Food & Drink

7 Coffee Roasters Making Surprisingly Great Decaf

For years, coffee snobs rallied around the battle cry of "death before decaf," but now, gone are the days when the only buzz-free option tasted like a lifeless puddle of dirt. Today, most roasters take their decaf seriously, refusing to skimp on bean quality and making nuanced choices on how best to castrate the caffeine. Here are seven decaf beans that are worth brewing, even without the buzz.

Christy Baugh/Courtesy of Counter Culture Coffee

Counter Culture -- Slow Motion

CC strives for the freshest decaf around, and thus the beans behind their Slow Motion change seasonally. Their decaffing philosophy is that anything other than water touching the bean changes the character, so they go with the chemical-free Swiss Water processing method in which green coffee is soaked to remove the caffeine. The current offering is a Guatemalan from La Voz, a co-op located in a mountainous region characterized by volcanic soil.

Madcap -- Decaf Las Serranias

From the same farms that fuel their San Sebastian roast, these Colombian beans are stripped of their caffeine using ethyl acetate, which is sourced naturally from fermented cane sugar. The roast is described as creamy, syrupy, deep, and earthy, and Madcap stands by it so much that their founder used it to take third place in the US Barista Championship without telling the judges it was decaf.

Cuvee -- Decaf Spicewood 71

Known to emit exclamations of “I can't believe it's not decaf,” Cuvée sources these beans from a group of 102 farmers carving out a co-op in the largest coffee-producing region of Colombia. The beans stay in Colombia to be stripped of their buzz juice via the ethyl acetate method, resulting in a coffee that they describe as herbacious with hints of lemon and tea-like notes as it cools down.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

Craft & Mason -- Caldas Decaf

Lansing, MI-based newcomer Craft & Mason is damn proud of their Colombian decaf, and for good reason. If you're drinking coffee for flavor alone, you want something powerful, and the citrus notes on their Caldas are some of the most prominent you'll find anywhere, putting out fruity notes while maintaining a big chocolatey mouthfeel.

Coava -- Decaf Nuevo Milenio

Scoring rave reviews from the owners of one of our best new coffee shops, Coava's decaf selection is always changing, and they're currently rocking a Swiss Water-processed Colombian, but if you can catch the Portland-based roaster when they've got an Ethiopian available, don't hesitate: it's just as juicy as the more well-endowed version.

BluePrint - Decaf Tecpatlan

BluePrint's Mexican Tecpatlan comes from the state of Puebla, the same region known for popularizing the Mountain Water Method of decaffeination, which is similar to Swiss was but uses lower-temperature water from the country's highest peak, Pico de Orizaba. The sweet, full-bodied coffee is described as having notes of toffee, cinnamon, cream, and citrus.

Linea Caffe -- Decaf Blend

SF-based Linea's got a rep in the coffee world based on the founder's history judging the World Barista Championship, and these beans come highly recommended from another very snobby championship espresso-puller. Their current decaf offering is a blend of El Salvadorian and Ethiopian with notes of sugarcane and stone fruit.

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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. Without the aid of caffeine he has nothing witty to write here. Follow him to a forthcoming decaf/Kafka pun at @Dannosphere.