Whether you’re a long-time coffee connoisseur or a newbie to the espresso bar, it’s helpful to know the ins and outs of how much caffeine is in your drink of choice. No one wants to visit their local barista and linger in line, clueless about their order. In this article, you’ll learn about the caffeine content in decaf espresso.
What is Espresso?
Many people mistakenly believe that espresso is a separate type of coffee, but that’s untrue. The term “espresso” actually refers to a specific brewing process. Espresso is made from finely-ground coffee which is brewed at a high temperature under intense pressure. This brewing method extracts more caffeine from the grounds and gives the coffee a strong, bold flavor.
When purchasing espresso grounds, you’ll quickly notice that they are ground very finely, almost like sand. Although it may seem like an entirely different form of coffee, it’s just coffee that has been prepared for use in an espresso machine.
How Can Espresso Be Decaf?
You may be wondering how espresso can even claim the label “decaffeinated” given that its signature claim to fame is its caffeine content. Interestingly, espresso doesn’t actually contain much more caffeine than a regular cup of coffee – what actually makes it so beloved by caffeine addicts worldwide is that the caffeine is simply more concentrated, meaning less is more.
To put it simply, “decaf espresso” refers to espresso grounds that have been decaffeinated. However, the concentration of coffee remains the same.
What “Decaf” Really Means
Most people hear the word “decaf” and assume that this means there is no caffeine whatsoever in the drink they’re consuming. However, even decaf coffee does contain some small traces of caffeine – although only about 1/10th of what is present in your standard cup of coffee.
How It Works
The decaffeination process is more complicated than you’d think. Coffee beans that will become decaf are separated from their caffeinated counterparts early in the process. At this stage, the coffee beans are still green and unroasted, practically freshly picked.
Next, the beans are soaked in a solution (sometimes water, sometimes a mixture of water and certain food-safe chemicals) which strips them of 97% of their caffeine content. Even then, they do still contain trace amounts of caffeine, but typically no more than 10mg.
Is Decaf Espresso Safe?
Just like regular coffee, decaffeinated coffee is safe to consume and can be a part of a healthy diet. If you’re trying to cut down on your caffeine consumption, decaf is definitely a safe alternative.
Additionally, the FDA has set intense, strict regulations regarding the chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee beans. All traces of these chemicals are completely removed down to one one-thousandth of a percent – so there’s no need to worry.
Why Decaf Espresso Works for People
Although 79% of Americans prefer their coffee caffeinated, it simply isn’t for everyone. There are many reasons why people prefer to have decaf options on hand, ranging from health benefits to sleep schedules, and everything in between.
Espresso is enjoyed across the globe not only for its concentration of caffeine, but also for its delightful taste. The bold, widely beloved flavor of espresso is unmatched among standard drip coffees, and those of us who pride ourselves on being coffee-holics cling to that slightly bitter, warm and cozy taste. If you’re craving the taste of espresso but want to avoid getting the jitters, decaf espresso is a great alternative.
If you have a heart condition, anxiety, or high blood pressure, your doctor might recommend that you forego the caffeine to preserve your health. In that case, trying decaf espresso means you don’t have to completely sacrifice your go-to order at Starbucks or your morning latte.
Another great reason to try decaf espresso is to maintain a healthy sleep schedule. Many people enjoy late-night coffee or an espresso beverage in the evening. Cultures across the world enjoy coffee as a dessert rather than just a beverage. With decaf espresso, you can savor your evening cup of Joe without worrying about staying up all night.
Keep in mind that making the switch to decaf espresso means you’ll have to be more wary of how much espresso you actually consume. Even if your espresso only contains a few milligrams of caffeine, that can easily add up when you’re ordering multiple shots per beverage. Try to limit yourself to one shot if you make the switch – otherwise, it hardly changes a thing.
It should also be noted that most espresso beverages, especially at Starbucks, contain more than one shot. A grande-sized Starbucks latte, for example, isn’t very large but still contains two shots of espresso. Ask your barista in advance to get a better understanding of their unique recipes and the caffeine content you can expect in your order.
Crunch the Numbers
A standard shot of espresso contains about 50-75 mg of caffeine, comparable to a cup of drip coffee which contains about 100 mg per 8 ounces. That’s almost the same amount of caffeine in a single sip as there is in an entire cup of coffee!
Decaf espresso, on the other hand, contains only 2-12 mg of caffeine, and sometimes even less. This is an excellent substitute for fully-caffeinated coffee, and it can be used in all the same recipes as standard espresso, such as lattes, americanos, and macchiatos.
Try It Yourself!
Whether it’s for health or personal reasons, or even just to try something new, decaf espresso is certainly worth a trial run. The taste remains the same, but you don’t have to cope with shaky hands and a rapid heart rate afterwards. The next time you visit your local barista, ask for some decaf espresso. It might become your new favorite.