Unbiased Evaluations of Decaffeinated Coffees by Coffee Professionals
✔ We hail from a UK-based coffee roastery named Decadent Decaf Coffee Company; our specialty is roasting decaffeinated coffee, and we're experts in the nuances of decaf.
✔ We've brought in an extensive selection of American decaf coffees and subjected them to thorough testing at our English coffee laboratory.
✔ We personally acquired all the decaffeinated coffees and didn't obtain any complimentary samples from the brands we chose for assessment.
✔ The Decadent Decaf team, consisting of Guy, Clara, Richard, and Greg, carried out the evaluations. Collectively, they boast 60 years in the coffee sector, covering areas like cupping, importation, and roasting.
The Best & Worst Dark Roast Decaffeinated Coffees Ranked In Order:
Illy Classico Decaf – Best Decaf Dark Roast
We’ve always had a soft spot for Illy because they’re consistently a cut above mainstream coffee and an ever-reliable choice for that classic Italian flavour profile, though this comes at being priced slightly higher than a lot of its Italian peers. Having said that, you get what you pay for. Illy use the CO2 Decaf method and 100% Arabica coffee for this blend, and it shows.
V60 Notes: Kind of what we expected - classically Italian - dark but not burnt - brown sugar, nutmeg, chocolate, very accessible and a rounded mouthfeel. A superior dark roast coffee to the cheaper burnt coffees we’ve tried. Strong but not too strong and no bitterness. Versatile for V60 or Aeropress.
Aeropress Notes: We were expecting a more intense version of the V60, but we found it a little underwhelming - smooth, very drinkable, little bitterness or defective flavours, but we found more depth and nuance in the V60. Nevertheless, very reliable and consistent.
Kicking Horse – Best Dark Roast Swiss Water Decaf
Emerging as an unexpected contender, Kicking Horse stands out not just as a potent decaf but also as a commendable dark roast. It's more nuanced and intriguing compared to many other decaf dark roasts available (check out our less impressive decafs further down this list!).
V60 Notes: Boasting smoky, malt-like robustness, this is a perfect choice for latte lovers. It finishes with hints of fruit, although it remains mostly singular in its profile – tailored for those who fancy their brew intense and deep, accompanied by some bitter and sharp undertones.
AeroPress Notes: This decaf seems more at home with AeroPress than V60. While still boasting a bold, malted character, it pleasantly surprises with an absence of pronounced bitterness, carrying tobacco and dark chocolate hints, capped off by a sweet prune aftertaste. It might just sway the preferences of medium roast enthusiasts!
Allegro French Roast – Best Low Acid Dark Roast Swiss Water Decaf Coffee
Allegro Coffee is a veteran in coffee, founded in 1977, it delivers a reliable, strong everyday decaf coffee that’s also Fairtrade and Organic. We found this decaf does the job very well for those looking for a low acidity decaf.
V60 Notes: We were surprised by this decaf – given the roast level – less bitterness and astringency than we expected – very low acidity – but still some both natural and caramelized sweetness.
AeroPress Notes: Definitely darker and stronger than the Bel Canto and a touch more bitterness, but it has nice round full mouthfeel, classic dark roast smoothness and hazelnut notes, peppery aftertaste and notes of cloves.
Lavazza Dek – Best Budget Dark Roast Decaf
Lavazza’s premium offering, the Dek is decaffeinated using the CO2 decaf process and is a 60% Arabica 40% Robusta blend. We think it would suit the Italian Bialetti moka stove pot method very well as it brews a really intense, strong coffee for those Italian coffee diehards.
V60 Notes: Not a complex coffee, but you don’t buy Lavazza for complexity – we did pick up on some Almond sweetness. As an Arabica-Robusta blend, it has some toasted popcorn flavour from the Robusta content. It’s a classic espresso profile and very consistent.
Aeropress Notes: Better in the Aeropress, as expected - sweet marzipan aroma, slight papery taste, but classically Italian - good with milk – and very smooth. Good as an everyday office decaf coffee.
