Starbucks signature espresso vs decaf espresso: Which one is stronger?

From counting the number of calories in a serving to availing the full list of ingredients per item on its website and app, Starbucks understands that my wellness goals are my own and allows me to make informed health and wellness decisions on what I chose from their menu. I love that the coffee icon has even provided for further personalization of menu items with a wide range of variations. One of the very considerate Starbucks offerings is the decaf espresso which allows my caffeine-sensitive grandmother and young nieces to enjoy the full coffee flavor without the strong caffeine hits that coffee guzzlers like my mom and I seek in the signature espresso. Essentially, the decaf makes it possible for the whole family to enjoy a coffee drink without anyone feeling left out because Starbucks has that effect on people.

I’ve realized that many customers though don’t quite differentiate between the two espressos. So, I have taken it upon myself to analyze the two drinks to help you understand what each consists of, the stronger one, when, and why you should try both beverages. Stay with me.

What are the differences between Starbucks signature espresso vs decaf espresso?


Starbucks signature espresso

Starbucks decaf espresso


Brewed espresso (milk, sugar, or syrup are optional)

Decaf brewed espresso, steamed milk( sugar or syrup are optional)

Taste profile

Bold, caramelly, and rich

Smooth, citrusy, and sweet

Caffeine content/ Nutritional value

An ounce and a half of signature espresso contain 150 mg of caffeine, 10 calories, zero sugar, zero fat, and 2 grams of carbs.


This beverage has more caffeine and very few calories.

An ounce of decaf espresso has 2 – 12 mg of caffeine, zero calories, zero sugar, zero fat, and zero carbs.

This drink has negligible caffeine content.

Availability/ Accessibility

The drink is available on the menu. You can order the packaged coffee for at-home use or the ready drink directly from the store or via the mobile app.

The beverage is easily accessible at Starbucks stores. The decaf espresso beans are readily available at Starbucks stores.

Roast level

Dark roast

Light roast

Starbucks signature espresso vs. decaf espresso – How they compare.

Starbucks signature espresso

What it’s made of (ingredients)

Starbucks’ signature espresso is a coffee beverage made through a pressurized brewing process where finely ground dark roast coffee is passed under high pressure to produce a thick concentrate with a layer of foam. Its natural flavor has a strong caramelly sweet punch and chocolatey notes which can be enjoyed with or without sugar, or syrup sweetening. Signature espresso is very concentrated and does not use any milk. It is made to carry the full coffee flavor trapped in the aromatic components preserved during the pressurization process.

The decaf espresso on the other hand is a coffee beverage made with milk and decaffeinated coffee beans. The process of removing caffeine involves moistening and then washing the beans in organic solvents or carbon dioxide until about 97% of the caffeine is removed before they are roasted. The dominant flavor in the beverage is toasty. Decaf espresso can be used for latte, mocha, or macchiato. It can be taken with or without sugar and other different flavors of syrups.

There is no winner In this category. Each beverage stands out in its composition and texture.

Taste profile

The thick consistency of the signature espresso leaves a lingering bitter taste on the tongue which to strong coffee lovers completes the full experience of the drink. If you want instant energy, then this is the coffee to order.

The steamed milk gives the decaf espresso a smooth and sweet taste with a velvety texture. This decaffeinated drink has mild notes of warm honey and citrus, with the full coffee flavor present without the overpowering caffeine buzz. If you enjoy coffee for the flavor, this is the drink for you.

In this category, the Starbucks decaf espresso wins since it is more enjoyable due to its sweet and gentle flavor, which is what most people truly enjoy in a coffee drink. The low caffeine content is also calming and good for blood pressure.

Caffeine content/nutritional value

It’s a no-brainer that signature espresso carries all the caffeine while the Starbucks decaf espresso has barely any caffeine. Two shots of the signature espresso, also known as Doppio, will pump 150mg of caffeine in your body with very few calories. It is not recommendable to indulge in too much signature espresso and hence the reason it’s served in small quantities.

