Does Decaf Coffee Have Caffeine? Is Decaffeinated Without Caffeine?

Coffee can be a great addition to any morning to give you that jolt of energy to start your day. But not everyone enjoys that anxiety-inducing substance we all know and love; caffeine. Caffeine can cause anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and even stomach irritation. So, what do people who love the taste of coffee but don’t want everything that comes with the intake of caffeine do? Well, they go for a decaf, of course!

But, is decaf coffee really without caffeine? Is there any caffeine in decaf?

Decaf coffee has a lot of myths and rumor surrounding it, though. Like, is decaffeinated coffee truly free of all caffeine? Below, we will have an in-depth look at anything and everything to do with decaf coffee to make sure you are well informed before you take your next sip of the apparently caffeine-free drink!

Is there any Caffeine in Decaf Coffee?

The short answer to this question is yes, decaf coffee still does have caffeine. There are many myths that surround it that make most people believe that decaf coffee is without caffeine, but that is not the case. It was made for those coffee drinkers that are sensitive to caffeine but still enjoy the taste and it simply does not have as much caffeine as regular coffee.

Of course, this does not mean that decaf has a large amount of caffeine. In fact, compared to its caffeinated counterpart, it has only about 3% of the caffeine content compared to a cup of regular coffee. The amount in a cup of coffee without caffeine varies, depending on the bean much like in regular coffee, and on the decaffeination process (Can You Eat Coffee Beans? – Should you Eat them?).

Does Decaf Mean No Caffeine?

Decaf does not mean zero caffeine, but rather that caffeine has been reduced. Coffee beans that have been through a process to remove caffeination can only be classified as such, according to the FDA, if 97% of the caffeine has been removed. In reality, it means that it has gone through the process of getting decaffeinated.

The reason decaf coffee beans can vary in caffeine content is that the FDA only requires companies to remove 97% of the caffeine, regardless of the original caffeine content of the bean. A regular cup can have anywhere from 50-140 mg of caffeine; this is a huge variation, which affects the final caffeine levels of the decaf coffee as well. Different brands can also use different methods to remove caffeine. Each process is different in its effectiveness and how much caffeine is removed (Can Coffee Cause Gas? Is it the reason for your Flatulence?).

Saying all this though, regardless of the initial amount, the final cup has a caffeine content that is anywhere from 2 to 4.5 milligrams of caffeine, which is really a minuscule amount and won’t have much of an effect on the drinker. Compared to the initial 50 to 140 mg of caffeine, you can see how much caffeine is being removed. However, there are some exceptional cases of supposedly “decaf coffee” that can contain up to 30mg of caffeine but those are true exceptions. One of these exceptions is the decaf coffee available at coffee chains like Starbuck; a Starbucks decaf coffee can have anywhere from 20 mg to 30 mg of caffeine depending on its size.

How Is Coffee Decaffeinated?

There are a few different processes for decaffeinating beans, each of which uses an element to draw out the caffeine from the beans. The three most commonly used processes are the solvent-based process, the Swiss water process, and the carbon dioxide process. Each such decaffeination process is used today to remove as much caffeine as possible from the beans.

The solvent-based process uses a solvent made from methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and water are used to draw out caffeine from presoaked, unroasted beans, after which the solvent evaporates leaving the coffee bean with a lot less caffeine. The decaffeination agent, like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, pulls the caffeine out of the green coffee beans while they soak in the solution – Do Cappuccinos have caffeine in them?

The Swiss water process is the most effective and only organic way to decaffeinate coffee beans. This process uses osmosis to extract the caffeine from unroasted coffee beans, leaving them up to 99.9% free of caffeine (Does Tea have more Caffeine than Coffee? Which provides more Energy?).

The carbon dioxide process is the newest of the lot. It uses the CO2 that naturally exists in the beans to remove the caffeine. This process of using carbon dioxide leaves the flavor of the coffee true to the original, but conducting it is expensive.

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Is It Bad for You?

A study conducted in 2017 that aimed to observe the correlation between decaf coffee and a number of different health concerns showed that the cup of Joe with less caffeine does not have any harmful health effects. The harmful effects come in when methylene chloride is used in the decaffeination process. Even small amounts of this can have major effects on the body because inhaling a tiny amount can slow down the central nervous system.

Even the mildest exposure can cause drowsiness, lightheadedness, irritability, and wheezing. The FDA still approves the use of this substance as long as the final product only has 0.001% of it leftover.  Make sure the product that you are purchasing is FDA-approved to ensure safe consumption.

But, it’s not just methylene chloride that is used in the decaffeination process. Think about the whole process and chemicals used to make decaffeinated coffee. You use a natural product (coffee beans) and then use harsh and potentially harmful and dangerous chemicals to alter the caffeine content. That all does not sound like a recipe for healthy living, does it?

