Decaf coffee gets a bad rap in the coffee world. Over the years, many of us have come to expect a flat, chemically-tasting coffee from decaffeinated beans.
However, thanks to the evolution of science and technology over the last 100 years, we are now able to happily enjoy a good cup of coffee without the caffeine, which is great news for those of us who enjoy a good affogato after dinner.
We’ve rounded up our picks for the best decaf coffee beans this year, but first, let’s jump into the ‘Who, What, and Whys’ of decaf coffee.
LifeBoost’s decaf is a bean you know has been treated well from farm to cup. Certified organic, shade grown, sustainable farming, fair trade and they give a portion of proceeds to Rainforest Trust for wildlife conservation.
This is another great coffee out there proving that coffee can be decaf, organic, environmentally friendly and still have a full body and satisfying taste.
No decaf coffee is truly “free” of caffeine. Before there’s any sort of uproar over that, let’s qualify what that means. There’s (currently) no way to grow coffee beans that are naturally caffeine-free, so all decaffeinated coffee goes through a process to remove said caffeine.
Depending on the method used to remove the caffeine from the beans, decaf coffee has around 97%-99.9% of the caffeine content removed.
So while the amount of caffeine in decaf is not significant at all, it’s good to be aware that it’s not technically 100% caffeine-free.
There are four main methods of removing the caffeine from raw, green coffee beans:
In this process, coffee beans are soaked in water and then directly flushed with a chemical solvent.
Methylene chloride is most commonly used in this method to draw out the caffeine from raw, green coffee beans. The beans are then flushed again to rinse away the chemical before roasting.
Another chemical decaffeination method similar to the direct-solvent process, this method first soaks green coffee beans in hot water. Then, the beans are removed and the water is treated with ethyl acetate to remove the caffeine.
The decaffeinated flavored water is added back to the beans through another soaking and drying method.
Finally, the beans are rinsed to wash away traces of the chemical.
Methylene chloride and ethyl acetate are used in both solvent methods, though methylene chloride is more common in the direct process and ethyl acetate is more common in the indirect process.
This is a chemical-free method of reducing 99.9% of the caffeine in green coffee beans and results in the only certified organic decaf coffees.
The process relies on a Green Coffee Extract (GCE) and the basic science of equilibrium to draw the caffeine out of the coffee beans and into the GCE during a water soaking process.
This is a patented process developed by Swiss Water and focuses on small batches of specialty coffee. It is the only decaffeination facility certified organic by both OCIA and Aurora Certified Organic and is certified Kosher by the Kosher Overseers Association.
This is the newest method of decaffeination.
Water-soaked coffee beans are placed in a sealed, stainless steel container and blasted with liquid CO2 at pressures of 1,000 pounds per square inch to extract the caffeine. The CO2 flows into another chamber where it is depressurized and returns to its gaseous state.
This is an expensive method, so it’s most often used for commercial-grade coffee you might find in the grocery store.
Original decaf coffee was just “low-caffeine” and used only chemical methods of decaffeination, hence the bad reputation for a lack of flavor and bad aftertaste.
Over the years, the process of decaffeination has advanced enough that there are a few decaf coffees on the market that produce truly wonderful cups of coffee and rival some of the best regular roasts out there.
Most decaf coffee is produced using a solvent-based method, though most small-batch, artisanal roasters use the Swiss Water Process.
All of the coffees on our list and most decaf coffees are produced using Arabica beans because of their lower caffeine content.
The best compliment I could ever give is that you really can’t tell that you’re drinking decaffeinated coffee. I brewed these grounds in my Keurig coffee maker, and the taste was amazing. It’s true what most people say about Lifeboost, that you really don’t need cream and sugar to make them taste good. That says a lot about the beans and their process. Well done, Lifeboost… well done.
Well George, we’re starting to become fans of LifeBoost Coffee as a company, as well. Founded by Dr. Charles Livingston, who wanted to provide the amazing, positive experience of the coffee ritual to the rest of the 80% of the population who enjoys it.
Heading into the mission of making a better cup of coffee for people to enjoy, Lifeboost is made from fairly-traded coffee grown in a nationally protected area at 5700 feet above sea level. This trifecta of features creates a great foundation for a wonderful cup of joe.
Using both a wet and dry process, this Nicaraguan coffee is washed in pure, spring mountain water and tested frequently for quality, molds, moisture content, consistency, and more— and this is all before we get to the decaffeination process.
Lifeboost uses the Swiss Water Method to decaffeinate beans, which maintains the coffee flavor and complexity without the use of chemicals that often leave that chemically taste we all dread.
One of the most appreciable aspects of Lifeboost coffee is the dedication they have to the coffee itself from beginning to end, from farm to cup. From the varietals they use, Arabica and Maragogipe, to the carefully decided process that extends from picking to roasting to shipping.
