Low Acid Coffee: Best Low Acid Coffee and How to Reduce the Acidity in Coffee
If you’re an avid coffee drinker, then you likely already know that the tart, bright flavors that make coffee so addicting are also what make it so acidic. Acidic coffee isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but if you already deal with acid reflux, heartburn, dental issues, or even just a sensitive stomach, simply buying the best coffee in the world won't save you.
Regardless of what the problem may be, you don’t need to swear off coffee just because you’re struggling with the acidity. Many coffee manufacturers have begun making low acid coffee, and here’s everything you need to know about the best low acid coffee around and even how to lower coffee’s acidity yourself.BEST COFFEE FOR ACID REFLUX →
Coffee Acidity vs. Coffee Acids
You’ll often hear experts throw around the words “coffee acidity” and “coffee acids,” but these terms have different definitions.
When coffee experts (and critics) talk about “coffee acidity,” they’re usually not referring to the actual acids in your favorite cup of joe. Most of the time, they’re talking about flavor notes and the quality of the coffee bean, not the actual acid content. Manufacturers might describe their beans as “acidic” because they have certain flavor profiles even if the actual acid content isn’t high.
A certain brand of coffee could have a higher acid content even if it’s not labeled as “acidic.” Most regular coffee brews contain around thirty different acids, many of which are the same acids you’ll find in citrus fruits.
On the pH scale (the acidic range from 0 to 7 for neutral), coffee comes in at around 4.85 to 5.10, so your java may be more acidic than milk but less than a cup of tomato juice.
Not everyone may have a bad reaction to the acids in coffee, but if you have acid reflux flare-ups after a glass of fruit juice or an orange, you could be sensitive to the acids in your coffee too.
What Types of Acids Are in Coffee?
While coffee may have around thirty different acids, there are only nine major ones that are likely to affect the flavor profile or cause an adverse reaction. While many people search for acid free coffee, some acids are essential for the development of the bean and the flavor of the end cup of Joe.
Most of your coffee’s acidity comes from chlorogenic acid, which adds a fruitier flavor to some roasts. Chlorogenic acid is especially common with lighter roasts, but it often gets lost or diminished in the roasting process of darker roasts.
If you prefer darker roasts over lighter roasts, there’s a good chance you enjoy the rich flavor that quinic acid provides. Quinic acid thrives in dark roast coffees as well as any coffee that’s been sitting out a little too long.
Unfortunately, quinic acid isn’t easy on the stomach, and it can be a major culprit for coffee-related stomach problems.
Not only is there plenty of citric acid in your favorite fruits, but it’s also in a lot of your favorite coffee roasts too. Most coffee beans contain some level of citric acid, but it’s especially prevalent in coffee beans that have been grown at higher altitudes, like Arabica beans.
If you’ve ever wondered why your coffee tastes a little too much like vinegar, acetic acid may have been the problem. This acid shows up in vinegar products, but there’s usually a small dose of it in your coffee too.
A little bit of acetic acid can give your java a sharper flavor that many people appreciate, but if your coffee begins to taste strange or vinegar-like, there may be too much acetic acid in your brew.
Lactic acid might not do much for your coffee’s flavor profile, but it can change the texture of your joe. Lactic acid gives your coffee a creamier texture and may help balance out some of the sharper flavors, like acetic or citric acid.
Malic acid shows up in pears and apples, but it makes an appearance in your coffee too. Malic acid stays with your java throughout the entire roasting process, and it’s responsible for some of the punchy, fruitier brews that you’ve had.
While a lot of acids may seem bitter or tangy, phosphoric acid tastes a little mellower, if your coffee reminds you of grapefruit or mango, phosphoric acid is probably the culprit.
As a much more subtle acid, many coffee blends also contain the fatty acid, linoleic acid. Linoleic acid probably won’t affect the taste of your java, and most of the time, it’s not going to be the cause of an acid reflux flare-up.
Palmitic acid is another fatty acid in your coffee, and it usually pops up in lighter roasts. During certain roasting processes, palmitic acid can get burned or dried out of the beans, so dark roasts may not have a lot of it.
Why Some People Avoid Acidic Coffee
Acidic coffee isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in fact, there are plenty of coffee lovers who prefer lighter, more acidic roasts to give them a jumpstart. However, for others, acidic coffee can spell problems that lead them to avoid coffee altogether.
