Food Talk And Fabulous Finds - decaf coffee

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04-14-2004, 09:25 PM
I was wondering if anyone had an opinion on the effects of decaf coffee on weight loss and general health. I just started drinking it and really like it (I don't like regular...some people find this really strange) probably because warm drinks are nice and comforting. I guess I could just google it, but I was hopeing some one out there might have a personal experience.

Suzanne 3FC
04-15-2004, 11:48 AM
I like decaf! I think I'm like you, I'm not after the caffeine rush, but enjoy the soothing comfort of a warm cup of coffee. I love the way it smells :)

Well, I was prepared to give you a big reply about the process used to decaf the beans. But then I ran across this article from Berkeley (and I believe EVERYTHING they tell me, lol)

Is It True What They Say About Decaf?

Most people who drink decaffeinated coffee do so because it doesn’t make them jittery or keep them awake. But some believe it’s better for them than regular coffee—even though coffee has been cleared of nearly all health charges, and may actually be beneficial. Is decaf somehow healthier than regular coffee? Or does the decaffeination process itself represent a health risk? On the other hand, many Americans are drinking tea because they’ve heard how healthy it is. If they drink decaf tea, they may wonder, do they get the health benefits? Here are answers to these and other questions.

How much caffeine does decaf contain?

It must have at least 97% of the caffeine removed. That leaves about 5 milligrams, compared to the 100 to 150 milligrams in 6 ounces of brewed coffee. Tea starts with much less caffeine, so most decaf tea has even less caffeine than decaf coffee.

How is coffee or tea decaffeinated?

There are three methods to extract the caffeine: using organic chemical solvents (methylene chloride or ethyl acetate), carbon dioxide, or the water method (also known as the Swiss Water method). Since ethyl acetate is derived from fruit, coffee de-caffeinated via this solvent is sometimes described as “natural” decaf. Some coffee or tea processors use different methods for their various products.

Is one type of decaf preferable?

No. Over the years there have been worries about decaf processed with methylene chloride because studies had found that this chemical caused cancer when inhaled by lab animals (which is why it was banned in hair sprays). But there was no carcinogenic effect when the animals drank the chemical. In any case, the residue in decaf is virtually nil, and there’s no evidence of any danger for humans drinking decaf. The FDA has approved the compound for use in decaffeination. Many companies, including Starbucks (except for its decaf mocha java), use methylene chloride because consumers tend to prefer the taste compared to, say, water-filtered decaf, which usually tastes blander.

Does regular coffee pose any health risks?

Coffee has been blamed for causing many ailments, but in nearly every instance it has been declared not guilty, as we have reported over the years. It was linked to heart disease and pancreatic cancer—but then exonerated. Some researchers still worry that coffee drinking may promote hypertension; most studies, however, have found no such effect. A few studies have suggested that large quantities of coffee (regular or decaf) can boost blood cholesterol slightly, but most research has found no increase in cholesterol or cardiovascular risk. One exception: drinking five or more cups of unfiltered coffee, brewed in a French press (a pot with a plunger), raises cholesterol. The great majority of Americans and Canadians, however, drink filtered coffee.

Caffeine actually has potential benefits. Besides boosting alertness, it has an analgesic effect, which is why it is added to some pain relievers. Several studies also suggest it helps prevent Parkinson’s disease. A Finnish study in the New England Journal of Medicine in March found that coffee may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. And there’s preliminary evidence suggesting it may help against gallstones and dental cavities.

What about decaf—does it pose any risks?

Though decaf has been less studied than regular coffee, it too has been the focus of several health scares that have so far not panned out. For instance, a recent study of women in Iowa found that those drinking four or more cups a day of decaf had an elevated risk of rheumatoid arthritis, but a more recent study from Harvard found no such link.

Decaf can, however, have some of the same effects on the body as regular coffee. It too can cause heartburn or irritate stomach ulcers in susceptible people. And oddly enough, even without the caffeine, it too can stimulate the nervous system and briefly boost blood pressure in those unaccustomed to coffee, according to Swiss researchers. But coffee, decaf or regular, does not cause hypertension.

Is decaffeinated tea as healthful as regular?

