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We all know the received wisdom about decaf coffee. In fact, we’ve probably all tasted decaf coffee that’s… to put it gently… below par. In the ‘80s, decaf was big business. In fact, 25% of all coffee sales were decaf. Back in those long ago days, when Starbucks was the closest most people got to artisan coffee, people were largely drinking pretty crappy coffee anyway. At least, they were day to day in the US and UK. That, plus an assumption that caffeine was only bad for you, led to higher decaf sales even though decaf back then was less than great.
But now, decaf is great!
It’s often as delicious as regular coffee and comes in as many varieties and blends.
Maybe you’re trying to cut down on coffee or even cut it out completely. Goodness knows, in the depths of winter trying to get through the workday I drink what many would call an excessive amount of java, and at some point in the year I always have to grit my teeth and cut down.
Except these days, I can just replace half my mugs of coffee with decaf! Sure, I’m tired for a while, but the placebo effect is real.
To help the transition to a caffeine-free or caffeine-light life, I’ve compiled my top rated decaf coffees. They vary in budget and style, so everyone should find something they like on the list.
The Best Decaf Coffees of 2021:
1. LifeBoost Coffee - Dark Roast
LifeBoost claims to have cooked up the ‘the best decaf coffee on the planet’. Of course, you can’t believe all the advertising you read, but Life Boost is definitely the best decaf coffee available if you’re as interested in health as you are in taste.
Using the Swiss water decaffeination technique, LifeBoost comes in at a higher price point than many of the coffees on this list but it works for those decaf drinkers who have worries about other techniques. And that’s not the only area in which LifeBoost choose to go all natural when making this deep, rich dark roast decaf, which is prepared as follows:
- Hand picked, Spring water washed, Sun Dried
- Hand roasted
- 3rd party tested for mycotoxins, heavy metals, Acrylimides, pesticides and 400 other toxins!
- Mountain Shade Grown
- Fairly Traded
- Single Origin, 100% Arabica Bean
- Decaffeinated by Swiss water method
All of that produces a toxin free, low-acid decaf coffee with a rich and nutty flavor. Plus, it’s good for the environment and for all the people employed along the supply chain.
If looking after both your body and the planet are important to you, then choose LifeBoost decaf.
2. Eight O’Clock – Medium Roast
US Made, Arabica Blend
Eight O’clock is America’s best selling whole bean coffee. As you would expect, it’s good value, with a smooth, rich, easy drinking flavor and a sweet finish that will have you reaching for your mug over and over. And refilling it too, which is no problem when you’re drinking decaf.
Eight O’clock have been supplying Americans with great coffee for over a century and a half, so they’ve had a bit of practice perfecting things. All roasting takes place in Maryland, USA, making this a red-blooded American product! This decaf is just like Eight O’Clock’s original Arabica blend, only without the caffeine.
So, if you just like a good old fashioned quality cup of coffee and you’re trying to cut out caffeine try Eight O’Clock Original Blend Decaff.
3. 2LB Don Pablo Colombian Decaf – Dark Roast
Don Pablo may have an amusing Old West logo and, to put it gently, eye-catching typography, but the coffee is deadly serious. This is another coffee that uses the Swiss water decaffeination technique, so if health and natural processing are two of your concerns then this is a great option for you.
Don Pablo Colombian Decaf is a rich, dark roast with caramel notes with citrus, coco, and a clean finish. It’s a low acidity coffee, so you can enjoy it even if you have a delicate digestive system and usually have to stay away from the oily deliciousness of a dark roast.
This small-batch roasted, artisanal decaf coffee is available from Amazon as a risk-free trial purchase with a refund guaranteed if you’re not satisfied, but Darrion and Eliana, who have been running Don Pablo coffee since its earliest days, are pretty sure you will love their product.
If you have a passion for coffee, and health is important to you, but you don’t have a lifestyle brand budget then try Don Pablo Colombian Decaf.
4. Verena Street Sunday Drive – Medium Roast
Roasted, carefully blended, and bagged in Dubuque Iowa, Verena Street Coffee is artisan coffee at a very reasonable price.
The family-run business uses only Rainforest Alliance certified suppliers, meaning they’re protecting the environment and ensuring a fair wage for everyone working to grow the beans.
Ever a hit with customers, Verena Street’s Sunday Drive decaf is a dark, smooth and creamy coffee has a fantastic crema and is a perfect choice for espresso drinks. Verena Street maintains a fantastic flavor through Swiss water decaffeination, with light medium and dark roast options available so you’re sure to find one that suits your taste.
If you want to support a family-owned American business, and enjoy great decaf at the same time, why not try Verena Street Decaf?
5. The Original Donut Shop – Medium Roast
Donut shop coffee is similar to a breakfast blend. This well-balanced mix of Arabicas is made to suit, well, the donut shop of course! With a rich nuttiness that will suit a pairing with baked goods, a donut shop blend is friendly and amenable and can be sipped at any time of day.
