Is decaf coffee really decaf? Or does it contain caffeine just like regular coffee? When you’re looking to cut back on how much caffeine you intake, it’s important to understand the caffeine content of the coffee you drink, including caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.
So, how much caffeine is in decaf instant coffee? Contrary to popular belief, decaf coffee doesn’t contain zero caffeine. Depending on the kind of decaf you get and how it’s made, you may be getting anywhere from 5 milligrams of caffeine content per cup to more than 75 milligrams of caffeine content per normal cup.
Here’s everything you need to know about the caffeine content in decaf coffee so you can sip on your favourite beverages all day long without worrying about over-caffeinating yourself and suffering from some unpleasant side effects.
What Is Decaf Coffee?
Decaffeinated coffee, unlike standard coffee, does not contain significant levels of caffeine, so a coffee lover who is concerned about his or her intake of caffeine can still enjoy a good cuppa. Methylene chloride or ethyl acetate is the main chemical used to remove caffeine from decaf coffee beans.
This chemical has been associated with potentially harmful side effects when inhaled or ingested. Therefore, it may be prudent to limit your exposure to the main chemicals by choosing brands that use ethyl acetate instead. The most suitable decaffeinated coffee should also be instant, as fresh-brewed coffee naturally contains more chemicals than its packaged counterpart.
There are two different types of decaffeination methods: natural and synthetic, but both processes make use of water in one way or another.
However, while they both remove most of the caffeine from their source materials, they do so at different rates. While natural and synthetic are typically thrown around interchangeably, there are notable differences between them. Synthetic procedures usually involve solvents like ethyl acetate (or other solvents), while natural methods generally use water to remove caffeine from beans after harvesting (before roasting).
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a psychoactive drug, meaning it affects mental processes. And it’s found in many popular beverages. Most people just think of coffee when they hear caffeine, but other drinks include some caffeine, too, like black tea and green tea, soft drinks, some energy drinks, and chocolate.
Caffeine doesn’t just have physical effects; consuming large amounts of caffeine can also affect mood and behaviour. For example, your heartbeat might speed up or slow down, and you may feel more or less alert than usual, depending on the dosage.
Several factors determine how much caffeine you get from each source, and the type of bean is one of these. The type of bean used to make coffee plays a huge role in its final concentration of caffeine. Robusta beans have approximately twice as much caffeine as Arabica beans which are considered a higher quality due to their lower acidity and milder flavour.
The green coffee bean has even less caffeine than both, but roasting and the brewing method can dramatically change their chemical makeup, converting most of their natural caffeine into other chemicals such as paraxanthine.
Most people believe that all decaffeinated coffee is made from beans with the caffeine removed using chemicals and is completely caffeine-free. However, there are three different ways to produce decaffeinated coffee: solvent-based, carbon dioxide (CO2), and water processing.
This means that it’s entirely possible for you to drink a cup of decaf, avoiding caffeine. The amount of how much caffeine is in each form depends on which type of beans are used, how long they are soaked, and so on, but we can say with absolute certainty that you can still enjoy your favourite drink – even if you don’t want all those pesky effects of its main ingredient. The method will also determine the final amount of how much caffeine is in the coffee.
And, if you’re looking for a coffee to get you through a particularly long day at work, there are other types of blends that don’t contain any caffeine at all. These include decaffeinated coffees with less than 1% of their original caffeine content – and so will make for a great mid-afternoon break when you need it most.
How Much Caffeine Is There Actually In Instant Decaf Coffee?
Ever noticed that your decaf cup feels like it has a kick, even though you’re not ingesting caffeinated coffee? That’s because not all of the beans’ chlorogenic acids have been removed. More than 97 per cent of these acids need to be processed out to qualify as decaffeinated, but studies show only about 80 per cent are taken out. Why does that matter for your daily dose of java?
It turns out that decaf coffee isn’t entirely caffeine-free. The amount of caffeine in instant decaf coffee varies widely, ranging from 5 mg per cup to 10 mg of caffeine per cup. For comparison, a regular cup of brewed coffee’s caffeine content ranges between 95 and 200 mg of caffeine.
