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Many coffee lovers rely on decaf for their morning joe, or for an afternoon or evening beverage. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to find decaf options that taste like "the real thing." That's because certain decaffeination processes remove key coffee flavors and may result in a lackluster bag of beans. We rounded up our top picks for decaf die-hards, including different roasts, price points, and forms of coffee from whole bean to pod. The various decaffeination processes are also explained in greater detail, all so that you can make the most informed buying decision.
Here are the best decaf coffees to buy.
Best Overall: Kicking Horse Decaf Dark Roast Coffee
Every coffee lover wants decaf to taste like the real thing, and Kicking Horse Coffee is up to the challenge. The company's decaf blend is a dark roast that customers generally describe as rich, robust, and flavorful. You'll find notes of roasted hazelnuts and milk chocolate in every sip.
Kicking Horse is certified organic and fair trade and roasts all of its beans right at home in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Its coffee is slightly more expensive than a standard supermarket brand, decaf included, but it is easy to find both in-store and online. Plus, you can choose between a 10-ounce bag or a 2.2-pound bag.
Roast: Dark | Size: 10 ounces or 2.2 pounds | Available In: Whole bean | Decaffeination Process: Swiss Water Process
Best Organic: Jo Coffee No Fun Jo Decaf Medium Dark Roast
If you're going organic and trying to ditch caffeine at the same time, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better-tasting option than Jo Coffee. Its decaf blend combines notes of sweet blueberry and milk chocolate for a rich flavor you can’t resist.
No Fun Jo uses the Swiss Water process to decaffeinate its coffee, which leaves the beans with a more complex flavor. The beans are also fair-trade certified and certified organic.
The decaf blend is available in both whole bean and ground, and you can choose between a 12-ounce bag, a 2-pound bag, and coffee pods.
Roast: Medium-dark | Size: 12 ounces or 2 pounds | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup | Decaffeination Process: Swiss Water Process
Best Light Roast: Cafe Don Pablo Colombian Light Roast Decaf Coffee
Consistent and palatable, light roast coffee can be a delicious way to start the day or a mellow after-dinner treat. No matter what time you take your coffee, Cafe Don Pablo's Colombian Decaf is a wonderful choice. It comes with a smooth finish, low acidity, and rich notes of caramel, cocoa, and citrus.
One small downside to this beloved brand is that its decaf blend is not easy to find in the 12-ounce size, so you may have to get 2 pounds or 5 pounds of coffee at once. Despite this, most customers say that the coffee consistently tastes fresh.
Roast: Light roast (also available in medium-dark roast) | Size: 12 ounces, 2 pounds, and 5 pounds | Available In: Whole bean and ground | Decaffeination Process: Swiss Water Process
Best Budget: Seattle's Best Coffee Decaf Portside Blend
This well-balanced medium roast has strong reviews regarding flavor and bang for your buck. It's crafted from 100 percent Arabica beans, all of which are sourced in Latin America. The decaf, as well as other Seattle's Best coffees, is easy to find online or in-person. The main setback of this blend is that it can only be purchased in a 12-ounce bag of ground coffee, rather than larger bags of whole beans. The beans are also decaffeinated through a chemical process rather than the chemical-free Swiss Water Process. Seattle's Best is a subsidiary of fellow Seattle native Starbucks, but it’s far easier on your wallet and typically billed as a hearty, everyday coffee that keeps it simple.
Roast: Medium | Size: 12 ounces | Available In: Ground | Decaffeination Process: Direct Contact Process
Best High End: Volcanica Coffee Company House Decaf Coffee
As the name suggests, Volcanica Coffee Company uses the high elevations and rich soil of volcanic mountains to create delicious coffee. Its beans are sourced from countries all across the world, then roasted in Volcanica's home city of Atlanta, Georgia. The brand also uses the Swiss Water method, which removes caffeine with as few chemicals as possible, all while retaining the bean’s flavor palette.
Volcanica makes a number of tasty caffeinated blends, but it especially stands out for making more than a dozen decaf options, including this House Blend. Expect this coffee to contain the traditional balance of a medium roast but with an undercurrent of sweetness. Those looking for alternative flavors can try Volcanica's popular Costa Rican Decaf and Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Decaf.
