Normally, both instant and decaf are two realms of coffee that caffeine lovers try to avoid. However, some people want to enjoy the taste of coffee without the stimulant. Plus, with packed schedules and Dalgona coffee craze, “instant” is starting to sound pretty good. Thus, we’re here to look at the intersection of these two trends to find the best instant decaf coffee.
Instant + Decaf= ?
Both instant coffee and decaf coffee have poor reputations in the coffee world. This is because the processes used to achieve both attributes are associated with a loss of flavor and intensity. However, it is possible to get an instant decaf coffee that doesn’t taste like tire essence.
First, you should understand how both of these processes work, so it’s easier to see how some brands stand out.
We are going to start with the decaffeination process because it actually comes first in this sequence. The purpose of decaffeination is to remove most of the caffeine from coffee beans. Most brands get theirs down to about 97-99% of the original amount.
Brands using Arabica beans tend to have an easier time because these beans have a lower caffeine content to begin with. Meanwhile, Robusta bean-based batches will often maintain a slightly higher amount. Either way, the amount of caffeine in most decaf coffee beans is pretty negligible.
In terms of how this decaffeination is accomplished, there are actually a number of different methods. Nonetheless, they all essentially involve washing the green, unroasted beans with a solvent to remove the caffeine. The most popular solvents for creating decaf coffees are water and carbon dioxide.
Once the beans have been decaffeinated, they move onto roasting. Roasting is one area that is completely up brand preference, as it is independent of both the decaffeinating and instant processes. After roasting, in order to create instant coffee, beans are ground and brewed in an industrial facility, which precisely controls pressure and water temperature.
Post-brewing, the water is removed from the coffee to create the distinctive instant coffee granules. There are three ways a particular brand may choose to carry out this process:
- Centrifuge (Force): A rapidly spinning container applies centrifugal force to separate the water from denser coffee solids.
- Spray-Drying (Heat): Coffee is sprayed through hot air at the top of a tower; coffee solids collect at the bottom of the structure.
- Freeze-Drying (Cold): Coffee is first frozen at about 20°F before being chilled to -40°F; then, the ice is shattered and dried at a low temperature under a vacuum, which causes the ice to sublimate, leaving only behind the granules.
Most instant coffee brands use the spray-drying method, as it is both the cheapest and fastest way to achieve the desired results. However, more brands are beginning to use the freeze-drying method, despite it being slower and more expensive because it is a gentler process that allows for better preservation of natural flavors and aromas.
Roasty’s Top 6 Instant Decaf Coffees
Waka Coffee Decaf Instant Columbian Coffee
If you don’t want to read this whole article, just stop here. Waka Coffee has some of the hands-down best instant coffee on the market, and their decaf coffee is no exception.
Waka coffee actually gave us a chance to sample some of their products so we could do a full review of their line up. Since then, their instant coffees (including the decaf) have been a staple in our home pantry.
Their decaf instant coffee is 100% high-quality, Colombian Arabica beans. The beans are medium roasted, and the brew has the classic, balanced body and smooth flavor with notes of citrus that are a distinct mark of Columbian beans. If you are concerned about finding a decaf coffee that tastes the same as its full-caf alternative, we can confirm that this one fits the bill.
Waka coffee utilizes the freeze-drying process to create their instant in an effort to preserve both the aroma and flavor of the original beans. The coffee is packaged in California, and the packaging includes information on how to brew as well as the lot number and expiration date.
Mount Hagen Organic Freeze-Dried Instant Decaf Coffee
Next up, we have another high-quality freeze-dried option. Mount Hagen‘s regular instant coffee is consistently ranked among the best instant coffees. However, their decaf instant coffee is too often overlooked.
Mount Hagen coffee is both Fair Trade and Organic. In fact, this is likely the only certified organic decaf instant coffee you’ll find! Their beans are sourced from Papua New Guinea, Peru, and Honduras and feature a distinct flavor profile that is both fruity and nutty with a hint of spice.
