Does decaf taste like the real deal?
There are several myths surrounding decaf coffee.
For example, it’s bad for you; it tastes weird and still has caffeine in it anyway.
We’re going to look at these myths and explain them; then we’ll do a taste test to determine if decaffeinated coffee tastes like the real deal.
First myth; decaffeinated coffee is bad for you
Coffee grows complete with caffeine. This means that the caffeine has to removed from the coffee after it has grown. There are four main ways to do this. First up, it can be done by adding chemical solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate. The green beans are either soaked in the solvent or treated with the solvent, both methods removing the caffeine. Because chemicals are used, many people see this as being unhealthy as you’re ingesting toxins. However, it’s unlikely that any chemicals would be present after the roasting process. These two methods, however, do not leave much coffee taste! The harsh chemical process removes some of the coffee goodness at the same time.
On the other hand, there are two, softer ways to remove the caffeine from coffee.
These are the Sparkling water process and the Swiss water process, respectively.
Our current decaffeinated coffee uses the chemical-free method of the sparkling water process for removing the caffeine. This natural process combines carbon dioxide with water to create a highly solvent substance for the caffeine in the coffee. The beans enter the treatment vessel where they’re cleaned and moistened with water. In the water, the pores of the beans open, allowing the caffeine molecules to become mobile. The carbon dioxide circulates through the beans, acting as a magnet to draw out the caffeine. Because the caffeine molecules are small, they are removed, leaving the larger molecules which attribute to taste.
The sparkling water is then evaporated, precipitating the caffeine-rich carbon dioxide out of the water. More water is then pumped back into the vessel for the process to be repeated. This continues until all the caffeine has been removed. Once finished, the beans are removed, gently dried and as soon as their original moisture content is met, they are ready to be roasted. This process was fully developed in 1988 and is natural and organically certified, as well as completely chemical-free, will cause no harm when ingested and maintains the delicate flavours found within the coffee.
It tastes weird
As we mentioned earlier, chemicals can be used to extract caffeine from coffee, which may result in some of the flavour being removed. Using the sparkling water process however, this shouldn’t happen. If anything, the taste of decaf is often down to your brain and presumptions. For instance, if you were told that your coffee was decaffeinated, the chances are that your brain tells you to expect it to taste different to your normal coffee. If you were not told, would you know?
The answer is, probably.
If you were drinking decaf processed using one of the harsher methods, your coffee usually takes on a savoury flavour, like soup. If however, you were drinking a freshly roasted sparkling water decaffeinated coffee like ours, perhaps you wouldn’t know the difference. So, we did a taste test to find out!
We chose 2 of our awesome coffees, one from Peru and Uganda both with chocolatey notes and a little acidity. One slight difference is that one is roasted medium and the other is medium to dark.
We ground both coffees the same, weighed them equally and used the same quality cafetiere. This is because, to be a fair test, we want to try and get everything as even and consistent as possible.
Next, recently boiled water was added to the grounds in both cafetieres and timed for the perfect extraction.
Once brewed and settled, the coffee was poured into 2 cups. At this point, there is no clear distinction between the two coffees just by sight.
When you smell the aroma of the caffeinated coffee, the smell is strong, whereas the decaf, there is a much softer aroma.
On tasting, I notice that the decaffeinated coffee tastes better than my brain had told me to expect. I can taste a biscuity baked flavour which is comforting. The taste is super clean and refreshing. There is a lingering aftertaste, but it is pleasant and not harsh or off-putting.
When tasting the caffeinated coffee, I’m pleasantly surprised in that I actually preferred the decaf! This came as a shock. But as I said before, my brain was expecting the decaf to taste lesser due to stereotype and myth. The caffeinated coffee tasted more intense to me, but that could be the slightly darker roast profile. This coffee had a lot richer taste and was still full of flavour.
I also roped in a WILLing volunteer to try both coffees, not knowing what they were tasting or why, to get an unbiased view. They said that the “left” (decaf) was more subtle in intensity with a cleaner aftertaste. They assumed the coffees were the same, but brewed differently. When I explained that they were, in fact, different coffees brewed in the same way and that one was decaf, they were very surprised!
So that’s the second myth busted! It doesn’t taste weird at all, it tastes like biscuits, and who doesn’t like biscuits?!
It’s still got caffeine in it anyway
This is technically true because no process can remove 100% of the caffeine; however, the sparkling water process removes 99.9%, so it shouldn’t keep you up at night.
So, decaf does taste like the real deal. If you’re intrigued to try our chemical-free decaffeinated coffee for yourself.
Head to our shop and grab yourself a bag today. And don’t forget the biccies!
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