When you find out you are pregnant or just get the jitters when you drink coffee, decaffeinated coffee may be what you reach for. But watch out! The Clean Label Project recently commissioned a lab study on all the most popular decaffeinated coffee brands and there are big differences when it comes to toxins appearing in the brew. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you topics like best & worst creamers, best & worst coffee, and best & worst collagen, now join us for all the details of which decaffeinated coffee brands are least likely to deliver toxins with your cup of joe!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.
Table of Contents
Decaf Coffee Is Recommended for Those With Heart Conditions, High Blood Pressure & Pregnant Women
It’s been recommended that you cut down on caffeine if you fall somewhere in one of these categories:
- have heart disease and/or high blood pressure
- pregnant women
- have depression, anxiety, or sleeping conditions
- have heartburn, stomach acid, or chronic headaches
About 647,000 Americans die every year of heart disease, making that statistic 1 in every 4 deaths. People facing heart disease need to lower their consumption of caffeine to no more than 3 cups per day.
Meanwhile, pregnant women need to be mindful that caffeine is a stimulant that can pass through the placenta, so it’s recommended they also switch to decaf. However, decaf still has caffeine inside. To put it in perspective, 5-10 cups of decaf coffee have similar amounts of caffeine as 2 cups of regular coffee.
For those who suffer from depression, anxiety, or sleeping problems, it would be wise to consider the switch to decaf, or even the reduction of your caffeine intake. You know that jittery feeling you get from drinking too much coffee? Well, that’s a similar feeling to a panic attack so why willingly bring on those symptoms? Unfortunately, caffeine can aggravate anxiety symptoms.
And it’s debatable whether the caffeine protects you from other contaminants inside coffee. Researchers have wondered whether any of coffee’s healthful compounds are lost along with the caffeine making decaf coffee possibly the least healthy of drinks.
As well, if you have heartburn problems, stomach ulcers, chronic headaches, or are pregnant, a decaf cup of coffee might be a better choice.
Americans & Caffeine Dependence
Most American adults consume more than 280 mg of caffeine per day, which is high enough to create caffeine dependence and withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop consuming caffeine. The more caffeine you consume, the more likely you will experience withdrawal symptoms when you finally quit. Because caffeine is a stimulant that increases heart rate, blood pressure, and the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, the most commonly reported symptoms include:
- headaches (less than 3 cups can reduce cerebral blood flow by as much as 27%)
- difficulty concentrating
- flu-like symptoms
- impairment in psychomotor, vigilance & cognitive performances
Caffeine is found in so many products, it may be hard to estimate how much you are getting per day. When just 100 mg per day is enough to create withdrawal symptoms, it’s no wonder Americans are so dependent on caffeine. Here are examples of how much you are getting per day.
- Brewed coffee: 70 to 200 mg caffeine
- Black tea: 40 to 120 mg caffeine
- Flavored & green teas & soft drinks: 15 to 71 mg caffeine
- Chocolate bars: 9 to 31 mg caffeine
- Coffee-flavored ice cream: 30 to 84 mg caffeine
Some Types of Decaffeinated Coffee Are Problematic Based On How They are Processed
Decaffeinated coffee can be problematic depending on the way the caffeine is stripped from the bean and what solvents and chemicals are used in that process. There are many ways to extract the caffeine, but not all are recommended.
All beans start green and are then soaked or steamed until caffeine is dissolved. Then the caffeine is extracted using one of the following methods:
- Solvent Based: soaking beans in a chemical solvent– methylene chloride and/or ethyl acetate (very common)
- Solvent Based: soaking beans in a chemical solvent–some companies are using legacy toxic chemicals benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), and/or dichloromethane (pretty rare)
- Solvent Based: using liquid carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Non-Solvent: relies on water, time & temperature, but sometimes has less flavor
- Non-Solvent: uses “Swiss Water Processing” (favored)
Benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE) or dichloromethane are rarely used. However, when inhaled, some of these chemicals contaminants can cause drowsiness, dizziness & headaches as well as eye, skin & respiratory tract irritation. Over the long term under certain conditions, benzene is linked to cancer, blood disorders, and development issues in children.
