Decaf Diaries: Debunking ‘Death Before Decaf’

February 11, 2021

Decaf Diaries: Debunking ‘Death Before Decaf’

It’s time we put down our torches and let people enjoy decaf coffee.

Dear Diary,

There’s a bit of disinformation plaguing the world of coffee that we need to talk about: “death before decaf.” For as long as I can remember, the devilish idea of decaf has been demonized by coffee drinkers, and I can no longer sit idly by while the community deems decaf distasteful because it actually is, in fact, delicious and desirable. And there’s a lot of delicious decaf coffee being brewed in Indianapolis.

Breaking Down Decaf

Honestly, I don’t know why decaf gets such a bad rep. It’s just another example of a patriarchal caste system that we need to tear down! Decaf coffee can be and is _good_ coffee, and we need to start treating it as such.

To do my part, I’ve started this Decaf Diaries series to take us all through the basics of decaf coffee, how decaf coffee is actually decaffeinated, and where to find good decaf coffee in Indianapolis.

The Basics of Decaf Coffee

So listen, I’m not a scientist or a doctor, so I can’t tell you the ins and outs of the chemistry behind coffee, but I can tell you the basic truths behind decaf.

Let’s start with why we call decaf coffee ‘decaf’ and not caffeine-free coffee. Coffee beans are naturally packed with caffeine, and there are no varieties or cultivars of coffee that are naturally free of caffeine. So we use the word ‘decaf’ on purpose because the beans actually have to go through a decaffeination process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Decaf

Is there still caffeine in decaf coffee?

If you’re here reading this, you probably already know the answer to this, but YES there is still caffeine in decaf coffee. Though all beans are different, it is said that decaf coffees usually have 3-7mg of caffeine compared to regular coffees’ usual 70-140mg. So that’s about 97% less. Fun fact: in the U.S. for a coffee to be sold as decaf, it has to have had at least 97% of the caffeine removed, and the EU’s standard is 99.9%.

How is decaf coffee made?

Coffee beans get decaffeinated before they are roasted—while they are still green—through several different methods. The most common processes are super sciency and pretty cool, so I’ll walk you through those as we explore good local decafs. I feel like I see ‘sugar cane’ and ‘Swiss water’ the most in Indy, but more on those later.

One important thing to note is that most main stream, grocery story decafs are decaffeinated using harsh chemicals (again, more on that later), which is a good enough reason for me to get my decaf from a local roaster. In situations you can’t, try to only pick up organic decafs as those should be made using better processes.

What are the health effects of decaf?

Listen, I’m not a doctor, and I found a lot of conflicting science through my own searches (sometimes in the same study), but I think it pretty much relates to most things about health: if it works for you, it works for you. As I journey through my 30s, I’ve had to cut back on my caffeine consumption a little bit for anxiety reasons, and I’ve personally found that drinking decaf has been good for me. Does it help me in any way? I don’t know, but I know it helps me enjoy good local coffee without shooting my anxiety through the roof. So yeah, this one is going to be up to you. And probably your doctor.

Why do people drink decaf?

I know this isn’t a real question, per se, but I’m going to answer it anyway because you all are always sassy in my DMs about why people would drink decaf coffee. I just told you mine. Since I’m working from home 100% of the time, I am much less active, so caffeine just hits differently. A lot of you have shared your struggles with me about this, too. There are numerous health reasons for people young and old that require them to drink little-to-no caffeine, and some people (like my husband) are just super sensitive to it. There are plenty of reasons why people drink decaf, so hush up!

Is it as good as regular coffee? Why does decaf always suck?

Listen, if you or someone you know has been hurt by bad decaf coffee, I’d like to take this time to extend my deepest condolences. It shouldn’t have to be this way!

Decaf coffee can and should be as great as regular coffee. In my experience, decaf coffee usually sucks for a few reasons. If you’re getting it at a restaurant, big chain, or anywhere that isn’t a local café, chances are that they just really don’t care about decaf, and they probably use coffee that was decaffeinated through a terrible chemical process at mass scale.

If you’re getting bad decaf at a local café, it’s either because they have a ‘death before decaf’ mentality or they just don’t know. Listen, we just don’t order decaf enough to keep it as hot and fresh as a drip coffee, so naturally it can fall by the wayside. The lack of demand is also why a lot of places don’t have it readily available but offer alternatives like a decaf americano or a pour-over. I guarantee you though, if you have bad decaf at a local café, they want to hear about it. Let your barista know something is off and have a conversation with them instead of pursing your lips and leaving with a bad taste in your mouth.

Good Local Decafs in Indianapolis

Listen, I know you came here to learn about decaf, but I also know you came here to find out where to get good decaf in Indy. In my next decaf diary entries, I’ll walk us through some specific Indy decafs that I’ve fallen in love with, but I’m not going to leave you hanging here.

Here’s where I’m usually getting my decaf beans from:

  • Circadian Coffee
  • Tinker Coffee
  • Bee Coffee
  • Indie Coffee Roasters

I definitely suggest you check out decaf beans from these roasters, and I’d love to hear where else you get good local decaf from! Shoot me a message on IG or comment on my decaf diaries posts. It would be an honor and a privilege to check out what you’re enjoying.

Talk to you soon, diary, as we start diving into different local decafs and how they are made and roasted.

What else do you want to know about Decaf?