Most people drink coffee because they’ve come to rely on that energy boost caffeine gives them and yet there are others who only like the taste of coffee, but not the caffeine. However, there is no such thing as 100% caffeine-free coffee. Even decaf has a bit of caffeine, but don’t worry it’s so little it won’t harm you.
Decaffeination, the process of removing the caffeine from the coffee beans, is a very delicate one because you need to make sure to leave all the natural flavors in place. All decaffeination methods start by steaming or soaking the beans to open up the pores, allowing the caffeine to dissolve into the water.
The term decaf is a bit ambiguous and people simply assume there’s no caffeine in it, which would be almost impossible to achieve. In reality, even when it says decaf on the label, the coffee beans are just 97% decaffeinated.
What exactly does this mean for you? On average, an 8-ounce cup of decaf coffee contains up to 7 mg of caffeine, whereas a cup prepared with the same sort of beans not-decaffeinated will deliver 70–140 mg of caffeine.
For most people, a few milligrams of caffeine are nothing, but doctors say those with blood pressure problems or kidney disease should limit their caffeine intake. Also, for certain susceptible individuals, even small amounts of caffeine can increase agitation or anxiety, which can trigger insomnia.
One of the mistakes many people make is ignoring the fact that caffeine accumulates in the body – using decaf doesn’t mean that you can drink cup after cup! Another thing to keep in mind is that caffeine stays in the system for many hours. Just as people who drink regular coffee are advised to have the last cup for the day at least six hours before going to bed, people who are particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine should not have even a decaf late in the evening.
When it comes to decaf drinks you can find in coffee shops, studies show caffeine contents vary quite a bit.
For instance, one study found that one shot of decaffeinated espresso at Starbucks had between 3–15.8 mg of caffeine, while a 16-ounce cup of decaf coffee had 12–13.4 mg of caffeine.
While decaf is good for heart or kidney issues, research suggests that it might make some digestive problems worse. Even a bit of caffeine can increase stomach acidity in some people, which often leads to heartburn.
At the same time, caffeine is not the only compound in coffee that can irritate the stomach, so if you have a sensitive stomach you should limit decaf consumption as well.
All in all, decaf is better than regular coffee drinks for people with various health issues, but it still has a few milligrams of caffeine in it, so don’t drink too much!
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