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Decaf Espresso: It's Better Than You Think

Dave Carter

January 11, 2021

While the concept of eliminating the caffeine out of your usual coffee routine seems out of the question for any coffee lover, it's a necessity for other individuals. You've probably heard of decaf coffee, but did you know decaf espresso exists too? Although the term decaffeinated espresso is still relatively unexplored compared to ordinary decaffeinated coffee, it's slowly thriving.

Decaf espresso allows you to indulge in your favorite classic espressos or specialty espresso-based drinks minus the caffeine. To help you learn more about this unusual combination, and answer your aching questions such as is decaf espresso or coffee caffeine-free? How much caffeine is in a decaf coffee and espressos? Here's a full low-down on decaffeinated espresso.

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Decaf Espresso Beans​

With espressos becoming a universal favorite for many coffee drinkers, you may wonder, what is an espresso? Does espresso have more caffeine than coffee? For you to understand the art of espresso, let's begin with its origin, the beans. All kinds of coffee variations come from coffee beans, and although espressos are more potent than regular coffee, its coffee beans have no difference with regular coffee beans. The same applies to decaf coffee beans and espresso beans, with both coffees containing either Robusta or Arabica beans.

Espresso coffee beans are roasted longer, ground finer, and follow a different brewing method than regular coffee, giving it a sharper and more robust taste. When specialty roasters indicate 'drip blends' or 'espressos blend,' it's the brewing method they're pointing out, not the whole bean.

Both espresso and regular coffee beans undergo similar decaffeination processes, where the coffee beans have been stripped of caffeine in their green or raw state before roasting. The procedure removes around 94% to 98% of the caffeine from each coffee bean. Despite using decaffeinated Robusta or Arabica beans when making espresso-based drinks, you can still produce 100% of the espresso taste, aroma, and long finish that you would achieve with a regular non-decaffeinated coffee blend.

While the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) does not have any specific regulations regarding what decaf espresso coffee beans are considered to be 'decaffeinated,' the baseline is usually a coffee blend that has around 97% of its caffeine content removed. Unlike regular coffees that typically lose their natural flavors after decaffeination, espressos maintain their delicious sweet and robust notings. It provides you with some of the best-decaffeinated brews.

What is a Decaf Espresso?​

Decaf espresso is a regular espresso with lower caffeine levels. You can create it with any standard or super-automatic espresso machine, so before you get brewing, learn how to use the Nespresso machine to make the best decaf espressos at home. While one shot of espresso has more caffeine per ounce than a regular cup of joe, caffeine isn't what makes it an 'espresso.'

Espresso is a specific style of brewing coffee. Espresso machines use high pressure to pump hot water through a packed puck of ground coffee, giving you a sophisticated and robust brew in a few seconds. So when you remove caffeine in one espresso shot, you aren't sacrificing the flavor punch you'd typically expect from the drink.

The Decaffeination Process ​

Coffee and espressos are decaffeinated from either the three methods, including the solvent method, swiss water process, and carbon dioxide process. Let's dive into each one.

The Solvent Method​

This process can strip most of the fragrance and flavor of your Robusta or Arabica beans. It involves steaming coffee beans for 30 minutes rather than soaking it in hot water. After half an hour, the beans get rinsed with solvents such as methylene chloride and ethylene acetate to steam open the coffee beans and remove the caffeine. Using these solvents can remove more caffeine because they target that specific compound and don't bother the other components that give regular coffees and espressos their distinct flavors.

The beans may lose their taste because it's usually rinsed up to a dozen times to remove the caffeine. Although it's still commonly practiced today, manufacturers typically don't advertise this inexpensive method.

Swiss Water Process​

The typical modern decaffeination process that coffee undergoes is the swiss water process. You use a charcoal filter and carbohydrate solvents (usually highly compressed CO2), allowing the filter and solvent to absorb the caffeine in each bean only. It involves moistening the coffee beans and washing them in a solution consisting of water, carbon dioxide, and organic solvents. Over time, these solvents remove the caffeine from each coffee bean.

Because the decaffeination procedure occurs during the crashing portion of coffee, the decaf process for regular coffee and espressos is the same. So, you may use the same beans for decaffeinated espressos as you would for standard coffees.

Carbon Dioxide Process​

The carbon dioxide process is the newest and most expensive decaffeination method. It's also a natural method of decaffeinating whole beans. It follows the same principles of the swiss water process. But instead of using charcoal filters, you add water and CO2, washing the caffeine off with carbon dioxide, creating a sparkling water effect that attracts the caffeine molecules in each bean. The byproducts for this method are natural and recyclable, but it's still not as environmentally friendly as the swiss water process.

