Is coffee a part of your daily routine? Have you felt any heartburn with certain cups of java? No, you are not wrong. Many coffee drinkers reach the point of feeling some type of stomach discomfort. The key here is understanding is coffee acidic or alkaline, and how to know the pH of coffee. Both of these are important so you don’t feel any discomfort after enjoying your cuppa. Especially if coffee is part of your day-to-day life.
Many of us get to the point where certain foods and beverages cause us discomfort. The most common ones consist of gastritis, which brings forth different sorts of stomach irritation, discomfort, and pain. Others will have heartburn and esophageal burn. When this happens, we need to seek a lower acid coffee.
Acid or Alkaline? What Does This Mean
First of all, let us define what is acidic and alkaline. This is determined by the pH scale. This scale ranges from numbers 0 through 14. Acidic substances have a lower number on the scale. Alkaline substances are higher on the scale.
So, let us understand what is coffee acidity? How acidic is coffee?
What we need to understand is what acid is, and what acids coffee has. In simple terms, any substance that has a pH level below 7 is considered acidic. Water has a pH level of 7, meaning it is neither acidic nor alkaline. However, acids are necessary, as are alkaline substances. To comprehend the pH level, or acidity, we will compare a few other substances:
- Battery acid: pH level of nearly 0
- Lemon juice: pH level of 2
- Cow Milk: pH level of 6
- Baking soda: pH level of 9
- Antacids: pH level of 11
Understanding The Acidity in Coffee
So where does coffee acidity lie on the scale? Coffee has an acidity level between 4.85 to 5.10. It is on the acidic side of the spectrum. Our body level of pH needs to remain between 7.35 and 7.45. This is why it is important to watch the acid level of all things we consume.
Conventionally, there are nine major acids in coffee. Note, there are plenty more chemicals in your coffee, those listed here are just the main ones! From highest concentration to lowest, they consist of: chlorogenic, quinic, citric, acetic, lactic, malic, phosphoric, linoleic, and palmitic.
Citric (oranges, lemons, tangerines), malic (apples and tart fruits), quinic (bitter), acetic (more like vinegar), are all organic and “fruity” acids. Quinic, citric, and malic acids consist of a big portion of the acid content in coffee. In some ways, these acids also represent the fruity flavors of coffee.
However, the roasting process of coffee alters the content of acids. For example, during the roasting, chlorogenic acid levels decrease, while quinic acid will increase. Similarly, quinic acid achieves maximum capacity at a French Roast level, and decreases if the roasting persists.
What Affects How Acidic Is Coffee?
Four major factors affect how acidic coffee is.
- Origin: the place your coffee is grown will give it different acids and levels of acidity. For example, African coffees are usually more acidic than South American coffees.
- Genetics: different strands and varieties of coffee have varying levels of acid. Arabica coffees, for example, are generally milder.
- Climate: coffees grown in lower temperatures will ripen at a slower rate, allowing time to develop higher levels of acidity. Generally speaking, this applies to high-elevation coffee, where the altitude keeps the temperature relatively lower.
- Processing: pulped coffees will remove layers of sugar, giving them a higher level of acidity, while naturally processed will allow those layers of sugar to overpower the acidity.
Acids And The Taste And Flavor Of Coffee
A little known fact is that acids in coffee make all the difference in taste. Coffee beans can have varying levels of acidity depending on where and how they were grown. This depends on several factors, including the following.
- The altitude the coffee was cultivated. Higher the altitude, the higher the acid content of the beans.
- Higher caffeine content is often directly related to higher acidity.
- Darker roasts will yield lower levels of acidity.
These are just a few things to take into account. As stated before, different acids bring out different tastes in coffee. Acids in coffee complement the flavors of the coffee, heightening the flavors.
Without acids, coffee would taste rather bland. In the absence of cupping notes, most gourmet coffees would feel rather dismal. Besides, the health benefits of some of the acids cannot be ignored. Chlorogenic Acid, for example, is linked to several health benefits of coffee.
Tangy, sharp, fruity, bright, sweet, bitter, chocolatey, light… all of these words are used to describe some of the best-tasting coffees in the world. The truth is that without any acid in coffee, the beverage will simply be flat, and unappealing.
Acids in coffee bring out the hints of fruit, light sweetness, and hints of crisp light taste. The aroma will also be affected depending on the level of acidity.
The acidity in coffee will allow you to taste the characteristics of where the coffee was harvested. Fruity flavors and floral aroma, the cupping notes of milk chocolate, and honey and more! Without acids, coffee simply won’t taste the same.
But what to do if you cannot tolerate high levels of acidity?
How to Reduce Acidity in Coffee
If after you enjoy your cup of joe, you feel heartburn, have issues like GERD, or similar discomfort, it’s time to think of ways of reducing coffee acidity.
Now, this does not necessarily need to be a bad thing. There are different ways to get a great cup of coffee with a lower pH level. Consuming a low acid coffee does not mean your coffee will not be as good as the ones you’re used to enjoying.
Although acid-free coffee does not exist, there are ways on how to reduce the acidity in coffee. To help reduce the level of acidity in your coffee you can:
- Purchase coffees that are grown at lower elevations.
- Seek darker roasts, these tend to be a bit more bitter, but they are lower on the acidity level.
- Add milk to your coffee. Milk is a natural stabilizer and can help neutralize some of the acids in the coffee.
- Opt for Arabica beans, which generally have lower levels of acid
- Make sure your coffee grounds are not too coarse, as these tend to highlight the acid level
- Watch your brew time, if you brew your coffee for too long a time, you will also have higher levels of acid.
- Add a pinch of salt, adding ¼ teaspoon for every 6 tablespoons of coffee grounds is enough to lower acidity, without tasting the salt.
- Add a pinch of baking soda, like salt, it will act as an acid reducer for your coffee.
- Brew with eggshells — I know this sounds a bit strange, but eggshells are naturally alkaline. Brewing with eggshells will balance your brew, and remove any bitter or over-extracted flavors.
- Use an acid reducer/antacid before or right after you drink your coffee.
- Avoid reheating your coffee, as this will keep releasing acids and increase acidity levels.
- Use hard water when brewing, hard water contains calcium, which is an acid neutralizer.
- Use paper filters instead of a metal mesh, a paper filter will absorb some of the oils and compounds that make coffee more acidic.
Cold Brews Aren’t Lower In Acidity
Often, suggestions for a lower coffee acidity encourage the use of cold brew coffee. However, that is not entirely true. While a cold brew renders a smoother brew, it won’t fully release the oils in the coffee grounds. At first glance, this makes cold brew coffee seem less acidic.
There isn’t much truth to that theory. As research shows, cold brew is nearly as acidic as regular coffee.
The temperature of brewing, therefore, isn’t as relevant to the acidity of coffee. The way to lower acidity isn’t through a change in choosing cold brews over regular coffee. Just like a normal hot brew, you should follow some of the suggestions to lower the acidity in your coffee.
The Acidity And pH Of Coffee
Knowing the pH of coffee is a simple way of deciding whether our favorite coffee is acidic or alkaline. Conventionally, the pH of coffee lies in the range of 4.85 to 5.1. Therefore, the final verdict is that all coffee is acidic.
If drinking coffee gives you any sort of discomfort, you must look for different methods of consuming it.
Changing the roast can help reduce the acidity. Play around with your choices of coffee beans to look for a suitable one. Add a dash of milk or salt. Some brands also chemically treat their coffee to be low acid coffee.
In this way, you can ensure that you can enjoy your cup of java every day without any of the troublesome consequences.