Death before Decaf
March 14, 2019 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Whether caffeine is or isn’t actually good for you isn’t actually the point. The point is that if the wild success of the largely pseudoscientific lifestyle brand Goop tells us anything, the rule goes that because caffeine sometimes has negative effects and isn’t tolerated by some people, by now, there should be a full-blown attack against Big Caffeine. There isn’t.
posted by Grandysaur (89 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
For what it's worth, caffeine has a taste. Removing caffeine from coffee does in fact impact the taste of the coffee beyond just the impact that the process itself has.

Granted, caffeine's taste is bitter, so some might find that removal to be an improvement, but it's weird when people assume ingredients or chemicals can just be removed like it won't affect the outcome.
posted by explosion at 7:00 PM on March 14 [16 favorites]


Decaf isn’t my favorite, but I can’t have caffeine after 11 or so anymore. I still prefer the taste of even decaf coffee to herb tea if I want a hot beverage that won’t keep me up at night. Luckily, the cafe at my job brews pretty decent decaf.
posted by heurtebise at 7:07 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]


My wife experiences a sensitivity to caffeine that will leave her shaky and light-headed for days if she has more than a small amount (like a bite of dark chocolate once a week). You'd think that baristas and waiters would understand what is meant by "do you have any herbal teas", but frequently they don't. On the other hand, I think it is getting better overall; and all our local favorites have caffeine-free hot drink options (you can get a real tasty rooibus chai at the local non-chain coffee shop now!).

Also, I'm starting to really enjoy mixing and matching herbal tea ingredients at home (e.g., how about two pieces of hibscus flower, a pinch of anise hyssop, and some honey? No thanks, I'll have fresh grated turmeric and lime instead, thanks) despite being a big-time coffee drinker at the office. It's a little bit like mixing cocktails, except you don't need to stop after just one.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 7:07 PM on March 14 [13 favorites]


(on the other hand, here's my tip if it's too late for caffeine, you want irish coffee, and you don't want to give up your bitterness quotient to balance the sweetness of the sugar: Add a spoonful of Fernet Branca)
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 7:10 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]


I've cut way back on caffeine, down to two cups a day but decaf still tastes like wet dirt so I've just drink herb tea instead.
posted by octothorpe at 7:11 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


Well, back to snorting no-doz.®
posted by clavdivs at 7:16 PM on March 14 [19 favorites]


People don’t smoke anymore. Seems fairly obvious to me.
posted by Automocar at 7:17 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


It’s a... how do I say this... gastrointestinal aide. If I don’t have a few cups (or more) of coffee a day my innards will... close up shop as it was. Decaf for me would be very very bad.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:21 PM on March 14 [9 favorites]


For four or five hundred dollars you can buy a steampunk-inspired device that makes tea-strength coffee at your bedside. https://us.barisieur.com/ Color me confused. (You can find reviews of this device at WaPo and elsewhere.)

One can argue that extreme adrenal stimulation is not the healthiest way to begin the day, but it works for me. Withdrawal is not fun. Hello, constipation!
posted by kozad at 7:24 PM on March 14


Decaf isn’t my favorite, but I can’t have caffeine after 11 or so anymore.

For a second I thought you meant 11 PM, and I was like, oh yeah, me neither.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 7:28 PM on March 14 [65 favorites]


People don’t smoke anymore. Seems fairly obvious to me.

I take caffeine regularly as a migraine preventative, and because of my ADHD, it doesn't have the same stimulant effects on me that it does for neurotypical people.

Smoking has negative health implications on everyone around you, with zero benefits for anyone. This take? This take is blisteringly unhelpful.
posted by kafziel at 7:28 PM on March 14 [25 favorites]


Why do we hate decaf so much?

Because we like caffeine , and pretty much everyone who likes caffeinated coffee has been given decaf coffee at least once and been disappointed that they were not able to get the expected effects of caffeinated coffee.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:29 PM on March 14 [10 favorites]


Also it tastes worse for the same reason neer beer tastes worse. The process required to remove the caffeine/alcohol effects other flavor compounds as well.
posted by East14thTaco at 7:44 PM on March 14 [9 favorites]


For those who hate decaf but don’t want to be so caffeinated, look into Onyx and Methodical’s decaf. Both are nearly as good as the real thing and won’t leave you a shaky anxious mess.

I start every day with coffee. It’s a ritual I love but my anxiety is off the charts if I drink more than 10-20 grams of caffeinated coffee. Something had to give so now it’s decaf or death.
posted by photoslob at 7:53 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]


I need to try better decaf, because caffeine makes me shaky but the decafs I have tried are terrible.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:04 PM on March 14


You can have my caffeine when you easily pry it from my trembling, nervous fingers.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:13 PM on March 14 [19 favorites]


I've heard that people who actively seek decaf are the only true coffee connoisseurs, because they're in it for the actual taste of coffee and not just as a caffeine delivery device. It's too bad that cheap decaf (the only stuff I've tried) is so bad.
posted by meowzilla at 8:20 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


I drink decaffeinated black tea in the afternoon when it's too late for coffee and I'm not ready for beer. The difference in taste is slight. Please don't screw up my 2 - 3 cups of lovely coffee/ morning. It's generally good for you, I like the taste, and without caffeine, things would be so much more difficult. Goop is stupid, maybe not stupid enough to take on coffee.
posted by theora55 at 8:25 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


I also use caffeine as a migraine preventative. When they switched over to the Imitrex-type drugs for acute migraine treatment, I was screwed because I can't take Imitrex without a puking-heart-palpitation anxiety attack. Which is exactly what you want during a migraine so bad you would beat your head on the wall because the pain of hitting your head momentarily over-rides the pain of the migraine.

