Can children drink decaf coffee?

In this article, we will answer the question “can children drink decaf coffee?” and discuss how much decaffeinated coffee children can drink and what are the effects of caffeine in children.

Can children drink decaf coffee?

Yes, children can drink decaf coffee in moderate amounts. A low intake of caffeine by children is considered safe. However, the ingestion of coffee and tea by children in high amounts can have negative consequences to health, behavior and body development (1,2,3). 

Decaffeinated coffee contains about 12 mg of caffeine per serving (6 to 8 oz), which is lower than the caffeine amount found in black, green and white teas (14 to 61 mg per serving) (4).

Energy drinks, which are widely consumed by children and adolescents contain from 50 mg to 500 mg of caffeine per serving (1).

Although an ingestion of 2.5 mg/kg bw/day of caffeine is considered safe for for children and adolescents (5), caffeine should be avoided by children and pregnants, due to the possible negative effects caused by the ingestion of caffeine, which include malabsorption of calcium from the diet, leading to an impaired bone health.

How much decaffeinated coffee is considered safe for children?

The ingestion of up to 8 cups of decaffeinated coffee is considered safe for children and adolescents, when considering the amount of caffeine in decaffeinated coffee (12 mg on average) and the upper limit of caffeine for children and adolescents which would not cause adverse effects to most of the children and adolescents, according to the recommendations of the Canadian Health Ministerium (5).

However, the sensitivity to caffeine may vary significantly among the population and a small amount can lead to anxiety, headache and other adverse effects, especially for children, who are less used to the consumption of caffeine. For this reason, the ingestion of caffeine is not recommended for children and adolescents (1,4).

In addition, coffee, both coffee-containing and decaffeinated, can reduce the absorption of nutrients from the food, such as iron. Iron absorption is reduced due to the effect of the polyphenols, which are able to bind to iron, inhibiting their bioavailability (3).

What are the negative effects of caffeine in children?

The effects of caffeine in children are psychological, physiological, on growth and body development and on behavior (1,2,3,5).

Sleep disorders

The stimulating effect of caffeine can affect sleep and cause sleep disorders, such as delayed sleep onset and sleep disruption, which can remain for many days. When high doses of caffeine are consumed for consecutive days, fatigue can be a negative effect as well.

According to studies, about 90% of high school children sleep less than they should due to, among other factors, the consumption of caffeinated beverages. 

Weight loss and malnutrition

The consumption of caffeine alone or in combination with other drugs, is related to body weight loss or lower weight gain. It is also related to poor nutrition.

The ingestion of caffeine can lead to a higher calcium secretion by the body, leading to impaired bone formation. In addition, polyphenols found in high amounts in coffee can cause malabsorption of iron from the food and lead to malnutrition.

Effects on Behavior

Caffeine can stimulate the central and peripheral nervous system and increase the effects of dopamine in the brain. As a consequence, the effects of caffeine on behavior are dose-dependent.

While moderate amounts of caffeine is related to positively stimulating concentration, cognitive response and focus, high doses of caffeine cause anxiety, nausea and nervousness.

Anger, confusion and depression were also related to the ingestion of high amounts of caffeine, according to studies. 

Does caffeine have any positive effect on children?

Yes, a low ingestion of caffeine may have positive effects on children, according to studies (1,4). 

Some of the positive effects are: caffeine in low doses can improve mood, alertness and concentration; it can help performance in sports by improving muscle contraction. In addition, the ingestion of coffee is related to lower risks of developing some types of cancer and diabetes.

However, the ingestion of caffeine is not recommended for children, due to the risks that it may cause.

Other FAQs about Coffee that you may be interested in.

Can you bring coffee on a plane?

How long can you keep iced coffee?

Can coffee grounds go down the garbage disposal?


In this article, we answered the question “can children drink decaf coffee?” and discussed how much decaffeinated coffee children can drink and what are the effects of caffeine in children.


  1. Temple JL. Caffeine use in children: what we know, what we have left to learn, and why we should worry. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009, 33, 793-806.
  2. Temple, Jennifer L. Trends, safety, and recommendations for caffeine use in children and adolescents. J Am Acad Child Adolescent Psychiat, 2019, 58, 36-45.
  3. Dasa, F., and T. Abera. Factors affecting iron absorption and mitigation mechanisms: A review. Int. J. Agric. Sci. Food Technol, 2018, 4, 24-30. 
  4. Chin, Jenna M., et al. Caffeine content of brewed teas. J anal toxicol, 2008, 32, 702-704. 
  5. Doepker, C.; Franke, K.; Myers, E.; Goldberger, J.J.; Lieberman, H.R.; O’Brien, C.; Peck, J.; Tenenbein, M.; Weaver, C.; Wikoff, D. Key Findings and Implications of a Recent Systematic Review of the Potential Adverse Effects of Caffeine Consumption in Healthy Adults, Pregnant Women, Adolescents, and Children. Nutrients, 2018, 10, 1536.