Decaf Coffee Versus Regular Coffee

Do you like decaf or high test? Although only about 10% of all coffee is decaffeinated, its consumption has grown over the years as the world has become more caffeine conscious. Here is a look at how decaf coffee compares to regular coffee in terms of processing, taste, and health benefits.

Decaf Coffee

Decaf coffee is produced by processing regular coffee beans to remove the naturally occurring caffeine. Two commonly used decaffeination techniques are water extraction and carbon dioxide extraction.

Hot water extraction involves soaking green beans in hot water which removes caffeine and flavor ingredients followed by a secondary soaking in the decaffeinated extract to restore most of the flavor.

Carbon dioxide extraction involves forcing "supercritical" carbon dioxide through green coffee beans where it penetrates deep into the beans, and dissolves 97-99% of the caffeine present. To be labeled decaffeinated, coffee must have 97% of the caffeine removed (99.9% in the EU).

Some flavor is inevitably lost, or at least altered, during the decaffeination process. For this reason, the best decaffeinated coffee comes from quality beans that are freshly roasted, freshly ground, and carefully brewed.

Regular Coffee

Regular coffee is produced by brewing roasted coffee beans that have not been subjected to a decaffeination process. Some would say this is the "natural" way to drink coffee because the beans are not artificially altered in a lab or factory.

Over the years, coffee has been blamed for a number of health ailments including heart disease and cancer but there is no solid evidence to substantiate such claims. The caffeine in regular coffee increases the heart rate, blood pressure, and dehydration levels but these effects are short-lived and do not cause permanent damage to the cardiovascular system.

Health Benefits

Is decaf healthier than regular coffee? While there is undoubtedly some benefit to limiting caffeine intake - especially for pregnant women, decaf coffee has not been determined to be appreciably healthier than regular coffee at moderate consumption levels. In fact, some one would argue that decaf coffee is less beneficial because it lacks the mood and performance enhancing qualities of caffeinated coffee.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists guidelines of 2010, up to 200 mg daily of caffeine does not increase the risk of miscarriage or premature birth. This means pregnant women can safely drink a cup of coffee per day.

Although there is no medical consensus regarding the beneficial effects of coffee, empirical evidence suggests that coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes, dementia, Parkinson's, asthma, gallstones, certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes. Presumably, these same health benefits would apply to regular as well as decaffeinated coffee.

A well known benefit of regular coffee - due to its caffeine - is its ability to enhance mood and mental and physical performance. At consumption levels up to 200 milligrams (16-oz of regular brewed coffee), drinkers report an improved sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability.  Caffeine also speeds up metabolism but no long-term benefit to weight control has been demonstrated. Sorry...

Taste Differences

Devotees of regular coffee have been known to complain that decaf coffee is thin-bodied, listless, and generally lacking in flavor compared to the non-decaf coffee. Wonder how much of this is due to the fact that decaf lacks the kick provided by caffeine?