And now, the Original Donut Shop coffee is available not only decaf but also in a super convenient K-Cup. The coffee in these K-Cups is a medium roast, but also extra bold, meaning that there is more coffee in every K-Cup than there would usually be, encouraging a more intense flavor. You can be sure, though, that there is nothing in these K-Cups but coffee and only coffee. No added ingredients or filler.
If you have a Keurig (or you’re thinking of getting one and need an extra reason, like perfect decaf coffee as well as regular) then you will enjoy the incredible convenience of preparing an Original Donut Shop Decaf K-Cup in the afternoon for a pick me up that won’t leave you crashing later!
These K-Cups make a great addition to your usual order of cups because with decaf as an option you can regulate your caffeine intake as you see fit. Maybe some days you just don’t fancy that caffeine buzz, while others you really need a pick-me-up. Or maybe you’re a family of mixed tastes, and your husband can’t handle too much caffeine while you’re a total fiend. Whatever your caffeine needs, using K-Cups makes coffee easy, even decaf coffee.
If you want your decaf quick without compromising on quality, then get some Original Donut Shop Decaf K-Cups in.
6. Peet’s Coffee – Dark Roast
Everyone knows Peet’s Coffee. Everyone trusts Peet’s coffee.
Peet’s Coffee have been making excellent coffee from their home in the Bay Area since1966. But did you know Peet’s Coffee also makes great decaf? Their dark roast Major Dickason’s blend is particularly flavorful, using beans from premium growing regions around the world to create a balanced and rich flavor that Peet’s Coffee customers have long enjoyed.
In fact, Major Dickason is rumored to have actually been a Peet’s customer. And such a regular that he demanded his own blend! That might sound outlandish, but this is one coffee company that loves customer feedback. Peet’s Coffee even shouts about their customers’ opinions – specifically, they’re proud of the fact that customers claim the Decaf Dickason’s Blend tastes just like the real thing.
As Peet’s is both readily available countrywide and great value, you can buy both and switch seamlessly from fully caffeinated in the morning to decaf later on and barely notice the difference! Just don’t muddle the two up, or you’ll be up all night and asleep all day.
If keeping your coffee experience consistent, and you want coffee from a trusted brand, with the same comforting taste as ever then try Peet’s Decaf Dickason’s Blend.
7. NO FUN JO DECAF – Medium-Dark Roast
No Fun Jo isn’t as boring as it sounds. In fact, I suspect the name is a little tongue in cheek.
Available in a 12oz bag or a money-saving 2lb pack, this complex coffee contains notes of blueberry and milk chocolate with a full-bodied finish. This is one for real coffee aficionados who need a rest from caffeine now and then (or, indeed, for good). The 100% Arabica beans are USDA certified and Fair Trade certified, so you can buy and sip content in the knowledge that the people growing your beans have been taken care of.
This is Speciality Grade Coffee, meaning that it’s in the top 2% of coffee beans picked worldwide! Decaffeinated using the Swiss water technique, No Fun Jo is an incredibly intensely flavored and delicious coffee perfect for sipping of a morning.
If you’re a big coffee drinker, or, even better, a big coffee drinking household, then you’ll love the great value 2lb bags from No Fun Jo. Remember though, as this coffee is pre-ground you shouldn’t buy more than you’ll use in the next week or so, or else you risk losing a lot of flavors. The rules are just the same for decaf as for regular when it comes to getting the best out of your java!
If you’re really into speciality coffee and you don’t want to compromise on decaf, No Fun Jo may just be your perfect bean.
8. MAYAN DECAF – Medium Roast
Stone Street Mayan Decaf is a medium-roast whole bean coffee with an intriguing earthy depth and a clean, citrus aroma. Not only are Stone Street beans Rainforest Certified, but the three-layer Natural Kraft bags all Stone Street coffees come in are recyclable while also keeping the coffee fresh and delicious for weeks at a time.
Stone Street’s Mayan blend is available in three varieties – full caffeine, half caffeine and decaf. Both half-caf and decaf are processed using the Swiss water decaffeination technique, ensuring a full flavor and no man-made chemicals at any point in the process. The half-caf option is great if you’re just cutting down on caffeine, but the decaf has the same great flavor!
This coffee comes in one, two and five-pound bags so you can make some big savings if you consume enough coffee. Or, you know, if you buy the coffee for the whole office.
If you want both style and substance in your coffee, and you don’t want any caffeine with it, then go for Stone Street’s Mayan Decaf.
9. Kicking Horse Coffee – Dark Roast
This is another extremely stylish artisan coffee with a flavor to match. Kicking Horse coffee is all Rocky Mountain roasted, with a bold, rich and adventurous flavor that represents the ethos of the Kicking Horse company!
Their decaf is bursting with flavors of roasted hazelnuts, with a chocolatey balanced body and a lasting finish. It’s perfect for preparation in a French press or pour over, and it also makes an excellent cold brew.
This is a real, intense dark roast and there’s no way you’ll miss the caffeine in a cup of it. Kicking Horse use the now very popular Swiss water technique to remove the caffeine from their beans, just like a lot of other coffees on this list.
This is a coffee for adventurers, a great start to the day with a complexity that you’ll be thinking about until at least lunch!
