Decaf is just like regular coffee, except for its very small amount of caffeine content, which is about 7 mg per cup, compared to most regular coffee blends with at least 70 mg of caffeine.
The regular coffee beans go through the decaffeination process which typically starts with steaming the unroasted beans. The beans are rinsed with a solvent to extract the caffeine, but it would still leave at least 1% of its original caffeine content.
Some procedures involve soaking the beans in a hot water or coffee solution to remove the caffeine. Afterward, they will immerse it in coffee oils in high temperatures and then, separate them from the coffee oils and dry them.
Who is Decaf Recommended For?
If you love coffee flavor, yet do not like the adverse effects of caffeine, decaf is a viable solution. It is just coffee without caffeine. But, it may have additional content that could be bad for you, if taken in large quantity.
Caffeine is known as a stimulant that could potentially increase blood pressure and trigger arrhythmias and tachycardia.
With or without caffeine, coffee also contains substances that are healthy for the body.
These biologically active substances add to its color, taste, and aroma are responsible for various health benefits.
- Caffeic acid: It is a member of a large class of chemicals found in coffee called phenols. It has cancer-fighting and anti-oxidant properties
- Dicaffeoylquinic acid. It protects the body from free radicals.
- Chlorogenic acid. It is an antioxidant that regulates blood sugar and has the potential to prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Ferulic. It has an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory capacity that protects the body from ultraviolet light; helps prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Can Decaf Kill You?
Here are some of the common side effects of drinking decaffeinated coffee:
It can increase bad cholesterol.
Research conducted at the Piedmont-Mercer Center for Health and Learning in Atlanta, suggests that drinking decaf could increase cholesterol levels. The process used in decaffeinating coffee is said to increase the non-esterified fatty acids in the blood by 18%. Those who drink at least 3 to 4 cups of decaffeinated coffee every day also show an 8% rise in apolipoprotein B – a protein associated with the bad cholesterol.
But, the findings are not conclusive. The British Heart Foundation says that the said study was limited to people who drink at least 3 cups of coffee a day and has no bearing to those who enjoy up to 2 cups daily.
Still, in another study, the American Heart Association also claims that unlike regular coffee, decaf raises the bad cholesterol and decreases the “good” cholesterol.
Higher LDL isn’t exactly harmful unless your LDL numbers go up, and your doctor started prescribing prescription to lower your cholesterol levels. When it happens, quit the decaf, eliminate foods with trans-fat and saturated fats from your diet and make some lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy.
It is more acidic
Decaf is more acidic than regular coffee because it is usually made from Robusta beans which are more acidic than Arabica and its counterparts.
Too much acidity is not good for the body since it is associated with the following health conditions:
- gastrointestinal disease
- mineral loss
- high cortisol levels
So, if you think your stomach can’t handle the acidity of a decaffeinated cup, just limit it to 1 to 2 cups a day. Anything beyond that could spike up your acidity levels.
The first successful attempt to isolate caffeine from pure coffee beans was performed by Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge in 1820. In 1903, Ludwig Roselius patented the first commercially successful decaffeination process.
How many people in the USA drink decaf vs regular coffee?
The National Coffee Association (NCA) reveals that in 2018, the U.S. per capita coffee consumption of decaffeinated coffee was 0.24 cups every day. The same survey revealed that 72% of consumers aged 60 years old are coffee drinkers. However, there’s no record on the exact number of coffee drinkers and its decaffeinated form in the US. Discover the most loved coffee beans for espresso.
But, if you look at the cafes and roasters, you would probably observe that they usually carry decaf but they focus on their caffeinated varieties. One of the reasons could be that fact that it has lower supply and demand. And, unlike coffee that carries limitless possibilities when it comes to experimenting on its varieties, the decaffeination process limits the decaf’s potential.
Which is better, decaf or regular coffee?
Decaf seems to offer an advantage when it comes to reducing the hypertensive impact of a regular coffee. Minus it caffeine content, you can enjoy a flavorful cup with a similar aroma without fear of having palpitations right after. But other than that, decaf doesn’t seem to offer any other health benefits over regular, and in fact, some studies suggest that they have some health implications. Therefore, the key is to limit the amount of coffee that you would drink per day.
As to the caffeine’s stimulant properties–if you limit it to 4 cups a day, you wouldn’t have to worry much about having palpitations that usually come after overconsumption of caffeinated drinks.
In fact, when taken in regular amounts, drinking coffee could make you healthier, because of its potential benefits:
- It boosts metabolic rate and aids in fat burning.
- Makes you alert and energized
- Coffee contains essential nutrients such as:
- Riboflavin, also known as Vitamin B2 helps the body produce energy by breaking down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.
- Pantothenic acid. Aside from converting food into energy, Vitamin B5 (known as pantothenic acid) is necessary for making blood cells.
- Manganese, a mineral that improves bone health, reduces inflammation, regulates blood sugar and reduces disease risk because of its antioxidant properties.
- Potassium, a mineral that is effective in reducing water retention for people suffering from kidney disorders. It lowers blood pressure, protects your kidney and helps prevent osteoporosis.
- It helps relieve anxiety, improves bone health and heart health.
- Niacin, also known as vitamin B3, unlike decaf which is suggested to increase bad cholesterol, caffeinated coffee increases good cholesterol and lowers the bad ones. It also lowers triglycerides and prevents arthritis.
So, decaf or regular coffee? It’s your call.
Anthony is a professional barista in the city of Chicago. He has written for many online publications on various topics related to coffee.