Eh. That's beside the point. I also found the concept interesting--why no anti-caffeine diet, like the anti-sugar, anti-corn, anti-wheat ad naseum--but found the article itself unreadable.
posted by crush at 8:27 PM on March 14 [6 favorites]


Those of you commenting on the bad taste of decaf should read the article. Part of what it’s about is how that is only true for *cheap* decaf.
posted by nat at 8:29 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


As someone who can’t drink caffeine past noon, and thus switches to herbal tea, yeah I might indeed be into some decent coffee that I could have at 3pm. (And if more people get into it, it might get cheaper and more prevalent).
posted by nat at 8:30 PM on March 14


How can I be expected to read an entire article when I'm quivering from so much coffee???
posted by Going To Maine at 8:33 PM on March 14 [3 favorites]


The conflation of decaf and caffeine-free is kind of unfortunate in this article. Decaf is not caffeine-free, it's got 10-15% caffeine in it whatever the method of decaffeination is. Good Swiss water extract decaf is pretty good, but if you're expecting that jolt from full meg caffeine, obviously going to be disappointed.
Like explosion said, caffeine has a bitter, metallic taste to it. After almost a decade of heavy-duty imbibing my brain up and said 'no more', done with that. Kind of a shock but what a relief. Caffeine is kind of a crutch, IMHO just papering over other metabolic problems. It's not caffeine people crave, it's physical energy and vitality. Caffeine is just a jet boost to the adrenal glands. Not a great long-run strategy.
I got tired of my brain and nervous system whirling in place all the time. Theobromine is my new drug of choice.
posted by diode at 8:44 PM on March 14 [5 favorites]


The Morning They Switched to De-Caf (obligatory Kids in the Hall)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:13 PM on March 14 [17 favorites]


Whatever happened to the super-critical CO2 decaffed coffee?

That was supposed to be all the coffee flavor with none of the caffeine.
posted by jamjam at 9:25 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


It's not caffeine people crave, it's physical energy and vitality.

Now, see, I would have assumed that was self-evident. ...But maybe that's just the caffeine talking.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:39 PM on March 14


Those of you commenting on the bad taste of decaf should read the article. Part of what it’s about is how that is only true for *cheap* decaf.

There is a difference between "cheap" and "affordable". "Cheap" implied shoddy, low-quality. "Affordable" implies the ability for most people to afford this without it being a luxury item. $17/pound for beans, plus shipping, with non-UK shipping needing to be custom negotiated - which is the price for the least expensive beans schilled in that article - doesn't speak to "not cheap", but it's absolutely not affordable.
posted by kafziel at 9:46 PM on March 14 [6 favorites]


$17/pound for beans, plus shipping, with non-UK shipping needing to be custom negotiated - which is the price for the least expensive beans schilled in that article - doesn't speak to "not cheap", but it's absolutely not affordable.
Boy, you probably won't like what anything other than supermarket coffee costs in Japan, then — it's usually $20–25 a pound or more at most roasters, though there is at least a solid chance that it's fair trade in these cases. One advantage of switching to espresso is that I only need to use like 15 g of beans at a time, which is good when 100 g costs ¥600.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:40 PM on March 14 [2 favorites]


It’s a... how do I say this... gastrointestinal aide.

I've heard that this effect is due to caffeine being related to adrenaline. When you are being chased by a tiger, you evacuate to lighten the running load.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:48 PM on March 14 [4 favorites]


I work nights and drink decaf during my shift then a large iced coffee or cold brew when I get home before I go to bed. I like the taste of coffee including decaf, habituation I'm sure is part of that but not all of it. Regular coffee can sit for a while and still taste close enough to fresh coffee to not be a problem. Decaf though develops an almost syrupy taste after sitting that is unpleasant and uncoffeelike in taste. At least that's the case for me with the standard brands. The fancier stuff may be different.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:10 PM on March 14


I switched to decaf a couple of years ago because I was drinking so much coffee the caffeine seemed to have no effect, and sometimes I need the effect. Now I drink decaf 99% of the time, but if I need to reach six classes in a row with no break, or stay up all night, I can have one cup of coffee and it perks me right up.