10. Seattle’s Best Coffee – Medium Roast
Here comes a classic from Seattle’s best. Portside blend is a hearty, well-rounded medium roast blend.
Previously known as Signature Series No.3, Portside is an approachable but complex coffee that’s perfect for anyone just graduating from a lot of milk and sugar to a more grown up kind of coffee appreciation. Even if you’re avoiding or cutting down on caffeine!
Seattle’s Best uses 100% Arabica beans sourced from South and Central America and roasted in the USA.
Portside Blend Decaf is very drinkable, and a great companion to baked goods or breakfast.
Portside Blend is a great choice for a day to day decaf that won’t have you missing caffeine. Plus, it’s great value and from a brand name you already know and trust!
So, why decaf?
Hear me out here, but does caffeine agree with you? I know you love coffee, and maybe you’re used to its effects, but I have had to admit to myself as I enter my 30s that maybe five cups a day just doesn’t make me feel good. Five caffeinated cups that is. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a coffee writer, I’m not going to totally give caffeine up any time soon. But cutting down a bit has helped me learn to use caffeine as a tool when I need it rather than masking how I actually feel physically by pepping me up all the time. Plus, it has a few disagreeable effects. Even for coffee professionals!
Too much caffeine makes me prickly and anxious, actually getting in the way of productivity. If I’ve had too many coffees too late, I can’t stick to one task and I get a little slapdash with whatever I’m doing. It also messes up my digestion in subtle ways that I didn’t really notice before I cut down. Many people find similar benefits when they give up or cut down on caffeine - even ending up with more energy throughout the day once they aren’t messing up their circadian rhythms with caffeine.
And these days, drinking decaf isn’t a compromise! There’s a certain macho energy around caffeine consumption, sure, but I don’t want to give myself panic attacks drinking fully caffeinated coffee just to look… what… cool? You know what’s cool? Feeling your best. Okay, I’m kidding. But I’m also sort of not.
And with most artisan coffee companies now producing a decaf blend, and single origin decaf even becoming available, you can have just as much fun with decaf as you already do with regular coffee! You can even learn to be a total snob about it if that’s your vibe.
How Much Caffeine is There in Decaf?
All coffee contains caffeine, even decaf coffee. None of the decaffeination techniques available to coffee companies are 100% effective, so most decaf still holds about 7mg of caffeine per average sized cup.
You should be wary of caffeine contents if you’re buying new decaf or getting a decaf on the go, though, as mgs of caffeine can vary between 5 and as many as 20! In fact, Starbucks’ Pike Place Blend has a whopping 20mg of caffeine per cup despite being advertised as decaf. In comparison, an average cup of full caf coffee has around 95mg. That’s a big difference, sure, but if you’re caffeine sensitive, not used to it, or keeping away from it for medical reasons then a couple of cups of unusually strong decaf could have some of the same negative effects as a regular coffee.
How is Decaf Made?
There are a few ways to decaffeinate coffee beans, including a complicated water process, a new ultraviolet option and a few chemical processes. The best way is chemical, but don’t let that scare you. A solvent called MC retains the most flavor in a good bean, and as the solvent is very selective there’s pretty much no danger of any being left over to be ingested.
We’ve been decaffeinating coffee with MC for decades, and time and again decaf has been proven safe and even healthier than caffeinated coffee, as it contains all the antioxidants of regular with around 97% less caffeine! That being said, the Swiss Water Technique is becoming increasingly popular and the Carbon Dioxide Process is also gaining a lot of traction, so let’s look at how both work.
1. Swiss Water Technique
The Swiss Water technique for decaffeinating coffee without solvents. Green Coffee Extract, which contains all the chemical components of coffee except caffeine, is used to draw the caffeine out of coffee beans with no added triglycerides.
2. Carbon Dioxide Process
This technique uses carbon dioxide, which is naturally found in coffee beans, to aid the removal of most of their caffeine leaving other flavor producing compounds intact. This extremely efficient process is also pretty new, which is one of the reasons it’s still prohibitively expensive for most coffee companies. Expect to see more of it in the future though!
The biggest step forward in decaf coffee production has been a really simple one - using better beans! If you’re using crappy beans to make decaf because you think of it as a substandard sort of coffee, or coffee drunk by people who don’t care about coffee, then obviously you will get crappy decaf.
Every one of Brew Smartly’s best decaf coffees are made by roasters who respect both decaf and decaf drinkers. You’re bound to find one on the list that suits your taste and price range!
There are a lot of great coffees on this list, and I’m drawn to all of them for different reasons. With the quality of the decaf in mind though, as well as the fact that many people cut out or cut down on caffeine for health reasons, LifeBoot’s Dark Roast Decaf would be my decaf of choice if I had to choose.
My desert island decaf, if you will. With years of experience making great coffee, as well as great relationships with growers in Nicaragua where these shade grown beans are sourced, LifeBoost are a company who can be trusted not just to make good coffee but also to show social and environmental responsibility in an industry where both are difficult. Plus, LifeBoost is low acid and easy on the stomach, which means you can enjoy it even if you usually find coffee irritates your digestive system.
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