These decaf beans are a great example of the fruits of that labor: particularly well-rounded with notes of chocolate and caramel, and a mild acidity that helps all the flavors pop. All of this will cost you a bit more per bag, but that quality and certainty are often well worth the extra dollars.
The only aspect of the Lifeboost product I’d recommend taking with a grain of salt is the heavy focus on mycotoxins and the allegation that many other coffees are chock full of them. No one’s going to say mycotoxins are a good thing, but they’re heavily regulated and, like most things, present just about everywhere.
Other than that — this is a great decaf coffee to indulge in when it’s a tad too late to drink the caffeinated stuff.
Don Pablo is a family-owned business with a heartwarming backstory. It all started when Darron J. Burke met the love of his life, Eliana, and went to meet her family in Colombia. The delicious coffee quickly stole their hearts and became their passion in life.
Using Eliana’s grandmother’s pet name for Darron, Don Pablo, Cafe Don Pablo was born.
There are a number of reasons that Cafe Don Pablo coffee is highly regarded, and it begins with the close relationships this family-owned and operated business has with its farmers. With coffee farms in Latin American, Asia, and Africa, Cafe Don Pablo offers a wide variety of complex coffee flavors.
None of their bags are ever blended with Robusta and they employ a Q grader, someone credentialed by the CQI grade and score coffees. Strictly using highly altitude, shade-grown beans, all of which are 100% Arabica, you won’t ever have to question the quality of your bean.
Where Cafe Don Pablo adds their exquisite touch to this process is in the art of roasting. Roasting by sight, smell, and sound in true artisan fashion, they roast only in small batches, and only after you order to provide optimal freshness.
While their beans are not fair trade, they do have their own Sharing Certified program and work closely with farmers. They’re AIB Food Safety Certified, as well as Certified by the CCOF for Organic Production.
If you want a true taste of Cafe Don Pable, just decaffeinated, then this Colombian Decaf will give you just that. This medium-dark roast has the same full-bodied flavor with notes of caramel, cocoa, and a hint of citrus, justy without the caffeine. It goes through the same artisanal small-batch roasting process as they’re other bags, and it results in a sweet, rich, and smooth low-acid coffee you’ll love.
Jo Coffee, owned by Specialty Java, Inc., is a gourmet coffee with a whole slew of certifications that make it a top-notch choice for coffee in general. Specialty Java, Inc., is a member of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), and employs Roast Masters that are members of the Roaster’s Guild.
Founded by Kevin Kapaun, his passion for coffee began as a hobby, home roasting for family and friends. Today, he’s grown that hobby into something considerably larger, including private label coffee, artisan micro roastery, and, of course, Jo Coffee.
Jo Coffee is USDA Organic Certified, Fair Trade Certified, and cRc Kosher Certified, which they’re audited on every single year. Using only the top 2% of the world’s finest Arabica production, you can be assured that your bag of beans is top quality stuff.
Their No Fun Jo Decaf is a medium-dark roast that’s been decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process, resulting in a full-bodied gourmet coffee with complex notes of sweet blueberry and milk chocolate.
Never using any chemicals, you definitely won’t get any of the synthetic taste that’s always feared when buying decaf, and you can feel pretty good about your purchase, too, considering that Jo Coffee is environmentally conscious.
You all know that I have a strange appreciation for brands that tell exactly what they’re all about right in the name. Either that, or opt for something humorous. Either way, Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLC, has it all right in the name. Fresh. Roast. Coffee.
I’m sold, but, for you, let’s go through the particulars of what that name means — as well as the extras that come with buying from this very conscientious brand that didn’t quite all fit in the simple, albeit fitting, moniker.
Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLC, chooses their coffees while considering many things, including origin, flavor profile, and quality. Their goal is to provide their customers with the highest quality coffee on earth, and they do this through a number of certifications that guarantee that quality.
With coffee that’s USDA certified organic, it’s consistently regulated at each stage — including during their water-processed decaf and half-caff coffees. They also boast certifications for those two processes specifically, which guarantee that they’re made entirely chemical free.
Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLC, also proudly roasts both Direct Trade and Fair Trade Certified coffee, beans that are Rain Forest Alliance Certified, and use a Loring Smart Roaster that creates as smokeless roasting environment to eliminate carbon emissions by 80%
Honestly, wow. And that’s just the beginning of how carefully and conscientiously Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLC, handles their business and beans, which, of course, extends into their Organic Decaf Sumatra.
The result is a bold medium roast with cupping notes that capture the jungle essence, featuring a predominantly earthy flavor with undertones of baker’s chocolate. Polishing off this cup is a creamy finish, this Organic Decaf Sumatra retains all of the flavor and body you crave, just without the caffeine.
