A ‘deliberative wave’, with increasing uses of deliberative citizen forums, is sweeping the globe. Whereas deliberative citizen forum enthusiasts claim that they represent appropriate tools to reconnect citizens with politics and demand a stronger empowerment of deliberative citizen forums, critics argue that they will reduce rather than increase democratic legitimacy. This letter sheds new light on the roles of deliberative citizen forums in democratic systems, with a particular eye on disaffected citizens. Drawing on a conjoint experiment with a representative sample of non-participating German citizens, it shows that citizens in general challenge notions of the strong empowerment of deliberative citizen forums. They prefer deliberative citizen forums that are limited to policy advice, collaborate with legacy institutions and include extra provisions (such as a large size or clear majorities). By contrast, disaffected citizens are more open to the empowerment and decoupling of deliberative citizen forums compared to allegiant citizens, but this not imply that they are generally in clear favour of such design features (in fact, they are mostly indifferent via-à-vis empowerment and decoupling). These findings have important ramifications for democratic designs.