious or interrupts their sleep. Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the both the brain and central nervous system,.

So drinking caffeine free coffee is a way to benefit from the antioxidants without the potential side affects of to much caffeine.

Can You Get Decaf Coffee Beans?

Yes they do, you can now get Decaf coffee beans. This is prefect for those who want a lower caffeine content but also have the freshest coffee possible.

Take a look at some of the best around as judged by a panel of experts and myself.

Is Decaf Coffee Good or Bad For You?

If you google this, you will be bombarded with conflicting arguments, both for and against.

The truth is decaf is just as good for you, and contains the antioxidants of normal coffee. It also has the benefits of allowing you to control your caffeine intake.

But as with most things this is only valid in moderation, over consumption is whole different thing.

Is Decaf Coffee Full of Chemicals?

The decaffeination process does involve the use of solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. However these are washed away along with the dissolved caffeine.

The actual amounts remaining after the whole process is complete are so minuscule and are well below those deemed safe by authorities.

If you are still worried then look for decaf made using the swiss water process, which uses charcoal instead of chemical solvents.

Can you Drink Decaf When Pregnant?

Due to only very small amounts of caffeine present, there is actually no official guidelines on consuming decaf during pregnancy. However some people do claim decaf is linked to an increase in miscarriage.

If you are at all worried please consult with a qualified pre-natal professional.

The Final Verdict

CafeDirect Machu Pichi Decaf Whole bean

While all of the above options are definitely worth giving a go. If I am pushed and considering all the factors, the one I would recommend the most is the Cafe Direct Machu Pichu.

Not only is this a great coffee that will please all types of coffee lovers, but it is coffee with a conscience. When you know every cup of coffee you drink is doing something good, it just tastes a little better.

About Jacques Carner

Jacques is the man behind behind We Spill The Beans. He as a lover of all things coffee, and has previously worked as a buyer for one of the biggest coffee companies in the world. You can find more about him here.