Volcanica Coffee is a specialty retailer of exotic gourmet coffee that was spurred by the desire to bring the flavorful cups of java from Puerto Rico to the United States. The coffees that offered that “it” factor most, didn’t solely rely on the elevation, though, which is where many other coffee purveyors stop.
While still a key factor, the founders of Volcanica Coffee found that it was ultimately the volcanic soil, the cool climate and moisture, that reaped the most rewards when growing and cultivating coffee beans.
With that knowledge in hand, Volcanica Coffee was founded in 2004. They work directly with coffee farms and local cooperatives to provide over 120 different coffees, which include single origin, estate, peaberry, flavored, and, of course, decaf.
Volcanica is another company focused on making great-tasting, gourmet coffee that’s sourced ethically and sustainably. Their shade-grown coffee is backed by the Rainforest Alliance Certification, and their decaf coffees are made chemical-free through the Swiss Water Process.
Unlike other companies, Volcanica Coffee actually offers a variety of decaf coffees, but the Costa Rica Decaf Tarrazu, in particular, is a balanced cup hailing from the Tarrazu high mountain ranges south of San Jose. This single-origin roast is bright and has flavor notes of toasty Tarrazu and apple that are crisp and refreshing. Perhaps the most striking part of this coffee is the smooth finish and low acidity.
Though we always recommend buying the whole bean option and using your own coffee grinder, Volcanica offers a pre-ground option that can be used with drip coffee makers or pour-overs.
With Kicking Horse Coffee primarily known for its amazingly caffeinated beans, it may come as a surprise that you can enjoy their deep, dark, and delicious brand decaffeinated.
Located in Invermere, BC, Kicking Horse Coffee was founded in 1996 by Elana Rosenfeld and Leo Johnson, who had the goal of producing the freshest, best-tasting coffee possible. They’ve spent the past 20-plus years working their “arses” off, and, today, they’re Canada’s #1 selling whole bean coffee.
Over the years, they’ve done more than just roast coffee, though. They went Fair Trade in 1998, 100% certified organic in 2003, and opened a cafe in 2008. In 2018, they were named Best Workplace ™ in Canada, with special recognition as being the best workplace for women, inclusion, and manufacturing.
In the same way that Kicking Horse has strived to be the best in everything, this decaf blend from Central and South America is no exception to that rule. The dark roast has a nice aroma and plays incredibly nice with French press, drip machines, pour over, and cold brew methods.
The tasting notes for this coffee are roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate, cacao nibs, and brown sugar, making it just as deep, dark, and delicious as every other bag they produce.
As the name might suggest, Koffee Kult has a dedicated following of customers enchanted with the gourmet, small-batch roasts that come out of their environmentally-friendly roasting facility in Florida.
Offering a wide variety of specialty grade, 100% arabica coffee beans, Koffee Kult roasts everything in small, 30 pound batches that are overseen by the Roast Master from start to finish, from picking the green beans to being hand packaged.
Koffee Kult roasts in state-of-the-art roasters and uses a painstaking testing process to record the flavor profile for duplication in future patches. More than just solely focused on providing authentic, artisan coffee, Koffee Kult wants to make pure coffee brewing and style, the kind that can’t be branded and franchised, to those that truly love coffee.
In that vein, the Colombian Decaf Coffee is 100% Arabica and decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process (i.e. chemical free). This single origin from Colombia has a heavy body with a bright, floral finish and an incredible aroma. While this is a medium roast, it’s definitely on the bold side.
Eight O’Clock is the most affordable option on our list, on top of that, it’s also the oldest operating coffee company. Originally founded in 1859 as the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, it became Eight O’Clock Coffee in 1919 and hasn’t looked back since.
Despite the name and branding changes, Eight O’Clock Coffee retained all of the good bits, including roasting only high quality, 100% Arabica beans and roasting only in their own facility under the expert supervision of master roasters.
This is a coffee name that you likely recognize if you grew up in the United States and makes an excellent option for a no-frills, everyday brew that lets their beans do the talking. No extensive backstory. No named artisan roasting processes. None of that.
I mean, if you’ve survived 150 years of business, I guess that says a lot of what you need to know, yeah?
Eight O’Clock’s The Original Decaf is sweet, fruity, and well-balanced. This medium roast is a blend of Arabica that mimics their Original Blend, so you get all of the classic flavor of Eight O’Clock coffee without the caffeine!
A Brooklyn-based, artisanal coffee roaster, Stone Street Coffee Company features freshness as what their business is built on. To make sure that every customer experiences that freshness, Stone Street focuses on small batch quality through their custom roasters that create a consistent taste and tone for every bag.