You are definitely better off with decaffeinated coffee that is stripped of its caffeine that coffee contains but other methods than using methylene chloride and other harsh chemicals. Make sure to find out how the decaffeination was performed to make the best choice for you.

Is Coffee with no Caffeine Safe?

As long as you are getting your caffeine-free coffee from a reliable place, it is going to be safe. It is not only safe but drinking a cup of decaf coffee is said to have a lot of benefits, including lowering the risk of some cancers like leukemia and skin cancer.

Though this research has been done for regular coffee, it is unclear whether it extends to decaf as well, because of the lack of research conducted on this variety. However, a correlation has been seen between drinking coffee with less caffeination and a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Is It A Stimulant?

Unlike regular coffee, decaf has a very small amount of caffeine in it. The amount is so small that it does not have any effect on the body as a stimulant.

This is especially true for instant coffees (What Is the Difference between Instant and Ground Coffee?) since they have as little as 2 mg of caffeine per cup. However, if you go into a Starbucks and order a Venti cup of decaf coffee, you are getting roughly 30 milligrams of caffeine; this can surely act as a stimulant. That is roughly the same amount of caffeination as in a can of Pepsi. So, if a Pepsi can wake you up, so can a decaf coffee from Starbucks! 

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Which Has the Least Caffeine?

As stated above, coffee that has been decaffeinated through the Swiss water process is likely to have the least amount of caffeine in it. This process can remove almost all the caffeination from the beans, leaving you with a product that is practically caffeine-free!

Another factor that will affect the amount of caffeine (How Is Caffeine In Coffee Affected By Sugar And Cream?) is whether the bean is Arabica or Robusta. Robusta tends to have more caffeine than Arabica (Arabica vs Robusta Coffee Beans – What Is the Difference?), to begin with, so it will have a higher content of caffeine at the end of decaffeination even if they undergo the same process.

Is Decaf Better Than Regular Coffee?

The only substance that you are trying to avoid in a decaf cup of coffee versus a regular is the caffeine. Caffeine can have many different effects on the body, including increased blood pressure, insomnia, tremors, upset stomach, irritability, anxiety, nausea, and the list goes on – How to Brew Low Acid Coffee for Upset Stomachs.

For those who are sensitive to caffeine, these effects can show up fairly quickly after drinking one, two, or multiple cups of coffee. For this reason, decaf coffees can be a better option. It still delivers a great tasting cup of your favorite beverage without the side effects of caffeine. 

However, enthusiasts will argue that the process of removing caffeine does have an effect on the final taste. You won’t get the exact taste, but depending on the process, like the carbon dioxide process, you can get extremely close.

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Can Decaf Keep You Awake?

If you are purely basing the effect on your sleep from the caffeination, then you really have nothing to worry about. The tiny amount of caffeine is not enough to act as a stimulant and keep you up at night.

Does It Make You Jittery?

The same as above goes for jitters. If your body is caffein sensitive, you are likely to feel jittery after one cup of regular coffee (How Much Coffee is in a K Cup?).

The 2-4.5 mg of caffeine in one decaf cup of coffee is not strong enough to affect your body in that way. It does not make the body react the same way as it would with a regular cup o’ Joe (Why Is Coffee Called Joe?). However, if you’re drinking many cups of coffee then you can certainly consume enough caffeine to feel jittery.

Can Decaf Increase Blood Pressure?

Quite the contrary, one study showed that subjects drinking decaf coffee have lowered blood pressure as compared to when they drank the regular variety. The consumption of decaf coffees lowered their blood pressure as opposed to drinking the caffeinated ones, which increased it. The actual effects on blood pressure are caused by caffeine rather than by the coffee itself.  

Can It Increase Cholesterol?

Decaf coffee may have all the benefits of cutting down caffeine intake, but it does come with a dark side. One study conducted showed that coffee drinkers drinking decaf coffees have a higher cholesterol level than those who drank regular coffee and even those who didn’t drink coffee at all, posing as a catch-22 for coffee drinkers looking to reduce the risks of drinking coffee.

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Final Thoughts

In short, if you are looking for something that is really caffeine-free, it is best to stay away from coffee altogether, caffeinated or decaffeinated alike. However, decaf coffee does not have enough caffeine in it to really make a difference in your body if you’re looking to avoid the side effects of the substance. By saying coffee is decaf, the manufacturer is just trying to inform you that your coffee underwent the process of removing 97% or more of the caffeine from it, not that it is at 0 milligrams of caffeine! The coffee will still contain caffeine as there’s no truly caffeine-free coffee bean.

We hope this article made you a little more well informed about what you are putting in your body!

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