Although the jury is still out on whether small amounts of caffeine impact fertility, the safest option is to switch to decaf coffee. This is particularly true once you become pregnant, because there is fairly consistent evidence of a higher risk of miscarriage with even quite limited coffee consumption.
How Much Caffeine is Too Much ?
We know that more than 300 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day can significantly increase the risk of pregnancy loss, but the risk begins to creep up at even around 100 mg per day. (see references below). The amount of caffeine in a single cup of coffee varies widely, but is typically around 100 to 200 mg. (A Starbucks Tall brewed coffee has 260 mg of caffeine.)
Although you shouldn’t feel guilty about the occasional small cup of coffee, in general, the less caffeine you drink on a daily basis, the better.
Choosing the Best Decaf Coffee
Decaf has come a long way in recent years, with several high-end coffee roasters now offering good quality whole-bean decaffeinated coffee beans that tastes exactly like regular coffee.
When choosing a new decaf coffee, what should you look for? The conventional way of removing caffeine from coffee beans is to use chemical solvents (this is what Starbucks does). It is not clear that any harm comes from the infinitesimally small amount of solvent that may remain in the coffee, but if you have the option, it is even better to choose coffee that is decaffeinated by the Swiss Water Process.
What is the Swiss Water Process?
This method involves soaking the beans in hot water. The caffeine dissolves into the water, then the water is filtered to remove caffeine and is used to soak the next batch of beans- effectively giving back the flavor elements that may be lost from the water soaking process. This process is more expensive and harder to scale than other methods, but produces the best tasting coffee. It is therefore typically used with higher quality beans and by high-end coffee producers. There are now many excellent organic decaf coffees that are made using this process, including the recommended brands below:
Fertility-Friendly Coffee Brands (US)
No Fun Jo Decaf is made from organic and fair trade certified 100% Arabica beans. It is decaffeinated with the Swiss water process and the taste is indistinguishable from the best regular coffees (This is my personal favorite and has a lighter roast than the brands below.
Kicking Horse Decaf is another certified organic and fair trade coffee, this time with a medium/dark roast. This is a popular brand, but the reviews are somewhat inconsistent, with occasional reports of bitter and oily batches.
Although I haven’t tried it myself, Cafe Don Pablo is one of the most popular decaffeinated coffees and is often ranked as the best tasting. It is made from high quality Columbian coffee beans using an all natural Swiss water process.
Non-Toxic Coffee Brewing
Now that you have your beans, what is the best way to make your daily coffee without leaching chemicals from plastic parts in a standard coffee machine? I recommend a stainless-steel french press, like the one made by Secura.
I like Secura because it is plastic-free, unlike many others that have internal plastic parts. It also has insulated double-wall construction to keep coffee hot for much longer than a standard glass french-press. (Read the reviews on Amazon to see just how much everyone else loves this coffee maker too).
Chen, L. W., Wu, Y., Neelakantan, N., Chong, M. F. F., Pan, A., & van Dam, R. M. (2016). Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy and risk of pregnancy loss: a categorical and dose–response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Public health nutrition, 19(7), 1233-1244.
Li, J., Zhao, H., Song, J. M., Zhang, J., Tang, Y. L., & Xin, C. M. (2015). A meta‐analysis of risk of pregnancy loss and caffeine and coffee consumption during pregnancy. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 130(2), 116-122.
Lyngsø, J., Ramlau-Hansen, C. H., Bay, B., Ingerslev, H. J., Hulman, A., & Kesmodel, U. S. (2017). Association between coffee or caffeine consumption and fecundity and fertility: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. Clinical epidemiology, 9, 699.