In the world of coffee consumers, decaf drinkers are sometimes a much maligned second class. People tend to believe that decaf doesn’t taste or good or that it’s “not real coffee”, sometimes you’ll even hear tropes like “why bother drinking coffee at all if it’s decaf?” Well, much to the chagrin of the caffeine-loving coffee purists of the world, decaf is real coffee, and with the right bean, it can deliver all the delicious roasted goodness of regular coffee without any of the jitters.
Plus, for pregnant women, people with high blood pressure, or anyone else sensitive to caffeine, decaf coffee is a lifeline. The catch is, finding that perfect decaf coffee bean can be a little tricky, the market is sadly still flooded with bland, unappealing beans. But luckily, there are many some great decaf options out there that are full of the bold, rich coffee flavour we all know and love.
Where Can You Get Decaf Coffee Beans?
With decaf coffee rising in popularity, it’s easier today than ever before to find tasty decaf beans. While you can sometimes find decaf coffee in Sainsbury’s and some other large supermarket chains, it’s usually ground or instant coffee, not whole beans.
Your best bet to find quality decaf coffee is to find a specialty shop near you, or order online from a number of companies that roast delicious, caffeine free coffee beans.
What Is Decaffeinated Coffee?
Caffeine occurs naturally in coffee beans, so to make them decaf, the beans must undergo some processes. There are several different ways to remove the caffeine from a coffee bean, and how a roaster performs the decaffeination can have a big impact on the taste of the finished drink in your cup.
Decaffeination begins when the coffee beans are still green. Once the caffeine is removed, the beans get roasted as normal and can then be used for making coffee.
Often times, large coffee roasters remove the caffeine from the beans with chemical solvents such as ethyl acetate and methylene chloride (yuck). These solvents effectively and efficiently strip out the caffeine but can also strip out several compounds that give coffee it’s characteristic flavour, which is why a lot of cheap decaf from large producers tastes bland and lacks the body of traditional coffee.
But there are other ways to decaffeinate that preserve more of the integrity of the coffee bean, such as using chemical-free CO2 as a solvent to remove the caffeine. Other high-quality producers also use water methods, in which the beans are soaked in hot water to draw out the caffeine, then the caffeine is rinsed or filtered out later, which keeps more of the flavourful compounds in the bean.
The Best Decaf Coffee Beans
Like anything else, which decaf coffee bean is best is a matter of preference. Depending on the flavour and body you like, you may prefer one bean over another. That being said, here are some of the top decaf coffee beans in the UK, and where you can find them. Enjoy your next brew!
Decadent Decaf Coffee Co
Decadent Decaf (1) was the first roaster in Europe to make decaf coffee using only single origin beans and using only the Swiss Water Method for decaffeination. This method uses only water and charcoal filters to remove the caffeine, yielding a rich, deeply flavourful coffee. Decadent Decaf was founded in 2015 by a group of coffee roasting pros who were sick of the lack of decaf options. Unlike most other roasters, Decadent Decaf roasts only decaf coffee, nothing else. They only roast 7 coffees every year, so the products stay fresh. Decadent Decaf offers a diverse range of coffees designed to appeal to different flavour preferences.
A popular variety is their Indonesia Sumatra Coffee (2) which has a rich, brown sugar body, a smooth cocoa finish, and an intense aroma meant for avid coffee drinkers.
Volcano Coffee Works
Founded by New Zealander Kurt Stewart in 2010, Volcano Coffee Works (3) strives to roast delicious, environmentally friendly coffee. To this day, Kurt stills roasts the first batch of coffee every day. They use a chemical-free CO2 process to strip the coffee beans of caffeine while preserving flavor. Their decaf coffee beans come from Peru and make a semi-sweet, well-rounded coffee with notes of cacao and a nutty praline finish.
Spiller & Tait
Founded by coffee experts Simon Spiller and David Tait, Spiller & Tait (4) founded their online only coffee company to help coffee drinkers emulate a coffeehouse experience at home. Their Sparkling Water Decaf coffee beans are certified fair trade Arabica beans, hailing from Peru. They brew a bright, clean coffee with delicate nutty notes and a subtle chocolate finish.
Presto Coffee (5) is UK-based roaster that prides themselves on roasting in small batches and being an environmentally conscious business. Their decaf Arabica coffee beans make a smooth cup of coffee with traces of honeyed peanut and a crisp finish.
Pelican Rogue Coffee Roasters
A Dutch company that ships across Europe and the UK, Pelican Rogue (6) offers a wide variety of coffees and coffee-related products. Unlike many other roasters, Pelican Rogue uses a blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee beans, which creates a creamy texture and rich, caramelly taste. Pelican Rouge decaf beans brew a coffee with a rich body and nutty roasted almond aroma.
Coffee Direct UK
A small-batch roaster that’s been open and shipping directly to consumers since 2007, Coffee Direct UK (7) has several different decaf coffee beans available, with the option mix and match as well. Their most popular is the Swiss Water Decaf, a frothy, easy drinking dark roast coffee with a light, nutty aroma.
The Bottom Line
Today, the decaf coffee scene is better than ever. There’s still plenty of bad decaf out there but gone are the days where bad decaf is the only option. If you set out to the find the perfect decaf coffee bean you may find that you can finally have your decaf and drink it too.