It can feel like a death sentence for your coffee drinking if you have digestive issues.
But thanks to decaf, there’s no reason you can’t guzzle down the bean juice. Trust me — me and my perpetually upset tummy enjoy it daily.
Contrary to common belief, decaf coffee is GREAT.
It’s naturally a low acid coffee, and many decaffeinated coffee brands have a variety of roast types (whether you need a dark or light roast) and blends to choose from.
But how do you know where to start?
In this guide, I’ll walk you through the best decaf coffee brands based on research and taste-testing. (It’s a tough living, y’all.)
Alternative Decaf Coffee Brands At A Glance
The 8 Best Decaf Coffees 2023
Buying decaf coffee is pretty easy these days, but you may have to hunt a little harder for reviews for the best decaf coffee beans.
Many specialty coffee roasters offer decaffeinated beans in addition to their regular coffee offerings.
And it’s not just traditional decaf dark roasts anymore. Decaf comes in all types, whether a dark or light roast. In fact, a medium-dark roast is one of the easiest decaf coffees to find.
Whatever regular coffee can do, decaf can do, too — if not better. So let’s dig into this roundup of the best decaf coffees and some of the best decaf coffee brands out there.
1. Volcanica Coffee – Costa Rica Decaf Tarrazu
Volcanica Coffee is a Costa Rican-based roaster specializing in beans sourced from volcanic areas. Yeah, the name’s not a marketing ploy.
Their beans are grown at high elevations, over 3,000 feet. These climates tend to be relatively cooler and have regular cloud moisture despite their elevation.
Volcanica is family-owned and specializes in single-origin beans, although they offer a wide variety (try 150!) of caffeinated, decaffeinated, peaberry, organic, estate, and low acid coffees.
Roasts are available as whole bean coffee (16 oz, 3 lb, 5 lb), or ground coffee for espresso, drip, or French press in different sizes.
Costa Rica Tarrazu decaf is a single origin, medium roasted coffee sourced from the Tarrazu mountains in Costa Rica. The coffee beans are washed and dried with a mix of patio and mechanical drying.
Tarrazu is decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process and is 99.9% caffeine-free. Its pH is 5.1 (the average for all coffees is about 5).
Terrazu is neither too bitter nor too acidic and tastes like a darker medium roast. It’s strong, too, holding its own over add-ins like cinnamon and milk.
It tastes best with a more mild brewing method, like Aeropress. It loses the lighter flavor notes with something more concentrated like a Moka pot.
A note on Volcanica: These medium roast beans and grounds tend to burn easily. An electric grinder plus an inconsistent old stove burned my brews about half the time I tried to use a Moka pot. Watch your equipment with these roasts.
Fresh factor: A
These whole coffee beans smell almost as good as those fresh off a roaster, even though they’ve been sitting (unopened) on my counter for two weeks.
Listed: Clean body, apples, nuts, “subtle hint of chocolate”
Tasted: Apples come through strongly in this cup of coffee. The more mild your brewing method, the cleaner and crisper Terrazu tastes. The nutty flavor is less pronounced in some brewing methods, but it’s there.
This is not as chocolate-y as Volcanica’s Guatemala Antigua (#6 on this list), but it really does have just a hint of chocolate in the top notes.
The Volcanica family is also big on giving back; they’re especially committed to sustainable measures and providing clean water to underprivileged areas.
2. Lifeboost Decaf Coffee
Fellow coffee fans with GERD, IBS, and other fussy stomachs, here’s a brand for you.
Lifeboost Coffee roasts pesticide-free, low-acid coffee. Their primary roasts are also certified organic and the company is passionate about supporting sustainable farming and protecting wildlife and farmers.
Co-founder Dr. Charles Livingston is a chiropractor committed to high-quality, healthy coffee. Yup. His love for coffee changed his entire career!
Lifeboost’s coffee cherries are left to grow to maturity to maximize nutrients, and their specialty beans are tested for over 400 toxins, including mold and pesticides.
Note: Lifeboost currently ships only to the U.S. and Canada.
My decaf medium roast is listed as a blend of Central and South American Arabica beans, but it seems the Decaf Medium Lifeboost is usually a Central American blend, sourced mainly from the Nicaraguan mountains.
