Coffee is probably the most popular beverage in the world. According to statistics, Americans drink about 517 million cups of the beverage every day.
Some people suffer from ailments that prevent them from taking caffeine. Others prefer to stay away from caffeine beverages before bedtime to make sure they sleep. A significant number of these people take decaf coffee.
If you’re a fan of regular coffee that’s never given a thought to decaf coffee, here is some information about it.
What is Decaf Coffee?
You may think of decaf coffee as regular coffee without caffeine. That’s why it’s referred to as decaffeinated coffee.
It is a lighter version of regular coffee with a subtler flavor and little or no caffeine.
Decaf coffee is made by stripping caffeine from coffee beans using solvents or water. Most decaf brands in the market are 97 to 99 percent caffeine-free.
According to the FDA, an 8-ounce cup of decaf coffee contains 2 mg of caffeine. That’s a minuscule amount compared to the 80 -100 mg of caffeine in 8 ounces of regular coffee. It explains why people take it as an alternative to caffeinated beverages.
However, it’s normal to hear people say that decaf coffee tastes strange. Some people feel it’s too light, while others think it’s bland or tastes burnt. Why is this?
Why Does Decaf Taste Bad?
One reason for decaf coffee’s poor, fake, or unpleasant malty taste is the dilution of flavors during the decaffeination process.
That’s surprising because decaf coffee has the same composition as regular coffee. It only lacks caffeine. But, the truth is, it makes a big difference. That’s because caffeine is responsible for the somewhat bitter taste of regular coffee, which is why some people feel decaf is bland.
Another thing that determines the taste of decaf coffee is the decaffeination process. Caffeine is removed from coffee using solvents, water, or carbon dioxide.
Solvents hasten the decaffeination process and are selective, only extracting caffeine from coffee beans and leaving most of the other nutrients intact.
Therefore, coffee decaffeinated using solvents such as Methylene Chloride may taste better and contain more caffeine than that processed using water.
Another reason for the difference in taste between decaf processed with solvents and that processed with water is the nutritional content.
Water strips away caffeine and other nutrients in the coffee beans, such as proteins and sugar, that may degrade their flavor.
However, since decaf coffee processed using solvents is frowned upon for health reasons, drinking decaf processed using water is best.
Swiss water processed coffee is considered one of the most popular types of decaf by coffee drinkers. It retains much of the flavor in coffee beans and is a chemical-free process. Many people feel it’s the closest in taste to regular coffee.
However, regardless of the process used to process decaf coffee, it still doesn’t taste as good as regular coffee.
If you’ve been suffering through your cup of decaf, and are wondering how to make decaf coffee taste great, here are some tips.
5 Ways to Make Your Decaf Taste Better
1. Use High-Quality Decaf Beans
The beans used to make decaf coffee determine its taste. Some decaf coffee processors use bad quality beans, knowing the roasting and decaffeination process will cover up their quality.
They may also feel these beans are best used to make decaf because their taste is less scrutinized than that of regular coffee. People expect it to taste bad or different from regular coffee anyway.
It’s, therefore, no surprise that most decaf drinkers don’t question the type of beans used to make decaf coffee.
But if you care about the flavor of your decaf, buy specialty decaf beans from expert roasters.
These roasters use quality coffee beans and ensure their characteristics are preserved during the roasting process.
Some excellent examples are Ethiopian Yirgacheffe decaf coffee, Costa Rica Decaf Tarrazu coffee, Colombian Supremo Decaf coffee, and Sumatra Mandheling coffee.
You may find reviews online from decaf drinkers that give you other excellent decaf coffee brands to try.
Take time to research before you go shopping for your decaf coffee, and you’ll find the best brands to go for.
2. Use Fresh Decaf Coffee Beans
Coffee experts recommend medium to dark roast decaf beans for brewing coffee. That’s because it’s easier to notice the bland taste of decaf coffee in light roasts unless you use it to make cold brew.
The roasting process imparts some flavor to decaffeinated beans, meaning medium and dark roast decaf beans have a more robust flavor than light roast decaf beans.
The way you store your decaf beans also affects their taste during brewing.
Therefore, always buy fresh decaf beans and store them properly to make sure they can brew fantastic coffee. That means keeping them in an airtight container and placing them in a cool dark place.
Otherwise, using old decaf beans means your coffee will probably taste stale. And storing fresh beans badly will make them stale too.
3. Brew Your Decaf Using Fresh Coffee Grounds
Freshly ground decaf beans give the best coffee. You get the authentic flavors of the beans based on their characteristics.
It’s easy to tell whether your coffee is spicy, nutty, or chocolatey, among other coffee beans notes.
These flavors of coffee grounds dissipate the longer you leave them in the open because oxidation, heat, and light degenerate their flavor. It may also make your coffee taste acidic.
Therefore, always start your coffee brewing process by grinding fresh decaf beans. Invest in a burr grinder for this purpose. Experts also recommend you brew coffee within thirty minutes of grinding coffee beans to preserve its flavor.
Note that the amount of coffee grounds you use may also determine the flavor of your decaf. It’s best to stick to 10 gms of coffee grounds for every 180 ml of water.
That will give you a rich cup of coffee with all the characteristics of the beans used to brew it intact.
4. Use The Right Water Temperature
The quality of water you use to brew coffee matters. That’s because water makes up 90 percent of a cup of coffee.
The dissolved compounds in water determine its mineral content, which affects the taste of coffee. Some examples of minerals in water that contribute to the taste of a cup of coffee are Magnesium and Calcium.
The ideal mineral content of water used to brew coffee is 150 mg per liter, and the best PH is 7.0. Regular tap water may meet these requirements if you filter it before brewing your coffee.
However, you will need to clean out your coffee machine more often to clean out the inevitable limescale build-up from the minerals in the water. If that bothers you, distilled water is a good option, too, but it won’t enhance the taste of your decaf coffee.
You should also make sure the water you use to brew your decaf coffee is at the right temperature. Baristas advise decaf drinkers to brew coffee using water between 90°C and 96°C.
And if you want your coffee to taste as close to caffeinated coffee as possible, use dark roast decaf beans to make cold brew coffee.
The amount of time it takes to prepare a cold brew ensures most of the flavors are extracted from decaf coffee beans. That will give it a better taste than a hot cup of decaf coffee.
5. Add Other Ingredients to Your Decaf Coffee
Black decaf coffee will inevitably have a funny taste compared to regular coffee. You can enhance the flavor of your decaf coffee by using other ingredients to better its taste.
Some great options are spices such as cinnamon or sweeteners such as flavored syrup. You could also add milk, creamer, or ice cream.
Adding syrup, spices, or milk gives you a chance to make your decaf version of coffees like cappuccino, latte, and mocha.
While regular coffee is popular, not everyone can take it. That’s why we have decaf. It’s one of the best coffee alternatives for people with caffeine sensitivity and those who suffer health conditions that prevent them from enjoying regular coffee.
If you are one of these people, you don’t have to wonder how to make decaf coffee taste great anymore. Use the tips we’ve given you to enhance the taste of your decaf coffee, and you won’t have any problem taking it all the time.