Ah, espresso, the deliciously bold and energizing elixir that gets us through those early mornings and late nights. But can espresso be decaf?
Well, if you’re one of those folks who just can’t handle the caffeine buzz, I have good news, my friends: Decaf espresso is indeed a thing.
Yes, you read that right, espresso can be decaf. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s true. Decaf espresso is made using a special process that removes most of the caffeine from the coffee beans while still retaining that rich, full-bodied flavor that we all know and love.
When I was a barista, I got variations on this question all the time: How is it decaf? How much caffeine is in it? What’s the process like?
Right now, in fact, you might be thinking to yourself, “C’mon, Lauren, is decaf espresso really espresso if it doesn’t have caffeine?”
The answer is a resounding YES! Other than the decaffeination process, decaf espresso is still made using the same process as regular espresso.
But there are some caveats you should know about before you order a decaf espresso drink.
That’s why in this article, we will discuss how decaf espresso is made, the two main differences between regular and decaf espresso, and whether or not decaf espresso is a more beneficial option.
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of why and how espresso can be decaf, shall we?
What is Decaf Espresso?
First, we need to clear something up: Espresso is frequently used synonymously with coffee. But it actually refers to the brewing method—not some special or secret coffee bean.
In fact, espresso is just highly concentrated coffee, ground more finely and brewed with higher-pressure methods, like espresso machines or the moka pot.
Decaf espresso is simply espresso that has had the caffeine removed.
The process of removing caffeine from coffee beans is known as decaffeination—and it is the same for both decaf brewed coffee and decaf espresso. In fact, the decaffeinating procedure starts quite early, before the beans are even roasted, and definitely before you decide to use them for brewed vs espresso coffee.
How is Decaf Espresso Made?
Since we’ve established that espresso is actually a way to brew coffee and not a different type of coffee bean, we can safely say that decaf espresso is made just like decaf coffee.
We can also say that decaf espresso is made in the same way as regular espresso—just with decaf beans.
See what I’m getting at here?
Just because espresso is coffee brewed with fine grinds and more pressure, this doesn’t change the caffeine levels of the beans themselves pre-grinding and brewing.
And there are several methods for decaffeinating coffee beans, but one of the most preferred methods is the Swiss Water Process, which uses water to remove the caffeine from the beans.
The beans soak in hot water, which dissolves the caffeine. The water is then passed through a filter that removes the caffeine. Then, the beans are dried and roasted.
Another method uses solvents such as methylene chloride or ethyl acetate to dissolve the caffeine. Then, the beans are rinsed to remove leftover solvents before being dried and roasted as usual.
While these methods remove caffeine effectively, they may also remove some of the nuance, flavor, and aroma of the beans.
BTW: If you want to dive deeper into the decaffeination process, explore this section of our in-depth decaf coffee guide!
What’s the Difference Between Drinking Espresso and Decaf Espresso?
Espresso, as you now know, is a concentrated shot of coffee made by forcing pressurized hot water through finely-ground coffee beans. It’s a quick and potent pick-me-up that’s super versatile in both hot and iced coffee drinks, or even on its own.
Decaf espresso, on the other hand, is a bit of a trickster. It looks and smells like regular espresso, but it doesn’t have all the caffeine buzz.
So, the main difference between regular and decaf espresso is obviously the caffeine content. Regular espresso contains about 60-80 mg of caffeine per shot, while decaf espresso contains about 3-15 mg of caffeine per shot.
This means that decaf espresso can theoretically still provide the same taste and flavor as regular espresso, without the caffeine jolt.
But drawing from my personal experience making decaf espresso drinks for people who have never had one before, people often notice a slight difference in taste between regular and decaf espresso.
Usually, it’s minute. Some people strongly prefer decaf espresso, but there are also folks out there that can’t stand it.
(Maybe the better question then is can espresso be decaf—and still be good?)
Let’s be real, though: At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. Some people swear by the rich, intense flavor of regular espresso, while others enjoy the smoother, less bitter taste of decaf espresso.
Can Espresso Be Decaf? Yes. But Why Do People Drink It?
If you’re trying to cut back on caffeine, or just don’t want to be bouncing off the walls all day, decaf espresso might be the way to go.
Decaf espresso may also be a healthier option for some people who are sensitive to caffeine. Caffeine can cause a variety of side effects, such as jitteriness, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping.
Decaf espresso skips the side effects while can still providing espresso’s taste and experience. However, the taste part is totally open to personal preference as I said above.
It’s important to remind you here that decaf espresso still contains some caffeine, albeit in smaller amounts. Caffeine levels are also not the only measure of whether an espresso drink is “healthy” or not.
Consider other ingredients, too—like sugar or milk, which can add calories and fat—if you’re watching what you eat and drink.
TL;DR – Can Espresso Be Decaf?
So, there you have it, folks! Espresso can definitely be decaf, and the process of making decaf espresso involves removing the caffeine from the coffee beans before they are roasted.
It has a lower caffeine content than regular espresso but can still provide a similar taste. Decaf espresso may not be the most popular kid on the block, but it’s still a worthy contender in the espresso world.
Whether you’re looking to cut back on caffeine or just want to switch things up, give decaf espresso a try and see what you think. Who knows, it might just become your new go-to drink!