I found a decaf I really like at the same price as my normal coffee beans ($25 per kg). It tastes great. I gave it to my dad the other week by mistake, who is an avid decaf hater, and he didn't even notice. I have found that as I've got used to it, I've come to prefer the taste of decaf in most cafés too. Although some that clearly don't serve it often have very stale beans and then it's not great.
posted by lollusc at 11:53 PM on March 14 [1 favorite]


Drink decaf. I promise you: Death is much, much worse.

and how could you possibly know that, ms vox writer? i'm not just taking your word for it
posted by pyramid termite at 3:11 AM on March 15 [5 favorites]


If ever in Portugal, go to a proper café and try a decaf. It’s indistinguishable from the real thing. And it’s still cheap.
posted by chavenet at 3:38 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Smoking has negative health implications on everyone around you, with zero benefits for anyone

What about the benefit where smoking makes me look cool?
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:42 AM on March 15 [8 favorites]


I've never been a coffee or tea drinker, and it's a little creepy how insidious and pervasive coffee culture is. The very idea of needing to take anything in the morning to feel normal is kinda distressing to me. And don't get me started on the looks I get when people offer me coffee, then tea, and then look at me funny when I say I don't drink either. Thankfully asking for herbal tea is fairly acceptable these days.

When we had kids, my partner started talking about giving them baby tea, which is just weak milky tea, and I think she meant to give it to them around 8 or 9, not as an actual infant. I was outraged; the idea that we would sensitise a child's body to a stimulant is downright perverse to me. Is that a thing that anyone else has heard of? And yes, I appreciate that soft drinks have caffeine in them, which is another discussion to have...

I love me some coffee cake though. That shit is delicious.
posted by trif at 3:59 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Caffeine has never had much of an impact for me (quelle surprise). I can drink a large cup of coffee at 10 PM and then be asleep by midnight. in fact for the longest time I was convinced that people getting "energized" from coffee was placebo effect.

I used to be a decaf snob but lately I'm realizing that I can't really tell the difference in taste anymore and since the effect is the same for me but it causes less urination (the only effect I really notice from coffee - diuretic) I have started drinking decaf on long drives or work situations where bathroom access is iffy.
posted by some loser at 4:05 AM on March 15


Just in case anyone reads down this far in the thread before opening the article, heads up that it opens by being shitty about sex workers for no reason. I came across it earlier in the week and bounced off it for that reason. I would love for Metafilter to do better about this, but we've got a long way to go.
posted by ITheCosmos at 4:06 AM on March 15 [10 favorites]


Sure, trif, I remember drinking milky coffee at 6. I definitely drank Coke by 8 or 9. That was normal in the American south in the 80s.

Now I drink decaf all the time. I had to quit drinking and smoking... every workplace drug tests around here, and I can't just eat sweets all the time. Black coffee is all I have left. But I can't drink more than two cups of caffeinated coffee in a day or I get migraine aura. So I buy big boxes of Kroger brand decaf most of the time, and that's OK with me.

I wish it was more popular. Some grocery stores will make room on their shelves for 30 types of regular coffee, but no decaf. And a lot of restaurants have no drink options free of caffeine and alcohol except for water.
posted by heatvision at 4:11 AM on March 15 [5 favorites]


Caffeine has never had much of an impact for me (quelle surprise). I can drink a large cup of coffee at 10 PM and then be asleep by midnight

By any chance, do you smoke or vape? When I quit smoking, I found out that nicotine makes you metabolize caffeine much more quickly. Suddenly my normal heroic coffee intake made me feel quite bad.
posted by thelonius at 4:17 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


It’s a... how do I say this... gastrointestinal aide.

Which is what lead to my first realization that age really does have an effect on your body - I used to drink coffee pretty much wherever and whenever. Then I turned 30. And started to have "Need. Bathroom!" rumblings at inopportune times and places. Which I eventually connected with the coffees I had just chugged.

So now I do 2 cups in the morning, maybe some iced tea with lunch, an occasional half cup if I'm home for the evening and want to perk up a little. Having to hold things in while pushing heavy stuff into a truck at the end of a ten-hour day makes an impression, I'll tell you what.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:28 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


The very idea of needing to take anything in the morning to feel normal is kinda distressing to me.

Like...breakfast? It's a morning ritual, a source of comfort. Caffeine withdrawal is a real thing, but it can be staved off easily enough. Half a Diet Coke will do it, but it's not the same as a nice warm cup of black coffee in my hands at 7am.

The "coffee culture" is like so many other cultures: mostly exaggeration and trite jokes. "Don't talk to me til I've had my coffee" is honestly a bit of an indictment of capitalism and hustling culture as much as it's a statement on the need for caffeine.
posted by explosion at 4:36 AM on March 15 [23 favorites]


Not being a regular caffeine user, I'm unable to speculate how withdrawal manifests in heavy users. I suppose if people exaggerate for effect then I wouldn't know to take it figuratively.

I'm often aware of colleagues that are quietly 4 or 5 cups down by mid morning though, without any performative declarations. This seems to indicate self medication rather than enjoyment.
posted by trif at 4:47 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I like coffee. If you don't like it, that's cool. More for me.
posted by Fizz at 4:53 AM on March 15 [12 favorites]


That being said, in the long term we probably shouldn't be worrying so much, I mean, the effects of climate change are destroying crops like coffee/tea and this taste/drink will soon be a thing of the past. Enjoy it while you can.
posted by Fizz at 4:54 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


When I quit smoking, I found out that nicotine makes you metabolize caffeine much more quickly.