No one knows. The studies suggesting health benefits have looked at people who drink a lot of regular tea, not decaf. The benefits apparently come from antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. Decaf tea generally contains less of these, though flavonoid con-tent varies widely among teas, so it is hard to predict. The levels also depend on how the tea was processed. Moreover, not all types of flavonoids are lower in decaf tea, and it’s not known which ones are most important. A few studies suggest that decaffeinated teas do have potential anti-cancer effects. For instance, one study found that smokers who drank four cups of decaffeinated green tea daily for four months had significantly reduced DNA damage, as shown by urine tests. Another study gauged the total anti-oxidant capacity of various teas and found that some decafs rank higher than some regular teas.

On the horizon: Coffee plants are now being genetically engineered to have 70% less caffeine. But it will take another four to five years for the plants to mature and produce beans. And it’s not known whether coffee from these beans will taste better or worse than today’s decaf.

UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, May 2004

It's possible that even decaf coffee isn't the best thing we could put in our bodies, though. Both regular and decaf coffees contain theophylline and theobromine, which have been linked to fibrocystic breast disease. Other compounds may raise cholesterol. Not everything is known about the beverage at this time. However, unless this is ALL you drink, I wouldn't be concerned.

Regarding your weight loss, the decaf should have no effect, so I wouldn't worry about it. If you add cream and sugar, or serve with biscotti, you might want to reconsider ;)

05-15-2004, 04:19 PM
I'm reading a fascinating book called the Caffeine Connection, probably the first book of it's kind to discuss the benefits of caffeine! Anyway, research has been done that decaf coffee contains as much antioxidants as regular coffee, so I say go for it!

What brand do you use? I've used Tasters Choice instant decaf and it is awful.

05-15-2004, 05:54 PM
I have used grudgingly Maxwell House Instant Decaf Coffee on occasion. Grudgingly because it was recommended to me that I drink this noxious blend in the morning before going to the gym. I have done this for almost three months and have come to the conclusion that the benefit of the decaf is offset by the lifeless taste. As David Letterman so memorably described decaf, it's "worthless brown water". I have loved coffee for many years, the taste, the 'jolt', especially the aroma. One of the more fond memories of my childhood was riding in my mother's shopping cart through the local A&P store past the 8o'clock coffee grinder. Some things stay with a guy forever. As far as what is the best decaf, in my experience, drink water!

05-19-2004, 07:57 AM
There has been new research recently discussing the benefits of caffeine in very small doses ... about 2 oz of caffeinated coffee every hour or two. Who drinks so little coffee? However, since decaf coffee has some caffeine in it, it seems to me that drinking two or three whole cups of decaf coffee is about the same as drinking 2 oz of caffeinated coffee.

Regarding the taste: IMHO, instant decaf coffee tastes no better or worse than instant caffeinated coffee -- the problem isn't that it is decaf, but that it is instant! The answer is simple: Don't use instant!

By the same token, there are instant brewed decaf coffees out there that are as good as if not better than most of the brewed caffeinated coffees. Alton Brown (Food TV's "Good Eats") explained the lay-of-the-land in his "True Brew" episode. I'll try to summarize what I remember:

Coffee doesn't come decaffeinated (though, they are working on that). So in order to have decaf coffee, you have to take caffeinated coffee and spend more money to change it into decaffeinated coffee. Makes sense eh? Then, keep in mind that the process of decaffeinating coffee does degrade the flavor a small amount, so to maintain quality you really need to start with slightly better beans that you would to get the same quality from caffeinated coffee. So there's two reasons why decaffeinated coffee must cost more than caffeinated coffee.

Yet, the American consumer was found to be generally unwilling to pay the significant premium, despite all the "need". So coffee distributors made a compromise. In the store, decaf coffee often costs the same or just a dollar or so more than caffeinated coffee. They manage that by using much cheaper caffeinated coffee to start with (instead of the more expensive caffeinated coffee, which would have been more appropriate given the extra processing that it was to undergo to become decaffeinated), and processing that stuff into decaffeinated coffee. The combination of the cheaper coffee and the added processing yields a price many Americans are willing to pay.

So what to do?

