When you drink coffee, the caffeine that can make your mood improve. Drinking too much of it, however, may lead to side effects like acid reflux. Drinking a little bit of anything in moderation is usually fine for most people but it's best to look out for these "side effects!"
Caffeine may not be all bad though because studies show its relationship with improved mental alertness and task performance - so long as those cups don't go back beyond what’s safe for you. So if you are one that would prefer drinking coffee to matcha green tea, then keep reading how brands are booming with low acidity coffee.
A study by the National Institutes of Health estimates nearly 40% of people in the United States suffer from GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). A lot of people with these symptoms blame caffeine due to its ability to make symptoms worse for people. Is there a way to enjoy your favorite morning beverage without having to deal with these side effects?
Is lower acidity a good thing for your morning cup, and how about for cold brew? Does low acid coffee work for cold brew coffee lovers?
What is acidity in coffee?
Coffee has very specific aromatic and flavor profiles. For some, simply smelling coffee in the morning is enough to wake them up. Still, it contains solubles that contribute to its taste, yet for some, can be difficult to digest.
Acidity within coffee is a natural thing. Generally, higher-quality beans are more acidic after brewing, due to the methods in which the coffee is made. Still, certain beans like Arabica beans (most notably the best) tend to be more acidic than robusta beans. Acidity provides a desirable mouthfeel and taste.
It is what people refer to when they describe a citrusy or otherwise fruity flavor. While coffees generally do not taste exactly like the fruits that connoisseurs describe, the sweet and sour notes make the comparisons easier to recognize.
How acidic is coffee?
For reference, on the pH scale, anything below 7 is considered acidic. Coffee generally sits between 4 to 6 on this scale. By comparison, orange juice has a pH index of 3.
You can control the acidity levels in your morning cup by adjusting the brewing method, bean, or water source. We'll get into all of that later.
Did you know that only around 20% of the coffee beans are good enough to extract? Most of the beans aren't extractable, but the best-tasting solubles tend to come from the acids within.
Let's talk about those next.
Types of Acids in Coffee
There are 2 acid types that exist within coffee beans. Chlorogenic acid and quinic acid, to be specific.
Chlorogenic acids are antioxidants found within coffee make coffee a healthy food. Generally, the darker the roast, the less chlorogenic acid, you'll find in it due to the roasting process. The flavors distinctly present in coffees with an abundant supply of these antioxidants are stripped away in a dark roast.
Beans grown at higher altitudes tend to have higher concentrations of chlorogenic acids, and the term "acidity" really mean the concentration therein. Acidity can be a good thing, so let's not get too focused on acid=bad here.
To better understand this, we need to see what happens as the chlorogenic acid levels cook away during the roasting process. The acids convert into quinic acid.
The acid that makes our stomachs hurt is quinic acid. The longer the coffee roasts, the more of this gut-wrenching acid there will be.
Consider the effect when you brew coffee for too long or you notice the bitterness skyrocket on subsequent trips to the carafe throughout the day. Even from the same pot, quinic levels increase the longer the coffee grounds "cook" in hot water.
The process of converting naturally occurring chlorogenic acid in quinic acid is called hydrolysis. Quinic acid is not naturally found within the coffee, but is more of a byproduct of roasting. That being said, too much chlorogenic acid can also make sensitive stomach squirm. It's all about balance, after all.
So now let's look at ways we can improve our chances to suffer the least from coffee consumption.
Choosing the Right Beans
As I mentioned before, growing altitude tends to correlate with acid levels. A coffee bean grown at a low altitude will have the least amount of acid to work with and will result in the least acidity after roasting in most cases.
Still, roasters can manipulate their processes to produce reduced acid coffee.
Coffee Bean Origin Matters
If you are feeling confused about which beans to consider, let me help take some of the guesswork out of it. Go for a single-origin bag of coffee from Brazil, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, or Sumatra.
You can even go with a medium or dark roast in these varieties due to their naturally lower acidity. Why is this ok? The lower altitude, of course!