Additionally, Mount Hagen’s fair trade organic instant decaf is one of the few brands that openly boasts being entirely “caffeine-free.” They claim that their decaffeinating process removes 99.99% of the caffeine, so those who are particularly sensitive to its effects can sip safely.
Café Bustelo Espresso Instant Decaf Coffee
If you have been browsing the coffee market in any capacity lately, chances are you’ve come across Cafe Bustelo. This is a classic, reliable brand well-known for its instant coffee.
Cafe Bustelo’s instant decaf coffee has the same rich, traditional coffee flavor as its full-caf products. What separates them from other instant coffees is that they recommend you mix your granules with hot milk (though it also works in water). The milk suggestion comes from the brand’s inspirational roots: Cuban-style cafe-con-leche.
You can buy their instant in both single-serve packets or in a glass jar. Additionally, Cafe Bustelo offers a “Supreme” freeze-dried decaffeinated instant coffee for those who are looking for something a bit more punchy.
Starbucks VIA Italian Roast Instant Decaf Coffee
Even if you are completely new to the world of coffee, you have certainly heard of the industry giant Starbucks. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they offer their own line of coffees, including some impressive Italian roast decaf instant coffee.
Starbucks’s instant decaf coffee is an Italian dark roast made with a multi-region blend of arabica coffee beans. Thanks to the especially dark roast*, the brew has a rich, deep flavor with subtly sweet notes of caramelized sugar.
What we love about this particular coffee is its convenience, if you are already frequenting any Starbucks, chances are you can pick up some of this Italian roast instant. Also, this brand is frequently available at local grocery stores as well. So if you’re wary of buying coffee online, there are plenty of options for you to try this one out.
*While Italian roast is generally considered one of the darkest roasts on the market, we think this option from Starbucks is actually more of a French Roast. However, this isn’t really a bad thing, as many Italian roasts taste more “burnt” than “bold”
Folgers Classic Decaf Instant Coffee
Looking for something tried and true? Folgers Classic might be the best instant decaf for you!
This decaf option is a straightforward medium roast with a classic American drip coffee feel to it. If you’re used to sipping simple cups of coffee in the morning or evenings but are trying to get away from caffeine, this is a perfect choice.
Additionally, it is no surprise Folgers has been around for as long as they have. They have a commitment to responsibly sourcing their green coffee, and they work with UTZ to help ensure their sustainability.
La Republica Instant Decaf Mushroom Coffee
If you are looking for a decaffeinated dupe to the Four Sigmatic Instant Coffee, La Republica might just be your new best friend.
La Republica’s instant decaf is made using Arabica beans and mushroom extracts (Chaga, Maitake, Cordyceps, Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, Reishi, and Turkey Tail). The result is a very low-caffeine content and reduced acidity to leave you feeling spry. The mushroom extracts each boast additional health benefits, including:
- Healthier skin and hair growth
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy levels and focus
- Strengthened liver and nervous system function
- Better sleep and immune system
- Improved stress management and cell repair
The mushroom extracts are sourced from whole fruiting bodies produced by natural growers, and they are not diluted with fillers. As for the coffee, it has a unique, earthy taste but it does not taste “mushroom-y.” It is stored in a UV-blocking amber jar to keep things fresh.
Maxwell House French Vanilla Decaf Instant Coffee
While you are breaking every other convention of hipster-approved “good coffee,” you may as well go all the way and grab a flavored coffee. This Maxwell House is rather popular among instant coffee lovers, and luckily it is available in a decaf version.
This is a great coffee product for those of you know enjoy making sweet and creamy brews! Some people even make this coffee using milk instead of water for something extra decadent.
But beware, a cup of coffee made with this stuff only has a hint of the coffee flavor and truly leans into the cream and vanilla notes. The blend is made with a powder non-dairy (not dairy-free) creamer and flavoring mixed with decaffeinated coffee.
Note: Maxwell House is also responsible for producing Sanka instant coffee, another popular instant decaf coffee option.
