Millions of Americans drink decaf coffee to get that perfectly bitter taste without all the jitters.
But does decaf really have no caffeine? What’s the difference between "decaffeinated" and "naturally decaffeinated”? And are the chemicals used to strip the caffeine from coffee safe?
FDA regulations specify that for coffee to bear a decaffeinated label, 97 percent of the original caffeine must be removed from the beans. So, yes, there’s caffeine in decaf coffee. But it’s not very much, right?
While 97 percent of the caffeine must be removed, the Robusta bean will have more caffeine left over than the Arabica bean after the decaffeination process is completed, which can lead to a lot of variance among brands.
The average 12-ounce cup of decaf coffee – a Starbucks tall – usually contains between 3 and 18 milligrams of caffeine. (By comparison, an 8.4-ounce can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams of caffeine) The average of amount of caffeine in regular coffee can vary significantly, usually between 140 and 300 mg.
So how do you get (almost) all that caffeine out of the coffee, anyway?
The first decaffeination method, developed in the early 1900s, used a repetitive rinsing process aided by the chemical benzene, which is no longer used because it is a known cancer-causing agent.
Today, like seasoned vintners, coffee processors favor different decaffeination methods for optimum taste and quality.
Many brands use the Direct Process, which involves the chemical methyl chloride, used in the Direct Process, is listed as a possible carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute.
Final note about decaf: many health conditions that are affected by coffee are also aggravated by drinking decaf, due to the phytochemicals that remain after the decaffeination process. These conditions include increased gastric acidity (heartburn or GERD), interfering with mineral absorption (particularly iron) and increased incidence of rheumatoid arthritis.
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