What are good brands of decaffeinated coffee and where should I go to find them?
June 13, 2004 1:16 PM   Subscribe

I've been saying goodbye to caffeine; the final step is my morning cup o' joe. But many decaffeinated coffees just taste awful. Can anyone recommend a brand of decaffeinated coffee that truly doesn't suck? And maybe even a place online to buy it? Bonus points given for coffee makers that support fair trade, equal exchange, or other organizations that support coffee farmers rather than exploit them.
posted by .kobayashi. to Food & Drink (26 answers total)
Prestogeorge Fine Foods, Inc.
1728 Penn Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15222
contact: Stan Prestogeorge (owner)

Independently owned and operated. A local benchmark for coffee. I never called to ask if they'd mail it to me (flavor-locked, of course) but I'm sure they would. Not counting flavored coffee, they carry over 20 different single-origin and blends. They don't have an online store, though (they're still very "local").

Small aside, most people don't like coffee for coffee. They like it for the kick. I'm not sure which group you belong to, but if you're off caffeine, you might find yourself without the need for coffee.
posted by BlueTrain at 1:52 PM on June 13, 2004

Response by poster: I do like coffee for the wonderful coffee taste now, though, like many others, I started for the kick. I'm off caffeine, but I'm still craving the morning cup of coffee on the weekends, at least in part for the whole ritual: the grinding, the gentle sounds of percolation, the aroma, tht first hot sip, the lingering cup with the New Yorker or the Sunday NY Times Magazine...
posted by .kobayashi. at 1:59 PM on June 13, 2004

I've just done the same .kobayashi. ;-)

Personally, I left coffee completely & went for a quarter lemon in a mug of hot water...nice & refreshing in the morning. But then I'm a cold turkey kinda guy.
posted by i_cola at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2004

prestogeorge looks like progesterone.
posted by rhyax at 2:24 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Is caffeine keeping you from sleeping or something? I understand why people wean themselves from cigarettes (they kill you), but I've never seen convincing evidence that coffee harms you. I know I'm addicted (I need that cup after every meal), but I can't see any reason that should worry me. Not trying to change your mind, just curious.
posted by languagehat at 2:32 PM on June 13, 2004

I can't for the life of me think of any reason to get off coffee. The decaff thing seems very (sorry 'bout the stereotype:) American. If not, somebody tell the elderly Swedes this and maybe we'll have a life expectancy of 100 instead of 80.
(No kidding, every Swede 40+ drinks coffee, and lots of it, and it has been like this for generations).

On preview: What the Hat said.
posted by mr.marx at 2:39 PM on June 13, 2004

I feel a lot more relaxed if I don't drink coffee.
posted by i_cola at 2:43 PM on June 13, 2004

I've never seen convincing evidence that coffee harms you

*orders on Amazon 2 defibrillators for Languagehat and mr.marx*
posted by matteo at 2:48 PM on June 13, 2004

Response by poster: Caffeine's not dangerous per se, though there are many studies that suggest that those who already suffer from high blood pressure can see a high spike to their systolic flow, and lesser spike to their diastolic flow, after drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages. In other words, while we're not sure that caffeine causes high blood pressure, in all probability, it makes blood pressure higher for those who already suffer from hypertension. And given my family history, that's reason enough for me to limit my caffeine intake. (And, if you're a coffee addict, and you don't know what your blood pressure is, it's not a bad idea to get it checked.)

Now, all this doesn't mean that I need cut coffee out altogether, but, all truth told, as much as I like coffee, I just find that I feel better without caffeine. So I'd like to switch to decaf coffee at least for home consumption, and save my caffeine for occasional special coffeehouse trips.

This conversation has been fascinating, no doubt, but suggestions (like BlueTrain's) would really be appreciated, if you have them.
posted by .kobayashi. at 3:00 PM on June 13, 2004

I haven't tried their decaf, but Blue Bottle Coffee, a microroaster in Oakland, CA, is very good. It's run by a coffee-obsessed former freelance musician who sells everything within 48 hours of roasting.

Blue Bottle has one decaf blend, Decaf Noir, which is made entirely with organic beans. Like all the other blends, it's $15/lb including shipping.
posted by Hegemonic at 3:17 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

i sometimes mix 50% decaf beans with 50% normal beans in an attempt to get decent taste with less buzz - seems to taste a lot better than 100% decaf.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:18 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

A decent decaf can be had from Peets, though it's far better to get it fresh locally if you live in their market.
posted by majick at 3:52 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Café du Monde was recommended to me in this thread where I asked about giving up caffeine, which people seem to be answering here even though that's not what you asked. :)

I didn't try the Café du Monde btw, but yes they have decaf and yes you can order online.
posted by boomchicka at 5:07 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Your posting reminded me that some of the best coffee, regular or decaf types, that I've ever had came from Cup-a-Joe in Raleigh NC because their coffee is strong but smooth. My test is whether I can enjoy it black: no cream, no sugar, no flinching. For that same reason, I'm very fond of Illy.
posted by Stoatfarm at 5:09 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

I like the decaf from Small World Coffee, another good microroaster.

