TASTE

Decaf Coffee Taste Test: The Good, The Bad And The Really, Really Bad

02/26/2014 07:00 am ET | Updated Apr 25, 2016

Decaf is often met with scorn in the coffee world, and it's usually completely deserved. It's coffee without its greatest attribute -- CAFFEINE -- so what's even the point? Also, it tastes terrible 99 percent of the time.

This scornful attitude only heightens decaf's bad reputation, because it means that it's made with zero love and no care -- and decaf needs all the help it can get. It isn't easy to make good decaffeinated coffee. The very process of removing caffeine from coffee can sometimes strip the beans of the chemicals that give coffee its bold and complex flavors, significantly increasing the chances of a flat and bland end product. That's why it's even more important to seek out which brands do it right.

In the interest of all decaf drinkers, we Huffpost Taste editors -- most of whom drink caffeinated coffee regularly -- put on a brave face and blindly taste tested nine types of decaf coffee to find which brand actually makes a decent cup. There were some bad ones, and then some really, really bad ones. We suffered through them so you wouldn't have to. But we also -- luckily -- found a clear winner.

As always, our taste tests are in no way influenced by or sponsored by the brands included.

  • #9 Folgers
    Damon Dahlen
  • "What is this? It's pure chemical." " Oh no! Is this made with cardboard? Hideous." "Gritty, bitter, cardboardy."
  • #8 Melitta
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Painful. Disgusting." "Chemical-y aftertaste." "Makes me want to rip my tongue out."
  • #7 Peet's Coffee
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Hideously bitter, undrinkable." "Tastes like tar and burnt rubber." "Oh no, I hate this. So unpleasant."
  • #6 Dunkin' Donuts
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Awful, burnt flavor." "Tastes strangely like instant coffee." "Really bad after taste." "Smells like airplane coffee."
  • #5 365 Early Bird Decaf
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Tastes slightly like hazelnut, and there may be some chicory notes too." "This one actually tastes like coffee." Not the worst." "Nope, nope, nope." "So bland it hurts."
  • #4 Trader Joe's French Roast
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Decent." Doesn't taste like much but at least it doesn't taste actively bad." "Dishwater."
  • #3 Maxwell House
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Inoffensive." "Very simple and smooth." "Like weak diner coffee."
  • #2 Chock Full o' Nuts
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Mild." "Balanced." "Slightly acidic."
  • #1 Eight O'Clock
    Damon Dahlen
  • "Oh, you're not bad at all." "Bold!" "Solid."

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Related on HuffPost:

  • 10 Cappuccino
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  • One of the most popular espresso drinks, a cappuccino done right should be equal parts espresso, steamed milk and foamed milk (about 60 ml each).
  • 9 Mocha
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  • With 60 ml of espresso, 60 ml of chocolate and 30 ml of steamed milk, a mocha is a the right choice if you want something sweet.
  • 8 Latte
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  • The latte gets its name because it's full of milk. It is generally just a 60 ml shot of espresso with 300 ml steamed milk -- and only 2ml foamed milk.
  • 7 Cafe Au Lait
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  • If you prefer brewed coffee over espresso, cafe au lait is for you. It's just a pampered cup of coffee -- calling for warm, steamed milk in place of cold milk.
  • 6 Americano
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  • If you like the taste of espresso, but don't like how quickly it goes you'd be happy with an Americano. It's a shot of espresso (30 ml) with twice the amount of water (60 ml).
  • 5 Cafe Noisette
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  • The noisette is one step between the machiatto and the latte. It's a big shot of espresso with half of that amount in hot milk.
  • 4 Macchiato
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  • With a macchiato you get a shot of espresso (or sometimes two) with just a dot of foamed milk.
  • 3 Doppio
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  • Doppio means double in Italian, and that's exactly what you get with espresso. Rather than the expected 30 ml shot of espresso, a doppio gets you a 60 ml shot.
  • 2 Espresso
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  • A small shot of caffeine -- but more than enough to get the job done -- usually about 30 ml.
  • 1 Ristretto
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  • A ristretto is the coffee choice for those who like to get straight to the point. It's a very concentrated espresso shot -- only 22 ml.
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