If you already have issues with acid reflux, coffee that’s too acidic may cause a flare-up, and here’s how:
- Coffee already falls on the low end of the pH scale, and if you’re sensitive to acidic drinks, it could be aggravating that sensitivity
- Too much caffeine can actually contribute to acid reflux because it relaxes the muscle that connects the stomach and esophagus and creates a pathway for your stomach acids to follow
The combination of a more acidic, lighter roast that has too much caffeine can be a bad combination for anyone struggling with acid reflux. It may not always be easy to tell if you’re sensitive to the acids in coffee, but if you begin experiencing heartburn or acid after a cup of joe, you may want to switch to a low acid coffee to see if it helps.
It Can Aggravate Certain Gastrointestinal Conditions
Coffee won’t cause gastrointestinal conditions, but it can aggravate some of them, like if you already have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or you’re prone to gastric ulcers. Studies have shown that coffee’s acid content paired with its slight laxative effect can make symptoms more prominent for people suffering from gastrointestinal problems.
It’s Hard on Your Enamel
Even if your stomach doesn’t mind coffee’s acid content, the enamel on your teeth probably will. Any acid that’s around a 5.5 on the pH scale can start to cause issues for your enamel, and since coffee sits around 4.85 to 5.10, it definitely falls within the danger zone.
This might not be a big deal if you don’t drink coffee regularly, but if you’re a java addict, switching to low acid coffee could save you some money on your future dental bills.
They Don’t Like the Flavor
Some people avoid acidic coffee due to health concerns, but others just don’t like the flavor. The fruitier, tangy notes that accompany a lot of lighter roasts aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so these people may opt for low acid coffee or darker roasts.
What Affects Your Coffee’s Acidity?
There’s a reason why you can tolerate some coffee roasts just fine and others seem to trigger your sensitive stomach and it has to do with acidity. All coffee contains acids, but there are multiple factors that affect how acidic your coffee turns out.
Origin and Location
The origin of your beans plays a large role in how acidic they are. Certain types of soil can contain higher levels of some acids, Kenyan coffees tend to have higher concentrations of malic acid, while Colombian coffee is chock-full of citric acids.
The location of where the beans are grown can also influence acidity. Since higher elevations mean lower temperatures, beans grown on mountaintops ripen more slowly and have more intense, acidic flavor profiles.
For instance, many Arabica beans are grown just below the frost level to create richer, bolder flavors. Sumatra beans, however, are better suited for lower elevations and often lack that strong acidic flavor.
Regardless of where they’re grown, certain coffee bean species are more acidic than others. Even though they’re grown at higher elevations, many people find that certain types of Arabica coffees don’t have a strong acid flavor – which is because Arabica beans don’t contain as many chlorogenic acids in their chemical makeup.
However, some varieties, like SL-28 beans grown in Kenya, are specifically known for a naturally higher acid content.
Besides location, origin, and the bean itself, the roasting process can determine how acidic your java tastes too. Even the most acidic beans may lack that sour, bitter flavor if they’re roasted the right way.
There are two main ways to roast your beans: dark roasting and light roasting. With dark roasting, the beans roast for a longer time at a higher temperature. As a result, dark roast beans lose some of their acid content and won’t taste as fruity or bitter. While dark roast beans may be a little easier on the stomach, the downside is that you lose a little bit of the caffeine content with them too.
In comparison, light roasts maintain more moisture and see less heat during the roasting process, so, they tend to come out with bolder flavor profiles, more caffeine, and more acidity.
There’s a reason why even high-acidity, flavorful beans tend to taste a little flat after you’ve brewed them. Or, why even a dark roast comes out much more sour than you intended. Your brewing process can play a big role in the acidic flavor of your beverage, and here’s how.
When the hot water and the ground beans make contact in your coffee maker, the extraction process begins. The first flavors to get extracted from your coffee are usually acidic, fruiter flavors followed by sweetness and then bitterness.
If your coffee is under-extracted, you may have the fruity, sour flavors, but you’re lacking the sweetness and the bitterness to balance them out. Similarly, over-extracting your coffee can mean getting too much of the bitterness and losing your sweeter, fruitier flavors in the mix.
Controlling the brewing process to prevent over or under-extraction means factoring in your grind size, the temperature of your water, and your overall brew time.
Benefits of Drinking Low Acid Coffee
For many people, the solution to acidic coffee is low acid coffee. Not only can it help digestive issues, but there are other benefits that come with keeping the acid content low too.
Good for Exercising
If you’re a gym rat who also needs their cup of joe to make it through your morning workout, you could be in for a bad combination. Not only does the acid in coffee increase the risk of acid reflux, but while you’re exercising, the lower esophagus naturally weakens and also increases the potential for acid reflux.