Does make me wonder, the swiss water method is pretty famous, are there other methods?
... since this is ask.me, I guess I should answer that one myself.
posted by milovoo at 5:11 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm not a coffee drinker, but I hang out with a lot of people who are and who also feel strongly about fair-trade, shade-grown coffees. There's a local cafe here in Portland that roasts their own; Stumptown Coffees is their name. You can order their coffee online. The Trapper Creek Blend is organic and fair trade.
posted by SpecialK at 5:19 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

I gave up caffeine about 2 years ago because I couldn't concentrate after a cup of coffee. Caffeine didn't wake me up, it just made me jittery and twitchy. I have the occasional diet coke now and then but because my tolerance is so low, it feels like a punch to the head.

I drink decaf from Cooke's Fine Foods in Kingston, Ontario, and it tastes fantastic. Tetley's decaf tea seems to leave a weird residue on my teeth for some reason, but I still drink it.

On that note: do any of the caffeine alternatives (guarana or whatever) provide the alertness benefits of caffeine without the jitteriness?
posted by krunk at 8:18 PM on June 13, 2004

Response by poster: SpecialK's suggestion of Stumptown Coffee's Trapper Creek decaf sounds like a winner: these folks seem serious about their coffee, and it's the only blend recommended so far that's a self-stated fair-trade coffee. My only hesitation is that SpecialK hasn't tried it himself. So, have any of you Portland folks tried this coffee? Any good? (It seems like it's worth a try, in any case...)
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:55 PM on June 13, 2004

I bit my tongue til now, but Starbucks Decaf Arabian Mocha Java is quite good. Swiss Water Process. If you're feeling frisky, try their Arabian Mocha Sanani (caffeinated); 16 bucks a pound but worth every penny (you know how most coffee roasters tell you that their beans are hand-picked and only choose the best? Well, Sanani beans are not sorted, at all; in fact, beans from the ground, the tree, ripe, unripe, it's all thrown in there and creates a unique cup of coffee every time you brew).
posted by BlueTrain at 10:06 PM on June 13, 2004 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stumptown is the best coffee you'll find in Portland, period. The decaf was the only thing that ever got me up in the mornings in winter. I never noticed any strange tastes in their decaf, and that little fuzzy of buying organic and free trade also helps.
posted by calistasm at 12:03 AM on June 14, 2004

Milwaukee's Stone Creek Coffee is excellent, they ship very quickly, and date their beans. They have six decafs available in a variety of origins, blends and roasts. If I have to have decaf, it's what I'd buy. Bonus: the people are super-cool, the owner is very committed to the community and the arts (and is hella good-looking. Hi, Eric!).
posted by mimi at 6:28 AM on June 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

Your posting reminded me that some of the best coffee, regular or decaf types, that I've ever had came from Cup-a-Joe in Raleigh NC because their coffee is strong but smooth. My test is whether I can enjoy it black: no cream, no sugar, no flinching.

No, no, no. While Cup-a-Joe's is a perfectly creditable establishment, why waste your time when you are right around the corner from the Third Place, home of the best strong coffee anywhere? I also drink my coffee black, no sugar; nothing compares to the Third Place. Last time I was in Raleigh I walked there from downtown, in the summer, probably a couple miles each way, for a cup.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2004

I just find that I feel better without caffeine.

kobayashi., same thing with me. A few years ago I had a couple days where I kept having some sort of heart palpitations. It started scaring me mightily, so I went to the doctor. Of course they found nothing wrong - turns out to be just something that can happen, and is probably at least somewhat genetic in my family as it's happened to my brother and father before. Anyway, the doc said just to be safe, to stay off of caffeine and alcohol for a month. I did, and found that without caffeine, I slept better, had an easier time getting up in the morning, and just generally felt better during the day. So I stayed with decaf from then on, except for rare occasions.

I admit to generally using decaf Starbucks coffee at home, which probably doesn't really meet your criteria. I must say, though, I really don't taste the difference between their decaf and regular.

Here's a related question, though - When I visited a friend in Hawai'i over the winter, he had this "coffee concentrate" stuff. It's liquid concentrated coffee, you just add a couple tablespoons to a mug of water and heat up, or pour over ice. I can't find anything like it here in Chicago. It's not that it makes great coffee - it beats the hell out of powdered instant, though - but it does make quit decent iced coffee, which I love in the summer. (I generally can't drink hot coffee in summer.) Has anyone else heard of this sort of thing? Got tips on where I could find it?
posted by dnash at 10:13 AM on June 14, 2004

Dnash, there's something called the "Toddy Cold Brew System" that allows you to brew your own coffee concentrate at home. I haven't used it.
posted by Hegemonic at 10:34 AM on June 14, 2004

dnash, use a normal coffee maker and stick twice the amount of coffee you normally use into the filter. Brew normally. Chill the coffee and serve over ice. Add lemon, if you wish. Whee!!
posted by BlueTrain at 12:39 PM on June 14, 2004

I, too, enjoy Illy.
posted by tomharpel at 9:34 PM on June 15, 2004

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