Does Decaf Coffee Have Any Caffeine?

By Dr. Amy Goodson, LD, MS, RD, CSSD — Latest revision 15 September 2018

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One of the most widely consumed drinks in the world is coffee.

Although many people consume coffee for the purpose of boosting their concentration and focus thanks to the caffeine it contains, there are also those who try to steer clear of the stimulant (1, 2).

If you're caffeine-sensitive or just trying to cut back, but you still want to enjoy the delicious flavor of coffee, decaffeinated (or decaf) coffee is a great option.

Even decaf coffee contains some caffeine.

How much caffeine may or may not be present in your decaf coffee is discussed.

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Some caffeine remains in decaf coffee.

While the USDA recommends a maximum of 1, decaf should not exceed this limit. Comparisons of brewed regular and decaf coffee reveal that decaf appears to have at least 97% of caffeine removed (3, 4, 5), despite both having a dry content of 10% caffeine.

An ordinary cup of coffee, measuring 12 fluid ounces (354 milliliters), would have about 5 In its decaffeinated form, caffeine levels are 4 mg per serving.

The amount of caffeine in decaf coffee is variable, depending on the bean used and the method used to remove the caffeine.

Three common techniques are used to extract caffeine from coffee beans and produce decaf: water, organic solvents, and 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 then taken out of there.

Here is a rundown of the various techniques used to extract caffeine (6):

  • Caffeine is extracted via a solvent-based process, which involves mixing methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and water. Because both of these chemicals are volatile, they are not present in coffee.
  • The Swiss water process is the only naturally occurring method of decaffeinating coffee. Caffeine is removed using osmosis, and the purity is guaranteed at 99. 9 percent caffeine-free stuff
  • The most up-to-date technique for decaffeinating coffee involves the use of carbon dioxide, a gaseous compound that occurs naturally in coffee. It's effective, but not cheap.

The decaffeination method is less important to the final flavor than the type of roasted coffee used.

However, coffee's aroma and flavor are changed by the decaffeination process, with the latter resulting in a tamer flavor and a different color (6).


Decaf coffee is made from beans that have had at least 97% of the caffeine removed. Each of the three processes for decaffeinating coffee beans produces a beverage with less intensity than regular coffee.

Your decaf coffee's caffeinated content may vary depending on its origin.

Normal Caffeine Content of Decaf Coffee

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 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, has been shown to elicit a range of negative emotional and physiological responses in some people (9, 10, 11).

According to the research, the amount of caffeine in 1–2 cups of regular coffee can be accumulated by drinking 5–10 cups of decaf coffee (8).

Caffeine-free individuals should exercise caution.

Coffee Shop Chains and Their Average Caffeine Content

In one study, researchers looked at the caffeine content of decaf coffee served in 16-ounce (473 ml) cups from nine different coffee franchises and independent cafes across the United States. Except for one, each had 8 6–13 caffeine content of 9 mg, with a mean of 9 4 milligrams per 16 ounces (473 milliliters) (7 liquid ounces)

The caffeine content of a standard 16-ounce (473-ml) cup of coffee, on the other hand, is about 188 mg (12).

The team also bought decaf espresso and coffee from Starbucks and analyzed its caffeine content.

The amount of caffeine in the decaf espresso was between 3 and 15. whereas the decaf coffee only had 12-13 mg per serving. Approximately 4 mg of caffeine in a 16-ounce (473 ml) serving.

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

Find out how popular decaf coffees stack up against one another in terms of caffeine content (13, 14, 15, 16, 17) below.

Known as the "Pike's Place Roast" at Starbucks locations 20 mg 25 mg 30 mg Donuts from Dunkin' 7 mg 10 mg 15 mg McDonald’s 8 mg 11 mg 14–18 mg Low-Tea Coffee, on the Whole 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

If you drink multiple cups of decaf per day, it's a good idea to check the caffeine content of your favorite coffee shop's decaf coffee to be on the safe side.


Decaf coffee, while significantly less caffeinated than regular coffee, still contains some caffeine. If you're trying to reduce your caffeine intake, you should probably start by thinking about which coffee you drink.

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

Caffeine can cause a variety of negative side effects, including sleeplessness, anxiety, headaches, irritability, jitters, nausea, and an increase in blood pressure; therefore, those who experience any of these symptoms after consuming caffeine may want to switch to decaf if they decide to drink coffee at all (18, 19, 20, 21).

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

The way your body is built may even affect how you react to caffeine, according to studies (22, 23).

Those who are caffeine-sensitive, however, should stick to decaf because they won't feel any ill effects from drinking even large amounts.

Caffeine has also been linked to an increase in acid reflux symptoms. Those who suffer from heartburn or GERD may want to cut back on their caffeine consumption as a result (24, 25).

The consumption of coffee, whether caffeinated or not, has been linked to a plethora of health benefits, including the promotion of both of these 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.

Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid or greatly reduce their caffeine consumption (26).


Caffeine is tolerated by most people, but those with certain medical conditions, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and those who are sensitive to caffeine are advised to drink decaf coffee instead of regular.

People who want to reduce their caffeine consumption often switch to decaf coffee. On the other hand, it contains some caffeine.

Though at least 97% of the caffeine is removed during the decaffeination process, a standard 8-ounce (236 ml) cup of decaf coffee will still have about 7 mg of caffeine.

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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