What is the difference between decaf and regular coffee? 

In this brief article we are going to answer the question,”What is the difference between decaf and regular coffee?”, and discuss what decaf is, composition and benefits of decaf. We will also discuss what regular coffee is and the benefits and potential health risks of regular coffee and how much caffeine is present in decaf and regular coffee.

What is the difference between decaf and regular coffee?

The difference between decaf and regular coffee lies in their caffeine content. The definition of decaffeinated coffee is “coffee from which caffeine has been extracted.” 

Except for the caffeine content, the composition of these decaffeinated products will be nearly identical to their regular counterparts. Nevertheless, slight variations, including flavor differences, may arise depending on the specific decaffeination process used.(1)

What is decaf coffee?

Decaf coffee is a type of coffee from which a large quantity of caffeine is removed.

Numerous national legislations exist to establish the maximum allowable residual caffeine content in decaffeinated coffee. 

In the United Kingdom and the majority of European countries, the maximum permitted caffeine content for decaffeinated roasted coffees is set at 0.1% (measured on a dry basis). 

In the United States, although no specific legislation dictates the caffeine limit, manufacturers typically assert that over 97% of the original caffeine has been removed. (1)

What is the impact of caffeine removal on coffee?

The process of removing caffeine from coffee beans can lead to undesired side effects, such as mass loss and solvent residues. One notable consequence for decaffeinated coffee drinkers is the relatively plain and thin taste. 

This arises because the decaffeination process occurs before the roasting process, which is responsible for generating aroma compounds. 

As a result, certain aroma precursors may be extracted along with caffeine during decaffeination, hindering the full development of aroma during roasting.

Studies have observed that higher caffeine removal results in a reduction of volatile compounds, with some aroma-active components even vanishing after the decaffeination process. (2)

How does the decaffeination process work?

The original decaffeination process, which is still in use, involves the direct organic solvent extraction of green coffee beans. 

Another method, known as the indirect solvent process, was later developed, where water is initially used to remove caffeine from the beans. 

The resulting aqueous extract is then treated with the same type of organic solvent as in the direct method. Additionally, a variation of direct solvent extraction now exists, utilizing supercritical carbon dioxide as the solvent. (1)

What are the health benefits of decaf coffee?

Decaf coffee has several health benefits. Coffee polyphenols are renowned for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, offering significant benefits to various systemic and neurological pathways. 

In contrast, caffeine, while popular in coffee, may have negative effects, particularly on the cardiovascular system. 

However, coffee contains other minor components besides caffeine, such as protocatechuic acid, which possesses antibacterial and antifungal activities. Moreover, recent research has shed light on its potential role in glucose metabolism.

Decaffeinated coffee holds promise as a beneficial dietary component in the prevention of age-related disorders, systemic diseases, and potentially reducing the risk of cancer. 

Nonetheless, while the evidence is promising, it is important to note that further research is needed to establish more conclusive findings.(3)

What are the potential risks of decaf?

Potential risks of decaf include increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol because it contains non-esterified fatty acids which are formed during the processing of decaf. 

The increase in bad cholesterol is also due to a rise in a specific protein called apo-lipoprotein B – which is associated with LDL cholesterol.

Decaf is acidic and can cause disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, osteoporosis, loss of minerals from the body and blood and high cortisol levels. (4, 5)

What are the health benefits of caffeine?

Caffeine possesses psychostimulant properties, leading to instant effects on mental performance and potential long-term advantages in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. 

Additionally, caffeine has been found to enhance physical performance and play a significant role in boosting the antioxidant properties of coffee. Notably, even caffeine metabolites themselves exhibit antioxidant activity.

Furthermore, caffeine exhibits an antihyperlipidemic effect, contributing to the reduced storage of triglycerides and cholesterol. (6)

What are the potential health risks of regular coffee?

Coffee can have mild cardiovascular effects, which may manifest as tachycardia, elevated blood pressure, and occasional arrhythmia. These acute effects are more likely to occur shortly after coffee consumption, especially in individuals who are more vulnerable to such responses.

While coffee’s role in the development of hypertension is generally modest, its impact may be more significant in individuals who consume coffee infrequently. 

Furthermore, caffeine has a slight inhibitory effect on calcium absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. 

To mitigate the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, it is advisable to maintain adequate calcium and vitamin D intake while limiting coffee consumption to 2-3 cups per day, particularly among elderly adults. (5)


In this brief article we answered the question,”What is the difference between decaf and regular coffee?”, and discussed what decaf is, composition and benefits of decaf. We also discussed what regular coffee is and the benefits and potential health risks of regular coffee and how much caffeine is present in decaf and regular coffee.


  1. Clarke, R. J. COFFEE | Decaffeination. Encyclopedia of Food Sciences and Nutrition, 1506–1511. 2003.
  2. Zou Y, Gaida M, Franchina FA, Stefanuto PH, Focant JF. Distinguishing between Decaffeinated and Regular Coffee by HS-SPME-GC×GC-TOFMS, Chemometrics, and Machine Learning. Molecules.10;27(6):1806. 2022. 
  3. Colombo, R., & Papetti, A. Decaffeinated coffee and its benefits on health: focus on systemic disorders. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 61(15), 2506–2522. 2020.
  4. Superko, H. R., Bortz, W., Williams, P. T., Albers, J. J., & Wood, P. D. Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee effects on plasma lipoprotein cholesterol, apolipoproteins, and lipase activity: a controlled, randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 54(3), 599–605. 1991.
  5. Bae, J.-H., Park, J.-H., Im, S.-S., & Song, D.-K.  Coffee and health. Integrative Medicine Research, 3(4), 189–191. 2014.
  6. Farah, Adriana.  Nutritional and health effects of coffee. 10.19103/AS.2017.0022.14. 2018.

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