First, you can find good decaffeinated coffee. A tell-tale sign of good caffeinated coffee is that it is significantly more expensive than the same brand's caffeinated coffee. If the caffeinated coffee is $6.99, then the decaffeinated coffee probably would cost about $9.99 or $10.99. If the caffeinated coffee is $6.99 and the decaffeinated is $7.99 or $8.99, then a real coffee hound is probably not going to be happy with the decaffeinated coffee. By the same token, a higher price is no guarantee that the coffee distributor is not just trying to bilk drinkers of decaffeinated coffee, so caveat emptor. Trial and error will hopefully help you find good decaffeinated coffee. I've only found one in my store: Melita. Even the Green Mountain decaffeinated coffee pales by comparison to the Green Mountain caffeinated coffee.

Second, is my approach. I do enjoy good coffee, but am happy enough with coffee that tastes good. So I drink flavored decaffeinated coffee. Hazelnut, French Vanilla, Rain Forest Nut, Cinnamon Hazelnut, etc. The flavoring makes it relatively difficult for me to realize that, perhaps, the quality of the coffee itself isn't primo. I enjoy a decent, regular-priced Cinnamon Hazelnut decaffeinated coffee more than even a premium priced unflavored coffee.

05-19-2004, 08:12 AM
Some more notes on what makes good and bad coffee. People think they don't like "strong" coffee, when in reality what they don't like is bitter coffee. What makes coffee bitter? Trying to squeeze too much flavor out of it -- in other words, using too few coffee beans. Budget coffees try to put a strong front by saying you can get more cups out of their coffee, by using less. And indeed, you can, but what you get is bitter coffee, not more good coffee.

Even the best beans in the world need to be made into coffee using a formula of 2 Tablespoons of grounds per 5.5 oz cup of coffee. If your coffee is bitter, use more grounds. It won't make the coffee taste anything other than richer and more flavorful. It won't make it have more caffeine. The ground never make it into your cup (hopefully!) What makes coffee coffee is the process of water passing through the grounds. More grounds, the less the water passing through has to leech deeply, since more flavor aspects are still readily available to be dissolved into the water. The less leeching, the less bitter aspects of the coffee make it into your cup.

Another thing to consider with respect to coffee is preparation. Coffee is best when the water is just below boiling, so that rules out automatic drip coffee makers. If you're using Mr. Coffee, you're already behind the eight-ball. So if you haven't tried it yet, you may want to see if using another method will make you enjoy your coffee more.

Our favorite method is the Santos, an electronic vacuum coffee maker available from Bodum. (They also have a stove-top version, but that's a lot of work!) The water is boiled, and in doing so is forced from a bottom chamber into a top chamber, where the grounds are. They steep for a little while and the boiling of the water below causes the water and grounds to percolate a bit. Then the boiling stops below, and a vacuum forms sucking the water out of the top chamber back into the bottom chamber. We've never had better coffee, and it is really fun to watch, even two years later!

Second choice is a manual drip. Melita sells these, in 2 cup, 4 cup, 8 cup and 12 cup varieties. They seem really low-tech, but there is a big difference between manual drip and automatic drip. With manual drip, you can get the water much, much hotter, and that makes a very big difference in taste.

Third choice is French Press. You've seen these in films and on television, I'm sure. <grin> They really do make richer, more flavorful coffee. A downside or upside to French Press is that the coffee is a lot richer and even a bit thicker -- some folks find that to be a benefit, others find it a bit disconcerting. French Press coffee also tends to have a bit more caffeine, though if you're using decaf it doesn't matter much.

Gosh. I'm sure that this is off-topic by now, but I hope that folks found it interesting and/or useful.

05-28-2004, 01:49 PM
Well I am not sure what difference it makes to weight loss but at Weight Watchers you can drink decaf coffee or tea and it counts as 1 serving of water. Not so with regular tea, coffee or caffeinated diet soft drinks. I think it is the fact that caffeine can contribute to dehydration but don't quote me on that :lol:

Personally I don't mind decaf coffee and tea. My doctor told me to switch after I starting having chest pains (not related to heart disease) and it they diasappeared after 2 weeks of decaf. Apparently this is something that happens to a lot of women and when they cut back on caffeinated beverages and chocolate it goes away.