Brew it Right
Believe it or not, there is a right way to brew instant coffees. Whether they are decaf, full caf, or full-on Death Wish, there is a specific way you should be brewing them. So let’s talk about it.
Pick a good instant. Obviously some instants are better than others. We’re pretty happy with our recommendations, but pay attention to your personal taste preferences and make sure to get an instant that meets them.
Dissolve. This is the most important step! You need to dissolve the instant coffee granules using 1-2 tablespoons of warm or room temperature water before you add in the rest of your water. This helps prevent accidentally burning or over extracting the granules. Most of the time, if someone is complaining about obscenely bitter or otherwise repulsive instant coffee, it is because they skipped this step.
Add water. Now is the time to add your hot water (NOT BOILING). Most instant coffee brands specify their recommended coffee to water ratio, so simply follow the directions and adjust as needed. If you are going for an iced coffee, you can get away with adding a little less as it will water down over time.
Is Instant Decaf Bad for You?
The bottom line: no. But is it better or worse than regular coffee in terms of how it impacts your health? And which is the best option for you? That’s where things get a little more complex.
Causes of Concern
Before we jump into how instant decaf compares to your standard cup of coffee, let’s talk about why people are concerned in the first place.
For instant coffee, the point of concern is the presence of Acrylamide. Regular coffee has about half as much acrylamide as its pre-brewed companion. However, this chemical is only harmful in rather high amounts, and the levels in instant coffee aren’t going to hurt you (even if you’re drinking it every day).
As for decaf, there is some concern over certain caffeine solvents, particularly ethyl acetate and methylene chloride (DCM). While these are both technically “organic” compounds, they are synthetically produced and both can cause health problems if you are exposed in high doses.
However, the amount present in decaffeinated coffee (if any) is negligible and will not harm you, as the use of either is permissible by FDA standards. In fact, the final product must have less than .0001% DCM in order to meet regulation. So no worries here either.
As many of you already know, there are plenty of health benefits associated with drinking a caffeinated cup of coffee. Unfortunately for decaf, many of these are a direct result of the caffeine itself, such as weight loss and improved cognitive function. Both the decaffeination and instant coffee production processes reduce the amount of caffeine, leaving you with less than 3 mg of caffeine per cup.
However, some health benefits are the result of the antioxidants and nutrients found in coffee (particularly chlorogenic acid, hydrocinnamic acids, and polyphenols) a portion of which instant decaf coffee retains.
On top of all of that, the lack of caffeine itself is a huge plus for many coffee drinkers. So even though instant decaf is a tad less nutrient and antioxidant-rich compared to your standard house blend, it is definitely a great, health-conscious choice for some.
In the end, the best option for you is dependent on your health and lifestyle needs.
The last thing to cover here is: who is this coffee niche for? We get it, talking about instant coffees or decaf coffees alone might strike some coffee enthusiasts as odd, let alone instant decaf coffee. So who exactly do we think should be considering this type of switch? Quite a few people actually!
The reasons for switching to instant are actually pretty obvious. Most people opt for instant coffee because (1) they want to streamline their schedule, (2) they are frequently traveling or otherwise don’t have access to other brewing methods, or (3) want to reduce the amount of cleanup or waste associated with daily brewing.
While moving to instant coffee is often based on lifestyle preferences, switching to decaf is often a choice made for health reasons. Here are a few people who may want to consider decaf:
- Individuals dealing with various anxiety disorders
- Women who are pregnant
- The elderly
- Those with heart conditions.
All of these populations can be especially sensitive to the negative effects of caffeine. So it may be best to avoid caffeine as much as possible. Remember to check with your doctor to get advice on managing your diet and caffeine intake.
So there you have it! Overall, instant decaffeinated coffee has obtained an undeservedly poor reputation, and we’re here to turn that around for you. So whether you opt for a bold dark roast or a classic medium roast coffee, we hope you’ll give this surprisingly robust niche a chance.
If you decide to give it a shot, you can also try one of these great instant coffee recipes! Let us know which one you like best.