Not to mention, exercise isn’t always easy on the stomach. Whether you’re running, swimming laps, or lifting weights, the frequent movement can stir up the contents of your stomach and adding acidic coffee doesn’t help settle things down.
Putting these factors together can mean a painful bout of acid reflux in the middle of your run or while you’re deadlifting. As a result, fitness enthusiasts may stick to low acid coffee right before they work out or altogether if they’re training extremely regularly.
Mild on Your Stomach
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits of low acid coffee is that it’s milder on your stomach. People with sensitive stomachs, IBS, or who are prone to gastric ulcers often have to be careful about what (and how many) acids they consume.
Even if you don’t have existing gastrointestinal issues to worry about, that doesn’t mean acidic coffee won’t still cause issues. This is especially true if you already follow a diet that’s full of foods with higher acid content. Switching to low acid coffee can be one way to prevent adding another acid to your diet.
Better for Dental Health
People who deal with a lot of acid reflux may also have issues with tooth decay because stomach acid can damage your teeth’s enamel. Not only can acidic coffee increase your risk of acid reflux, but its own acid content isn’t great for your teeth.
Low acid coffee is much milder on your enamel too, but unfortunately, it’ll probably stain your teeth just like acidic coffee does.
Types of Low Acid Coffees
The “low acid coffee” term gets thrown around a lot, but there are actually two different types of low acid coffee that you can opt for.
Inadvertent Low Acid Coffee
Inadvertent low acid coffee refers to any low acid coffee that has a low acid content from its origin. For instance, beans grown in lower elevations (like Sumatra, Brazil, Peru, and Guatemala beans) tend to have a naturally lower acid content.
Brands looking to specifically produce low acid coffee may start by growing their beans at a low elevation so that they don’t have too much natural acidity.
Treated Low Acid Coffee
Treated low acid coffee focuses less on the origins of the beans, and the techniques used to extract the acid out of them. Certain types of low acid coffee may use special roasting techniques to draw the acid out, like steaming the beans to get rid of their waxy, outer coating or using a slow, interrupted roasting process.
Brazilian coffee beans tend to do especially well for low acid coffees, not only are they already grown at a low elevation, but they do well in a slow roasting process that gets rid of more of the acid.
How to Reduce Acid in Coffee
If your daily cup of joe just seems too acidic, here are some ways to reduce the acidity yourself.
Go For a Dark Roast
As we’ve already mentioned, lighter roasts tend to come with higher acidity levels, so it may be time to switch to a darker roast. When you’re shopping around, many manufacturers will label their coffee as a light or dark roast, but even if they don’t, there are other ways to tell.
Coffee that’s described as “bright” or “fruity” is probably a lighter roast as these flavors come from your java’s acidity. In comparison, darker roasts often have descriptors like “bold” or “richer.”
Try Arabica Beans
Some types of coffee are well-known for their lower acid content and Arabica is not always considered one of them. While Arabica coffee beans are generally roast to a medium roast, it’s also grown at a lower elevation and chemically low in acid too.
If light roasts are too acidic and you don’t like the flavor of a dark roast, Arabica coffee can be a happy medium between the two.
Pay Attention to Extraction Time
Regardless of the beans or the roast you’ve got, brewing incorrectly can still lead to a cup of coffee that tastes too acidic. The key to getting your brew right is watching your extraction time, especially with your grind size.
Poor extraction happens when your brew time is too short for the size of your grind, coarser grinds require a shorter brew time.
Unfortunately, there’s no set number when it comes to extraction time. In addition to grind size, darker roasts tend to extract a little more quickly than lighter roasts do. However, a few general tips for getting better extraction include:
- The hotter your water is, the quicker the extraction time
- Make sure your filter is placed evenly in your coffee maker
- Pour water slowly through your coffee maker instead of all at once
Switch to Decaf
If you don’t mind losing your caffeine buzz, switching to decaf coffee is another way to avoid the acidity. During the decaffeination process, coffee loses some of its acid content, although the actual pH level doesn’t change quite as much.
Another reason to switch to decaf has to do with acid reflux. It’s the caffeine in your java that relaxes the esophageal sphincter and increases your risk of acid reflux, not just the acid content. Since decaf is virtually caffeine-free, your risk of acid reflux shouldn’t increase when you drink it.
Add Milk or Cream
To balance out the pH level of your coffee, you can use milk or cream. In fact, using a splash of milk is one of the most common ways people balance out the acidity of their java.
Milk already has a higher pH level than black coffee does, and it provides a creamier, more balanced flavor.
