How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?

Yes, my friends, this is one of the big questions for consumers and coffee lovers all over the world: how much caffeine is there in a decaffeinated coffee? Does decaffeinated coffee have caffeine? The answer is clear, yes: decaffeinated coffee has caffeine. But naturally, it has a tiny amount of caffeine, much smaller than regular coffee.

The international norm establishes that for a coffee to be considered decaffeinated, it must have eliminated at least 97% of all its caffeine. Now, how do you get this?

How is caffeine eliminated from decaffeinated coffee?

Well, the most common method to eliminate caffeine from coffee is to wash the beans. Yes, as you read: rinse the beans. The standard process consists of wetting the green coffee bean first so that it expands and extraction is more natural.

Then, various organic solvents are used (also applied under pressure), such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, which are responsible for eliminating the caffeine. These are often used because they have a low boiling point. Finally, the solvent residues are removed by passing the grains through water vapour again and finally drying them with a dryer (hot air).

The resulting decaffeinated grain then goes on to the usual roasting and grinding phase for subsequent marketing. This is a crucial detail: the coffee is always decaffeinated before roasting.

As we say, this form of solvent extraction of caffeine is the most common, mainly because it is the cheapest. Most packages of decaffeinated coffee you will find in stores in your city have gone through this procedure.

However, there are other methods to eliminate caffeine from coffee, such as soaking it in hot water (green coffee extract, free of caffeine, is usually used instead of water) several times. After successive extractions, absorbents are used whose function is to separate the caffeine from the liquid extract.

Finally, there is the method of eliminating caffeine using carbon dioxide (CO2). Its application is like the processes mentioned above: the coffee is moistened with water vapour, and then carbon dioxide is applied to it under pressure.

Extracting caffeine from coffee with carbon dioxide is by far the most effective. An average of 99.9% of the total caffeine present in each bean is eliminated.

The decaffeinated coffee through this process, according to all the experts, is the most like the original one, as much in the aroma as in flavour. However, it is also the most expensive method and is therefore not usually used in large-scale industries.

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Are there differences between decaffeinated and regular coffee?

There is no nutritional difference between the average coffee bean and the decaffeinated bean beyond the presence or not of caffeine. So, it is time to end the myth that decaffeinated coffee is worse (or better) than regular coffee. That’s not true.

However, there may be slight differences in the colour, aroma and nuances of decaffeinated beans. This depends, above all, on the method of eliminating the caffeine used and the organic solvents used.

It should also be borne in mind that decaffeinated coffee usually comes from Arabica beans for the simple reason that they initially contain half as much caffeine as Robusta beans.

How much caffeine does a cup of coffee have?

As is usual, as we have said before, decaffeinated coffee is not entirely free of caffeine. What happens is that the amount it has is minuscule.

In absolute terms, a cup of decaffeinated coffee contains between 1 and 7 milligrams of caffeine. A regular cup of coffee contains between 70 and 140 milligrams of caffeine (the range is very variable because it depends on the type of coffee and the method of preparation). But come on, the figures are eloquent enough to give you an idea.

Of course, if we ingest an excessive amount of decaffeinated coffee, in the end, the levels of caffeine can be like those of usual coffee and therefore can create the same dependence and the same side effects.

What about tea? Why is tea sometimes cited as an alternative to coffee for people who can’t drink caffeine? Well, curiously enough, tea contains proportionally (i.e., gram by gram, or by weight) more caffeine than coffee. What happens is that to prepare a cup of infusion of tea is used much less amount product than necessary to make a cup of coffee.

NOTE: Remember that you can get any variety of decaffeinated coffee beans (before grinding) in our coffee shop.

Related: Does coffee raise cholesterol levels?