I have this nightmare that one day I'll develop an intolerance to caffeine and *gasp* chocolate. In this dream I walk around licking the rim of an empty cup, depressed and hollow-eyed, not from lack of sleep but from thwarted desires. What would I do without my 3 favorite things in the world? Coffee, tea and chocolate make life worth living!
Because of this nightmare, this product - D+Caf - caught my eye. It tests your beverage for caffeine to insure that - if you MUST drink decaf - your cup really does contain unleaded. I had to try it.
In case you don't know, decaffeinated beverages are not totally caffeine free. Under federal regulations in the U.S., caffeine levels have to be 2.5 percent of the product or lower in order for a product to be labeled "decaffeinated." (Check out this article if you're interested in how decaf becomes decaf. Or this great article if you're a home roaster who needs decaf beans.) Now, according to most sources, an 8 oz cup of regular drip coffee contains between 104-192 mg caffeine. Tea can run between 20-90 mg caffeine per 8 oz cup. What is being sold as decaf varies, too, but this study showed that your average restaurant unleaded can contain caffeine ranging from 8.6 milligrams to 13.9 milligrams, and Starbucks decaf espresso contained 3 mg to 15.8 mg of caffeine per shot.
Which isn't too bad IMO. But obviously if you have to cut caffeine out of your life entirely, drinking "decaf" won't do the trick. (Prune juice maybe? Gaaaah.)
Swenyway, this little D+Caf strip-doo-dad tests for caffeine levels of less than 20mg per 6 oz cup. I did the test using Millstone Hazelnut Cream, regular and decaffeinated, using the same amount of coffee / water and same brewing method. The picture here shows the results of the test strips. Yes, the one on the left is the decaf, the test strips worked.
But I must confess I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping for something more precise. Something ... well ok, something less than a tricorder readout, but closer to a pool chlorine test strip maybe, that would show me a range. Colored stripes ranging from green (really really LOW caffeine level) to RED for "danger zone". These little strips are more like a pregnancy test. It's either yes or no. Heh. So, if the little line on the left is all you see, then you're safely in the unleaded zone. If you see two lines, or one dark line on the right, you've got too much go-juice in your cup.
That is valuable info if you have a caffeine sensitivity and really REALLY need to know what you're drinking. I still would like to see more precise information, but I might have to keep a supply of these on hand, just in case my nightmare ever does come true.
Related: Can't Get Enough Caffeine?