Coffee is so ubiquitous that it has become meme-worthy. Plenty of people simply can’t function without their morning coffee and, in places like Melbourne, coffee culture has evolved into a lifestyle for some.
But the reality is that like most good things in life, coffee should be enjoyed in moderation. Caffeine is a stimulant with addictive properties that can have negative effects for those who overindulge.
Excess caffeine can affect the central nervous system, cause restlessness, anxiety, digestive problems, heart arrhythmia, headaches, dehydration and trouble sleeping in sensitive people.
And you don’t have to be a heavy coffee drinker to experience these side effects. Some people are particularly sensitive to caffeine, and so only a little bit can bring about these effects.
Are you worried about your caffeine intake, but not ready to give up the coffee? Then maybe it’s time to consider decaf. And, yes, we get it. For some people “decaf” is a dirty word. But evolution in the production methods has made decaf a much more appealing alternative to coffee lovers all over the world.
What is decaf?
So, let’s start simple: Decaf is short for decaffeinated coffee. Decaffeinated coffee beans have had at least 97% of their caffeine removed. This means that decaf is not 100% caffeine free, but instead contains only a fraction of caffeine compared to untreated coffee.
There are a number of ways that coffee beans can be decaffeinated, the most common being organic solvents, carbon dioxide or plain water.
Using organic solvents is the most common method. The coffee beans are soaked in a solvent solution that extracts the caffeine from the beans. While this method is common, it can leave a chemical residue and aftertaste and is largely responsible for the decaf’s poor reputation when it comes to taste.
Beans can also be decaffeinated using CO2. Beans that have been soaked in water are put in a stainless-steel extractor and liquid CO2 is blasted in at high pressures. The CO2 binds with the caffeine molecules, drawing them out of the unroasted bean. This method, however, is quite expensive and rarely used.
The Swiss Water method uses activated carbon to draw the caffeine from the beans. This method has become increasingly popular because it doesn’t require chemicals and therefore has less effect on the flavour of the beans.
No caffeine, but all the other benefits
So the end result of this decaffeination process is coffee beans that have almost no caffeine (usually between 5% and 1% compared to regular beans). However, decaffeinated beans retain all the other health benefits that coffee offers.
While coffee does get a bit of a bad rap healthwise, it’s actually very good for you. Coffee is one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the western diet.
Coffee is also believed to be associated with a range of other health benefits including reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, aiding liver function, and helping to prevent age-related cognitive decline.
Decaf still offers all these benefits without the negative effects associated with caffeine.
Caffeine is the compound responsible for the stimulant effects of coffee. And for people who are sensitive to caffeine, it can seriously disrupt their sleep patterns. Caffeine can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. It can affect your body clock and reduce the amount of deep sleep you get.
Removing caffeine from your diet can help to stabilize your sleep patterns, making it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Caffeine has been associated with inducing and exacerbating anxiety, with people with panic disorders and social anxiety disorders being especially sensitive. For those people without pre-existing anxiety issues, caffeine can actually mimic the common symptoms of anxiety including:
- Trouble sleeping
- Trouble focusing
- Fast heart rate
- Gastrointestinal problems
It’s also worth noting that rapidly cutting back or eliminating caffeine from your diet can lead to withdrawal symptoms, which can also produce anxiety.
By gradually reducing your caffeine intake, it can become easier to manage symptoms of anxiety.
Reduction in heartburn and acid reflux
Coffee is one of the worst things to drink when it comes to acid reflux and heartburn. Caffeinated beverages can increase the acidity of gastric secretions and may relax the lower esophageal sphincter, triggering acid reflux or making it worse.
Decaf coffee has been shown to cause significantly less acid reflux than regular coffee. So if you’re sensitive to heartburn or acid reflux, switching to decaf could help.
The old days of chemical flavoured decaf coffee are well and truly behind us. With premium quality water-decaffeinated coffee beans, you can enjoy decaf coffee with the rich full coffee flavours and none of the harmful caffeine.