Huh. I guess that explains why I could handle 12 shots of espresso a day in college but generally stick to 16oz in the morning these days (and maybe an espresso in the afternoon if I need it).
posted by thecaddy at 5:01 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


When we had kids, my partner started talking about giving them baby tea, which is just weak milky tea, and I think she meant to give it to them around 8 or 9, not as an actual infant.

That's cambric tea, which is mostly hot milk with a drop of tea, to make one feel all grown up. It's most important as an excuse for as many teaspoons of sugar as can be snuck into the drink before someone catches you and says "enough". We usually figure you are old enough for tea when you start school, so 6-7 years old. Kids won't want proper tea though until they're teenagers or even later typically.
posted by bonehead at 5:13 AM on March 15 [12 favorites]


I'm a caffeine monster, TBH. My grandmother was convinced (this was in the late 60s, mind, but still) that Coca Cola was a soothing agent and put it in her grandkids' bottles. I honestly need an insane amount of the stuff to get through the day, and everyone wonders why I haven't exploded just through sheer volume of intake.
posted by xingcat at 5:17 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Kids won't want proper tea though until they're teenagers or even later typically.

Some kids try it in their teens, surreptitiously sneaking some out of the pantry when their parents aren't looking. For them, proper tea is theft.
posted by acb at 5:19 AM on March 15 [58 favorites]


That's a joke worthy of a bachelor uncle, acb.
posted by bonehead at 5:23 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I went from regularly drinking two sugar-free Monsters with breakfast, following it up with coffee, and then diet soda with lunch and iced tea with dinner -- to having to completely cut out caffeine for several months due to panic attacks.

Some combination of things calmed down the anxiety back down to a low roar, and I can tolerate and appreciate caffeine again, but I'm trying to be moderate about it now.

Decaf really isn't bad, but caffeine-free diet cola pretty much sucks. A Freestyle machine where you can add vanilla or something helps enormously.
posted by Foosnark at 5:30 AM on March 15


“Where are the adorable cafes that proudly label themselves as caffeine-free, with all the millennial-baiting accoutrements but minus the addictive stimulant?”

Seriously? They’re right next to all the bars that only serve non-alcoholic beer, in Imaginary Land. What kind of dumb question is this anyway? I can’t believe the author actually meant this as a real question.

I like the later argument that people are so busy today that they have to spend hours crafting perfect Instagram photos. Which is it? Are we working, or dicking around with social media? Because for the vast majority of us, only one of the two gets us paid.

Also, if you don’t want your toddler drinking your cup of coffee, order coffee, not a cup of milk and sugar and caramel syrup with a shot of espresso hiding in it like you’re ashamed of it. I LIKE the bitter taste. Many people don’t like it because bitter usually means toxic, from an evolutionary standpoint; many toxic compounds created by plants to deter predation - like caffeine itself - are bitter. But learning to enjoy it opens up a whole new range of flavors to like, including dark chocolate (not 55% cacao dark, mind you, more like 75%-90% or up dark). I’m not hating on lattes or cappuccino, and I do enjoy the occasional cubano with the nice turbinado sugar, but every coffee drink doesn’t need to have a mound of whip and a drizzle of syrup on it, that takes your 5 calorie cup of joe and turns it into a 500+ calorie fat and sugar bomb. If we’re going to hate on the negative health effect of anything, it should be aimed at THAT, not at the coffee.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:34 AM on March 15 [15 favorites]


That's a joke worthy of a bachelor uncle, acb.

Funny you should say that...
posted by acb at 5:37 AM on March 15 [5 favorites]


They’re right next to all the bars that only serve non-alcoholic beer, in Imaginary Land.

Sweden doesn't exist?
posted by acb at 5:38 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


Thanks for posting this article. It is wonderful to see writing this nuanced about something that most people just shout slogans about.

Yes, I drink a quadruple espresso every morning because (a) I love the taste of coffee, (b) love the way it snaps my brain into focus, and (c) love the process of making it.

Yes, I like decaf the rest of the day because of (a) and (c) and because more caffeine doesn't do anything for my focus, just makes me anxious and sad and interferes with my sleep.

My middle school students totally bought into the marketing and behaved as if getting away with drinking caffeinated stuff wasn't really a sneaky way (one their parents hadn't cottoned on to) of mainlining amphetamines.

Boy howdy, it's hard to get decaf out at the coffee shop, though.

I am endlessly fascinated by the way we as a society have become obsessed with the expensive packaging and marketing fluids as if all those bottles, cups, and cans weren't, in the end, all basically water with a bit of flavor.
posted by Peach at 6:08 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Just remember folks - decaf coffee/tea is never completely caffeine-free...