Roast: Medium | Size: 16 ounces or 5 pounds | Available In: Whole bean and ground | Decaffeination Process: Swiss Water Process
Best Instant: Mount Hagen Organic Freeze Dried Instant Decaf Coffee
Mount Hagen Decaf Instant Coffee is organic, fair trade, and downright tasty. Customers describe instant coffee as a well-balanced medium roast, one that’s surprisingly strong but not too acidic.
You can purchase the product in a 3.53-ounce jar or a box of individually packaged servings, the latter of which is ideal for coffee drinkers who are often traveling or constantly on the go. One note: You won't be able to control the strength of your brew as easily if you're using a single-serve packet, so if you like a big cup of coffee or prefer a stronger brew, go for the jar.
Roast: Medium | Size: 3.53-ounce jar or box of 25 single-serve sticks | Available In: Instant | Decaffeination Process: CO2 Process
Best Coffee Pods: The Original Donut Shop Decaf Medium Roast K-Cup Pods
Available in-store and online at various big-name retailers, The Original Donut Shop is a favorite among Keurig owners, beloved by many for providing quick cups of top-grade coffee. Take that same great coffee, subtract the caffeine, and you get the best decaf coffee pods on the market.
Smooth and flavorful, The Original Donut Shop makes its decaf roast extra bold, packing in even more Arabica beans than in its regular coffee. And even though taste buds vary and coffee preferences can be polarizing, this product has received widespread praise for being just as full-bodied as regular coffee.
Roast: Medium | Size: 6, 12, 24, 72, or 96 pods | Available In: K-Cup | Decaffeination Process: Proprietary information
Best Breakfast Blend: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Breakfast Blend Decaf Coffee
Many coffee drinkers have their first cup right when they wake up in the morning, so it's always worth stocking a tasty breakfast blend in your cupboard. Breakfast blends usually have gentle flavors and a roast that tends toward light, perfect for those who prefer to have a more mellow cup to ease into the day, as opposed to drinking the more robust flavors that come from dark roasts.
Our favorite breakfast blend for decaf drinkers comes from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. These beans combine a gentle sweetness with a noticeable nuttiness, and, like many light roasts, it has a smooth, easy-to-sip finish. The brand is widely available online and in-person at local grocery stores and large retailers. The Breakfast Blend Decaf is sold in 12-ounce bags of ground and whole bean coffee, as well as assorted boxes of K-Cups.
Roast: Light | Size: 12 ounces | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup | Decaffeination Process: Swiss Water Process
Best Medium Roast: Koffee Kult Colombian Decaf Coffee
Koffee Kult sources its beans from over 50 countries and, as a result, offers a wide array of coffees, including several decaf options. Our favorite is the Colombian decaf. It's a medium roast that's versatile enough to enjoy at all times in the day, yet it has underlying hints of dark chocolate and a sweet, syrupy finish to set it apart.
The beans used to make it are sourced directly from Colombia and treated via Swiss Water Process to decaffeinate them. You can buy the coffee as whole beans or pre-ground depending on how hands-on you like your coffee making to be.
Roast: Medium | Size: 12, 32, or 80 ounces | Available In: Whole bean, ground, and K-Cup | Decaffeination Process: Swiss Water Process
Best Dark Roast: Peet's Coffee Decaf Major Dickason's Blend
With an extensive variety of blends and a wide-ranging grocery store presence, many already love Peet's Coffee. The Bay Area company makes several types of decaf coffee, one of the most popular being Major Dickason's Blend, which is also sold as a caffeinated option. It's an extremely dark roast with a smoky, slightly spicy flavor.
The coffee is sold in both ground and whole bean varieties (as well as K-cups), and you can find bags of 10.5 or 16 ounces. Just keep in mind that it drifts toward the expensive end and might be a little harder to track down than the more common caffeinated blends. If this specific flavor doesn't appeal to you, check out Peet's other decaf dark roasts, including House Blend and French Roast.