Like all Lifeboost coffees, these Arabica beans are shade-grown at high elevations. Beans are “spring water washed” and sun-dried.
It’s decaffeinated with the Swiss Water process too.
Nicaraguan coffee is often brewed strong, and that’s exactly how this blend wants to be brewed.
A strong stovetop espresso out of this coffee instantly brought me back to my time in Ocotal (the same region it was likely sourced from). Strong enough to rot your insides — but in this case, too low-acid to actually do so.
It’s fresh and flavorful in more milder methods like drip or Aeropress, but you’ll appreciate it more if you brew it like tar and add sugar (as many Nicaraguans do).
But, this traditional route might not be your way of enjoying this decaf coffee – and that’s okay too!
Fresh factor: B
I sampled pre-ground coffee (a sin I know), which naturally loses a little freshness. Still, it was much fresher than anything you could get at the grocery store.
Listed: Rich and bold, undertones of chocolate and caramel, fruity
Tasted: Dark chocolate and caramel shines boldly at first taste. The fruity notes are almost sweet, as advertised, leaving you with a tangy but not acidic aftertaste.
It’s rich and bold, more of a medium-dark roasted decaf coffee, but not heavy. It’s a perfect balance between bitter and acidic.
The Decaf Medium roast from Lifeboost is the best organic decaf coffee on this list.
3. Sumatra Swiss Water Process | FRC
Fresh Roasted coffee LLC offers direct trade and fair trade certified coffees.
Their beans are Kosher, and USDA Organic certified, too, and their half-caf and decaf blends are made using either the Swiss Water or Royal Water methods.
FRC uses Loring Smart roasters, a smokeless roaster that is considered eco-friendly and significantly lowers emissions during the roasting process.
In addition to regular coffee, decaf, whole bean coffee, and ground coffee, FRC even offers unroasted (green) beans for those who want to try roasting on their own.
As you’ll see in this list, Fresh Roasted Coffee makes some of the best-tasting decaf coffee roasts out there.
Note: Fresh Roasted Coffee currently ships only to the U.S. and its territories.
This Sumatran decaf coffee is shade-grown and decaffeinated using the Swiss Water decaf process (as the name implies).
It’s harvested in the cooler half of the year, wet-hulled, patio, and machine solar dried.
These decaf beans are produced by a particular group of Gayonese farmers. They use organic farming methods like recycling coffee pulp as a fertilizer or shade-growing with trees that double as lunch for farm animals.
This organic coffee tastes much like your average Sumatran regular coffee.
Natural differences in brewing method aside, Fresh Roasted Coffee’s Sumatra decaf coffee comes through well no matter how you fix it.
With its strong earthy and bold notes, FRC’s Sumatra weathers user error well. It’s especially good black but is strong enough to come out well over add-ins.
Fresh factor: B+
Listed: ‘Maillard’ (deep, spice, caramel, toasted nuts), creamy, earthy, chocolate, bold
Tasted: Earthy, bold, and almost smokey, this lighter medium tastes more like a darker medium blend. It’s rich in flavor and a little bitter and does have some creamy chocolate notes.
4. Peruvian | FRC
This Swiss Water processed decaf coffee is a lighter medium roasted whole bean that’s patio and solar machine dried. Like all FRC roasts, it’s fair trade and organic.
The beans come from northern Peru in the Amazonas region (yes, that’s Amazonas as in near the Amazon rainforest area) in the mountains.
The Aprysa farm this blend is sourced from specializes in Arabica beans.
So much Peruvian coffee out there is grown in the Andes, and it tastes a lot like a dark, regular coffee from Colombia — bitter, dark, heavy, and almost smoky at times.
FRC’s Peruvian, however, is medium roasted, and it shows. It has a surprisingly rich flavor with distinct notes that come out no matter how you roast it.
Even if you (cough) nearly burned it a little by mistake, hints of creamy brightness shine through.
The Swiss Water method did its job retaining flavor on this one.
Fresh factor: A
Listed: Maillard, cream, almond, chocolate, bold with a heavier mouthfeel.