A Starbucks 10-12oz decaff has 20mg of caffeine... So - approximately 1/5th of the amount of caffeine in a small regular McDonalds coffee. (A decaf McDonalds coffee has 8mg)
posted by jkaczor at 6:10 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


I take caffeine regularly as a migraine preventative, and because of my ADHD, it doesn't have the same stimulant effects on me that it does for neurotypical people.

Smoking has negative health implications on everyone around you, with zero benefits for anyone. This take? This take is blisteringly unhelpful.


I'm sorry, I think you misunderstood me, so no need to blast me--my comment was in relation to the weird culture built up around coffee that used to be taken by smoking. People now talk about that first cup in the morning the same way smokers used to talk about their first cigarette.
posted by Automocar at 6:17 AM on March 15


Despite the power to detect very small effects, our meta-analysis provided no evidence for causal long-term effects of habitual coffee consumption on global cognition or memory..

That said, when I have a bad sleep night I'll take caffeine in some form along with L-theanine to smooth out the jitters and the come down.
posted by mecran01 at 6:25 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


Decaf tastes worse than regular coffee for a few reasons, not just because caffeine itself has a bitter taste. I think the "steam decaffeinated" types are actually worse than the more chemically processed ones, which use solvents to just dissolve the caffeine out (which then just safely evaporate away at room temperature).
posted by MuppetNavy at 6:39 AM on March 15


Biggest development I've seen with decaf is a Colombian decaf manufacturer Descafecol that does a naturally derived Ethyl Acetate process. I've had the opportunity to roast and taste the same lot of coffee split into two, and one half ran through the decaf process. They roast a little differently, but you can get each pretty close to each other in terms of taste. The decaf coffee has slightly less acidity, and a couple specific flavors were impacted more (but this very well could've been due to other factors like the coffee handling differently in the roaster). Body is decreased a little bit, sweetness was the same for sure. I have some sugarcane EA process green in my personal cache right now, and it's fucking slamming. I snuck it on to a quality control tasting, and no one called it out immediately as decaf. It scored better than a couple other samples received. So good decaf is possible.

A few roasters I know routinely, if not exclusively carry Sugarcane EA process decaf, off the top of my head Klatch Coffee Roasters, Proud Mary Coffee, Upper Left, Olympia Coffee Roasters, Good Coffee. I know there are plenty of others, but those are the standouts for me.

Those of you commenting on the bad taste of decaf should read the article. Part of what it’s about is how that is only true for *cheap* decaf.

QFT. Garbage in, garbage out. You're adding a layer of cost with decaf, and not a cheap easy cost either. If you're taking a relatively high scoring, decent coffee and running it through one of the better processes (Swiss water process, eh, alright, or the aforementioned natural EA process) you'll get a really good product, but it can add $2-3 to the green coffee price paid by the coffee roaster.

Most roasters have to hit the same price point with their decaf as their other coffees, so you run into the issue of effectively being bumped down in quality to the next lowest tier. Normally a roaster who wouldn't touch that grade, is kind of boxed into it because otherwise their coffees retail lat $20/lb, but their decaf if they keep the same quality and margins can jump up to the $25+/lb.

If you like coffee, you can get good decaf. It's really good.

And FWIW, decaf coffee, by USDA regulation, can only have 3% caffeine left in it, not 10-15% as diode suggests. So yeah, it's not 'caffeine free' but its drastically reduced.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:40 AM on March 15 [6 favorites]


So is caffeine the next lifestyle signalling target? Hard to keep up. Should I look for a "Coffee Belly" super-real-and-not-at-all-opportunistic documentary on Netflix? Should I start saving to be able to afford the raw water herbal alternatives that are going to be sold to me?
posted by FakeFreyja at 6:47 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


So it's like this article is missing the big fact that caffeine is a drug enjoyed by lots and lots of white people. It's not really possible to trigger racist sympathies by being "tough on caffeine" and that's what I suspect is the biggest driver for why it's so normalized.

The other part is hinted at by the article, and it's that most people enjoy coffee because it's a drug delivery vehicle, not because they like coffee coffee. Which is fine. Let people enjoy their drugs delivered the way they like.
posted by odinsdream at 7:16 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


The caffeine free, alcohol free watering holes are called Kombucha Bars.

and YES they have ALL the millennial accouterments
posted by rebent at 7:27 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


Drink decaf. I promise you: Death is much, much worse.

Your opinion is duly noted.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:30 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


Usually there's an attempt to blame one particular additive for all health problems in wellness culture. It was wheat, now it's sugar, it could become caffeine specifically because it has been normalized and is widely used by the targets of wellness culture. "Don't feel 19 anymore? Clearly, it's because you're consuming this everyday and it's undermining your entire quality of life! Join me in an effort to excise this from your diet that will inevitably end in failure but start with purchasing my book!"
posted by Selena777 at 7:33 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


I will happily drink (good) decaf, because I drink coffee for the (lovely bitter) taste.
posted by jb at 7:38 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


The other part is hinted at by the article, and it's that most people enjoy coffee because it's a drug delivery vehicle, not because they like coffee coffee.

