Whether black, over ice, or pulled straight from an espresso machine, good coffee is something I look forward to each and every day. But there’s a weird spot in my coffee schedule. It usually rolls around after seven, just as I’m cleaning up from dinner. Sometimes it comes even later, once things have settled down to a blanket, the couch, and a movie. I might think I’m as cozy as can be, but then a character on screen orders a latte or americano.
“Hmmm,” I think. “I could go for some of that.”
That’s when, puritanism be damned, I reach for the miracle of decaf.
Look, I know it doesn’t taste the same. And when I’m making the case for decaf, I’m not referring to the battery-acid nightmare of the green Folgers canister. I’m looking for the highest quality unleaded coffee I can find, (nearly) without exception.
Thankfully, your chances of finding good decaf at the grocery store are surprisingly high. The Spruce Eats has a wonderful list of the Best Decaf Coffees of 2022, and I can vouch for several of those picks. Both Peet’s and Seattle’s Best are available in my area, and Kicking Horse has made its way onto similar lists as well.
In general, my preferred decaf method involves fresh-ground beans and my moka pot. This makes things a bit trickier when shopping, as most grocery-aisle decaf comes pre-ground. The medium grit in those bags will work for your drip machine (and maybe even a tight-fitting French press), but for a stovetop espresso maker? No good.
The most common whole-bean decaf coffee I’ve encountered is also one of my favorites: The Pike Place Decaf from Starbucks. Now, this one might have been discontinued. Reports vary, and it isn’t listed on the company’s official site. But you can find other Starbucks options, especially if you visit your local baristas.
There’s a catch built into the scenario mentioned above: Dinner is over, the dishes are done, and I’m firmly committed to unwinding. In this situation, it’s okay to reach for the instant. I mean, we’re already committing coffee heresy. So why not go all the way?
In seriousness, instant coffee has advanced by leaps and bounds over the past decade. While I may own a jar of Taster’s Choice (don’t drink this stuff without sugar and milk), brands like Mount Hagen produce a respectable freeze-dried decaf. You can even get it in single-serving sticks, for camping or nights around the bonfire.
So go ahead, purists, rage until you give yourself the jitters. But I say, if you’re genuinely craving coffee, why limit yourself to the mornings and early afternoons? It’s like enjoying a whole chicken but throwing out the giblets. We should celebrate every bit of what this marvelous bean has to offer, even with the caffeine washed away.