Start with beans grown at lower altitudes and you'll have a better chance at enjoying low acid coffee, no matter the roast. Speaking of which, let's compare roasts.
Dark Roast Coffee vs. Lighter Roasts
Dark roast beans have the least amount of chlorogenic acid and the most amount of quinic acid. Taking what we've learned so far, consuming a dark roast will result in more tummy aches than a light roast.
So which is the best low acid coffee? Lighter is better in most cases, but remember that lighter roasts have more subtle flavors better associated with specific brewing methods.
For most people in most situations, a medium roast tastes the best, is the easiest to work with for cold brewed batches, and is the most widely available.
Choosing the Best Brew Methods for Low Acid Coffee
Being a fan of cold brewed coffee, my instinct is to immediately throw my coffee grounds into the Toddy and wait a day, but is this the best method for low acid coffee?
While immersion brewing is the easiest to perform (set it and forget it), it leaves many of the nuances and flavors present in lighter roasts out of the final batch.
Consider going with lighter roasts and the cold drip brewing process over standard immersion brewing for best results. Still, if you prefer immersion, go with a medium roast. Try not to use dark roast and espresso roasts if you want to avoid bitterness.
Alternatively, you could also do a hot pour-over with a Chemex to get the nuanced flavors from lighter roasts. Since heat touches the grounds for less time than other methods, you'll have a bright-bodied cup and fewer stomach issues.
You can also add eggshells to your hot brew to lower its acidity. Just make sure you properly clean them before adding them in. This works because eggshells are naturally alkaline.
Hot immersion brewing from a French Press extracts everything, so use it sparingly if you have stomach issues as a result of drinking coffee.
Get Your Grind Right
To extract the least amount of acids from your coffee bean, you'll want to work with coarse grinds over powders. The finer the grind, the more surface area hot water will engage with, and the more acids will extract.
Use coarse grinds and you'll have a better, not bitter aftertaste. Besides, everyone who enjoys cold brewing knows to use a coarse grind for their brew, right? I'm sure you knew that.
No matter what we've covered in this article so far, the key to enjoying good coffee every day without stomach aches is to do so in moderation. Coffee acidity is also not the only source of acidity you may be experiencing each morning. How about your water?
Bottled water can be acidic
If you use bottled water in your Keurig or pour-over, you might be adding to the problem. Many bottled water sources are actually very acidic when compared to your body's natural 7 pH. If you start with an alkaline source, chances are you'll end up with a less acidic cup than if you start with an acidic water source.
For more details, consider how we measure alkalinity in the potential of hydrogen (pH) from 0 to 14. Ideally, you'd work with a neutral pH water source, or something close to 7 pH.
Deviations in pH affect flavor profiles, but more important than the flavor is your stomach lining. If the coffee you normally drink gives you nausea, consider adjusting the pH of the water you use and you may find that you are more tolerant.
Use Plant-Based Milk
Milk is shown to reduce coffee acidity and bitterness, but if you are lactose intolerant, adding milk to your coffee will result in a bad time, defeating the purpose altogether. Instead, try adding in a dairy-free alternative like oat milk or almond milk. There are so many dairy-free options becoming more widely available.
Why not give it a try?
What does it all Mean?
According to a study performed by Toddy, cold-brewed coffees contain up to 60% less acid than the same coffee brewed with heat.
Cold-brew drip coffee made with alkaline water over lighter roasts from lower altitudes will result in the least cringe-inducing stomach issues. Whew! That was a lot...
Remember that nobody, that is "no body" is perfectly balanced. Otherwise, we would never get sick and you wouldn't have stomach issues from consuming coffee in the morning.
Work to balance your system, doesn't drink coffee on an empty stomach, and take the lessons you've learned during your due diligence research to experiment with and make the best combination of factors that make the perfect cup of coffee for you each morning.
