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Why Do People Hate Decaf Coffee?

Read time: 4 mins
Three Organic Mexican Swiss Water Decaf pods on a serving board next to a single-serve coffee maker.
Christopher C. Aug 12, 2021

We're not talking about all people, but the people who claim to hate decaf really seem to hate it, hence the infamous phrase, Death Before Decaf. A bit melodramatic, but okay.

Makes you wonder if decaf haters ever stop to question why they hate it. Could it be the taste or simply the stigma surrounding it?


According to Leslie J. Stein, PhD, “Taste is a product of our genes and our environment.” If you were born to parents who never drank decaf, you may be predestined to not like the taste of decaf. As for environment, if your 'rents were always smack-talking decaf or drafting the earliest Death Before Decaf posters, there's a chance you think decaf sucks now.

But we also have to consider your parents' experiences with decaf. Back in the day, decaf truly wasn't very good. There, we said it. If you want to be a close-minded decaf hater who contributes to the stigma, you can stop reading now.

Hey, friend who kept reading, let's continue! Some of the earliest decaffeination processes weren't without their flaws, concerning both flavor and, um, safety. Decaf's founding father, Ludwig Roselius, unwittingly poisoned people with his benzene-laden brew in the early 1900s. Back then, it was Death as well as Decaf.

But benzene wasn't the only toxic substance used to decaffeinate coffee in those days. Among others, chloroform was used. Fresh Roasted Coffee was founded in 2009, so we can't necessarily testify to the taste of decaf back in the day, but we can deduce that it likely wasn't very tasty.

Eventually, the methylene chloride and ethyl acetate decaffeination processes were invented, and while the resulting cups were safer and more flavorful than chloroform (in truth, what isn't?), much was still left to be desired. Brews tasted flat, burnt, bitter, and just plain bad. Your parents likely grew up drinking the results of these methods of decaffeination because that's all there was. Since so many are accustomed to drinking these kinds of grocery store decafs, big brands continue using them.

We can see why decaf haters would shy away from unleaded if this was all there was to know, but it's 2021, baby, and the Swiss Water process of decaffeination has existed commercially for decades. Using only pure water and their proprietary Green Coffee Extract (GCE), Swiss Water's gentle decaffeination process leaves you with a full-bodied, full-flavored cup that tastes amazingly like its caffeinated counterpart.

If it tastes as good as leaded coffee, why isn't it converting the Death Before Decaf crowd?


Not about all decaffeinated/caffeine-free things, though, it's just about decaf coffee. There's been a significant rise in the popularity of herbal tisanes, which are blends of fruits, spices, and botanicals that are quite commonly caffeine-free. This increase parallels people's growing interest in wellness. Ingredients like ginger, peppermint, turmeric, and echinacea are making their way into more and more teacups each day.

Now that I have gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), I'm drinking more herbal tea than ever because it's soothing, low-acid, and caffeine-free. A long-time coffee drinker, I was bummed to learn I'd have to cut out caffeine. To fill the void, I picked up a bag of our Organic Sumatra Water Process Decaf. Now, I've never truly had decaf coffee, which I believe is the case for 99.9% of the Death Before Decaf crowd, but I liked it. It hit the spot that was previously saturated with caffeinated coffee, and it felt amazing to be able to have a morning cup with my wife again.

But not everyone is so open-minded to decaf. Heck, there are coffee roasters whose entire identities hinge on hating decaf. Some roasters don't even offer decaf at all. We're not trying to flex, but we've got nine decaf options. Just sayin'. And half-cafs for those that just aren't ready to commit.

It also feels like social media is rigged against the decaf crowd. 99% of coffee memes are about the caffeinated stuff (and stolen from other Death Before Decaf folks). Photos of coffee are often accompanied by captions like, “first I drink the coffee then I do the things” or “don't talk to me until I've had my coffee.” We're guessing that the people who came up with these memes aren't talking about decaf. And when people try to openly talk about decaf, they're called, “Canadian weirdos,” as was the case for Swiss Water when they opened a decaf pop-up in NYC. (We love you, Swiss Water people! And we don't think you're weird at all!)

The stigma surrounding decaf is omnipresent, but no one has ever stopped to ask why people hate decaf.

Our best answer? It might come down to ignorance. The decaffeination process has quietly advanced so much that you likely won't be able to tell you're drinking decaf, especially if you're selecting a freshly roasted single-origin or artisan blend from, well, us. The flavors of your favorite coffees are preserved and as vibrant as in a caffeinated cup. Judging by how many sugary, syrupy, milky coffee drinks there are on #butfirstcoffee, some of you really won't notice.

We kid, we kid.

Really, though. If you love coffee, give decaf a shot. You might just like it. Have a cup after dinner, relax, and get a good night's sleep for a change. Yeah, we see you, stayin' up real late. Go to bed.


  • GW
    Gene Williams

    Been a coffee drinker all my life (I am currently 70) my wife and I really enjoy the Bali Blue Moon and I have 6-8 cups a a day. Recently have been diagnosed with a heart problem and had to cut out caffeine. I ordered the Swiss water decaf Sumatra. Drinking my first cup and I am surprised about how good it is. I can still enjoy my coffee without feeling guilty

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    Denise Stiarwalt

    If anyone hates decaf it’s because they haven’t tried your Organic Ethiopian Sidamo Swiss Water Decaf! I rarely drink caffeine but will on occassion when I need to wake up. However, this variety of decaf is as good as any caffeinated bean I’ve ever had. I have this on auto deliver and will never drink another decaf because this beats them all!!!!

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    Tien Tan

    My heart was beating too fast. After I switched to decaf, my heart beat rate dropped about 15 to 20 times per minute. Decaf is healthier for your heart.

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    Mark Edge

    Most of the people that care if I drink decaf will say “What’s the point?” That leads me to believe they are just caffeine addicts. They must not actually like the taste either if they wonder this. I like the taste of coffee and I can enjoy that taste with any one of FreshRoastedCoffee.com’s Swiss Water Decafs.

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    Team FRC

    Thanks! We love that you love our decafs! (We do, too!)

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    Betsy Swope

    Caffeine really bothers me, but fortunately I can drink decaf coffee. When I drink Fresh Roasted Coffee Mexican Decaf, I also ask myself why people don’t like decaf coffee, because it tastes perfect to me. I started making it cold brew, and perfection got even better, if that’s possible.

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    Stephen Tordella

    The biggest thing that drove me to roast my own coffee is the disrespect that most coffee retailers & suppliers show for decaf coffee. The vast majority only offer one type of decaf, and 90% of their offerings are stale. With Fresh Roasted Coffee offerings, and/or by roasting your own coffee, you have a choice of many wonderful flavors, and you get fresh coffee to boot. It makes a huge difference!

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