Many coffee enthusiasts don’t realise that coffee can have a dark side to it.
Coffee is acidic which can cause problems such as heartburn and reflux in some people. While the majority of coffee lovers won’t be affected by the high acid content, there is now some good news for those that are… and that is Low Acid Coffee!
There are now multiple brands of coffee available that have low acid options so you can keep enjoying the complex flavours and aromas of your favourite brew!
What is an Acid?
Most of us will remember the chemistry lessons in school about the pH scale. pH is a measure of how acidic (or basic) something is. It ranges from 0 to 14 with 0 being the most acidic, and 14 the most basic. Water sits right in the middle with a pH of 7 (neutral), while orange juice and soda have a pH of 4. Coffee has a pH of around 5, so because it is less than 7 it is considered acidic, however when we talk about acidity in coffee we are not usually referring to the pH.
So what do we mean when we talk about acidity in coffee?
Acidity in coffee is usually referring to the flavour profile; those sweet, fruity, crisp, citrus flavours we taste in a coffee with a light and bright profile. These complex flavours come from the acids in coffee. There are nine major acids in coffee (listed from highest concentration to lowest) that produce these flavours in coffee: chlorogenic, quinic, citric, acetic, lactic, malic, phosphoric, linoleic, and palmitic.
Chlorogenic acids are one of the main acids found in coffee. There is a large amount present in green beans, but the levels diminish the longer the bean is roasted. Chlorogenic acids have many benefits; they are an antioxidant, decrease blood pressure, improve mood, aid weight loss and are thought to help protect against diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Chlorogenic acids strongly influence the taste of coffee and are thought to be responsible for the bitter/ astringent flavours.
As coffee is roasted the Chlorogenic acids degrade and form Quinic acids. Quinic acid is responsible for the perceived acidity associated with coffee- those bright and light flavours.
While caffeine is often viewed as the cause of stomach issues, some studies have shown that coffee acids also play a role, causing you to produce excess acid resulting in reflux.
If you have a sensitive stomach, then low acid coffee is a great option for you to continue enjoying coffee without the dark side.
How Is Coffee Made Low Acid?
The acidity level of coffee beans can be altered at all stages from growing, to processing, to roasting to brewing.
The regions where coffee is grown directly impacts the acidity content. In general coffee grown at lower elevations results in lower acidity. So if you are looking for a low acid coffee opt for beans that are grown in regions such as Sumatra, Indonesia, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua.
After being harvested coffee beans are processed, which is basically the process of removing the pulp from around the bean. Coffee beans are processed using several different methods:
Wet processing is generally considered a superior method as it produces a cleaner cup of coffee with more acidity however for those looking for a low acid coffee the dry processing methods would be more suited. This method is more common in hot climates such as Africa.
The acidity levels of coffee changes throughout the roasting process. A lighter roasted coffee is known to have a light, bright, acidic flavour profile. Whereas darker roasted beans have lower acidity levels. This is because the levels of Chlorogenic acids and caffeine is diminished the longer the beans are roasted.
The Best Low Acid Coffees
Lifeboost coffee is an up and coming brand of coffee that is all about helping you achieve the healthiest, tastiest cup of coffee possible. They are committed to an organic growing and harvesting process, to fair and humane treatment of coffee farmers, and to getting the best flavoured coffee possible. Their coffee itself is grown in Nicaragua and naturally has very low acidity levels. The flavour is generally described as smooth, very clean with low acidity and little bitterness. For a more indepth review check out our article here.
Puroast coffee is a unique roaster that uses a slow roasting process (known as wood-fired roasting) to produce coffee that is lower in acidity and higher in body. Their coffee is grown in Venezuela and is produced organically and is Kosher certified. Puroast beans boast 70% less acid and 5x higher concentrations of antioxidants than regular coffee. And they have put money into proving their claims with a scientific study. The organic house blend is one of their more popular roasts and is a dark french roast.
Mommee coffee is an interesting brand that is designed for Moms at all stages, whether you are planning your nursery or nursing your newborn. Their coffee beans are sourced from Ethiopia, Peru, Colombia and Mexico, with the main focus being on ensuring high quality beans that are produced organically and fair trade. They have coffee beans available in a range of different caffeine levels to suit the different stages of Motherhood. The coffee has 4x less acid than normal coffee so is easy on the stomach. It also has less than half the chlorogenic acid compared to normal coffee, which is one of the culprits behind reflux. It is grown organically and processed using water-processing so no harmful chemicals go into the beans. The coffee itself is roasted to medium to medium-dark levels depending on what caffeine level you opt for. The coffee is described as being very mild with little bitterness.
Tiemen’s Fusion coffee is a unique blend of coffee that infuses 100% Arabica coffee with Matcha Green Tea, Rooibos Red Tea and Goji Berry. The coffee beans are sourced from Guatemala, Ecuador and Colombia. The coffee is available in either a medium or dark roast that is low in acid and high in antioxidants. This fusion coffee boasts several health benefits, with the Matcha Green Tea boosting energy, Rooibos Red Tea settling the stomach and the Goji Berry powders giving anti-inflammatory benefits. The coffee is said to have a rich full-bodied taste and creamy mouthfeel. However coffee fans may not appreciate the addition of tea.
Lucy Jo’s coffee is a family run roastery based in New York. They source their beans from Indonesia and Brazil. Their beans are roasted by hand in small batches. They focus on producing high quality, certified organic coffee and they have a range of different low acid blends available. The coffee is slow roasted to produce their low acid coffee. The coffee is described as having sweet, earthy flavours, with hints of spice.
Brewing Tips to Reduce Acidity of Coffee
Well we hope that you can see there are plenty of options available if you find coffee is giving you an upset stomach.