Is there caffeine in decaf coffee, and if so, how much?

By Licensed Dietitian and Nutritionist Amy Goodson Last modified on: September 15th, 2018

  • What It Is
  • Espresso Bean Concentration

Coffee is consumed all over the world and is considered a staple food.

Caffeine in coffee is responsible for a lot of people's preference to drink it, but there are those who would rather not have any mental or physical benefits from it (1, 2).

Decaffeinated, or decaf, coffee is a great alternative for those who are sensitive to caffeine or who are trying to reduce their caffeine intake without giving up coffee's delicious taste.

Caffeine is still present, however, in decaf coffee.

Find out how much caffeine is in your decaf coffee and the process behind its creation in this article.

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Caffeine can still be found in decaf coffee.

Despite the fact that the USDA recommends a maximum of 0, While both regular and decaf coffee contain 10 percent caffeine when measured on a dry basis, decaf coffee appears to have at least 97% of the caffeine removed when brewed (3, 4, 5).

In comparison, the caffeine content of a standard 12-ounce (354-ml) cup of coffee is 180 mg, which would yield about 5 Caffeine content, in a decaffeinated form: 4.0 mg

The process used to remove the caffeine from coffee beans and the final product's caffeine content are both factors.

Caffeine is removed from coffee beans in one of three common ways: with water, organic solvents, or carbon dioxide (6).

Green, unroasted coffee beans are soaked or steamed in all methods until the caffeine is dissolved or the beans' pores are opened, at which point they are ready to be roasted. Caffeine is derived from this source.

Brief explanations of the six most common techniques for caffeine extraction follow.

  • Caffeine is extracted via a solvent-based process, which involves mixing methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and water. Since both of these chemicals are volatile, they are not present in coffee.
  • The only other natural way to decaffeinate coffee is through the Swiss water process. Caffeine is extracted via osmosis, and the product boasts a 99. 9 percent caffeine-free stuff
  • The most cutting-edge technique for decaffeinating coffee preserves the coffee's natural flavor while extracting just the caffeine through the use of carbon dioxide, a gaseous compound found in coffee. While effective, it comes at a hefty price.

The method of decaffeination has less of an impact on the flavor than the type of roast you buy.

However, coffee's aroma and flavor are changed by the decaffeination process, making it less potent and giving it a different hue (6).


To be considered decaffeinated, coffee beans must have their caffeine removed by at least 97%. Decaffeinating the beans can be done in three different ways, each of which yields a mellower beverage than regular coffee.

Your decaf coffee's caffeine content is most likely not uniform across origins.

Espresso Contains About as Much Caffeine as Regular Coffee Does

Caffeine can be found in nearly all decaf coffee varieties, according to studies (7, 8).

Decaf coffee typically has between 0 and 7 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces (236 milliliters), while regular coffee typically has between 70 and 140 milligrams per 8 ounces (236 milliliters).

Although 7 mg of caffeine may not seem like much, it may be too much for those who have been told to limit their consumption due to health issues like kidney disease, anxiety disorders, or sensitivity.

Caffeine, even in small doses, can cause irritability, anxiety, heart rate, and blood pressure increases in some people (9, 10, 11).

Caffeine from 5-10 decaf coffees may add up to the same amount as caffeinated coffee in 1 cup or less, according to the research (8).

Caffeine-free individuals should exercise caution.

Coffee Shop Chains and Their Average Caffeine Content

Decaf coffee from nine different US coffee franchises and independent cafes was analyzed in a study that looked at 16-ounce (473 ml) cups. Except for one, each had 8 6–13 Caffeine content: 9 mg, on average. 7.4 milligrams per 16-ounce (473-milliliter) serving (7)

In contrast, the average regular coffee cup contains about 188 mg of caffeine (12) and is 16 ounces (473 ml) in size.

Researchers also bought decaffeinated espresso and coffee from Starbucks and analyzed their caffeine content.

Espresso without caffeine had between 3 and 15 Coffee with caffeine contained 8 mg per serving, while decaf contained 12-13 mg. Caffeine content: 4mg per 16-ounce (473-ml) serving

Even though it contains less caffeine than regular coffee, it is still there.

The following is a comparison of the caffeine content of some of the most widely consumed decaf coffees (13, 14, 15, 16, 17):

The Roast from Starbucks and Pike's Place 20 mg 25 mg 30 mg You can't go wrong with a Dunkin' Donuts. 7 mg 10 mg 15 mg McDonald’s 8 mg 11 mg 14–18 mg Regular Decaf Coffee, Made in an Average Coffee Maker 7–8 4 mg 9.8–11 2 mg 14–16 8 mg Standard Instant Decaf Coffee 3.1–3 8 mg 4.4–5 mg 6.3–7 5 mg

It's a good idea to check the caffeine content of your favorite coffee shop's decaf coffee before drinking it, especially if you drink multiple cups of decaf each day.


Caffeine is present in much smaller amounts in decaf coffee than in regular coffee, but it is still not completely absent. For those trying to reduce their caffeine intake, picking the right coffee is the first step.

While many people can tolerate higher caffeine levels, others must stay away from it.

If you have trouble sleeping, anxiety, headaches, irritability, jitters, nausea, or high blood pressure after drinking coffee, you may want to switch to decaf instead (18, 19, 20, 21).

Caffeine-restricted diets may also be necessary for people taking certain medications due to interactions with caffeine (7).

There is evidence to suggest that your physical appearance can affect how well caffeine works for you (22, 23).

Some people can tolerate large amounts of caffeine, but those with sensitivities should probably stick to decaf.

Another suspected cause of heartburn is caffeine. People with a history of heartburn or GERD may want to cut back on their caffeine consumption as a result (24, 25).

Yet, it's worth noting that coffee, caffeinated or not, may actually aggravate both conditions.

Drinking decaf dark roast, which is lower in caffeine and often less acidic, may be the best option if you suffer from any of these conditions.

Finally, women should limit their caffeine intake while pregnant or breastfeeding (26).


Regular coffee is fine for most people, but those who have heart conditions, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or are caffeine-sensitive should drink decaf.

Caffeine-conscious drinkers often choose decaf coffee as an option. It contains some caffeine, though.

Even though almost all decaf coffees have had at least 97% of the caffeine removed, that leaves about 7 mg per 8-ounce (236-ml) cup.

Caffeine levels are typically lower in darker roasts and instant decaf coffee, so these varieties might be good alternatives if you're looking to enjoy a cup of joe without the stimulant effects.

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