The Pros and Cons of Decaf Coffee

The Pros and Cons of Decaf Coffee

Decaffeinated coffee is served at virtually all coffee shops as an alternative to regular coffee. But contrary to popular belief, decaf still contains caffeine, just at a much smaller amount compared to regular coffee. If that surprised you, read on to discover the pros and cons of drinking decaf coffee.

What is Decaf Coffee?

pros and cons of decaf coffee

Decaffeinated coffee is the same as regular coffee, but with almost all of the caffeine removed. As mentioned above, decaf coffee still contains a very small amount of caffeine (around 3 percent compared to regular coffee) since there is no way to remove 100% of the caffeine.

In a regular cup of coffee there is roughly 95 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a cup of decaf coffee has just 2 milligrams of caffeine.

Here’s a quick 2-minute crash course about decaf coffee:

How is Decaf Coffee Made?

pros and cons of decaf coffee
There are three ways decaf coffee can be made: the Swiss water method, carbon dioxide, and methyl chloride. You can take a deeper dive into decaf processing methods here.

The Swiss Water Method

This is where green coffee beans are soaked in water until the water is saturated with the soluble components in coffee. The caffeine is filtered out from the water, making green coffee extract. The extract is then added to green coffee beans that have caffeine, in which the “caffeine migrates from the beans to the green coffee extract as the beans and liquid seek equilibrium until the beans are almost entirely caffeine-free.” (Source)

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide can separate different chemical substances, like caffeine from coffee, simply by pumping it through coffee beans. 

Methyl Chloride

Methylene chloride is a chemical solvent that removes caffeine from coffee beans. Back in the day, benzene was the chemical of choice until it was proved to be a carcinogen. Now, companies have switched to other chemicals, most commonly ethyl acetate and methylene chloride.

However, there has been some controversy about methyl chloride because exposure to high amounts can be toxic and lead to central nervous system damage. The FDA has ruled that tiny trace amounts of methylene chloride in decaf coffee are no concern, as residues of more than 0.001% are prohibited. (Source)

Is Decaf Coffee Healthy?

Whether decaf coffee is healthy or not for you depends on your health and medical history. Decaf coffee still contains a lot of the antioxidants that regular coffee has, so if you’re looking to cut out caffeine but still want the benefits of coffee, then yes, decaf coffee is a healthy option. Decaf coffee also helps people who are sensitive to caffeine but enjoy the taste of coffee. Another excellent option if you’d still like the boost of caffeine, but in a smaller amount, is half caff coffee. You can read more about half caff vs decaf here. (Source)

So, Should I Drink Decaf Coffee?

Whether you should drink decaf coffee depends on you and your health. Here are the pros and cons of drinking decaf coffee.

Pros of Drinking Decaf Coffee

Decaf coffee can help with:

Caffeine sensitivity. With decaf coffee, you escape the negative side effects of caffeine in regular coffee. Many people experience insomnia, restlessness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and anxiety from the caffeine in coffee. 

Caffeine-induced health problems. Caffeine can induce insomnia, heart palpitations, and other health problems. Caffeine is a stimulant, diuretic, and acidic. If you experience heartburn, bowel problems, or have trouble sleeping, decaf coffee can help lessen the effects of caffeine while still incorporating coffee into your routine. (Source)

Caffeine-induced anxiety. A common side effect of caffeine is anxiety. Caffeine can induce restlessness and nervousness and what we call “jitters." However, it’s important to note that coffee does not cause anxiety, but it can worsen symptoms in people already prone to anxiety. (Source)

If you experience anxiety and drink regular coffee, perhaps think about switching to decaf coffee if you find your anxiety worsening with coffee.  

Digestive/dehydration problems. One study found that coffee induces a gastrocolic response in some people after drinking coffee, indicating that it has some laxative effects, but this is still being studied today. Ultimately, everyone’s body is different and you know yourself best.

Cons of Drinking Decaf Coffee

Decaf coffee can also have:

Chemicals. Some decaf coffee is made with methyl chloride, which is a chemical found in paint strippers. Exposure to high concentrations of this chemical can have severe neurological effects in humans, and prolonged exposure can lead to central nervous system effects in animals. (Source)

While small amounts of this chemical are safe, if you want to avoid it altogether, make sure to check the labels of the decaf coffee you buy. The majority of the time, decaf coffee that does not display  how it was decaffeinated, was made using methyl chloride. 

Cholesterol. There have been multiple studies researching the effects of decaf coffee on cholesterol in humans. Some argue that it increases cholesterol, but others say there is no effect. The findings are inconclusive for now, but if you experience cholesterol problems, you may want to talk to your doctor if you are concerned.

Remember, we’re not a licensed healthcare provider, so we recommend talking to a licensed professional to get the best advice.

Where to Find Good Decaf Coffee

At Bean and Bean, we believe that you shouldn’t have to sacrifice the amazing taste of coffee when drinking decaf. Here are our top picks for decaf:

Guatemala Organic Decaf Single Origin Coffee: Fair trade water processed decaf.

Peru Organic Decaf Single Origin Coffee: Produced by a co-op farm in Peru.

Sip and read more: