Love the taste of coffee but hate the caffeine jitters? With the best decaf coffees, you can have your (coffee) cake and eat it too
Even if you love coffee, sometimes you just need a tasty cup of joe that isn’t full to the brim with caffeine, in which case only the best decaf coffee will do. While there’s no denying the allure of that full-body coffee buzz, there are plenty of health-related reasons why you might want to avoid caffeine. Pregnant women, insomnia and anxiety sufferers and those with high blood pressure are all advised to steer clear of the black stuff in its unaltered form. And, even if none of that applies, nobody is immune to the potential negative side effects of excessive caffeine intake.
Whatever your reason for avoiding caffeinated coffee, you deserve to have a delicious decaf beverage that tastes like the real thing, and there are plenty of options that fit the bill. Coffee connoisseurs have hundreds of decaffeinated options to choose from and can get their fix in just about any form too, from instant granules to whole beans.
Read on for our buying guide on everything you need to know about decaf coffee, followed by a roundup of the best decaf coffees to buy today.
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How to choose the best decaf coffee for you
What types of decaf coffee are there?
Every form of regular coffee has a decaf equivalent, so no matter how you like to prepare your coffee there’s a caffeine-free option out there for you.
- Instant: Decaf coffee granules that come in a jar or canister. Simply mix with hot water.
- Ground: Ground-up coffee that can be used in a French press, moka or filter coffee machine.
- Pod: Single-use coffee pods, often designed for a specific brand’s machine.
- Beans: Roasted coffee beans in their full form, minus the caffeine.
- Bag: Brew-in-cup coffee bags that let you control the intensity of the flavour.
Does decaf coffee really contain no caffeine?
According to Healthline, decaffeination techniques remove, on average, about 97% of the caffeine from coffee, leaving only around 7mg of caffeine per 236ml cup. That’s still a lot less caffeine, but it’s not quite zero, so it may not work for you if you are trying to eliminate caffeine altogether. You should also keep in mind that the amount of caffeine varies depending on the type of bean and the decaffeination process used.
How is coffee decaffeinated?
There are a few different methods used to decaffeinate coffee, and some are more common (and less costly) than others. Before any decaffeination process begins, the raw green coffee beans are first soaked or steamed to open up the bean pores.
Contact-based: This is the most typical method of decaffeination and it involves mixing chemicals (usually either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate) with water to create a solvent that absorbs the caffeine.
Swiss Water Process: A patented method of decaffeination that removes 99.9% of the caffeine from coffee beans, via osmosis, using just two things: water and time. No chemicals are used in the Swiss Water Process and it is certified organic.
CO2 process: The newest and most expensive decaffeination method, the CO2 process harnesses the carbon dioxide within coffee beans to efficiently extract the caffeine without compromising on flavour.
How long does decaf coffee last?
Decaf coffee should last just as long as its caffeinated equivalent. Ultimately, the longevity of your coffee depends on what form the coffee comes in. Freeze-dried instant decaf will last much longer than freshly ground coffee, for example. When stored in an airtight container, whole beans and coffee grounds can survive for up to nine months, while instant granules might last years.
Is decaf coffee cheaper than “real” coffee?
Despite containing less caffeine than regular coffee, decaf alternatives actually tend to cost a little more as they require more effort to make. Whereas standard coffee can be roasted and processed without much hassle, decaf coffee products have to first undergo one of the decaffeination processes described above. Extra steps mean extra costs, resulting in a higher price for the consumer.
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The best decaf coffee to buy
1. Kenco Decaff Instant: The best instant decaf coffee
Price: £5.50 | Buy now from Tesco
The decaffeinated version of Kenco’s most popular instant coffee, Decaff Instant tastes just as rich as the standard variety, only it comes without any of the stimulant side effects. Each 200g jar contains about 125 cups of decaffeinated coffee, although you may get slightly more or less depending on how generous you are with those precious freeze-dried granules.
As with the rest of Kenco’s range, its decaf coffee is sourced from farms that have the Rainforest Alliance seal of approval. This means you can sip away, content in the knowledge that your cup of joe was ethically produced.
Key details – Type: Granules; Pack size: 200g; Number of servings: 125 cups; Ethical credentials: Rainforest Alliance
2. Nespresso Firenze Arpeggio Decaffeinato: The best decaf coffee pod
Price: £4.10 | Buy now from Nespresso
Coffee pods – Nespresso’s in particular – have taken the coffee-drinking world by storm, and it’s easy to see why. Each decaf Firenze Arpeggio capsule produces a deliciously creamy cup of full-bodied, well-roasted coffee that tastes practically identical to the caffeinated alternative.
This particular pod is designed to produce either ristrettos or espressos, but there are plenty of alternative decaf Nespresso pods that make longer drinks as well. Of course, you’ll need a compatible coffee pod machine to actually use these pods – and we have a roundup of the best machines right here.
Key details – Type: Pod; Pack size: 10 pods per sleeve; Number of servings: 10; Ethical credentials: AAA Sustainable Quality Programme
3. Illy Decaf: The best ground decaf coffee
Price: £3.40 | Buy now from Illy
Illy’s ground coffee blend is made up of Arabica beans that have been decaffeinated using the CO2 method – harnessing water and carbon dioxide – to bring the caffeine content down to 0.1%. That’s about as low as it goes in the decaf world, so if you’re looking to completely cut out caffeine while still enjoying smooth, roasted coffee each day, Illy decaf is the way to go.
Having tried both the regular and decaf versions of Illy’s classic coffee, we think most people would struggle to tell the difference between them. The Italian coffee maker’s grounds have a distinctive and delicate flavour – sweet, and not too heavy on the roast – and are a firm favourite among coffee connoisseurs, although they do come at a more premium price.
Key details – Type: Ground; Pack size: 125g; Number of servings: Not listed; Ethical credentials: Ethisphere World’s Most Ethical Companies List (9-time honoree)
4. Volcano Coffee Works Decaf: The best decaf coffee beans
Price: £9 | Buy now from Volcano Coffee Works
London-based roastery Volcano Coffee Works cranks out some wonderful caffeine-packed products in a variety of forms, from whole beans to compostable pods. Its decaf selection is seriously impressive too, however, and we’ve been especially won over by Volcano’s CO2-decaffeinated whole beans.
The process is totally free of chemicals, which is excellent for preserving the nutty, chocolate flavour of these hand-roasted beans. The beans themselves have been sourced from a single region called Junín in central Peru and, like all the coffee sold by Volcano, they were grown by farmers who belong to the ACPC Cooperative and are paid double the standard Fair Trade rate.
Key details – Type: Beans; Pack size: 200g; Number of servings: Not listed; Ethical credentials: ACPC Cooperative, Carbon Neutral Certified
5. Presto Decaf Coffee Bags: The best decaf coffee bags
Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon
To feed all your coffee cravings in an easy to use, no mess format, coffee bags might be the way to go. Coffee connoisseurs often find bags are a better choice for time-restricted drinkers than instant coffee since they contain unadulterated, ground coffee beans without any added chemicals.
This is true of Presto’s decaf arabica roast bags, which are made from beans produced in Cordoba, Mexico. They are then decaffeinated via mountain water (using the Swiss Water Process explained in the buying guide), before being packaged up for your three-minute brew. The packaging is also 100% recyclable, with 1% of all sales going to environmental causes.
Key details – Type: Bags; Pack size: 40 x 8g bags (320g); Number of servings: 40; Ethical credentials: Certified B Cooperative, Carbon Neutral, Rainforest Alliance certified