Roast: Dark | Size: 10.5 or 16 ounces | Available In: Whole bean and ground | Decaffeination Process: Direct Contact Process
What to Look for in a Decaf Coffee
Not all decaf coffee is made the same way. There are several different decaffeination methods, each of which leads to subtle differences when the coffee reaches your cup. Perhaps the most common method is water processing (often referred to as Swiss-water decaf). The newest one on the block is the CO2 process, where liquid carbon dioxide is pressurized into coffee beans. There is no clear-cut best method, unfortunately, but once you find one you like it's worth sticking with it.
Identifying the type of roast you like—light, medium, or dark—is a great place to start when trying a new coffee. But it can get even trickier than that. Keep an eye out for a blend's tasting notes, usually written somewhere on the bag. With a dark roast, for instance, you might like one that has notes of chocolate but not notes of smokiness, or vice versa.
There is generally little difference in price between decaf coffee and regular, but it's still a key consideration since the majority of coffee drinkers have a cup (or three) every single day. Try experimenting with different brands to find your cost comfort zone. See if you have a preference between a $5 bag of beans and a $20 bag. Just because a coffee is more expensive doesn't mean it's the best one for your taste buds.
Does decaf coffee have caffeine?
Most decaf coffee contains a small amount of caffeine. Sometimes it's as little as 2 milligrams per cup, while other options can have up to 18 milligrams of caffeine. In comparison, a cup of regular coffee has around 100 milligrams of caffeine on average. Coffee beans naturally contain caffeine, so it's difficult to remove all traces of it, especially without ruining the taste. So roasters generally remove about 97 percent of the caffeine from coffee during the decaffeination process. If you are looking for a beverage that's entirely caffeine free, you may want to consider coffee alternatives like chicory coffee, turmeric lattes, and more. Although, many decaf coffees are still low enough in caffeine to help you avoid the jitters and find a different experience than drinking regularly caffeinated coffee.
How is decaf coffee made?
There are four main ways to decaffeinate coffee beans.
One of the newest and popular methods is the Swiss Water Process. It's a solvent-free method that removes up to 99.9 percent of caffeine. First, raw coffee beans are soaked in hot water to remove caffeine and create a "Green Coffee Extract" or GCE. The GCE then passes through a carbon filter to take out the caffeine and is recirculated around a new batch of raw coffee beans for several hours to infuse them with oils and flavor but not caffeine. After that, the beans are dried, roasted, and ready to brew.
Another solvent-free method is the CO2 process. Raw coffee beans are soaked in water and blasted with liquid CO2 that binds to the caffeine molecules in the beans. The CO2 is then removed with carbon filters, taking the caffeine with it. The CO2 process is less common than the Swiss Water Process, however.
Next, there's the direct-solvent method. In this process, raw beans are treated with a solvent—either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate—that binds to the caffeine. When the beans are roasted, both the solvent and the caffeine burn off. This is the oldest way to decaffeinate coffee beans and it remains common today.
Finally, there's the indirect-solvent method. Raw coffee beans are soaked in hot water to remove caffeine as well as oils and flavor. The beans are then separated from the water and washed for several hours with either methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. Just like in the direct method, the solvent binds to the caffeine molecules, then it's heated to evaporate the solvent and about 97 percent of the caffeine. Lastly, the beans are soaked in the initial liquid so they can reabsorb the oils and flavor.
Does decaf taste differently than caffeinated coffee?
While there's no set answer to this question, you may find that decaf coffee tastes slightly different from caffeinated coffee, even if it's the same blend from the same brand. This is because the decaffeination process alters the oils and flavors found in coffee beans. That said, even trained taste buds can have a hard time noticing a difference. There's also decaf out there that tastes even better than some caffeinated coffee. It all boils down to personal preference and, luckily, there's plenty of tasty decaf options from which to choose.
Does decaf espresso exist?
We often think of espresso as the little shots of caffeine that keep us buzzing throughout the day, but decaf espresso does exist, and it's no different than decaf coffee. After all, any coffee bean can be used for espresso; some beans are just better suited for espresso than others. Espresso beans—which, again, are regular coffee beans better suited for espresso—are decaffeinated through one of the same processes we detailed above.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This piece was written by Derek Rose, the coffee and tea expert for The Spruce Eats. He researches a variety of products, from measuring scoops to commercial espresso machines, and interviews field experts for their insight. Before recommending these products, he gathered information from customer reviews and third-party articles. Derek received an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and a BA in Communications from Marist College.