I still hate instant coffee though :p

05-28-2004, 04:38 PM
Well I am not sure what difference it makes to weight loss but at Weight Watchers you can drink decaf coffee or tea and it counts as 1 serving of water. Not so with regular tea, coffee or caffeinated diet soft drinks. I think it is the fact that caffeine can contribute to dehydration but don't quote me on that :lol: You are correct: That is why Weight Watchers included that restriction. More recent research, though, has indicated that the diuretic nature of caffeinated beverages is must less significant than originally thought. (Something like 9oz of caffeinated beverage = 8oz of water -- don't quote me on THAT, though. :))

05-28-2004, 09:01 PM
Brian I found that long post of yours about coffee very interesting... I've had coffee in a French Press and it was delish. My MIL used to make it with Melita and it was always good and I wondered why... I'd love to try the coffee maker you speak of sounds easy and makes good coffee... Thanks for the info......

05-28-2004, 10:46 PM
Thanks for the info on the coffee makers...I wish I had a French press but DH doesn't like them.

I have never heard of the Santos - are they very expensive?

Has anyone ever tried those coffee singles - they are a one cup premeasured coffee in a filter (sort of like a teabag of coffee)? I am considering buying these for work so I can make myself a coffee now and then.

The coffee at work is horrible :p it is made at 9am and left on all day - one of my bosses drinks it throughout the day and will drink it at 3pm! It is like tar by then :yikes: He refuses to let us make fresh pots but I do it behind his back when I know I have clients coming in. I would never serve the clients coffee that I wouldn't drink.

05-28-2004, 11:43 PM
what wonderful information!!!!and bicker also explained something i could never figure out: why i don't like coffee unless it's made in a french press or in one of those stovetop neopolitan coffee makers - the ones where you boil the water in the bottom and the steam rises through the coffee grounds in the middle, and condenses at the top. for the REALLY old fashioned ones, you get the challenge of flipping the entire <very very hot> coffee pot over so that you can pour!!!

05-29-2004, 08:16 AM
Thanks for the info on the coffee makers...I wish I had a French press but DH doesn't like them. He could always make his own coffee! :)I have never heard of the Santos - are they very expensive?It's made by Bodum. It is expensive IMHO: $100 for a device that will likely break at least once or twice during the warranty period (which isn't a really bad thing -- customer service is excellent, and a replacement is shipped within the week) but that means that it won't likely last more than the warranty period of two years.

Having said that, the coffee it makes is so much better that it is worth it to me to pay $100 every 2-3 years to have one in the house. Perhaps it is better to think of the $100 as a 2 year lease, rather than the price of a unit.
Has anyone ever tried those coffee singles - they are a one cup premeasured coffee in a filter (sort of like a teabag of coffee)? I am considering buying these for work so I can make myself a coffee now and then.I've tried them. They're marginally worse than automatic drip. (Probably all the excess contact with the paper.)

05-30-2004, 11:21 PM
Oh Blech! :p Then I will skip those coffee singles for sure - sounds horrible!

Ha! My DH could not get out of bed without his coffee :lol: I bring him a cup in bed every morning - he has to have a coffee and wake up kiss before his feet will hit the floor :rolleyes:

06-01-2004, 01:14 PM
I have a stovetop version of that coffee maker - the stovetop espresso machine, get them anywhere for a few dollars (£10 UK).

Decaff or full on it takes seconds to make a good cup of coffee. Simply cheat it a bit:

Put the kettle on

Whilst waiting for it to boil turn on a cooker ring

Put the coffee in the filter / middle chamber of the espresso maker

When the kettle has boiled pour into the bottom chamber and screw the aluminium pot together

Place on now hot cooker ring and wait until the noise stops!!!

Pour into teeny weeny cups for that first thing in the morning cup of hot jolt, or add more hot water for a longer more mellow drink!

Easy and yummy and no filter papers!

Coffee grounds used judiciously will keep your kitchen drain clear and free of blockages forever!

(But I guess you guys in the US all have those garbage disposal things down your kitchen sinks - or the movies lie)

06-01-2004, 01:39 PM
Hehe. I wouldn't know what to do with food-waste, now, without my garbage disposal!

06-02-2004, 04:29 PM
Well nobody I know in Canada has one, although I am sure some people have them - must be an American thing :shrug:

Geeze- I don't even have a dishwasher :lol:

06-03-2004, 02:35 PM
I think that just like any type of drink, coffee isn't going to affect your weightloss at all... I have tried all of the above ways of coffee making, and I prefer French Press over all of them. Just don't live off of the stuff, drink other liquids, and you should be just fine... Even higher calorie liquids are okay if you only drink them every once in a while...