Allegro Espresso Bel Canto – Best Swiss Water Decaf Dark Roast For Milky Drinks
Another Fairtrade and Organic decaf, Allegro’s Espresso Bel Canto is a touch lighter than its French Roast equivalent and is versatile for a variety of milky drinks – flat whites, lattes and cappuccino. It is billed as “medium roast” on the packaging, but our batch was roasted decidedly dark, so decided to include it in the Dark Roast category.
V60 Notes: We found this to be an ideal everyday all-rounder, strong coffee that can punch through milky drinks – winey with some dried fruit and nuts, and little bitterness or acidity with a nice length and raisin aftertaste.
AeroPress Notes: Great option for those who like strong dark roast coffee and low acidity coffees, nice dark chocolate tones, not that much bitterness, notes of toasted cereal and grain, ideal with milk.
365 Whole Foods Market – Buzz Free Decaf – Commended For Fairtrade and Organic Certification
Alright, let's be transparent. We aren't particularly fond of this dark roast decaf coffee (and in British terms, that's a polite way of saying it's not really our cup of tea). However, it's not terrible, and being a Fairtrade Organic Swiss Water Decaf deserves recognition.
V60 Notes: It's like taking a journey through Marlboro Country – the dominant smoky and woody tones can be overpowering. Best suited for beverages with milk, it offers little in terms of sweetness or acidity and leaves a somewhat bitter sensation on the palate. Yet, for those with a penchant for intense coffee, this could be your match!
AeroPress Notes: If you have a fondness for exceptionally robust coffee, this might hit the spot – characterized by its earthy and charred undertones. There's a hint of sharpness on the tongue, and its audacity is undeniable - we envision it primarily complemented with milk.
And Um… The “Less Good” Dark Roast Decaf Coffees Ranked
We bought a wide a range of Dark Roast Decafs and tried to have no preconceptions about the decafs we were cupping, however…Well…here’s our reviews of these decafs:
San Francisco Decaf Gourmet Blend – Best For Not Drinking Swiss Water Decaf
The description from San Francisco labels it a "premium blend" curated by "our head honcho, a decaf enthusiast frustrated with the feeble decafs available". To that, we'd say, goal achieved! It's undeniably not for the faint-hearted, but even the most hardened coffee aficionados might find it challenging.
V60 Notes: The predominant sensation is reminiscent of something ablaze – think scorched rubber, sharp, with an enduring taste of petroleum. This intensity seemed amplified with V60 compared to AeroPress. Its lingering aftertaste is, regrettably, not the pleasant kind. Could this be the brew served at roadside filling station?
AeroPress Notes: Its hue is the deepest of darks, akin to a coffee version of a void in space, delivering a taste so potent it might just "rock your senses". It could potentially pair with a generous amount of milk, but deriving joy from this brew was a struggle. Given a choice, we'd lean towards the AeroPress brew.
Organic Coffee Co Decaf Gorilla Espresso – Joint 1st With San Francisco For Undrinkable Swiss Water Decaf
The adage goes, "All publicity is good publicity", and in that spirit, we feel compelled to spotlight this decaf for readers to potentially sidestep. What's perplexing is the dedication to procure Certified Organic Swiss Water Decaf coffee, the mention of altitudes (ranging from 1200-2000 meters) and coffee varieties (Bourbon, Parainema, and Caturra), only to then over-roast the coffee
V60 Notes: We aim to provide an impartial analysis, yet the descriptors "retch" and "gag" spontaneously arise. On a more charitable note, it's akin to joining Clint Eastwood by a campfire in Unforgiven - pungent aromas evoking overcooked potage. Dominated by intense smokiness, charred timber and a hint of synthetic notes (ironically for an organic coffee), it begs the question: Who'd opt for this when even drowned in milk?
AeroPress Notes: A notch above its V60 counterpart - a tad more palatable, especially if diluted with milk. Yet, the overpowering bitterness remains, accompanied by a soupy robustness and echoes of singed rubber and ash.