Methyl Chloride–Contamination in Decaf Coffee
The most common contaminant to find in decaf coffee is methyl chloride, a paint thinner chemical. It’s the same colorless volatile liquid chlorinated hydrocarbons commonly used as a solvent in paint thinners. In animal studies, this chemical was linked to cancer of the liver and other organs. The FDA’s official stance is it’s carcinogenic to humans when inhaled and may be carcinogenic to humans.
Consumers are exposed through inhalation or absorption through the skin. Symptoms can be instant dizziness, loss of consciousness, and irritation of the nose and throat. Acute exposure can cause death.
In 2019, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned its consumer use after controversial deaths linked to its use inside paint thinners and a consumer campaign lead by Safer Chemicals Healthy Families lead to bans among retailers like Walmart, Home Depot & Lowes.
Methyl Chloride Should Be Avoided During Pregnancy
The State of California recently added Methyl Chloride to its Prop. 65 List of Carcinogens & Reproductive Toxicants, but specifically added that it’s the ability to pass through the placenta was particularly bad.
In addition, methyl chloride can also persist in the air for over 500 days, so it’s best not to bring it into the home if you are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant.
Clean Label Project Laboratory Study of Decaffeinated Coffee Products
Clean Label Project tested the top 25 decaffeinated coffee brands on Amazon.com & Walmart.com. Each sample was prepared by adding 0.5 grams of ground coffee to a vial along with 5ml of water, stirring a bar, and testing using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectroscopy with Purge and Trap (GSMS/P&T). The level of qualification (LOQ) was 50 ppb (parts per billion).
Many brands tested positive for methyl chloride, including some of the most popular brands. When it comes to benchmarking, the Clean Label Project ranked the levels. Anything above 90 ppb (parts per billion) were ranked bad, anything between 50-89 ppb was rated better, and anything at non-detect levels of below 50 ppb rated best.
Several organic decaf brands tested below the detection level, so we felt comfortable adding more organic decaf brands as options in the best categories.
Mamavation’s Investigation of Decaffeinated Coffee Brands
Mamavation took the laboratory results of decaffeinated coffee brands from the Clean Label Project and combined that with our knowledge of the organic standards for decaffeinated coffee. To create this list, we combined the two to offer you more options for “best” brands. Each category below uses the benchmarking established by the Clean Label Project to evaluate levels of methyl chloride.
Bad Decaffeinated Coffee Brands
These brands had more than 90 ppb (parts per billion) of methyl chloride detected in their product.
- Cafe Bustelo
- Gevalia Kaffe
- Great Value
- Green Mountain Coffee Roasters
Better Decaffeinated Coffee Brands
These brands range from 50 to 89 ppb (parts per billion) of methyl chloride in their products.
- Kirkland Signature
- Maxwell House
- Peet’s Coffee
- Seattle’s Best
Best Decaffeinated Coffee Brands
These brands were less than 50 ppb (parts per billion) of methyl chloride in their products. We would highly recommend organic products because the processing of those beans prohibits the use of methyl chloride. With this confirmation in testing, we’ve added more organic decaffeinated coffee brands for you to choose from. They don’t use methyl chloride and there doesn’t seem to be contamination in the industry.
- 365 Organic Everyday Value Decaf Coffee
- Allegro Organic Decaf Coffee
- Archer Farms Decaf Coffee
- Caribou Coffee Decaf Coffee
- Community Coffee Decaf Coffee
- Dazbog Decaf Coffee
- Dunkin’ Donuts Original Decaf Coffee
- Folgers Decaf Coffee
- High Ground Organic Instant Decaf Coffee
- Illy Decaf Coffee Ground
- Jeremiah’s Pick Organic Decaf Coffee
- Kicking Horse Decaf Coffee
- Kofiahana Organic Low Acid Decaf Coffee
- Mayorga Organics Decaf Coffee Beans
- Mommee Coffee Low Acid Organic Decaf Coffee
- Mount Hagen Instant Organic Decaf Coffee
- Nescafe Decaf Instant Coffee
- No Fun Joe Decaf Coffee
- Peak Performance High Altitude Decaf Coffee
- Subtle Earth Organic Decaf Coffee
- Starbucks Decaf Coffee
- The Organic Coffee Co. Decaf Gorilla Coffee
- Tim Hortons Decaf Coffee
- Wicked Joe Organic Coffee Decaf Coffee