One of the main reasons many people drink coffee is the caffeine rush. Sure, the flavor gives you a rich, bold experience, but nothing beats a nice cappuccino as an early afternoon pick-me-up. Whether you were up late last night and need a boost in the morning, or you’re in the middle of a long day, a cup of coffee gives the perfect energy spike.
But there are actually a few big drawbacks to caffeine. It can make it tough to sleep, or it can make you more prone to anxiety. Sometimes you get a craving for the taste of a rich shot of espresso not too long before your bedtime. Or you have a caffeine sensitivity. Fortunately, decaf coffee provides a low-energy, safe, delicious alternative to its caffeinated counterpart, letting anyone enjoy a cup of joe anytime.
Coffee beans are naturally caffeinated, so after they’ve been harvested, the caffeine actually has to be removed. There are 3 major ways that this happens, and they have a minimal effect on the flavor of the coffee. In order to be considered decaf, a coffee bean has to have 97% of the caffeine removed, making it a great choice for anyone looking to cut back or avoid caffeine.
This is one of the most popular ways for beans to be decaffeinated. Beans are rinsed in hot water to pull out the water soluble caffeine. This method uses an extract made of green coffee beans to pull the caffeine out of the coffee beans. It actually requires that up to half of the beans get used up, making this a pretty expensive method for decaffeination. However, it’s one of only the methods that is completely chemical free.
Caffeine dissolves in Carbon Dioxide. By steaming the coffee beans, you make the caffeine more ready to dissolve. Then, you can put the beans into a chamber with highly pressurized carbon, dissolving the caffeine. This pressure can be up to 300 times the atmospheric pressure, but gets rid of the caffeine. It’s also chemical free, and another extremely popular way to decaffeinate coffee.
This is a popular, but controversial, way to decaffeinate coffee. By using a chemical like methylene dichloride, you can get rid of the caffeine in coffee. Some methods do this to the already brewed coffee, while others do it to the bean. Many people feel uncomfortable with chemicals like methylene dichloride being used on their coffee, since in high doses it can be dangerous. But decaf coffee comes in well below the FDA’s maximum of 10 parts per million, meaning that this process is perfectly safe.
What Are The Drawbacks of Caffeine
While caffeine can be a miracle worker, it has its limits. Whether it’s messing with your sleep schedule, or it just stops working, caffeine in high doses starts to have drawbacks. While you can hold onto your morning wake up call, it can be a good idea to limit yourself to one or two cups of the caffeinated stuff per day.
We’ve all had one to many shots of espresso. You get the jitters, your heart beats a little too hard, and your thoughts start to race. This is what happens when you have too much caffeine at once, and it can really mess up your day. You might begin to overthink things, or you start to have trouble talking clearly. It’s pretty easy to do this, so make sure that if you want a really strong macchiato, get it half-caf.
Another phenomenon many coffee drinkers know well is caffeine tolerance. If it’s been awhile since your last cup, you feel the rush of energy after your first sip. The first day one cup does the trick, but then you start to need two, then three, and eventually caffeine seems to have no effect on you. Caffeine bonds with the receptors in your brain responsible for fatigue, and you body naturally learns to fight it off, resulting in an insatiable caffeine tolerance.
To people with a caffeine sensitivity, “coffee” is synonymous with “anxiety”. Your body is naturally supposed to feel tired or slow when you’re exerting yourself. By introducing energy from caffeine, you run the risk of upsetting your mood. Maybe you’re too energetic, only to have a serious crash a few hours later. Or you find yourself unmotivated without another cup every hour.
Caffeine also impacts your heart rate and blood pressure, which are huge mood regulators. When your heart beats too hard or too fast, or your blood pressure is too high, you’re much more prone to stress and anxiety, so be weary if that’s how caffeine normally interacts with your circulation.
This one’s sort of self evident. We drink caffeine to wake up, to stay up, and to push through long nights. So it’s no wonder that caffeine intake can cause sleep issues. We’ve all been out with friends, felt a little drowsy, and downed a quick cup of coffee, only to lie awake for hours later on. Having fully caffeinated coffee later than 2 in the afternoon runs the risk of causing issues with falling asleep.
You can easily keep up the caffeine as long as you don’t overdo it. However, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, or have chronic sleep issues, you may have to switch to decaf completely. Even though the flavor of coffee can be too good to resist, you should always prioritize a healthy, regular sleeping schedule. Decaf makes it possible for you to keep up the delicious, comforting warmth of a rich dark roast without ruining your sleeping schedule.
Why Should You Drink Decaf Coffee
With all of the potential drawbacks of coffee, there’s plenty of reason to add decaf coffee to your cupboard. While some people may be worried about any chemicals used in the decaffeination process, or about the flavor, there’s nothing to fret. It’s safe, tastes great, and lets you add even more coffee into your life.
Like we touched on earlier, decaf coffee has well below the maximum safe quantity of methylene dichloride. Decaf has less than 10 parts per million of the chemical, which is .001% of the actual coffee. Studies have only seen adverse health effects when inhaling large amounts of the chemical, which is far from possible with decaf coffee.
And, of course, the washed and pressurization methods are perfectly harmless. The washed method only uses a natural extract made from green coffee beans, while the pressurization method only uses carbon dioxide.
Enjoy more coffee
You’ve already had 2 cups for the day, but you’re craving another. This is where decaf comes in. When caffeine has you reconsidering whether or not to enjoy a cup of your favorite hot drink, decaf coffee is the perfect solution. You can experience all the same richness and boldness of the coffee flavor without the added effects of the caffeine.
By drinking both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, you maximize the amount you can drink. Have a cup of the fully caffeinated stuff in the morning, then your late morning and afternoon drinks can be decaf.
Make caffeine more potent
Another added benefit of cutting back on caffeine is that you buck your caffeine tolerance. When you’re having 4 or 5 cups a day, the effect of caffeine starts to wear off. By making sure to drink more decaf, you guarantee that when you do have a cup of full-caf coffee, you get all of the energy you expect.
You can choose to drink only decaf coffee and save the caffeine for emergencies. Or you can enjoy 2 full cups of caffeinated coffee every morning and indulge in decaf for the rest of the day. Either way, you’re keeping yourself from over caffeinating, getting a caffeine tolerance, and ensuring that when you want the caffeine rush, you can get one.
It tastes great
Of course, all coffee tastes great. But many decaf skeptics worry that by switching to decaf, they’re sacrificing the bold flavor they love. Fortunately, this isn’t the case. Decaf coffee, whether it’s drip, espresso, or any other brew, has all of the body and flavor of the caffeinated stuff. The common methods used to remove the caffeine are specially designed not to harm the flavor, giving each cup of decaf the perfect taste.
The Bottom Line: Don’t Be Afraid to Drink Decaf
When you’re looking to cut back on caffeine, you don’t have to cut back on coffee. You can still enjoy a late afternoon latte or a nightly americano without ruining your sleeping schedule. Despite the myths around chemical contamination and lackluster flavor, decaf is a perfectly safe, delicious drink that can help you maintain a healthy amount of caffeine in your diet. By cutting back on the regularly caffeinated stuff, you can make sure to continue enjoying your favorite drink, and ensuring that caffeine rush when you do decide to have a cup of full-caf coffee.