Is decaf coffee less calories?

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world, with over 400 billion cups consumed every year. For many people, coffee is an indispensable part of their daily routine. However, the caffeine in regular coffee can cause side effects like jitteriness, anxiety, and trouble sleeping in some people. This has led to an increasing demand for decaffeinated, or decaf, coffee as a way to enjoy the taste of coffee without the side effects of caffeine. But is decaf coffee a healthier choice when it comes to calories and weight management? Let’s take a detailed look at the calorie content of decaf coffee versus regular coffee.

Caffeine Content in Decaf vs. Regular Coffee

The key difference between decaf and regular coffee is the amount of caffeine they contain. Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause side effects like jitteriness and sleep disruption when consumed in excess.

Regular coffee naturally contains around 70-140mg of caffeine per 8 oz cup, depending on factors like the variety of coffee bean and preparation method. Decaf coffee has at least 97% of the caffeine removed during processing. An 8 oz cup of decaf coffee typically contains 2-12mg of caffeine.

So decaf has negligible amounts of caffeine compared to regular coffee. But does this difference in caffeine translate to differences in calories and nutritional value?

Calorie Content of Black Coffee

When comparing just black coffee made from decaf and regular coffee beans, the calorie content is virtually identical.

Both regular and decaf black coffee contain:

  • 2 calories per 8 oz cup
  • 0g fat
  • 0g sugar
  • 0g protein

The coffee beans themselves, whether regular or decaffeinated, contain very few calories and nutrients. The calorie content comes mainly from trace amounts of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. The decaffeination process does not add any significant calories or nutrients to the coffee.

So an 8oz cup of black decaf coffee contains around 2 calories, the same as a cup of black regular coffee.

Calories with Additions like Cream and Sugar

The calories start adding up when you add things like cream, milk, sweeteners, and flavorings to coffee. This is where some differences between regular and decaf coffee emerge in terms of calories:


– 1 tbsp heavy (whipping) cream: 51 calories
– 1 tbsp half and half: 20 calories
– 1 tbsp non-dairy creamer: 25 calories


– 1 tbsp whole milk: 9 calories
– 1 tbsp 2% milk: 8 calories
– 1 tbsp skim milk: 5 calories


– 1 tsp white sugar: 16 calories
– 1 tsp brown sugar: 17 calories
– 1 tsp honey: 21 calories
– 1 packet artificial sweetener: 0-4 calories

Flavored Syrups

– 1 tbsp flavored syrup like vanilla, caramel, or pumpkin spice: 45-60 calories

So while black decaf and regular coffee are the same calories, the additions can add up in calories quickly. A medium 16oz decaf coffee drink with 2 tbsp half and half and 1 tbsp sugar is around 90 calories.

Does Decaf Promote Weight Loss?

Some research has investigated whether substituting decaf for regular coffee may aid weight loss and help prevent metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. The findings have been mixed:

– An observational study in over 1,100 people found that substituting decaf for regular coffee was associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. It was linked with lower blood sugar levels after meal consumption.[1]

– A clinical trial in 30 healthy women found no significant difference in metabolic rate or calories burned after consuming decaf coffee versus regular coffee.[2]

– Another small study found participants who drank 4 cups of decaf coffee per day had slightly lower BMI and insulin resistance compared to those who drank regular coffee. But the differences were small.[3]

Overall, current research does not provide strong evidence that drinking decaf coffee versus regular coffee significantly impacts weight loss or metabolic health. Differences, if present, appear to be small.

Other Factors Influencing Calories

Aside from caffeine content, there are some other factors that can influence the calorie content of coffee drinks:

Brewing Method

Different brewing methods can alter the calorie content slightly:

– Drip coffee tends to have 2-5 calories per cup since it has a higher water to coffee ratio.

– Espresso has slightly more calories at around 5-10 per shot since it concentrates the beans.

– Instant coffee can vary from 2-10 calories depending on brand. Higher calorie products may have more added sugars and powdered dairy.

Added Ingredients

Some specialty coffee drinks have more high-calorie additions like:

– Flavored syrups: caramel, mocha, pumpkin spice, vanilla, hazelnut, etc. add 45-60 calories per tablespoon.

– Whipped cream can have 50+ calories per serving.

– Sugary toppings like caramel drizzle, chocolate shavings, or nut sprinkles can also pile on calories.

Coffee Shop Versus Homebrewed

Coffee shop drinks tend to be higher in calories than simpler at-home versions due to:

– Larger drink sizes like venti (20oz) versus typical 8-12oz servings brewed at home.

– More add-ins like flavored syrups, heavy cream, and toppings.

– Pre-made concentrates that can have added sugars and dairy.

So a large caramel latte from Starbucks has about 240 calories while a 12oz homemade latte with 2% milk and 1 tsp sugar has around 75 calories.

Tips for Lower Calorie Coffee

Here are some tips to enjoy coffee while minimizing excess calorie intake:

– Choose smaller sizes like 8-12oz drinks rather than extra large servings.

– Opt for skim or low-fat dairy like skim milk, nonfat half and half, or low-calorie non-dairy creamer.

– Use natural lower calorie sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit instead of sugar.

– Flavor coffee with cinnamon instead of high-calorie syrups and sauces.

– Drink coffee black or just with a small amount of milk/cream to cut calories.

– Make coffee drinks at home so you control the ingredients.

– Compare calorie counts and choose lower calorie options when getting coffee drinks out.

The Bottom Line

Decaf and regular brewed coffee are virtually identical in calories when enjoyed black. The difference comes when adding calorie-containing additions like cream, milk, and sugar. There is little strong evidence that decaf promotes more weight loss compared to regular coffee. To keep coffee lower in calories, opt for smaller sizes, low-calorie dairy options, natural sweeteners, and avoid high-calorie coffee-shop versions loaded with syrups, heavy cream, and toppings. With some adjustments, both decaf and regular coffee can be relatively low calorie beverages.


1. Higdon JV, Frei B. Coffee and health: a review of recent human research. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition. 2006 Mar 1;46(2):101-23.

2. Yoshida T, Sakane N, Uotani K, Moore DR, Eguchi M. Effects of caffeine on metabolic rate in lean and postobese human volunteers. European journal of clinical nutrition. 1991 Oct 1;45(10):561-5.

3. Catalano A, Martines GF, Tonzuso A, Pirri C, Trovato FM, Trovato GM. Protective role of coffee in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Digestive Diseases and Sciences. 2010 Jun 1;55(6):1817-23.

Leave a Comment