If you want more control over your caffeine intake, instant decaf may not be for you; brewed decaf contains only 1 to 2 mg of caffeine per ounce (compared with 90 to 120 mg of caffeine in a serving of brewed coffee). But if you’re happy with what’s in instant decaf, then go ahead and enjoy it!
There are two main methods to remove caffeine from coffee beans: supercritical carbon dioxide extraction and liquid carbon dioxide extraction. The former uses carbon dioxide (CO2) as a solvent, while liquid CO2 uses fluidized CO2.
Liquid CO2 requires higher temperatures than supercritical, resulting in less flavour preservation and lower processing costs and water usage. For some companies, it also means better product consistency between batches. Both processes can be used on green beans or roasted beans. Generally speaking, supercritical carbon dioxide extraction preserves more caffeoyl content than liquid CO2 extraction.
That’s one of many reasons why popular coffee companies use a proprietary method with liquid CO2 to extract their decaffeinated coffee. It gives you similar taste characteristics as fresh coffee grounds from where they source their beans while ensuring consistent levels of caffeine across a range of blends and roast profiles.
After all, when people look for low-caffeine coffee options at popular coffee shops, they don’t want their coffee to have more caffeine only because it’s described as a dark roast blend compared to other lighter roasts. They want their desired caffeine level (or less) in every cup they enjoy.
Benefits of Decaf Coffee Over Regular Coffee
Though regular coffee and decaf coffee may have some common health benefits, including reduced risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and Parkinson’s, regular coffee contains a significant amount of caffeine. On the other hand, decaf coffee contains a small amount of caffeine.
The “lack of caffeine” present in decaf makes it appealing to many people as an alternative for those sensitive to stimulants or who do not want their bodies absorbing an extra amount of caffeine.
In many healthcare professional setups, it is recommended that pregnant women steer clear of caffeinated beverages altogether because they can lead to complications.
Since caffeine intake during pregnancy can pose potential risks for fetal development, drinking decaf coffees instead might be a safer option for all mothers-to-be who want to enjoy their morning cuppa.
As explained above, decaf coffee is also considered better for certain conditions and people. A cup of decaf may help reduce potential gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome and migraines, known side effects of drinking too much coffee. Drinking decaf coffee can also lead to better sleep quality when consumed in the afternoon.
And pregnant women who are unable to give up their morning cuppa should be sure to limit their consumption of caffeinated beverages.
That being said, individuals should consult with their doctors before consuming caffeinated or non-caffeinated drinks during pregnancy if they’re unsure about what’s best for them or their child’s health and development.
Why Are Some Instant Decaf Brands Better Than Others
Decaffeinated coffee has been around for decades, and hundreds of methods have been developed to remove caffeine from raw coffee beans to meet the needs of caffeine-sensitive people. Today, most brands use a process called drying. This process involves soaking coffee beans in hot water and solvent to separate caffeinated parts of coffee beans from water-soluble chemicals that contain less than 0.1% (100 mg/l) of caffeine.
The result is 100 per cent dried, decaffeinated coffee that can be brewed into a delicious cuppa, just like regular coffee. Meanwhile, nearly all instant coffees are made using methylene chloride—the same chemical used to strip paint—which can be toxic when ingested by humans over long periods.
If you want to brew your cup of instant regular coffee — or decaf — you should look for brands that mention a specific method of removal on their labels. If they don’t mention the roasting process, use caution. In general, Swiss Water process coffees are considered some of the best.
Dangers aside, many people don’t like drinking instant coffee and prefer buying beans and making their pots of fresh coffee from scratch instead. It’s an excellent choice if done right.
Decaf Instant Coffee Explained
Et voilà, that’s it on how much caffeine is in decaf instant coffee. We hope our informational guide has shed light on the caffeine content you get from roasted and unroasted coffee beans. With that in mind, it’s always essential to limit your caffeine consumption whether or not you’re caffeine sensitive.
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Tom is a former chef turned full-time food blogger. He has always been passionate about food, and loves nothing more than experimenting in the kitchen and sharing his recipes with others. Tom’s blog is one of the most popular food blogs on the internet, and he has won numerous awards for his cooking. When he’s not blogging or cooking, Tom enjoys spending time with his wife and two young children.