By: Emily Laurence
July 28, 2019

Let’s get something straight right now: Despite getting a bad rap as a necessary evil, coffee—in all its caffeinated glory—is actually healthy. It’s been linked to better cognitive function, lowering one’s cancer risk, and living a longer life, which one could argue is the greatest health benefit of all. But alas, there are reasons to switch from regular to decaf.

Coffee snobs tend to look down on decaf drinkers. But if you’re having trouble sleeping, find yourself relying on cup after cup of joe just to make it through the day, or it just isn’t making you feel great, cutting down on caffeine intake can be a good idea. If you’re making the change—or at least considering it—but don’t want to totally deprive yourself of coffee, decaf coffee can be a good compromise.

Despite its name, decaf coffee isn’t 100-percent caffeine free (sorry!); one study showed that most decaffeinated coffees have between eight and 14 milligrams of caffeine. That’s because with decaf coffee, most (but not all) of the caffeine is removed from the coffee beans by being washed in a liquid solution typically comprised of water and carbon dioxide, methylene chloride, activated charcoal, or ethyl acetate. Then the beans can be roasted and brewed the same way coffee beans in their natural form are. To compare, a regular cup of coffee tends to have 95 milligrams of caffeine, matcha has between 30 and 70 milligrams of caffeine, and a cup of black tea has about 47 milligrams.

Still, given that it’s essentially still coffee, it’s natural to wonder how decaf coffee compares to its fully-caffeinated counterpart, and whether decaf coffee is bad for you. Here, nutrition and epidemiology expert Rob van Dam, MD, gives the straight facts on everything you need to know about decaf coffee.