Tasted: Bold, thick, and chocolate creamy, the Peruvian decaf coffee blend is surprisingly not bitter. Nutty and a little chocolate-y, this roast is bolder than might be expected and almost bright.
This is a great decaf coffee for lovers of dark roasted and medium roasted beans; the Peruvian blend has the best of both: flavor and even boldness.
5. Fresh Roasted Coffee – Ethiopian Sidamo Organic Decaf
Fresh Roasted Coffee’s Ethiopian Sidamo is well-loved — and now it’s available to decaf coffee drinkers, too.
Decaffeinated and washed using the Swiss Water method and dried on raised beds, this decaf blend seems to be sourced from the same cooperative of farmers who grow the caffeinated blend.
Either way, this coffee is grown in Ethiopian rainforests using organic methods.
This is another roast that can vary massively in taste depending on your brew method.
The bright, sweet, and creamy chocolate notes come through well no matter what, but the brewing method will greatly affect how light or dark this roast comes out.
Like all brews with chocolatey notes, Sidamo does well in espresso-like brewing methods (and should probably be turned into a mocha).
It tones down a lot and becomes much milder when brewed slower. The cherry comes out on its own rather than combining with chocolate to taste like a cherry truffle with heavier brewing methods.
Fresh factor: A
Listed: Maillard, mild, light and bright, creamy, cherry, cocoa
Tasted: Cherry and creamy dark chocolate come out strongly in this cup of coffee.
Decaf Ethiopian Sidamo is bright, but it’s only light in the sense that it’s surprisingly not too bitter for a medium-dark roast.
Related Read: Ethiopian Coffee
6. Guatemala Antigua Decaf | Volcanica
Medium roast coffee lovers, rejoice. The Guatemala Antigua roast from Volcanica Coffee is too good not to make this list.
This medium roasted coffee is sourced from, you guessed it, Guatemala.
This Central American, volcano-based beauty is washed, sun-dried, and a tad acidic (pH 5). Decaffeinated with the Swiss Water process, it’s 99.9% caffeine-free. Oh, and it’s Kosher certified.
Not all medium roast decaf tastes, well, like medium “regular coffee.” But the Guatemalan Antigua does. In a blind taste test, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference.
In a moka pot, Guatemala Antigua comes off almost like chocolate syrup until you dilute it with water or milk.
It makes for one heck of an espresso or cafe cubano on its own but mellows out quickly when added to like an Americano — tasting more like a drip.
This chameleon-like nature may explain its mixed reviews. Depending on how you brew and dress it, your cup of coffee can taste radically different.
Go easy on add-ins unless you want a more modest flavor. But to me, that versatility makes it an ideal day-to-day choice. A single roast ready to dress up or down as the mood suits you.
Fresh factor: A
Even when this roast fades behind other additions in the cup, it remains fresh and even.
Listed: Nutty, chocolate, balanced
Tasted: Almond and dark chocolate definitely come through here. A tad acidic for decaf coffee, this cup of coffee is still over all an even one.
7. Black Knight Decaf Coffee | Fresh Roasted Coffee
The Black Knight decaf blend is another great fair trade, certified organic coffee from Fresh Roasted Coffee.
A true dark roast, Black Knight is a worldly artisan blend of coffees from Central America and the Indo-Pacific regions.
Despite its bad-boy namesake with medieval Arthurian vibes, this decaffeinated coffee is mellowed out (in terms of caffeine content) with the Swiss Water method.
This is your Moka pot’s best decaf coffee friend.
This rich, creamy and full-bodied beauty is begging to be brewed strong and gets almost like syrup — a caramel-y syrup — when done in a stovetop espresso maker.
But if you’re not a fan of bitter roasts, you can get that Black Knight to back down a little by brewing it just a tad more mildly.
Brewing methods that bring out acidity, like French press, will really bring out the almost fruity undernotes and downplay the thick, creamy chocolate notes.
Here’s the proof you didn’t need that drinking decaffeinated coffee is at least as good as drinking regular coffee.
Fresh factor: A
Listed: Rich, bold, spiced flavor, notes of plantains, caramelized sugar, with a hint of chocolate.
Tasted: Bold, full-bodied, and slightly bitter, this brew is begging to be made into a mocha — because it almost tastes like one.
