Decaffeinated coffee is the same as regular coffee, but has a majority of its caffeine removed. As mentioned above, decaf coffee still contains a very small amount of caffeine (around 3 percent compared to regular coffee) since 100% of caffeine can never be removed completely. For example, a regular cup of coffee has around 95 milligrams of caffeine while a cup of decaf coffee has around 2 milligrams of caffeine.
How is Decaf Coffee Made?
There are three ways decaf coffee can be made: the Swiss water method, carbon dioxide, and methyl chloride.
The Swiss Water Method
This is when green coffee beans are soaked in water until the water is saturated with the soluble components in coffee. The caffeine is filtered out from the water, making green coffee extract. The extract is then added to green coffee beans that have caffeine, in which the “caffeine migrates from the beans to the green coffee extract as the beans and liquid seek equilibrium until the beans are almost entirely caffeine-free.”
Carbon dioxide can separate different chemical substances, like caffeine from coffee, when it’s pumped through coffee beans.
Methylene chloride is a chemical solvent that removes caffeine from coffee beans. Back in the day, benzene was the chemical of choice until it was proved to be a carcinogen. Now, companies have switched to other chemicals, most commonly ethyl acetate and methylene chloride.
However, there has been some controversy about methyl chloride because exposure to high amounts can be toxic and lead to central nervous system damage. The FDA has ruled that tiny trace amounts of methylene chloride in decaf coffee are no concern, as residues of more than 0.001% are prohibited.
Pros of Drinking Decaf Coffee
With decaf coffee, you escape the negative side effects of caffeine in regular coffee. Many people experience insomnia, restlessness, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, and anxiety from the caffeine in coffee.
Caffeine-induced health problems
Caffeine can induce insomnia, heart palpitations, and other health problems. Caffeine is a stimulant, diuretic, and acidic. If you experience heartburn, bowel problems, or have trouble sleeping, decaf coffee can help lessen the effects of caffeine while still incorporating coffee into your routine.
A common side effect of caffeine is anxiety. Caffeine can induce restlessness and nervousness and what we call “jitters”. However, it’s important to note that coffee does not cause anxiety, but it can worsen symptoms in people already prone to anxiety. If you experience anxiety and drink regular coffee, perhaps think about switching to decaf coffee if you find your anxiety worsening with coffee.
One study found that coffee induces a gastrocolic response in some people after drinking coffee, indicating that it has some laxative effects, but this is still being studied today. Ultimately, everyone’s body is different and you know yourself best.
Cons of Drinking Decaf Coffee
Some decaf coffee is made with methyl chloride, which is a chemical found in paint strippers. Exposure to high concentrations of this chemical can have severe neurological effects in humans, and prolonged exposure can lead to central nervous system effects in animals. While small amounts of this chemical are safe, if you want to avoid it altogether, make sure to check the labels of the decaf coffee you buy. The majority of the time, decaf coffee that does not include how it was decaffeinated is using methyl chloride.
There have been multiple studies studying the effects of decaf coffee on cholesterol in humans. Some argue that it increases cholesterol, but others say there is no effect. The findings are inconclusive for now, but if you experience cholesterol problems, you may want to talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
Benefits of Decaf Coffee
Decaf Coffee May Help Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Coffee has been known for its ability to lower multiple conditions, but it has always been chalked up to the caffeine itself. However, decaf has been shown in a few studies to have similar effects, meaning that it’s not just the caffeine that lowers the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. In fact, it could be said that decaf coffee can be just as beneficial as regular coffee, without having to expose yourself to caffeine on a daily basis. While they’re not sure what is exactly causing these effects in both regular and decaf, the fact that it’s not solely the caffeine is an important finding to decaf drinkers everywhere.
Less Caffeine Can Improve Sleep and Lower Anxiety
Coffee is often the first thing suggested when someone is tired in the morning, especially after a long and restless night. However, caffeine is a powerful stimulant that can wreak havoc on your sleep, causing bouts of insomnia. Switching to decaf can help reduce insomnia that may be caused by too much caffeine, which will then improve your overall energy in the morning. Ditching caffeine can also help lower anxiety, especially in individuals that suffer from anxiety disorders.
Decaf Coffee Contains the Same Antioxidants in Regular Coffee
For those drinking coffee strictly for antioxidants, the switch to decaf should be an easy one because it still contains the same antioxidants as regular coffee. However, it should be noted that decaf has a slightly lower amount of these antioxidants, possibly due to the caffeine extraction process. Regardless, this means that those who have been chugging the world’s most used drug for health reasons can confidently switch to decaf.
Decaf Coffee is Lower in Acidity than Regular Coffee
Coffee is quite acidic and is often mixed with dairy to help reduce the acidic effects, but it can often lead to heartburn and other uncomfortable side effects. One major benefit of decaf coffee is the lower acidic content, which is usually due to the decaffeination process. For those that suffer from chronic heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), switching to decaf coffee to lower the number of acidic foods daily can help reduce flare-ups of acid reflux and other side effects.
Decaf Coffee May Lower Your Risk of Fatal Cardiovascular Diseases
While regular coffee is often lauded for lowering the risk of multiple diseases and conditions, a recent study has shown that decaf may help reduce the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases. Since caffeine can worsen heart problems due to its stimulating effects, swapping your caffeinated java for some decaf may be better for your health if your family history is prone to heart problems.
Is Decaf Coffee Bad for Your Kidneys?
Depending on the type of kidney disease, coffee in moderation (1 – 2 cups) or decaf should be acceptable for chronic kidney disease. People with kidney stones should avoid or limit coffee due to the oxalate content.