What is Decaf Coffee? (Pros and Cons)

Many people (including the staff at BeanToCupCoffee.co.uk!) view coffee as a lot more than a mere beverage; they view it as a way of life. If you take a glance at any barista menu, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about. The sheer number of variations of the famous drink can confuse those who aren’t clued in.

In this article, we won’t be analysing any coffee shop menus though. Instead, we’ll take a look at what exactly decaffeinated coffee is, how it’s made, and the pros and cons associated with consuming it.

What Exactly Is Decaffeinated Coffee?

Decaf or decaffeinated coffee is simply coffee that has had the majority of its caffeine removed.

For a lot of hardcore coffee enthusiasts, drinking a decaffeinated cup of joe defeats the purpose. But for some, particularly those with a caffeine intolerance, decaf coffee presents the opportunity for them to enjoy the aromatic and refreshingly acid taste of coffee without potentially compromising their health or being kept up all night.

It is important to remember that decaf coffee is not completely caffeine free and that the amounts of caffeine it contains can and will vary. The general consensus is that at least 97% of the caffeine or more should be removed for the coffee to be declared decaffeinated.

So, despite decaf coffee not being entirely caffeine free, the remaining levels of caffeine are typically very small.

How Decaf Coffee Is Made

There are three main methods of making decaf coffee. We’ve briefly discussed them below.

Swiss Water Process

The Swiss water method relies largely on caffeine’s dissolvability. During this process, green coffee beans are submerged in water until the water is completely soaked with the soluble elements of coffee, after which the caffeine is separated from the water thus leaving green coffee extract.

The resultant extract is then added to green coffee beans with caffeine. As the beans and extract seek equilibrium, the caffeine moves via osmosis from the beans to the extract until most of the caffeine leaves the beans.

This is a popular decaffeination method as it is environmentally friendly and chemical-free.

Carbon Dioxide Process

The carbon dioxide or CO2 process is arguably the most widely used of the three methods. It involves carbon dioxide moving on a loop through an extractor and a scrubber for around 8 to 12 hours. The water in the scrubber washes away dissolved caffeine before the CO2 comes back around to take out more caffeine.

Methylene Chloride

Also referred to as dichloromethane, methylene chloride is a colourless liquid that is used in a variety of industrial processes. Companies began using it as a substitute for benzene due to the discovery of benzene’s carcinogenic nature.

During this process, the coffee beans are initially steamed to draw out the caffeine to the outer surface of the bean. Methylene chloride is then applied to the beans to remove the caffeine, after which the beans are steamed once again to remove any remaining methylene chloride. Lastly, the beans are dried and roasted to further get rid of any residual solvent.

The Pros And Cons Of Decaffeinated Coffee

So if you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering whether or not drinking decaf coffee is worthwhile. Here’s our take.


  • Prevent caffeine intolerance – A caffeine intolerance can bring a number of debilitating side effects such as heart palpitations, headaches, and insomnia. It can also reduce or even eliminate the boost associated with drinking regular coffee. Decaf, therefore, makes a good alternative.
  • Reduce anxiety – A reduction in your caffeine intake can significantly lower caffeine-induced anxiety. This is why anxiety sufferers often make the switch to decaf.
  • No disruption to sleep – Coffee lovers know all too well that excessive caffeine consumption can easily lead to a late night of staring up at the ceiling and calculating The Collatz Conjecture. Decaf coffee substantially reduces the likeliness of this happening.


  • Chemicals – Depending on the decaffeination process used, decaf coffee can contain trace elements of chemicals such as methylene chloride, which can cause neurological problems with excessive exposure. Always check the label before you drink coffee.
  • Cholesterol – Some manufacturers may make coffee with lower-quality beans that have a higher fat content, which, in turn, can elevate cholesterol.
  • Price tag – Decaf coffee tends to cost more than regular coffee because of the manufacturing process.
  • No caffeine boost – If you drink a morning coffee for a quick boost your alertness, then decaf probably isn’t a good choice!

Related Article: What Is Nitro Coffee?

Should You Choose Decaf Coffee Or Normal Coffee?

Ultimately, whether you choose a cup of regular coffee or decaf is completely down to your own individual needs. Consuming too much caffeine can give you problems, although some people argue that decaf coffee has potential health issues too. Many people opt for a middle ground by replacing some (but not all) of their coffee with decaf.

If you don’t want to make the switch to decaf, you can always simply reduce and monitor how much caffeine you consume or how many times you drink regular coffee in a day.


Does decaf coffee make you sleepy?

There is no evidence to suggest that decaf coffee can make you tired. Additionally, the caffeine content of decaffeinated coffee is typically inconsequential, so it shouldn’t do much to your sleep.

Can decaf coffee help with weight loss?

There’s no direct weight loss effect of drinking decaf. However, according to studies, using it as a naturally low-calorie treat (instead of food) could help with weight loss. For it to be most effective in weight loss, your cup of decaf coffee should be drunk without extras such as sugar.

Can children drink decaffeinated coffee?

Sources tend to vary on this question quite a lot with some saying it is fine and others advising completely against children drinking coffee, caffeinated or otherwise. Experts generally don’t recommend giving decaf coffee to a child younger than 10 years old.

Should pregnant women drink decaf or regular coffee?

Since there is a lack of official guidelines on pregnant women drinking decaf coffee, doing so should be done in moderation. However, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women can safely consume up to 200 milligrams of caffeine a day. Check with your doctor first though.


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