Want to know which decaf coffee to buy? Read our guide from coffee expert Celeste Wong below, then check out which instant coffee to buy. Looking for artisan beans to make your coffee? Explore Celeste's tried-and-tested list of the best coffee beans and best coffee machines. Plus you can discover all the biggest Black Friday coffee machine deals available right now.
Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee beans, as well as other foods such as cocoa beans and tea leaves. Decaffeinating coffee means that the caffeine in coffee beans has been removed. Some people are sensitive to the invigorating effects of caffeine so prefer to drink coffee without it. Other times you may want to switch to decaf coffee if you’ve had your daily quota of regular caffeinated coffee or if it’s later in the day or evening.
Jump to links:
- Best decaf coffee at a glance
- The best decaf coffees to buy
- How much caffeine is in decaf coffee?
- How is decaf coffee made?
- Is decaf coffee acidic?
- What are the benefits of decaf coffee?
- Best for espresso: Pact, from £8.95
- Best sweeter coffee: Mission Coffee Works, from £9.90
- Best roasted beans: Full Court Press, from £13
- Best Columbian coffee: WatchHouse, from £12
- Best value for money coffee: Modern Standard, from £8
- Best rich coffee: Broomfield Coffee Company, from £11.15
- Available from Pact (£9.95)
Best for espresso
Pact change their decaf offerings often, but often have multiple options to choose from. I tried their El Diamante, a Columbian sugar cane processed decaf with hints of dark chocolate. It is medium roasted but towards the darker side, which makes for a bold-tasting espresso. They recently launched a decaf from Asomuprisma Women’s Association, a female coffee producers group in Colombia, which should last until the end of the year.
Mission Coffee Works Sans Decaf
- Available from Mission Coffee Works (£9.90)
Best sweeter coffee
Processed using the sugarcane decaffeination process, this coffee received a two-star Great Taste Award in 2021. The recyclable packaging has fun illustrations and tactile stickers.
All the information is well laid out and they helpfully recommend that their decaf can be used in all brew methods. Tasting notes are milk chocolate, raspberry and praline. Available in 250g or 1kg bags.
Mission Coffee Works (£9.90)
Full Court Press Villamaria Decaf
- Available from Full Court Press (£13)
Best roasted beans
Coffee beans from Villamaria, Colombia, processed using the sugarcane decaffeination method. It is ‘omni roasted’ so you can brew both espresso and filter coffee with these beans. The coffee is available in 250g or 500g bags, with green beans sourced from a great quality, progressive supplier – Raw Material.
More like this
I really enjoyed this coffee a lot as a filter. It was very pleasant to drink: clean, light and bright with some good acidity to it. Tasting notes: mandarin oranges first, then black grapes and a shortbread finish.
Full Court Press (£13)
- Available from WatchHouse (£12)
Best Columbian coffee
This comes in a compact little box, with a chic, modern and minimalist design to the packaging. The coffee is another Columbian decaf that uses the sugarcane decaffeination process. The coffee comes in 250g bags but there is also an option for subscribing, which gets a discount.
The beans can be ground for any brew method. Tasting notes of orange, milk chocolate and biscuit.
Modern Standard Coffee Mellow Decaf
- Available from Modern Standard Coffee (from £8.50)
Best value for money coffee
This decaf comes from Pijao, Colombia and is decaffeinated using the sugarcane process. There’s plenty of great information on the back of the bag with a QR code that will take you to a website with comprehensive pour-over filter instructions or espresso demo, plus recipes.
This coffee is great value for money and has a very balanced taste that is bold but not too heavy. Good for espresso or filter coffee. Tasting notes: chocolate, citric acidity and sweet toffee. They also belong to onepercentfortheplanet.org, which is great.
Modern Standard Coffee (from £8.50)
Broomfield Coffee Company Swiss Water Decaf
- Available from Broomfield Coffee Company (£13)
Best rich coffee
The only coffee on this list that is processed by the Swiss Water Process and is not Colombian. This decaffeination method is exclusively done in Vancouver, Canada, which is why it might not be as common to find compared to the sugarcane process, but there are many roasters in the UK who do offer coffee decaffeinated using this method.
This Honduran decaf is scored highly by the prestigious Speciality Coffee Association with 83 points (anything above 80 is very good quality). It was roasted slightly darker than I would prefer, but it was definitely rich and nutty, and great as an espresso with milk. Tasting notes: rich, nutty, chocolate and praline, mellow body.
Broomfield Coffee Company (£13)
Decaffeinated coffee ranges from 96-99.9% caffeine-free.
Coffee is always decaffeinated as a green bean, before it has been roasted. Caffeine is water soluble, so water is used to decaffeinate the beans. In order to minimise the water stripping out the other desirable compounds that coffee has, decaffeinating agents are added to the water with the beans to speed up the process. There are different ways of doing this:
- Ethyl acetate method – This is the most common method that we have encountered. Ethyl acetate occurs naturally in nature (found in the fermentation of fruits, most often in ripe bananas), but can also be synthetically produced. This method retains flavour well and is safe in trace amounts.
- Methylene chloride method – The FDA has deemed any residue of this chemical left on the beans totally safe and would likely be burned off in the roasting process.
- Swiss Water Method – This chemical-free process uses the concepts of solubility and osmosis to draw the caffeine out of the beans using carbon filters. It is environmentally friendly and good flavour remains. This process is regularly audited to ensure it's 99.9% caffeine free.
- C02 method – a generally expensive process, so mostly done on large commercial/supermarket decaf coffees
Decaf coffee isn’t as acidic as caffeinated coffee because it loses some acids during the process of decaffeination. However, I would argue that how light or dark the decaffeinated coffee is roasted afterwards might affect perception of the coffee’s acidity. Though a lighter roasted decaf coffee may provide slightly more flavour.
If you’re a person who is sensitive to caffeine, prone to anxiety, nervousness or generally naturally has a lot of energy, then decaf is a great alternative because you can still enjoy the experience of drinking a delicious coffee without the jittery effects from the caffeine. For more on the health benefits of coffee, check out our How much caffeine should I drink? health guide over on our sister site BBC Good Food.
Overall, decaffeinated coffee won't necessarily taste as complex or as well processed as roasted speciality coffee, but if the coffee is good quality and the decaffeinating process is gentle and done well, then there's no reason why you can't still find great decaf coffees.
Want to learn more about becoming an expert at-home barista? Read our guides here:
Celeste Wong's guide to becoming an overnight coffee expert
Celeste Wong's guide on how to make iced coffee
Celeste Wong's best moka pots
Celeste Wong's best coffee grinders
Celeste Wong's best gooseneck kettles
Celeste Wong's best reusable espresso pods
Celeste Wong's best coffee beans to try
Celeste Wong's best cafetières to buy
Celeste Wong's best coffee bags