These processes can remove up to 97% or 99% of the beans' caffeine levels. Decaffeinating espressos can function as an advantage in espresso blending. It rounds up the potentially sharp edges or raw or green coffee while leaving behind enough of the flavors one shot of espresso needs, giving you rich and the best decaf espresso coffee.

Is Decaf Espresso Really Decaf?​

While any of the best decaf methods you use can remove caffeine, it can't eliminate it all. All the different techniques can remove around 97% to 99.99% of it. So, when you say 'decaffeinated espressos,' it's not entirely decaffeinated. It can still contain around 2 mg to 15 mg of caffeine per serving, but it's still relatively safe to consume for caffeine-sensitive individuals.

Although decaffeinating coffee can strip some of its flavors, that's not the same case with espressos. Decaf espresso allows you to enjoy all the flavor and aroma of a quality non-caffeinated cup without the keep-me-awake-all-night buzz, so turn on your espresso machine and indulge in a decaffeinated brew.

Espresso Decaffeinated

Despite its patchy reputation, many people love enjoying espresso decaffeinated as a way to experience the taste of robust coffee without the caffeine kick. Coffee consists of thousands of chemicals, contributing to its flavor, aroma, and caffeine. The sheer amount of chemicals present in coffee beans give the famous 'espresso coffee' its complex flavors—and it's this complexity that makes decaf drastically taste different from its caffeine-rich counterpart. However, you may wonder, what's the best way to enjoy decaffeinated brews?

The best way you can enjoy decaf espressos is by tailoring them to your tastes, such as making a latte or cappuccino out of them—giving you the same delicious flavors minus the caffeine. Decaffeinated espressos can provide the same thick, and hazelnut-hued crema, the light-brown layer on top espressos are most famously known for, depending on the blends you choose. It also comes with the sweet and complex aromas regular espresso provides, full of notings of chocolate, honey, and caramel—giving you a multi-sensory awakening even without the high levels of caffeine.

Finally, the brew itself tastes a lot like the regular caffeinated version, sweet, velvety, and full-bodied, with just the slightest hint of bitterness. Additionally, like regular caffeinated espresso coffee, decaf espresso comes in different degrees of roast, providing you with various blends to enjoy without the buzz of caffeine.

Much like wine, coffee ground's terroir dictates the significant characteristics in terms of taste, flavor, texture, sweetness, body, bitterness, kick, and acidity of a cup. To enjoy decaffeinated espresso coffee at its very best, you need to consider a couple of principles.

Espresso Coffee Storage

The first one is coffee storage, and this one may be confusing as there are numerous theories out there that explains how you should store your grounds and beans. However, in reality, the best way to keep your decaf espresso coffee grounds and beans is in an airtight container in a cool, dark, and dry area, such as inside your kitchen cabinets.


The best way to prepare decaffeinated espresso coffee is by using your espresso machine just like you'd typically would with your regular caffeinated espresso shots. However, it's best if you used fresh or filtered water for the best flavors. Besides using an espresso maker, you can also brew your decaf espresso using the traditional kettle and pour-over method—make sure that you pour the water you boiled between 90°C and 96°C. Finally, if you're not using an espresso machine with a portafilter to guide you on how much decaf espresso grounds to use, 10 grams of espresso coffee for every 180 ml of water is ideal.

Finally, to get the most out of your decaf grounds, the best way is to get fresh decaffeinated whole beans and grind them using a burr grinder, providing a drastic difference to bland decaf taste. If you can grind the beans weekly, this will give you the best guaranteed results. Although caffeinated brews will always be better, trying decaffeinating once in a while is recommended. Whether it's for health reasons or a lifestyle choice, you can guarantee that cutting the caffeine from your espresso drinks won't compromise its flavor department.

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Can You Get a Decaf Espresso?​

Although the decaffeinated espresso concept is still relatively uncommon and new for most coffee lovers, like with decaffeinated coffees, there are now several decaffeinated espressos you can get at your local grocery stores or online. Try making a decaf espresso at home by learning how to make espresso with coffee maker or an espresso machine.

Besides trying out the unusual blend to explore the world of espresso and coffee more, here are some of the benefits of drinking decaffeinated espressos.

Less Caffeine​

For individuals with a sensitivity to caffeine, these can include high levels of anxiety, irritated stomachs, and heart problems. They can enjoy a decaffeinated espresso or coffee shot without having to worry about the side effects that come with the compound. Nobody deserves to be deprived of espressos or coffee.

Lowers Risk of Diabetes​

According to the ADA (American Diabetes Association), decaffeinated espressos and coffees can lower the risk of developing diabetes. This health benefit is possible because of the presence of lignans and chlorogenic acid, responsible for improving glucose metabolism and reducing oxidative stress in a person's body. Decaffeinated drinks are also rich in magnesium, which plays an essential role in decreasing the risk of developing diabetes and improves brain and cardiovascular functions.