I like coffee coffee. I loved coffee-flavored things as a wee child.
posted by Vesihiisi at 8:05 AM on March 15 [3 favorites]


I've heard that this effect is due to caffeine being related to adrenaline. When you are being chased by a tiger, you evacuate to lighten the running load.

Wow, people really do get so scared they shit their pants.
posted by slogger at 8:10 AM on March 15


I've heard that people who actively seek decaf are the only true coffee connoisseurs, because they're in it for the actual taste of coffee and not just as a caffeine delivery device.

The look I'm giving my monitor right now is probably very similar to the one that I gave someone, way back in the mid-eighties, who claimed that Bob Seger was the "real" Bruce Springsteen, because Bruce had become too popular to relate to the working man.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:19 AM on March 15 [16 favorites]


If the Goop-style wellness aficionados decide coffee is bad, how are they going to give themselves coffee enemas to "clean out the toxins"?
posted by soundguy99 at 8:24 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


But I have to assume, and not just because I can no longer tolerate them, that the more negative aspects of caffeine’s effects — the anxiety, the racing heartbeat, the jitteriness, the nausea slowly curdling in your stomach — will for many people soon outweigh the good.

It doesn't seem to have occurred to the author that their physical experiences and reactions are not universal? Yeah if caffeine makes you sick, sure, stop drinking full-caff coffee? And I'm all for a world in which decaf doesn't taste like 6-day-old butt.

But at some point you just have to trust people when they say they like a thing and not insist that they're lying to themselves? It doesn't make everyone sick. It makes some people sick. Some people can eat bread, and others have celiac. Some people drink alcohol and are not alcoholics. People are different. HOW IS THIS STILL NEWS.

I'm often aware of colleagues that are quietly 4 or 5 cups down by mid morning though, without any performative declarations. This seems to indicate self medication rather than enjoyment.

In that case, almost everything I do in life is medication rather than enjoyment. Perfomative declarations aren't everybody's style.

And before anyone asks, why yes, I have had my coffee already. I'M ANGRY ANYWAY.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:30 AM on March 15 [23 favorites]


Not being a regular caffeine user, I'm unable to speculate how withdrawal manifests in heavy users.

In my 20's I was a fairly heavy coffee drinker. Literally the first thing I'd do on waking up in the morning is make coffee and drink a cup before I could do anything else. Then I'd typically have another 3 or 4 cups during the rest of the day.

At one point we were living way out in the boonies, far enough that grocery store trips were only done on our way home from working in town (a 45-60 minute commute). One Saturday morning I discovered that we were out of coffee so I'd have to do without until we went shopping Monday evening. I had a not quite "blinding" or "massive" but certainly significant headache all weekend long.

After that I started to cut back. Now I still enjoy a cup once I'm at work in the morning, and maybe another cup of coffee or strong (Scottish Breakfast, black with just a touch of sugar to mask the astringency) tea mid-afternoon; if I need to skip a day for some reason I feel slightly tired but I don't get a headache.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:19 AM on March 15


But I have to assume, and not just because I can no longer tolerate them [...] will for many people soon outweigh the good.

Is there a name for this type of fallacious reasoning? It's literally saying "I think, not because of [literally the only plausible reason I've suggested that it would happen], that [X thing will happen]." It's not quite a tautology, it's just an empty claim, I guess.

Anyway, serious response to what seems like a trollbait article: the reason most reasonable people have stopped smoking, but yet drinking coffee is still popular, is that tobacco is no-joke one of the most harmful things humans have ever decided to regularly ingest. And caffeine, while perhaps not healthy, doesn't go on to kill a significant amount of the people who use it.

Smoking doesn't make sense, unless your brain is so underdeveloped that you're not really capable of making long-term vs. short-term tradeoffs well (i.e. you're a kid), or you're living a life where there really isn't any long-term anyway, so fuck it, YOLO (soldiers, prisoners, condemned people on the gallows, people in the midst of existential crisis, etc.). This is not to say that nicotine, divorced from the incredibly harmful delivery mechanism of combusting tobacco leaves and breathing the smoke, is necessarily all that bad; it's probably on the same plane as alcohol and who knows, maybe caffeine.

Caffeine is addictive, yes, and for some people it's unhealthy and there are a variety of reasons why you might not want to use it. The fact that it's so popular says some pretty unflattering things about our society, frankly. (Like, why are we forcing so many people to get up at the ass-crack of dawn, anyway, to the point where they need to start off each day with a bunch of stimulants, just so they don't crash their car and die?) But detoxing from caffeine isn't anything like going cold-turkey off nicotine, and certainly not anything like opiates. Jokey t-shirts about killing someone if you don't get coffee aside, it's probably not going to kill you if you can't get some. (I'm a heavy coffee drinker and I went cold-turkey for a week on vacation. I took a lot of naps; nobody died.) So, as a result, the relatively lax regulation of caffeine compared to more deleterious substances makes sense.

