The Best Decaf Coffee: How to Find Decaf That Isn’t Terrible

By: Valor Team

Published On: June 19, 2024

Category: Education

Decaf coffee, short for decaffeinated coffee, often gets a bad rap, but it doesn’t have to be terrible! Decaf simply means the caffeine has been removed from the coffee beans, and there are several methods to achieve this. 

Decaf coffee has been around for over a century, originally gaining popularity in the early 1900s. However, the early methods of decaffeination often left the coffee tasting flat and unappealing. Fortunately, modern techniques have significantly improved the flavor and past flaws of decaf coffee, making it a viable option for coffee lovers who want to enjoy their favorite beverage whilst only substituting out the caffeine.

Decaf Coffee Bean Selection: How to Choose the Best Decaf Beans

Choosing the best decaf coffee beans can be a tricky process, but we’ve put together these tips will help you make an informed decision:

  • Origin: Just like regular beans, when selecting decaf go for beans from places known for their amazing coffee, like Colombia, Ethiopia, or any of the many other fantastic coffee growing origins.
  • Process: Look for beans decaffeinated using the ethyl-acetate process or Swiss Water Process.  These methods hold a substantial difference to those prepared any other way.
  • Freshness: Check the roast date. In short, fresher beans = tastier coffee.
  • Beans vs Ground: Whole beans are your friends. Grind them just before brewing for the best flavor.
  • Tasting Notes: Look for beans with clear, appealing tasting notes on the packaging that reflect an enjoyable taste. After all, when prepared the right way, the tasting notes should be pretty accurate to what’s labeled on the bag.

Looking for a mind-blowing decaf that you can get on subscription? Check out our Book Club Colombia Decaf here!

Processing Methods: How Decaf is Made and Why It Matters

The decaffeination process plays a crucial role in the outcome of the coffee's taste and can make or break the beans full potential. Here’s a quick rundown of the main methods, ranked from decent decaf, to what we consider makes the best decaf:

  • Not great: Older Solvent-Based Methods - Some older methods use harsh chemicals like methylene chloride. While still used by some companies, these can sometimes leave a chemical residue, which can make the coffee taste off and sometimes downright gross. It’s best to avoid decaf processed with methylene chloride if you’re looking for a better-tasting cup.
  • Alright: CO2 Process - The CO2 process uses carbon dioxide to extract caffeine while preserving the flavors intact. This method is considered good because it effectively removes caffeine without using harsh chemicals, and it maintains a rich and smooth flavor profile.
  • Better: Swiss Water Process - The Swiss Water Process uses water to remove caffeine, resulting in a pure, clean taste. This method is chemical-free and focuses on preserving the coffee’s natural flavors, making it a popular choice among coffee enthusiasts.
  • Best: Ethyl Acetate Process - The ethyl acetate process uses a naturally occurring solvent found in fruits and vegetables to strip caffeine. This method is the best because it retains the bean’s natural flavors exceptionally well, often resulting in a more balanced and nuanced cup of coffee. We think this method keeps the coffee’s rich and delicious taste better than the others. Our decaf, Book Club, is an excellent example, ensuring a delicious and balanced cup every time.

Understanding these methods helps you choose a decaf coffee that can actually taste amazing, without the caffeine buzz.

How to Brew the Best Flavor Out of the Decaf

After you’ve found a promising choice of decaf coffee, consider these tips to land that amazing taste you’re searching for:

  • Fresh Beans: Always use freshly roasted beans for the best taste. Old beans can taste stale and flat. Anywhere from about 2 weeks - 2 months will make a big difference to anything brewed later than that.
  • Grind Size: Adjust the grind size for your brewing method. Go coarser for French press, but finer for espresso. The right grind size prevents your decaf coffee from being too bitter or too weak.
  • Water Temperature: The ideal brewing temperature is between 195-205°F. Too hot, and the coffee can become bitter; too cool, and it will be under-extracted.
  • Brewing Time: Each brewing method has its optimal time frame. For instance, French press requires about four minutes, while espresso shots are often pulled within 25-30 seconds.
  • Clean Equipment: Lastly, regularly clean your coffee maker, grinder, and other equipment to prevent old coffee residues from contaminating your fresh brews.

Small adjustments in each of these areas can make a huge difference in the final taste of your decaf coffee. Experiment with different variables to find what works best for you, and enjoy the process of discovering your perfect cup of decaf.


Finding the best decaf coffee doesn't have to be a drag. Focus on high-quality beans, the right roasting techniques, and a good decaffeination method to get a cup that’s far from terrible. Tasting notes, aroma, and mouthfeel can still shine through without the caffeine. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different brands and brewing methods like French press, pour-over, or even a classic drip machine to get a slight . Hopefully now we’ve pointed you in the right direction and you can find that perfect cup of decaf you won’t be able to stop thinking about!

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