The Difference Between Decaf and Caffeine Coffee

There’s nothing like waking up in the morning and feeling the caffeine hit your system.

Whether it’s from your favorite cup of coffee or tea, many rely on caffeine to give us that kick start we need in the mornings.

Some people choose to drink decaf coffee or tea due to caffeine sensitivity. Others make the switch because of the health effects of caffeine.

But what exactly is the difference between caffeine and decaf, and is one better for you than the other?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Caffeine Coffee vs. Decaf Coffee

Traditional coffee naturally contains caffeine. For 8 ounces of coffee, there is around 96 mg of caffeine. Many people assume decaf coffee has no caffeine, which is not accurate.

Decaf coffee does still have caffeine, but not nearly as much as regular coffee. The same 8 ounces of decaf coffee only has 2 To 19 mg of caffeine. The caffeine content does vary by brand and coffee bean.

Decaf and regular coffee will still provide the pick-me-up you’re looking for, but the caffeine content is where they differ. The other significant difference between decaf coffee and regular coffee is that caffeine occurs in coffee beans naturally. For us to get decaf coffee, the coffee beans need to be decaffeinated.

Caffeine Tea vs. Decaf Tea

Not all tea leaves naturally contain caffeine. The two most caffeinated teas are black and green teas. Like regular and decaf coffee, the differences between caffeinated teas and decaf tea are the caffeine content.

Some of the most popular black teas are:

  • Assum
  • Darjeeling
  • Golden Monkey
  • Ceylon
  • Chai

An eight-ounce glass of black tea contains around 47 mg of caffeine, whereas a decaf black tea only has about 2 mg. For green tea, eight ounces contain only 28 mg, and the decaf versions are similar to decaf black tea.

Decaf tea does not mean zero caffeine. Some tea leaves naturally have no caffeine. For black and green tea to become decaf, they have to go through a similar process as coffee beans.

Black and green teas naturally have caffeine in them. If you’re searching for a completely caffeine-free tea, there are other options to choose from.

How Do We Get Decaf Coffee and Tea?

Decaf coffee beans and tea leaves don’t exist naturally. Coffee beans and tea leaves must go through a process of decaffeination to be considered decaf. Decaffeination can happen in a few ways, but it has to occur before the beans are roasted.

When you try to decaffeinate coffee beans after they’re roasted, you’ll end up with something that tastes nothing like the coffee you were wanting. When you’re decaffeinating tea leaves, you’ll still want to do this before brewing the tea.

Solvent Chemical Soaks

The first way that many do this is by soaking the coffee beans or tea leaves in a solvent. The most common solvent used for this is methylene chloride or sometimes ethyl acetate.

Methylene chloride is commonly used for stripping paint, degreasing objects, and decaffeinating coffee beans and tea leaves.

Ethyl acetate is another chemical solvent commonly found in vinegar and is also used to make nail polish remover. This chemical works similarly to methylene chloride.

To decaffeinated products using a solvent, the coffee beans or tea leaves are soaked in water. Once they are soaked, whichever chemical solvent is poured over the beans to draw the caffeine out.

Hearing that chemical soaks are the number one way we get decaf coffee or tea might seem unsafe, but they’re surprisingly not. Both methods have been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration. These methods may not be legal in other countries, but in the United States, it’s safe.

The Swiss Water Method

The Swiss Water Method is the only fully organic way to remove most of the caffeine from coffee beans or tea leaves. The Swiss Water Method was the first process of decaffeination that did not utilize solvents.

This process relies heavily on osmosis to extract the caffeine. Once the process is complete, the beans and leaves are almost 99% decaffeinated.

In this method, the products are soaked with water first and then strained through active carbon. The active carbon will capture the caffeine so it can be removed from the beans or tea leaves.

CO2 Decaffeination Methods

Carbon dioxide is found naturally in coffee beans and tea leaves. This process is very efficient but is very expensive to do. Pressurized CO2 is used to remove most of the caffeine from the products.

How this other carbon dioxide process works is by using supercritical carbon dioxide. As with the other processes, the beans and leaves are first soaked in water before going into an extractor. The extractor is sealed before liquid CO2 is applied at pressures of 1,000 pounds per square inch.

The CO2 binds with the caffeine from the products to draw them out of the unroasted coffee beans or tea leaves.

Health Benefits of Regular Coffee

Regular caffeinated coffee and tea aren’t as detrimental to your health as you may think. There’s some great health benefits of drinking coffee. Granted, overconsumption can be.

Health experts recommend most adults stay under 400 mg of caffeine a day. The 400 mg limit doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s a general health suggestion.

The first and foremost benefit of drinking traditionally caffeinated coffee or tea is the energy boost we sometimes crave.

According to John Hopkins, consuming regular coffee in moderation can help prevent Alzheimer’s, stroke, and colon cancer in women. It can also help improve liver function.

Health Benefits of Decaf Coffee

Due to the lower caffeine content in decaf coffee, it’s perfect for caffeine-sensitive or watching their caffeine intake. Lower caffeine consumption could help lower your anxiety and improve your insomnia if you were experiencing that when drinking regular coffee.

Some studies suggest drinking decaf coffee can help lower your risk for certain cancers, heart disease, and type two diabetes.

Due to some people not being able to tell the difference between regular coffee and decaf, there are limited studies on the benefits of decaf on liver function. But, because regular coffee can have benefits for liver function, many people assume that decaf coffee has similar benefits to regular coffee.

Health Benefits of Black and Green Teas

The two most caffeinated teas, black and green, are both rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants are great in helping prevent LDL, bad cholesterol, from building up in your body.

Other studies show that drinking three cups of black tea regularly can help reduce your risk of heart disease by 11%. Black and green tea both contain amino acid L-theanine that is not found in regular coffee or decaf coffee. This amino acid can help boost brain function when drunk in moderation.

Black and green teas with their natural amount of caffeine can provide the caffeine kick you need without necessarily giving you the restlessness that regular coffee can give you.

Health Benefits of Decaf Black and Green Teas

The health benefits of decaf black and green tea are pretty much the same as regular black and green tea.

The most significant difference between the health benefits is that decaffeinated black and green teas provide much less caffeine intake for tea drinkers.

You still have all the antioxidants that regular tea has but for those who are caffeine sensitive, you can enjoy more than a cup or two of your favorite tea without having jitters.

Is Decaf or Regular Coffee or Tea Better for You?

Whether decaf or regular is better for you is a personal answer. If you’re someone who cannot handle a high level of caffeine, decaf is probably going to be better for you.

Regular coffee or tea has many of the same benefits that decaf does but with a higher level of caffeine. If you’re seeking a real energy boost, regular coffee or tea is a good option if you drink it in moderation.

At the end of the day, whether they be regular or decaf, drinking tea or coffee can be beneficial in moderation. Some may argue that decaf is not as good for you due to the chemical decaffeination process it goes through. But these processes have been cleared by the FDA.

Wrapping Up

Before you order a cup of coffee or a cup of decaf, knowing the differences can help you decide which one to order. All-natural coffee or tea comes packed with caffeine which, when drank in small amounts, can be great for you.

Decaf coffee or tea has to go through the process of decaffeination, which some may not like, but if you’re caffeine-sensitive or are looking to reduce your intake, decaf is a great option. There is no such thing as a completely caffeine-free coffee or black or green tea.

If you are avoiding caffeine, you’ll want to avoid these drinks. Regardless of your choice, you’ll be able to enjoy these beloved beverages.

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