Enjoy Evening Brews​

Another benefit when you choose decaf espresso coffee instead of full caffeinated is timing. While many people may hardly notice the caffeinated buzz of one shot, it can give others the jitters for hours. If you love the experience of sipping on your favorite espressos but don't want to stay up until 3 am, decaf espresso coffee is the best choice. Besides, no coffee lover wants to have a caffeine crash a few hours before waking up for their day job.

It Protects the Liver​

Decaffeinated coffees can provide protective benefits to the liver. It contains various oils such as kahweol and cafestol that fights against a harmful toxin called aflatoxin that can harm your liver. These oils boost the antioxidant's production, known as glutathione, that improves liver function, protecting your hepatic system against harmful toxins.

Reduced Symptoms of Heartburn​

One of the common side effects of drinking regular espressos is acid reflux or heartburn, which can have serious side effects for individuals with existing heart-related diseases. Many people experience the sensation of increased acid reflux when drinking regular coffee or espressos. The best way to alleviate this is by opting for decaf coffee and espressos, as studies show that it causes significantly less acid reflux than caffeinated variations.

Lowers Risk of Developing Rectal Cancer​

Studies suggest drinking two or more shots of decaffeinated espressos or cups of decaf coffee has been linked with reducing the risk of developing rectal cancer in specific individuals by up to 48%. However, if you're sensitive to caffeine, it's still recommended to avoid indulging in decaffeinated drinks as it still contains traces of the compound.

Lowers Risk of the Development of Age-related Mental Diseases​

Decaffeinated and regular espressos provide positive effects on age-related mental conditions or decline. Studies show that a decaffeinated brew can protect the brain cells (neurons) of humans, helping to prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. The study suggests that the positive effects may be due to the presence of chlorogenic acid in coffee.

Make yourself decaffeinated espressos, and enjoy the many benefits that come with the drink. However, if you're sensitive to caffeine, it's best to avoid drinks that naturally contain the compound because even if it's decaffeinated, it still contains traces of it. Too much consumption can lead to unpleasant side effects, including stomach aches, headaches, increased anxiety levels, heart rate, and more.

How Much Caffeine is in a Decaf Espresso?​

After establishing that decaffeinated espressos and coffees still contain, you may wonder, how much caffeine in coffee decaf? How much caffeine decaffeinated espressos contain? Although studies have proved that all kinds of decaffeinated coffees, including espressos, contain caffeine, the average levels of each variation depend on its serving size.

For instance, your ordinary decaffeinated Nespresso k cups provide as little as 0.4 mg caffeine per pod. An average 8-ounce cup of decaf coffee contains up to 7 mg, and one shot of decaf espresso provides 3 to nearly 16 milligrams.

While these numbers may seem low, it's best for individuals with kidney diseases and anxiety disorders to cut their intake. Even small traces of the compound can lead to increased heart rate, agitation, blood pressure, and anxiety. But it's still relatively low because researchers suggest that drinking 5 to 10 servings of decaffeinated espressos or coffees equals drinking 1 to 2 cups of regular and caffeinated coffee. So, as long as you keep it to a minimum, you can turn on your espresso machine and indulge in the best decaf espresso shot.

How Much Caffeine in Decaf Espresso​

Studies show that different decaffeinated coffees, including espressos and other variations, have varying caffeine levels. It's rare to find an utterly decaffeinated coffee as most decaffeination methods can only remove 97% to 99% of the caffeine in brews. But the differences between caffeinated and decaffeinated espressos are still vast. An average espresso shot can contain up to 60 to 63 milligrams, while decaffeinated espressos contain around 3 to 16 milligrams, which is significantly lower than the regular one.

Although these drinks are not entirely decaffeinated, if they have been stripped off at least 97% of the compound, the Food and Drug Administration considers it 'decaf.' It will require an individual to indulge in at least 5 to 10 cups of decaffeinated coffees and espresso shots to feel the usual buzz you would get with its caffeinated versions.

The maximum limit of caffeine intake that's safe for adults is equal or lower 400 mg. That's approximately four cups of regular caffeinated coffee and 57 cups of decaffeinated espressos and coffee. It's best to limit your intake of these drinks, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine. It can cause increased heart rates, urination, stomach aches, headaches, nervousness or anxiety, and irritability.


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Indulging in decaf espresso is a fantastic way to enjoy your favorite classic espressos or specialty drinks without having to worry about consuming too much caffeine. Although, like coffee, it's not entirely decaffeinated, it's still the best choice to enjoy your favorite espressos minus the caffeinated buzz. We hope this article helped you solve the mystery behind the contradicting decaffeinated espressos, helping you discover more about the wonders of coffee. Try making a brew at home with your espresso machine and get the best decaf shots for better and milder mornings.


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