There's a certain segment of the American population who are always looking for a "trick" to feeling better, and IMO seemingly also some secular equivalent to the guilt-fueled self-denial that's traditionally the province of religion. So there's always going to be somebody out there telling you to give up whatever you like, either for purported health benefits or just because they want you to share in their particular self-denial fetish.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:46 AM on March 15 [10 favorites]


If the Goop-style wellness aficionados decide coffee is bad, how are they going to give themselves coffee enemas to "clean out the toxins"?

Excellent question! One which is answered in Chapter 23 of my book "Healthiest You: Living the Caffeine Free Life (Metafilter special, only $29.99 on Amazon).

Proceedes from the sales of this book will be going to establish Healthiest You lifestyle centers, where in addition to pressure point massage and aromatherapy", well be featuring caffeine purging dioxin and mercury enemas. I'm looking forward to seeing all mefites interested in kicking the caffeine habit...
posted by happyroach at 9:52 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


Usually there's an attempt to blame one particular additive for all health problems in wellness culture. It was wheat, now it's sugar, it could become caffeine specifically because it has been normalized and is widely used by the targets of wellness culture.

There's a fairly decent body of work that's been done over the years though, as caffeine is an extremely well known drug. There have been many, many attempts to look for a smoking gun. There's nothing that has ever stood out though. As far as is known, it's extremely safe and perhaps even very mildly preventative of cardio-vascular disease. There have even been Mendelian studies of causal links to mortality too, using the same database as noted above.

So far, there's no smoking gun, which is as good an answer as the life sciences (or any science) can ever give.
posted by bonehead at 10:13 AM on March 15 [1 favorite]


...caffeine-free diet cola pretty much sucks.

Many years ago when I was working for a compiler-company-in-a-basement, I was tasked with visiting a client to do training. This client was a day's drive away, which my boss considered too short to fly so the company rented me a car and I drove there and back.

I left late because I was still trying to finish the presentation so I ended up getting to the hotel by around 4 AM which meant I got about 4 hours of sleep after a really long drive. Needless to say, I was not at my best.

Worse still, I woke up late enough that I had to basically rush directly to the office, skipping breakfast and coffee. So I showed up and introduced myself to the client and other folks I would be training.

And as part of the pleasantries, the client asked if anyone wanted soda, so I asked for a Coke, thinking that I'd at least get a lesser dose of Caffeine. So he left and brought me back a can of FRIGGIN' CAFFEINE FREE DIET COKE!!!!!
posted by suetanvil at 10:22 AM on March 15 [2 favorites]


this might be why decaf is so maligned: It has all the bitterness and blandness of coffee

This is the first time I've ever seen someone describe coffee as "bland."

When we had kids, my partner started talking about giving them baby tea, which is just weak milky tea...Is that a thing that anyone else has heard of?

Cafe con Leche is a not-uncommon breakfast beverage for Brazillian children, but my understanding is that it's mostly milk with only a splash of coffee.
posted by asnider at 10:38 AM on March 15


In my 30s, I used to drink a liter of coffee at home, then make another liter to take with me, then go off to various coffee houses to have a latte or two, and then drink the coffee in my thermos during the afternoon sitting around somewhere.

One afternoon one of the baristas at my favorite coffeehouse happened to pass by as I was sitting on a lawn, and after we waved, he did kind of a double take and said "are you drinking yet more coffee??" I looked down at my cup and thought 'hm, perhaps this is a bit much'.

I'm down to half a liter a day, now.
posted by jamjam at 11:16 AM on March 15 [4 favorites]


The risk/benefit profile for caffeine is so well understood and widely studied that I immediately discredit anyone who tries to tell me to stop drinking it.

There was a time when I was anxious about losing weight and exploring some "detox" diets and meal plans. There are numerous benefits to a vegan diet, for example, so I was open to that, but as soon as I got to the part in my "how to be vegan" book where I had to cut out coffee (which is vegan, and gluten-free, and etc. etc.) I knew that that plan was a bunch of bullshit that I ain't doing.

Most of these lifestyle/diet things seem less about actual health outcomes and more about performative asceticism (if not orthorexia).
posted by witchen at 11:31 AM on March 15 [10 favorites]


I used to drink an awful lot of caffeine. More so than the average bear.
But in 2011 my doctor made me stop. I went in with what I thought were mild gut pains and related symptoms. Either go cold turkey on caffeine (and acids) or we hospitalize you, he said.

I went in for an endoscopy to see what was what. The ENT person was very jovial going in (er, before the tube went in). Afterwards (the tube being retracted), all humor was gone. "I don't use words like 'potentially precancerous' lightly," he began.
Turned out there were three ulcers at work, gnawing at my stomach lining. Acid reflux was in full stream. My esophagus was mutating into Barrett's.

