You’ve seen it before… Either on a shirt worn by a barista at your local coffee shop or in the Instagram bio of your favorite coffee influencer: “Death before Decaf”. Where does that mentality come from and is it substantiated?
Humans have had a long, utilitarian relationship with caffeine, due to its positive effects on energy and focus. No workplace past or present would be caught dead without a coffee maker in the breakroom. That mentality still permeates our culture today as entrepreneurs and other online go-getters tout their accomplishments with a caffeinated caveat typically ending in “but first, coffee”.
Coffee enthusiasts have long dragged decaf for it’s sacrilege to the product itself. Since no coffee is inherently decaffeinated, coffee producers would typically send their less desirable coffees to undergo the decaffeinating process since such processes typically removed a lot of the desirable flavors as well as the caffeine. But this technology has evolved quite dramatically in recent times, so much so that there are now coffee companies that work entirely with decaf coffee.
The two most popular forms of decaffeination are Ethyl Acetate and Water Process. When coffees are decaffeinated with Ethyl Acetate, a natural ester derived from fermented sugar cane, they are steamed before being soaked in water and EA repeatedly until the caffeine has been removed. The coffee is then steamed once more to remove any remaining Ethyl Acetate.
When coffee is decaffeinated by the Water Process, it is steamed then soaked in water until the caffeine is removed. This water is then filtered of the caffeine and reintroduced into the coffee, preserving much of the distinct flavor characteristics.
So is decaf coffee bad? In one humble coffee roaster’s opinion, no. Coffee professionals typically try to separate specialty coffee from it’s utilitarian history anyway, and since we have access to really high quality and immensely enjoyable decaffeinated coffees, why not enjoy them for what they are? I think for those in pursuit of a balanced life, decaf has a rightful place. Caffeine can negatively impact sleep when consumed too late in the day and some people experience adverse effects any time they drink it. I feel expressions like “Death before Decaf” or other similar caffeine colloquialisms deter caffeine-sensitive individuals from experiencing much of the enjoyment coffee connoisseurs find in a cup.
You can shop our current decaf offering here.