When it comes to sourcing beans, Stone Street Coffee Company partners with an organization called Sweet Unity Farms, whose coffees are grown 100% by family-owned farms. Sweet Unity Farms is the sole marketer and distributor for these cooperatives, business groups, and associations, resulting in a direct trade formula that results in a better quality of life for rural coffee farms.
Another company of few words outside of their charitable mission, Stone Street Coffee Company is a favorite among native New Yorkers. Their Mayan Water Decaf is one three decaf options they sell, all of which are decaffeinated through the Swiss Water Process, like many other artisanal coffees.
The Mayan Water Decaf, in particular, is a medium roast blend from Central America and delivers a smooth, low-acidity cup with a medium body and full flavor. Top it off with a clean, fresh aroma, and this Stone Street decaf is a very likeable option even for non-New Yorkers.
Wild Coffee is a part of Wild Foods Co., which was founded by Colin Stuckert, whose passion revolves around the quality of foods and supplements. Wild Coffee was born of that same desire. Wild Food Co.’s entire gig is to focus on real, raw, as close-to-nature-as-possible ingredients.
Based on that, you can guess that their coffee is just what you’d expect: untainted coffee. Whole Bean, Fair Trade, Organic, and Single Origin harvested from a high altitude and roasted in small batches to retain all the flavor and aroma coffee drinkers love.
Their Lonestar Decaf bag is a blend of light and dark roasted beans from Central and South America, resulting in a fresh, low-acid taste without bitterness. They also have a 100% Money-Back Guarantee, which is a great incentive to give this decaf a try!
Hopefully we won't cause too much controversy by including an instant coffee brand on this list, but we felt that the decaf Waka Coffee deserved a shout out, especially since so many of us can identify with the problem that birthed the company.
Waka Coffee’s founder, David, was a full-time undergraduate student with a full-time job who survived through copious amounts of caffeine. Coffee while on the go gets expensive, as many of us know, and difficult to make well in small apartment kitchens. Sound familiar? I definitely empathize.
His search for a good instant coffee resulted in disappointment on multiple levels—not only were they made of inferior robusta beans, they were roasted in huge spray-dried batches, which saves companies money but degrades taste.
Fueled by his too expensive java from nearby coffee shops and passion to make his love of caffeine both less expensive and easier, Waka Coffee was born. Out of his determination to make things better, he’s produced a 100% high-quality arabica bean instant coffee using a freeze-dried method to preserve aroma and depth of flavor.
Based in Los Angeles, Waka sells great instant coffee and tea products, and this decaf version is no exception. Just like Waka's caffeinated version, this decaf instant coffee is made from 100% high quality Colombian Arabica beans so that caffeine-conscious customers can enjoy the same great taste.
It’s decaffeinated using something called the “natural origin E.A. (ethyl acetate) method,” which we know better as the Indirect Solvent Method. In this method, the beans are steamed until they swell before being doused in ethyl acetate. It all sounds chemically and mildly concerning, but ethyl acetate occurs naturally in many fruits and is often referred to as a natural decaffeination process.
Medium roasted, well balanced, and smooth bodied with notes of citrus, this decaf instant coffee easily dissolves in hot or cold water, which makes it great for a standard black cup of java as well as for mixing into shakes.
While we clearly believe that the coffee pros outweigh the coffee cons, we understand that high levels of caffeine intake are not good for everyone.
In fact, there a number of reasons why limiting your caffeine intake can be a good idea: sleep troubles, blood pressure issues, anxiety, upset stomach, etc.
Reducing caffeine consumption is particularly important for pregnant women. Decaf coffee is also lower in acidity than regular coffee, which is what causes heartburn or stomach pain in some people.
Keep in mind during your decaf coffee bean search that the ultimate factor in your decision is your personal taste (and health needs, if that applies to you).
Decaffeinated coffee beans are notoriously difficult to roast: they respond more erratically to heat than regular coffee beans and tend to roast faster and darker. This is one of the main reasons that finding quality-tasting decaf coffee is so difficult..
However, finding a decaf coffee that you enjoy should be much like finding any coffee roast that you enjoy.
Picking the “best” coffee is difficult when so much depends on individual tastes and preferences. Generally, all of the coffees listed here are high-quality roasts that cater to a variety of individual needs.
If we had to name favorites, we’d pick the Lifeboost Decaf Coffee and the flavorful Fresh Roasted Coffee, LLC’s Organic Decaf Sumatra. It really is the coffee with the mostest, between its bold flavor and impressive array of do-good certifications.
That said, the bold tasting Kicking Horse coffee is our runner-up. What we like about Kicking Horse is that it comes with all of the buzzwords of an artisanal roaster—fair trade, organic, kosher, Swiss Water processed, small-batch—but is actually fairly affordable. Of course, we wouldn’t say no to a good Koffee Kult or Volcanica roast either.