Decaf Coffee Doesn’t Have To Taste Lousy

Decaf coffee can taste goodLets face it: Nobody really likes decaffeinated coffee. We drink it because we want a coffee experience but we don’t want the caffeine that comes with it. We all have our reasons for not wanting the caffeine (problems sleeping and health issues being top of the list), so lets not judge. The fact that you want decaf and I want regular shouldn’t require an explanation and it certainly doesn’t give anybody permission to ridicule somebody else.

So how do we make the decaf experience more enjoyable?

Water process decaffeinationI learned a lot while I was researching and sampling decaffeinated green coffees. A couple of the big things I learned were:

  1. Water process decaffeination is best because it keeps more of the bean’s flavor and doesn’t use weird chemicals, and…
  2. No matter which decaffeination process is used, flavor suffers

Flavor suffers because many of the components in the green coffee beans that make up the flavor are either washed out or their organic/chemical makeups are altered in the process. There isn’t anything that can be done about it—It’s just a simple fact. Even the best coffee beans in the world will taste so-so after being decaffeinated.

So I got to thinking: If some of the coffee’s flavor components have been washed out (such that there are now less of those components), can I compensate for that loss? Fortunately, the answer is yes! And the how is actually pretty simple.

Here are four things you can easily do to make your decaf coffee experience taste better.

  1. Buy good quality, freshly roasted, whole bean coffee. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Even thought it’s “only decaf,” even decaf drinkers appreciate a good cup of coffee. (Hint: Here’s a handy link to Clutch Decaf!)
  2. Use more coffee! I have found that increasing the amount of ground coffee used in brewing by 20-30% greatly improves the flavor in the cup. Makes sense, right? Some stuff was washed out, so use more to increase the amount of stuff going into the cup.
  3. Grind your coffee slightly finer! If you set your grinder on setting 5 (whatever that may mean on your equipment) then try setting 6 for decaf. A slightly finer grind allows the water to penetrate the coffee particles more thoroughly, transferring the flavors from the particles to the brew in your cup. Be careful, though. Grinding too fine will extract more of the undesirable acids from the coffee particles, resulting in bitter flavors.
  4. Use hotter water! If you have control over the water temperature when brewing, then hotter is better. I brew with 205F water. Hotter water dissolves more of the flavor compounds in the coffee bean particles, transferring those compounds to your cup. Don’t go over 208F, though. You can actually burn the coffee with water, and it doesn’t taste good.

Do not change the amount of time you brew. If you are using a brewing method that requires timing (coffee press, espresso, adjustable drip machine) then use whatever you consider your standard amount of time. When I brew with a coffee press I let the coffee steep for 3.5 minutes, +/- 15 seconds depending on the coffee. Stick with that for decaf, too.

The simplest (and most effective) adjustment is to simply use more coffee. Start there and you will taste an immediate improvement in the flavor of your decaf. Depending on your coffee, a 15% increase may be what you want. Or maybe it’s 15% and a half step finer grind. Or maybe 25% more and hotter water. How about using 20% and a coffee press rather than the Mr. Coffee machine for decaf?

Experiment and have fun discovering how you can make your decaf coffee experience more enjoyable. With some practice, you will eventually be able to serve decaf coffee so good that your friends won’t notice it’s decaf at all.

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How Caffeine Works In Your Brain

We all know that caffeine is a stimulant, but do we know why? Does it matter if we know? Actually, yes! It’s helpful to know how caffeine works in our bodies so that we can time our intake to best effect.

I’ll let our friends at AsapSCIENCE explain.

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Oooh! Bottled cold-brew coffee!

Bottled, cold-brewed coffee–Flavored, sweetened, creamed, and plain. Cold-brewed coffee seems to be all the rage lately. Coffee roasting companies are bottling it, selling out, and bottling more in record time. It’s at grocery stores, coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and probably a few other places I haven’t thought of.

Cold Brew Coffee CollectionSo, what’s the big deal? Truthfully, well done cold-brew coffee is quite a bit better than chilled, hot-brewed coffee made with the same beans. It’s smoother, richer, and a bit brighter in flavor. Simply put, it’s more interesting. And, if you’re concerned about sensitive stomach issues, it is also less acidic.

What started out as people buying iced hot-brewed coffee years ago gradually transformed to iced cold-brewed coffee, which transformed to bottled cold-brewed coffee (as well as cold-brew on draught). But why the bottled/draught rage? Convenience? Because when it’s SO SIMPLE TO MAKE YOUR OWN COLD-BREWED COFFEE at home, why would anybody pay the premium to buy it in a bottle?

Go buy some quality, freshly roasted coffee, grind it coarse, and make your own! You can steep the coffee in a press or, better yet, use a Coffee Sock and minimize the sediment. Experiment and try different coffees! If Clutch Coffee Roasters’ Sumatran is your fav this month, make your own cold brew with it! Like our Dark Roast Blend? You might like it even more as a cold brew!

Or, I suppose you can go for the convenience factor and pay the premium for bottled cold brew. Hey, who am I to tell you how to spend your money?

P.S.: To keep the record clean, Clutch Coffee Roasters sells iced cold-brew and iced mochas (made with the same cold-brew) at Sunnyside Farmer’s Market every Saturday. We make our cold brew with a coffee blended and roasted specifically for that purpose. Come on over and try a cup. You may think it’s so good that we ought to bottle it!

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Video: A Coffee Roastmaster (Partially) Explains The Process

I say “partially” because there’s a heckuva lot more to it than this, plus he uses a little different terminology.

Matt Wade, Roastmaster at Coffee Planet in Dubai, explains the hows and whys of coffee roasting. Produced by Paul O’Driscoll.

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