Decaf Coffee Overview

Decaffeinated coffee is consistently improving in cup quality. Learn more about the process, and why Decaf keeps getting better.

Decaffeinated coffee has always had a stigma around it of being ersatz, fake, “less than”. But coffee without caffeine is still coffee. Let’s drop the righteousness here: everyone should be aware of overindulging in caffeine, and some folks who have a daily ritual around coffee cannot handle the chemistry of “regular” coffee. And the fact is, decaf can be really nice coffee, especially when it is super fresh home-roasted decaf. I have said, and will say again, the person who home-roasts decaf might be experiencing the largest quality leap from what is available commercially. Home roasting decaf is brilliant, in that respect! 

There used to be a lack of information about how a coffee is decaffeinated: Green coffee is decaffeinated before roasting. This process changes the color of the green coffee: it varies from light brown (Natural and CO-2) to a darker green-brown (MC and Swiss Water Process -SWP- decafs). The decaf methods can be defined as “contact” and “non-contact” types. More on that below…

The arrival of decafs always follows the main crop of a coffee by some months, since the coffee needs to be shipped to the decaffeination plant. Oddly, there are only a few such factories globally, so decaf coffee has to travel a long way usually from origin, to plant and then to the buyer’s country. This adds to the cost too, so decafs are often a bit pricier.”

Decaf coffees might roast faster than non-decaf coffees. Part of the differences in how a decaf roasts is due to the physical changes the coffee has experienced in the decaffeination process. But in an air roaster it is also affected by the smooth surface of the bean, which allows more air to flow around the coffee without transferring the roaster heat to the bean. This smooth appearance is due to the fact that decaffeination removes much of the thin chaff silverskin from the outside of the coffee. As a plus, decaf produces little chaff that will collect in your roaster’s chaff collector.

Because of the darker color of decaf coffees, it is difficult to roast decaf by judging the color. It’s best to pay attention to the sound of the cracks and the roast aromas. It takes a few roasts to understand these sights and smells, but its a fun process and even if the coffee comes out a bit too light or too dark, it will still be freshly home roasted! And that beats most store-bought coffee any day!

Decafs can have a lower 1st and 2nd crack temperature, and can progress faster between the cracks. You can also see oils emerge a few days after roasting a decaf despite the fact that you did not reach 2nd crack (the usual reason you would see oils emerge). This is because the bean structure of a decaf is more fragile after the process, and the cell walls in the coffee tend to rupture at a lower temperature, allowing oils to migrate to the surface. As with all coffees, oils stale when exposed to oxygen, so it is preferred that your coffee is not oily on the surface, but for darker roasts and decafs it is unavoidable.

See our current selection of Decaf Coffees at Sweet Maria’s.

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Decaf Articles in Our Coffee Library

Good news for decaf or scary? Not sure…

Geneticists are working on a plant that will grow coffee with no caffeine content, thus needing no processing to remove the caffeine. Is this good? 

It means no factory process to remove caffeine. It also could mean contamination between natural unmodified trees and modified ones. Coffee is very complex in terms of it’s chemical makeup. it has over 1800 compounds contributing to the flavor, more than any other beverage. Can you turn off one genetic attribute and not affect others? We shall see the results from the current research work being conducted in Hawaii and elsewhere.

Our Decaf Coffee Photo Gallery

See our current selection of Decaf Coffees at Sweet Maria’s.