Mixing cocoa and mild fruity notes, Black Knight is an ideal dark roast for decaf coffee lovers.
8. Kicking Horse Decaf
Kicking Horse Coffee is based in the Canadian Rockies. Their beans are 100% certified organic and fair-trade Arabica beans.
Kicking Horse sells whole bean coffee, ground coffee, and cold brew. In addition to their single option for decaf coffee beans, they have a half-caf variety — named Half Ass (probably the younger brother to Kick Ass and Smart Ass blends).
Note: Kicking Horse Coffee currently ships to the U.S. and Canada. Or you can order it through a third-party seller, Vitacost.
This Central and South American decaf coffee blend is Swiss Water processed.
This Horse just might kick you in the teeth — but only in the way you’d want it to if you’re a dark roast decaf coffee fan.
Kicking Horse suggests brewing this decaf coffee as a French press, drip, or espresso.
While it’s nice and strong like every dark roast ought to be in these methods, it doesn’t have the bold richness of others on this list.
Even as espresso, it comes out tasting like restaurant drip — except it’s delicious and deep, rather than burned and old. The finish is as mellow as the first kick is strong.
This strong-tasting decaf coffee will confuse any full-caf coffee lover in your life.
Fresh factor: B
Listed: Roasted hazelnuts, chocolate, balanced and long-lasting, deep
Tasted: Strong and deep, Kicking Horse decaf coffee is rich like a fair trade chocolate bar. Under the slight bitterness (which is no worse than a typical dark caffeinated coffee), there is an even hazelnut flavor, too.
The chocolate notes are present but aren’t as deep as advertised. They also don’t linger too long. Luckily, neither does the bitterness.
The Best Decaffeinated Coffee 2023 Buyers Guide
What’s The Best Decaffeination Method?
There are three main ways to decaffeinate coffee.
By the way, approved methods usually remove between 97 and 99.9% of caffeine content — so don’t fall for the idea that most decaf coffee is still full of caffeine.
The most common decaffeination process, the solvent process, involves rinsing coffee beans with chemical solvents (especially ethyl acetate or methylene chloride) over and over, basically rinsing out the caffeine in the process.
There’s also a way to soak the beans in water, treat that water with a chemical rinse, and then reintroduce the water to the beans to be reabsorbed — without the caffeine.
This “indirect” method is a little less controversial since chemicals are not used directly on the beans.
For the record, chemical solvent rinses are generally considered safe by third parties like the FDA.
But many feel the flavor is purer in water-only methods (we’ll talk about that below) and prefer the lowered risk of not dealing with added chemicals.
Supercritcal Carbon Dioxide Process
The supercritical carbon dioxide process is perhaps the least common.
It exposes beans to very hot, high-pressure carbon dioxide, which dissolves the caffeine content in each coffee bean without disrupting the components that give the coffee bean its flavor.
Swiss Water Processed
The third and perhaps most popular decaffeination process is the Swiss Water processed method.
In the Swiss Water process two batches of beans are used. The first batch soaks in hot water to extract caffeine and flavor, creating”green coffee extract.”
The water is run through a special carbon filter that removes caffeine molecules. The green coffee beans are thrown out.
The second batch, also made of green coffee beans, is washed and filtered with the decaffeinated green coffee extract, filtering out the caffeine in the new beans.
The Swiss Water decaf process retains flavor well, is less controversial because no chemicals are used, and is the most common process for organic decaf coffee.
Although taste is subjective, many coffee drinkers find Swiss Water processed decaf coffee to be their favorite.
The Final Verdict
Caffeine-free coffee is not a death sentence for your taste buds.
Take Volcanica and its straight-from-the-volcano deliciousness. In terms of overall taste and freshness, it’s the best-decaffeinated coffee, hands down. They have some of the best-flavored decaf coffee, too.
But if you’re in need of a decaf blend (or any low-acid blend) that will let you enjoy coffee again after stomach issues or the like that have made it tough for you to be a coffee lover, Lifeboost will be your friend. No. Your best friend!
Finally, if you just need a reliable line-up, Fresh Roasted Coffee is arguably one of the best tasting decaf coffee brands, especially in terms of variety.