My wife and I enjoy drip coffee, french pressed coffee, espresso, black tea, green tea, and just about anything caffeinated.

However, my wife wants to avoid caffeine due to its physiological effects.
Unfortunately, in her words, decaf espresso "tastes horrible," and I agree. I have similar feelings against decaf black tea.

Is there anything with a bitter flavor similar to caffeine that could add some of the punch back to decaffeinated coffee or tea?

  • 6
    I'm not sure it is the flavor of the caffeine you are missing vs. the flavor of other things that get extracted in the decaffeination process. The article cited below says that trained testers can't taste pure caffeine added to cola, so I doubt you can taste it in coffee. sciencedirect.com/… Nov 16 '10 at 3:42
  • Carbonated colas have a lot of acid that tea and coffee do not, but I suppose it is possible that the decaffeination process is what's altering the flavor. Either way, the decaf teas I've tried have been bland by comparison to the unaltered version. Maybe some tonic water would do the trick...
    – mskfisher
    Nov 16 '10 at 4:02
  • Tonic would be a terrible idea, since it's got a lot more in it than just carbonated water. Quinine makes it astringent, but it also adds a slight citrus flavor. And who wants fizzy coffee?
    – bikeboy389
    Nov 16 '10 at 5:39
  • Are you sure there's not even a little bit of placebo effect going on here? I'm not asking this to diminish your question, just trying to be helpful. My mother is a huge coffee nut and had no problem switching to decaf after being forced to cut out caffeine. Have you done a double-blind taste test with decaffeinated coffee, especially non-espresso coffee?
    – Aaronut
    Nov 16 '10 at 20:16
  • Good question. I bet the barista will have a grand time helping us out.
    – mskfisher
    Nov 16 '10 at 21:27

Caffeine is definitely bitter. About the only thing I know of that can add bitterness or that strong flavor to coffee is roasted chicory. It's a key ingredient in French Market coffee blends, and it makes them taste pretty darn strong, even though they have less caffeine.

You can get roasted chicory by itself at some supermarkets so you can add it to your decaf coffee, but it may be hard to come by in your area. If you can't find that, see if there's a decaf French Market blend. That'll have chicory and may give you back the bitterness you crave.

I think you're probably out of luck on the tea, though. You might just cut well back on the tea and drink regular tea once in a while. A jolt of caffeine now and again won't kill you, and life's too short to drink tasteless tea.


You could try herbal tea or perhaps grain coffee (which isn't really coffee at all). Both are full of flavor, caffeine free, and both give you something warm to drink during the colder months.


My usual tricks when I need a hot beverage and want to limit caffeine:

  • Hot Chocolate
  • Apple Cider
  • Herbal Tea
  • Half-and-half decaf/regular coffee

I agree that the decaf stuff usually tastes bad but I'm pretty sure it's the decaffeinating process that makes it taste bad, and not the caffeine itself. If you are stuck on pure decaf coffee you might add some cocoa to it.

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