A Grande decaf espresso from Starbucks has 10 calories and only 25mg of caffeine, making it a great option for frequent consumption for light caffeine lovers. Noteworthy, the beverage is also safe for young children, and sick people because the caffeine content is too low to cause anxiety and high blood pressure.

Both drinks are healthy options because of the low-calorie contents but if you want more caffeine, go for the signature espresso.

Availability/ Accessibility

Starbucks serves both the signature and decaf espresso throughout the year, and the drinks are easily accessible directly from the stores or via the app. The decaf has fewer consumers but the ingredients are always available.

In this category, it’s a draw because the signature espresso and the decaf are both easy to access in Starbucks stores.

Roast level

The intense and bold taste of the signature espresso brew is due to the dark roast process which produces the outstanding lasting flavor in a Doppio.

For the decaf, the light roast balances perfectly with milk in the various drinks including lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, mochas, and even with added water in Americano.

Starbucks signature espresso wins due to the full-bodied, rich bust of flavor for the perfect single or double shots.

Starbucks signature espresso vs. decaf espresso: A comparison overview

Starbucks signature espresso – Overview

Starbucks decaf espresso

The signature espresso is for the bold coffee drinkers I lean on the signature espresso, on days when I need extra instant energy. This is when I’m working on a tedious assignment for long hours. I don’t need coffee to sip on the strong, just a quick fix.

I prefer the drink with added sugar or syrup which Starbucks has readily available. To be honest, I don’t mind the exotic appeal of the bubbles the drink produces when dripping into the cup but it’s not my go-to drink.

What I liked

  • Instant energy boost due to the high caffeine content.
  • Low calories

What I didn’t like

  • The bittersweet taste even with sugar

Who it’s best suited for

  • Strong coffee lovers will have more fun with this drink.

Starbucks decaf espresso – Overview

Starbucks signature espresso

I enjoy my decaf as a latte, mocha, or macchiato with a pump of vanilla or caramel syrup. This is on days when I just want to experience the flavor to the last drop of my drink without a rush. The decaf espresso is an easy reach for me when I’m hanging out with friends or family. It’s also a very comforting drink when I’m stressed out. While the decaffeination leaves the drink with barely any stimulation, it does not take away the rich coffee flavor. I also like that it comes with a bubbly creamy layer that is very soft on the mouth. The milk allows the decaf to blend well with a variety of sweeteners which means that I can enjoy multiple flavors in one drink.

What I liked

  • Its creamy and smooth texture
  • The full-bodied coffee flavor

What I didn’t like

  • Nothing

Who it’s best suited for

  • It is a great choice for virtually everyone who loves just the coffee flavor.

Final Verdict: So, Which is Better? Starbucks signature espresso or decaf espresso?

I’ll go with the Starbucks decaf espresso, over the signature espresso for several reasons. It’s just an easier and safer drink to enjoy because of the low caffeine and low calories. This also means that I can drink it often without any side effects. I also learned that I can order any espresso drink as decaf and because it allows for milk addition, I don’t require much sweetening. Often, I’ve enjoyed the beverage without added sugar or syrup and it was so tasteful. I highly recommend the decaf espresso to new coffee lovers from all age groups.


Is decaf espresso healthier than signature espresso?

Yes. Decaf espresso has tons of benefits and lower risk factors. You don’t have to deal with insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure, fatigue, or digestive issues when you lower or altogether avoid caffeine.

Is decaf espresso more bitter than Starbucks signature espresso?

No. Decaf is gentle and sweeter than the signature espresso. You also get to enjoy the flavor of coffee in a decaf espresso much more.

Is decaf espresso sweeter than signature espresso?

Absolutely! The natural state of espresso in the signature beverage is too intense and bitter while decaf highlights the natural sweetness of the coffee.

What is the main difference between Starbucks signature and decaf espresso?

The main difference between the two espressos is the caffeine content and hence the reason signature espresso is stronger than decaf espresso.

Leave a Comment