Difference in decaf/regular coffee beans?

Discuss flavors, brew temperatures, blending, and cupping notes.
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Postby Aaron » Fri Jan 15, 2010 6:28 am

For those that enjoy a decaf espresso, is there a difference in the cup or grind between the decaf and regular version of the same bean blend? I am wondering if I start to incorporate some decaf into my espresso consumption will the flavor/crema/body disappoint. I am working on a bag of regular Redline now and since it comes in decaf as well I was thinking of possibly mixing the two, occasionally, to reduce the caffeine content. Would this have any noticeable effect at all in the cup by blending the two, or is decaf espresso disappointing and I should just stay away? If mixing I would use the same blend, i.e. Redline. Thanks for the advice.
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Postby another_jim » Fri Jan 15, 2010 8:26 am

There are two factors. If precisely the same bean is drunk caf and decaf, the decaf one tastes slightly staled, with less acidity and sweetness, but still pretty good. However, it's hard to get first rate coffees decaffeinated, although this has gotten better. If Metropolis sends the precise beans of their blend out for decaffeination, the taste will be quite close, although not entirely the same.

In terms of use, drink it a little less aged and a little higher dosed than the regular version.

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Postby Dodger1 » Fri Jan 15, 2010 9:04 am

I've been using both the decaf and regular Redline for awhile now and I'll 1x all of Jim's comments.

Right now my personal preference is a 50/50 blend, which I've found retains most all of the characteristics of the regular Redline, without all the caffeine.

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Postby Aaron » Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:20 am

Thank you both for your replies. That helps a lot. I might also try a 50/50 blend, especially in the evening.
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Postby Dean Palmer » Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:24 pm

I've been using a fairly dark roast decaf from a local Italian market, and everyone has raved about it being as good as the regular offerings, which are very high quality and roasted within the week as well. If you get high quality coffee, there is no reason you shouldn't be able to brew some great decaf espresso.

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Postby stopvalve » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:32 pm

Yuk! Do you know how coffee beans are decaffeinated? It's like knowing how they make sausage, if you did, you would never eat it. Unless a Swiss Water process is used, the beans are soaked in water and solvents to remove the essential oils (and caffeine). Then more solvents are used to siphon off the caffeine, after which the mixture is returned to the beans so they can soak up the oils that were removed. When you buy a bag of green bean coffee, the beans are green, unless they have been decaffeinated, in which case they are brown. They look stale and dry.

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Postby stopvalve » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:39 pm

Also did you know that many decaff beans come from bags of coffee that are 1 to 2 years old. The roasters use this method to avoid throwing them away. I got this from a manager of one of the largest roasters in the Portland Metro area. Of course he now owns his own coffee warehousing biz in this area, so that little secret slipped out on day at his shop.

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Postby espressoed » Sat Jan 30, 2010 6:13 am

Welcome to the forums, stopvalve.

Most of us here as a rule don't buy coffee from big roasters who abuse their coffee and their customers.

Many of the roasters we do buy from (mostly microroasters) are among the most learned, collaborative, exacting and dedicated people in the world of coffee. People who seek out like-minded individuals, farmers and companies to work with hands-on at every step of the process from tree to cup in order to insure nothing but the best for those who buy their coffee. No less care is extended to their decaf coffees.

Your description of the decaffeination process is kinda dramatic. Generally those here who personally eschew decaf recognize that some of us have no choice if we wish to drink coffee. And some of us simply like to drink decaf. I enjoy savoring two or three doubles between 10 pm and 1 am, not really time to get juiced up. I like sausage, too, and have known how it's made for most of my life.

If one begins with beans stored for two years in one's coffee "warehouse," cares not how they are stored and handled and takes a cavalier attitude toward the coffees produced and sold using them then there indeed isn't much of which to be proud or enjoy, is there? I don't want any of that Portland manager's coffee either.
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Postby Phaelon56 » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:57 am

Swiss Water Process uses chemicals but unlike in the traditional decaf process the caffeine (along with other water soluble components of the bean) is first extracted with water, chemicals are used to separate the caffeine from the water, and then the decaffeinated "solution" - which is the remaining water along with the soluble flavor components that were not removed - is added back to the beans so the flavors can be re-absorbed.

That's an oversimplification but the real difference is not a lack of chemicals - it's the fact that the chemicals used come in contact directly only with the water - not the bean itself. As others have pointed out, green and roasted decaf does stale much faster and may require slightly higher charge weights. But it's a gross, unfair and inaccurate generalization to claim that the bags of decaf beans used by major roasters are from old stale beans.

I've experimented with half caf blends and gotten great results. Some well known blends that are available in a decaf version may be very different from their caffeinated brethren and other may be similar. Use of a relatively mellow and smooth base bean for an espresso blend is often a less suitable strategy for decaf blends because flavors are slightly muted and the blend needs to be punched up. I happen to love Black Cat but have not been thrilled with the decaf version - it's roasted too dark for my tastes. But I have friends who absolutely love it.

For a decaf espresso to be consumed as all decaf and not in a half caf blend I have yet to find one I like better than Sweet Maria's Donkey blend.

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Postby farmroast » Sat Jan 30, 2010 11:06 am

More respect for decaf seems to have come about in the last few years. Often now the same quality beans are being sent out for decaf. SM sent out the same Guatemala Maravilla for decaf. The next consideration is that the roaster takes care of the decaf greens as the will not last as long in storage as they are compromised in the decaf process.
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