While the previous components hold true for any coffee shopping, when buying decaf coffee, it’s worth seeking out what decaffeination process was used. That’s right, there are actually a few ways to remove the caffeine from coffee beans. (It’s worth noting coffee is never truly caffeine-free—there’s usually a trace amount.)
“One could decaffeinate coffee purely with hot water, but this would also completely de-flavor it,” says explains Doug Welsh, Peet’s VP Coffee & Roastmaster. “Water, after all, is what we use to dissolve all the yummy stuff into our cup.”
While some processes use solvents, there are two non-solvent-based options: Swiss Water Process and Carbon Dioxide Process. These essentially involve stripping the coffee of the caffeine chemicals, while strategically leaving behind or reintroducing the compounds that give coffee its flavor. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with solvent-based processes, I personally prioritize a water process, since it’s free of any extra chemicals.
Above all, the best thing you can do when shopping for coffee, according to Welsh, is taste it—decaf coffee shouldn’t taste any less delicious than a full-caffeine variety. This is a lot easier to do when buying your beans direct from a local coffee shop, where they might be brewing the beans to order every day.
Whether or not you can sample it, using these strategic tips can help you find a bag worthy of your own coffee ritual. Then the only question that remains is: how will you brew your beautiful beans? (If you’re asking me, it’s all about the cold brew).