So yeah, I went cold turkey. Family doc prescribed an opioid for the withdrawal, since he thought it would be awful. It was. But I've avoided caffeine ever since. No coffee, no black tea, no chocolate.
posted by doctornemo at 11:42 AM on March 15


Yeah I came here to post that if you've switched to decaf, it has some negative effects as well:

- decaf can increase your LDL cholesterol levels (regular doesn't have the same effect)
- decaf is still highly acidic and can trigger serious reflux issues

Just throwing that out there for anyone who believes drinking decaf has zero negative possible health effects. (I drink coffee, not a coffee hater, I tried switching to decaf because I have crippling reflux and it only made it worse, YMMV)
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:33 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


I gave up caffeine for years, but then I started an incredibly dull job and I would be fighting to stay awake by 10 in the morning. Getting back into coffee was the only way I could think of to keep going.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:30 PM on March 15


it has some negative effects as well

Maybe this is just me, but every time I've had decaf it's given me a headache. My theory is that it's like a reverse placebo effect where my brain expects the regular stimulus and perks up for a sec, then not getting it, goes into some kind of panic mode. And I don't drink a lot of caffeine normally, just a couple cups in the morning, so it's not withdrawal.
posted by condour75 at 5:33 PM on March 15 [2 favorites]


I think you're absolutely right, condour75, but I would say the mechanism is that your body/brain has learned that the taste of coffee signals that a potent vasoconstrictor, caffeine, is about to arrive in the brain and elsewhere, and tries to compensate for that with vasodilation in the brain -- probably ramped up to match an expected ramping up of caffeine in your blood so that the net change of blood flow to your brain is actually quite small -- and then when the caffeine doesn't arrive because you've drunk decaf, you experience pain from the resulting vasodilation, since vasodilation is the major source of pain from headaches.
posted by jamjam at 5:55 PM on March 15 [6 favorites]


I drink decaf. I am from Melbourne. I am a failure. I don't care.
posted by daybeforetheday at 1:37 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


That was a lot of smart sounding wordiness for the author to justify not enjoying coffee, not understanding how others possibly can, and perhaps expressing their baffled jealousy of the enjoyment others experience by trying to make rejection some kind of morality/health/cool-by-countercool thing. Reminds me of religion.

Caffeine, with or without coffee, is habituating, but please don't call it an addiction. I'm reasonably certain that it doesn't fit the definition.

The snide dismissive sentence is what truly me off. I am still angry because I can't drink any damn coffee at all anymore (nor tea, and no soda or fruit juice either). I miss the coffee itself, not just the caffeine. I can take a caffeine pill with no problems. But I have stopped drinking coffee, as I don't want to live in agony which can only be even partly eased with drugs that are more expensive and damaging to my health than coffee, regular or decaf, could possibly be. The best I can do is have half of a teaspoon of instant espresso powder in a serving of instant roasted chicory. It is the only hot beverage that I enjoy that I can also safely drink.

I suspect this might be the rising trend that has made instant roasted chicory more difficult to get in the past few months. It makes as much sense as anything else I've come up with as to why the French stuff I used to buy is now nearly always sold out, and I have to pay a even more than I did for that just to get some expired Russian chicory.

What was my point? I don't know. I guess it boils down to: enjoy what you love while you have it, because life is too short. Stop sensationalizing that which you don't understand (chemicals are everywhere, and just because one is used for one purpose doesn't mean that it is somehow unsuitable or dangerous for another purpose). And don't be a jerk. That article, in my opinion, fulfills the requirements for being a jerk.
posted by monopas at 2:15 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


StickyCarpet - I've heard that this effect is due to caffeine being related to adrenaline. When you are being chased by a tiger, you evacuate to lighten the running load.

Not really. Smooth muscle contraction in the intestine (and elsewhere) are tonically suppressed by adenosine. Caffeine antagonises those receptors so those nerves are able to depolarize and reach action potential - and thus fire - more easily.

Epinephrine/ adrenaline functions on adrenergic receptors.
posted by porpoise at 10:29 AM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I drink decaf -- instant, even! -- if I've already had my real coffee ration for the day but want to continue the coffee drinking experience. I am not ashamed.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:26 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]


I used to be a caffeind, back in my 20s slamming Jolt and tea and so on. Then I hit my 30s, and had to start cutting back, it was affecting my sleep -- and if I missed my morning caffiene, it was headaches, lethargy, and grogginess for the rest of the day. By my 40s, I had reached the point where if I had caffeine after about 1pm, I wouldn't sleep well if at all that night, and started to cut way back. Now, at just over 50, I only drink decaf tea, and then only before about 1pm or I'll have problems sleeping. If I have full-caffeine coffee, tea, or a soft drink, even early in the morning, I'll be having insomnia that night. Still, if I'm going to be very active (helping a friend move, skiing or mountain climbing, late night maintenance work) a bit of coffee or tea, full caf, is quite useful in getting me going and keeping me moving.

Growing old sucks. Don't do it.

And all that said, as in all useful things there's nothing wrong with caffeine in moderation, no need to regulate, ban, or license its use more than it is already.
posted by Blackanvil at 1:17 PM on March 17 [1 favorite]


After reading through this thread (I skipped TFA) I asked my local roaster for his thoughts on decaf. He sent me a couple of sample bags – one Ethyl Acetate and one Mountain Water Process – and they're both fantastic. I'm now considering a switch to decaf now that I know there are such good options available.
posted by slogger at 7:36 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


« Older This is how we get Terminator librarians   |   Tragedy in Christchurch Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.