Add Salt in Coffee
Putting salt in coffee may not be the first thing you think of when you’re trying to lower your java’s acidity, but it does work. Before you brew, just add a dash of salt to your grounds, not only should this help the tangy, acid flavor, but it may even bring out the natural sweetness of your beans too.
Add Eggshells: Vietnamese Egg Coffee
Eggshells may seem like another odd ingredient, but they’re also alkaline, which means they can balance out your coffee’s natural acidity (and even take the edge off over-extracted flavors too). Like salt, you’ll want to add your eggshells before you brew. Not convinced? Check out how our guide on Vietnamese egg coffee, you won't be disappointed.
Switch to Low Acid Coffee
While the tips above can help naturally lower your coffee’s acidity, they may not be enough, in that case, your best bet is to switch to low acid coffee. Low acid coffees are intentionally made with special growing, roasting, and even brewing processes to keep the acid content low.
You’ll still get the same flavors and a caffeinated jumpstart, but you shouldn’t have to deal with a sensitive stomach or acid reflux afterward.BEST COFFEE FOR ACID REFLUX →
Still have questions about the best low acid coffee or how to lower the acidity in your java? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that people have.
Is Cold Brew Coffee a Type of Low Acid Coffee
While cold brew coffee isn’t always marketed as a “low acid coffee,” it usually doesn’t have as much acidity in it. This has to do with the brewing process, instead of brewing a cup in a few minutes like you would with a coffee maker, cold brew coffee has to sit for several hours (which also means a much higher extraction time).
Cold brew is definitely an option to consider if you’re looking for low acid iced coffee, but if you’re someone who prefers a hot brew, you might just need to switch to actual low acid coffee beans.
Is There Acid-Free Coffee
While some brands might have an acid-free option, this is extremely uncommon, taking all of the acid out of coffee means getting it to a 7 on the pH scale, which is the same level as water. Acid-free coffee may also mean sacrificing some of the flavor that coffee lovers crave.
So, you’re much more likely to find a low-acid coffee option than you are to find one that’s completely acid-free.
Can Coffee Cause Heartburn
Unfortunately, coffee is a beverage that can increase the risk of heartburn or acid reflux. While heartburn isn’t a symptom that everyone experiences (and not with every single cup), it can happen, the caffeine in your favorite beverage relaxes your esophageal sphincter and provides an opportune environment for heartburn.
If you’re not sure whether coffee is the culprit of your heartburn, try cutting the java out for a few days and seeing if the acid reflux still occurs.
Is Tea Less Acidic Than Coffee
After experiencing problems with acidity, the first alternative that many people opt for is tea. Although tea doesn’t pack the same caffeinated punch that coffee does, the acid content can vary.
For instance, black and green tea tend to be a little less acidic than coffee, but lemon tea is even more acidic than your cup of joe.
Is Espresso Less Acidic Than Drip Coffee
For espresso lovers, the good news is that espresso beans do tend to be less acidic. As strong as an espresso shot may be, the beans used for the process are darker roasts that have had a longer roasting process.
Espresso may be a little bitter for some coffee lovers, but it should have a lower acid content than drip coffee does.
Best Low Acid Coffee Brands
While more and more coffee companies try to capture the market share for coffee with lower acidity, the simple fact of the matter is that the coffee is not usually the problem. For most, the process used to extract the coffee from the bean is what is causing these issues.
So, we feel that Black Ink Coffee is the premiere low acid coffee company as all of our single origins and blends are carefully roasted and stored to ensure fresh, healthy coffee. While we don't exclusively purchase high altitude coffee beans, the beans that we do source will be sure to give you a Lifeboost.
Is Coffee an Acid or a Base
While most coffees are quite mellow in taste and flavor profile, coffee is an acid. As mentioned in this article, simply adding something like whole milk will help bring the acid levels down. If you suffer from acid reflux, you should consider extracting your coffee with a paper coffee filter and possibly use darker coffee beans that are shade grown. So, is coffee acidic? Yes!
What is the Best Low Acid Coffee?
Low acid coffee is one of the best ways to deal with your coffee’s acidity (and the problems that follow), but which brand should you buy? While there may be plenty of brands that emphasize low acidity in their beans, Black Ink is committed to providing specialty, low-acid coffee in a way that many brands aren’t.
We make low acid coffee our priority every step of the way, from the way we grow our beans and how we roast them to the brewing process that you use for them. If you were searching for the best low acid coffee brands, then look no further than Black Ink.BEST COFFEE FOR ACID REFLUX →