When it comes to what people want to enjoy in the mornings, there are very few options that are quite as popular as coffee, and as evidence of this, there are hundreds of different types of coffees that people can enjoy and thrive from, as more and more people find the best ways to harvest coffee plants and get the flavor from the coffee beans.
But what a lot of people do not realize is that with some flavors of coffee, some will have noticeable differences in taste compared to others, and this tends to be the most apparent with decaffeinated coffee.
As the name might suggest, decaffeinated coffee is coffee that has been made specifically not to contain the same amount of caffeine as your standard cup of coffee has.
While most places cannot always guarantee that there will not be a single molecule of caffeine in decaffeinated coffee, there is typically no more than one to three milligrams of caffeine per eight- to 12-ounce serving of coffee, showing just how drastically reduced the caffeine content is.
The question is, how do coffee manufacturers remove the caffeine from the coffee, while mostly retaining the taste of the coffee, and how does the caffeine removal process affect coffee’s taste? There are a few things that you need to know first about coffee, such as how it is harvested, and what makes decaffeinated coffee so much different than your standard cup.
Understanding How Coffee Is Harvested
First things first, to get a sense of what makes decaffeinated coffee so different, you need to understand what the usual process for harvesting and making coffee is. As most people know, coffee is made with coffee beans, and typically the beans are ground and roasted to create the coffee drink that just about everyone loves.
Coffee beans are technically seeds from berries from the similarly named Coffea plant, and they are sold in a few different roasting levels. Roasting may also be known as the grade of the coffee, but it is commonly referred to as the roast.
Different roast levels range from light to dark, including medium-light, medium-dark, and very dark roasts as well as the standard light, medium, and dark. This process only affects the taste of the coffee, though, and is not one that you need to worry about when you are looking at the caffeine content of your coffee.
So, for a typical cup of coffee, the beans are harvested from the Coffea plant, often roasted and processed, and occasionally ground down for you, and then sold to be packaged and put onto the shelves of the market. What exactly is different when manufacturers prepare decaffeinated coffee?
Understanding How Coffee Beans Are Decaffeinated
There are a couple different ways that coffee beans can be decaffeinated, and it all depends on the second-party company that does the decaffeination process.
Most farms don’t have the equipment to handle this themselves, so coffee beans for decaffeinated coffee are sent to a facility that is meant to decaffeinate and alter the coffee to be more suitable for those who are looking for coffee without the caffeine boost.
Decaffeinating coffee not only strips the coffee bean of its caffeine, but also the flavor of the coffee as well, since the compounds that are so directly tied to the caffeine are also directly tied to the coffee’s unique flavor.
This leaves you with a rather dirt-like coffee bean that may not have any caffeine left, but it certainly won’t be appetizing to anyone who is a coffee enthusiast.
This is where the second part of these decaffeinating second-party companies come into play. Their job is not only to strip the coffee beans of their caffeine, but to also attempt to restore the flavor of the coffee as well, so that the decaffeinated coffee is still palatable when people are in the mood to drink it.
Sometimes the process of artificially flavoring the coffee again can be done well, leaving you with a decaffeinated coffee that tastes relatively similar to your standard cup of caffeine-containing coffee, but other times the process of reintegrating flavor may not go as well, or may not be as true to taste, leaving you with that decaffeinated flavor that just doesn’t sit the way it should on your tongue.
This is the biggest reason why decaffeinated coffee tends to taste differently than your standard brew, as the flavor was brought back to the coffee somewhat artificially, which will leave a somewhat artificial flavor that is similar to what coffee should be, but never quite hits the mark. This is one of the downsides to trying to find a good decaffeinated coffee brand that still holds its taste well.
The actual decaffeination process may vary, as there are a couple ways to get the job done. Of course, there is the process of using chemicals to physically remove the caffeine from the coffee bean, which typically means putting the chemical in the water, soaking the beans in the water, and then evaporating the water so that the caffeine is gone but the flavor remains as best as it can, with some tweaking.
There is also the process of using a charcoal filter, although this can take longer and may not always produce the best results. Similarly, there is the idea of using liquid carbon, rather than harsh chemicals to get rid of the caffeine, but this can also be expensive.
There are a few genetically modified forms of coffee bean that have been bred not to produce caffeine, but these are extremely limited, which also means that they are far more expensive and hard to find, but there’s a good chance that they would produce the best flavor, given that they are as pure of a coffee bean as you can get when dealing with decaffeinated coffees.
The decaffeination process can also leave your coffee tasting more acidic than it normally would, which can also negatively impact the overall taste of the coffee. This is because the decaffeination process works best with a certain type of coffee bean known as the Robusta bean, which has a high caffeine content and a high acidity level.
Is Decaffeinated Coffee Better?
In many ways, one could argue that decaffeinated coffee is even better for you than caffeinated coffee is. It may not wake you up in the morning and it may have a slightly different taste than you are used to, but at the right time of day and with the right brand of coffee, you can easily get the benefits from your coffee.
Coffee is known for having a considerable amount of antioxidants, and because decaffeinated coffee still makes use of the whole coffee bean, decaffeinated coffee will also have this large amount of antioxidants in it, which can benefit you immensely.
On average, decaffeinated coffee will have up to 15% less antioxidants in it than caffeinated coffee, but with the amount that normal coffee has, you won’t have to worry about this.
Coffee is also known for being healthy in other ways, and when you are enjoying your decaffeinated coffee, you won’t have to stress out about the negative effects that caffeine can have on your body.
No matter if you want to cut down on your caffeine content or you want a coffee taste that is a bit easier on the mouth, decaffeinated coffee most certainly has its place in the world, even if it isn’t on the pedestal of coffee lovers.