The 7 Best Low Acid Coffee Brands of 2022
VitaCup delivers organic, single-origin low acid coffee beans in an 11 oz bag. They promise their dark roast has no artificial ingredients, is chemical-free, and mycotoxin free.
What's more, it actually tastes pretty good! It has a smooth and bold taste while still keeping the acidity in check.
They also have an Oat Milk creamer for those who are lactose intolerant. Give them a look!
These medium roast organic coffee beans are no joke. Coming from a single-origin 6 family farm in Nicaragua, this Non-GMO high-elevation low acid coffee is sun-dried and spring water washed.
Lifeboost coffee is certified organic and tested for mycotoxins, heavy metals, and pesticides.
We love their varieties and commitment to sustainability too. If you are looking for something that's good for your acid reflux and the planet, don't sleep on Lifeboost coffee.
If you are one of those coffee drinkers that want deep earthy flavor notes, check out the medium-dark roast from Lucy Jo's Coffee.
Their organic coffee beans are sourced from the high mountains of Indonesia and Brazil, resulting in a lower-cost solution for low acid coffee.
This blend tastes great when brewed through an immersion cold brewer.
They are also certified organic and appear to work well as an alternative coffee for those with gastrointestinal issues, according to other reviews.
Puroast is one of those brands that carry a selection of low acid coffees for many mediums, not just a pour-over or french press.
Research suggests that their brand's coffee has 7 times the antioxidants of green tea. Their organic coffee blends come from Central and South America.
I'm really a fan of Puroast low acid coffee. Of all the best low acid coffee brands I tried, this one is the least acidic coffee of the bunch in my opinion.
I don't have a pH tester, so I cannot verify this myself, but I can tell you how it made me feel, and that's almost as good, right?
Healthwise claims their low acid coffee sits at a 6.18 on the pH scale. While their Colombian Supremo roast edges more on the dark roast side, they promise a bold flavor and even suggest lowering the coffee to water ratio for less intensity.
I love Colombian coffee, so when their marketing claims you can get 110 cups of pure arabica out of a single can, I was ecstatic!
I have not yet reached the end of it to find out if it's true, plus I tend to make cold-brewed over single cups.
Volcanica Low Acid Coffee is fair trade, organic and Rainforest Alliance certified. Their slow-roasting process results in naturally low acidity while still creating a medium roasted flavor.
If you suffer from acid reflux but want a lot of chocolatey, nutty, and citrusy flavor notes, go with Volcanica.
We enjoy how many flavor varieties they have, and they have one of the best low acid coffee options on the market.
Java Planet Medium Dark Roast packs a great-tasting low acid single-origin Colombian organic coffee with peace of mind. They are very involved in the organic and sustainability movements.
Java Planet offers some of the best quality low acid and decaf coffee options in the world. Their top single-origin coffees are available at reasonable prices in 1 and 5 lb bags.
Investing in Java Planet promotes healthy living and a healthy planet. Give Java Planet a try!
Choosing Low Acid Coffee Brands
There are more and more low-acid coffees available now than ever before. Take a look at the label to see if it mentions "low acid" anywhere. Even if it doesn't, you can look for other factors such as bean variety. Arabica beans will have less acidity than robusta beans.
Look for origins and blends from Central American regions, as these are all lower in acidity. While you won't be able to get a completely acid-free coffee, you may be able to limit acidity with smart shopping and by reading labels.
The Benefits of Low Acid Coffee Beans
If you are not one to gravitate toward green tea, then choosing low acid blend coffee is your best option for stomach issues. Given the prevalence of gastrointestinal diseases like GERD, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and gastric ulcers, it's crucial to balance the acidity within our bodies.
Coffee is a great place to start. I always recommend lower acid coffees to my friends and family, and I'm a cold brew enthusiast, so you know I'm already experiencing those benefits myself.
But it doesn't stop there. Consider making adjustments to your diet and lifestyle.
Get a FODMAP device like a Food Marble to gauge how your body reacts to certain foods, and you'll be well on your way to a better, more alkaline existence.