Does Decaf Coffee Have Caffeine? Yes, But Not Much
So, you like the taste of coffee, but you’re over-sensitive to the effects of caffeine. You may think that decaf is the obvious solution. But then you find that you’re still feeling symptoms after drinking it. That may leave you wondering does decaf have caffeine?
How Much Caffeine Is There in Coffee?
To put it in context, let’s begin with how much caffeine there is in a cup of the leaded variety. An 8 oz cup of brewed coffee contains anywhere between 95 and 165 mg of caffeine, explains Mayo Clinic. Several factors affect the actual amount including the variety and brew time.
If you’re using a French press coffee maker, you’ll likely get more caffeine out of the beans if you let it steep longer compared to a single-cup serving coffee maker. As far as the beans go, the difference in caffeine concentration between light and dark roast coffees is negligible.
By weight, dark roast coffee blends will have the most caffeine because the beans are bigger. Light roast blends will have more caffeine by volume because they are smaller and denser. You’ll add more to the coffee maker with light roast beans than dark.
Why Does It Matter?
Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, making its effects more of a curse than a cure. Caffeine causes an increase in heart rate which some may find uncomfortable. But if you’re a heart patient, it’s a serious matter because of the added stress on your system.
Others may experience headaches which are equally unpleasant. Some evidence suggests it may affect voice quality which can present an issue for singers and voice professionals, warns WebMD. The reasons for drinking decaf rather than regular coffee are valid.
And it only takes a single cup of joe to get things going. It goes quickly from pouring a cup to feeling that caffeine rush in less than 45 minutes because it’s absorbed so fast. If you are sensitive to it, you’ll know right away that coffee is the culprit to eliminate any guesswork.
What Is Decaffeinated Coffee?
The FDA regulates caffeinated products including decaf because it contains trace amounts. To be called decaf, a manufacturer must remove 97 percent of the caffeine in it. There are several ways to do it, but all begin the same way with green, unroasted beans.
Coffee is a complex substance composed of over 1,000 chemicals. Getting the caffeine out involves washing the beans with a solvent such as ethyl acetate that targets it. The beans are rinsed multiple times over a period. Your first thought may be that it sounds diluted.
All that rinsing certainly must remove some of the flavors since coffee is water soluble. The concern with other methods lies with the fact that some have carcinogenic properties which include some organic solvents too. However, the FDA regulates this situation closely.
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The agency has begun scrutinizing many other products that have caffeine. So you can rest assured. The amounts of it present in decaf coffee are negligible, so it doesn’t pose a human health risk. You can enjoy your decaffeinated coffee without fretting about caffeine removal.
Another Approach to Removing Caffeine
If all of that worries you, there is another viable alternative without these red flags. The Swiss Water process forgoes the solvents and uses Green Coffee Extract (GCE) instead to get the caffeine out of the beans. Using GCE removes caffeine through osmosis.
The GCE captures caffeine from the green beans through equilibrium. The process creates a balance between the concentration in the beans and the GCE. The GCE is refreshed to continue the procedure until 99.9 percent is removed. It takes about 10 hours, start to finish.
Then, the beans are roasted and processed like other types of coffee. The advantage with this method is that natural forces drive it rather than relying on other chemicals to extract the caffeine. And for the manufacturer that offers a cost savings that makes it worthwhile.
The Problem with Decaf
All of this might sound cut and dry to produce coffee at a reasonable level if it worked as planned. The FDA does not require a product label with the amount present, so it’s not a sure thing that the caffeine concentration is where it should be out of the box. And that’s where the problem lies.
A study by the University of Florida provides some startling results about how much caffeine in decaf coffee. Researchers tested samples of both Starbucks® espresso decaffeinated and Starbucks brewed decaffeinated coffee to measure the amount of caffeine present.
They found that the amount of caffeine in the espresso varied from 3.0 to 15.8 mg per shot. The coffee didn’t fare much better at 12.0 to 13.4 mg per 16-oz serving. That may not sound like a lot, but it is a big difference to a person that is sensitive to caffeine, especially for health concerns.
Is Decaf Coffee Worth It?
You may ask is decaf coffee caffeine free? No matter what method is used to remove it, there will likely be residual amounts. But before you switch to something else, consider your choices. Black tea will have less caffeine with about half or less of it than brewed coffee.
Caffeinated soft drinks come in at about the same but with more calories to boot. A cup of unsweetened decaf has zero calories. A 12-oz serving of cola has 150 calories. If you’re avoiding caffeine for health reasons, that’s another thing to weigh when choosing decaf.
When you throw sugar into the mix, you invite more issues associated with drinking coffee whether it has caffeine or not. That’s why it’s important to consider the entire picture instead of just focusing on caffeine content alone.
The Bottom Line on Caffeine
So, the question of does decaf still have caffeine is yes it does, but the amount varies depending on the source. The variability lies with the preparation which adds a wildcard to the mix. It’s an easier process to control what is in the beans you buy at the grocery store.
It’s when you get into the preparation method that you add a question to the final caffeine contact. If it poses a problem, the best solution is to find a product where the concentration stays within the federal limits. Then, take a pass on the takeout and make your coffee yourself.
Calling coffee decaf is somewhat misleading. It implies that there is no caffeine in it. But as we’ve found, even the most strictly regulated joe will have some in it. Whether you drink it depends on your reasons and the severity of your symptoms if you consume caffeine.