I'm a newbie and all, but I'd still hazard this is quite a subjective thing, based in your tastes. Do you like nuttier or chocolatey coffees? Brighter and fruitier notes? Any regions you're particularly interested in? I'd start with your tastes, in general, and then check out the offerings in that range from a reputable source like Peets/Sweet Maria's/Intelligentsia/etc.
Dear Newbie, One of the things you can do on Coffeegeek is search the forums for topics of interest so that you do not have to depend upon starting a thread and waiting for people to answer you. Several threads have been started on the topic of decaf espresso - many of them concern home roasting decaf beans but several of them - like the one I started last month... http://coffeegeek.com/forums/espresso/blends/602476 ...talk about commercial decaf roasts. For access to quality decaf commercial roasts, in most communities this means buying online. As you read the posts, you will see that I have strong opinions in favor of Counter Culture and George Howell and against Red Bird and Caffe Fresco. Intelligentsia is OK. Read on.
Nancy, I said hi on the thread directing you to information. There is nothing wrong with decaf but GOOD decaf is expensive, very expensive.
The reason is, good quality coffee requires good quality, properly roasted beans. For "regular" coffee, the beans sell for about $12 per 12 oz and up. Not a bad price for fresh quality roasted coffee.
Now for decaf, you have additional processes to do to the coffee to remove the stuff you don't want. The trouble is, you will also remove some of the stuff you DO want, the flavor. So to have high quality decaf, your beans need to be of even a higher quality than above so that by the time you remove what you don't want, what is left is of the same quality of the full "leaded" coffee (leadded/nonleaded, a reference to gasoline where the lead is left out, like decaf).
Commercial coffee, the stuff in the supermarket, is low quality to start with and by the time you remove the caf, well, now you know why it does not have very good flavor. People buying this coffee complain about the price when it is $3 for a 2.5 pound can. They would faint at $1 per OUNCE that we buy !
More to your point, you are in NY and there are some great roasters there. See our list of favored roasters, likely as not, you will be able to find a roaster within a reasonable commute to try first hand in their store.
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