As soon as we hear the word “acidity”, we imagine the sour, tangy, bitter, sharp notes. But, with the emergence of low acid coffee, the term “acidity” carries more weight and meaning than this!
Coffee experts and aficionados identify the term acidity as the dry, bright, and sparkling sensation in coffee. These highly valued sensations are associated only with high-quality coffee beans.
Science views the term as something to be measured on the pH scale. Numbers under pH 7 are more acidic than those above pH 7. A typical coffee has a pH of 5 (on average).
Then there are the coffee drinkers, who see the acidity as something that brings unpleasant and astringent effects to the tummy and disrupts their daily java enjoyment.
Understanding The Coffee Acidity
Acidity is one of the major taste characteristics in coffee, along with aroma, aftertaste, body, bitterness, and sweetness. These qualities are used by the cuppers (professional taste testers) to judge and compare the qualities of different coffees. When the coffee acids combine with sugars, they amplify the coffee’s overall sweetness and vigor, creating an ideal acidity in coffee.
With the lack of acidity, coffee will taste dull and lifeless. Acidity brings a pleasing sharpness toward the front of our mouth, dryness at the back of the palate, and a numbing sensation on the tip of the tongue. Good acidity will lean towards being a sweet, crisp tartness.
Coffees with such a profile include the Kenya AA, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Costa Rican, and Nicaraguan varietals.
Negative Impacts On Our Health
While coffee’s acidity is integral to its overall quality and taste for most people, it may also be the aggravator of certain health conditions in others. Such conditions include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastric ulcers, laxative effects, and acid reflux. Coffee itself has not been proven to cause such conditions. But, it’s the acidity in the coffee. If you have been diagnosed with one of these problems, you have to avoid regular coffee.
Coffee Processing Impacts Acidity
The acidity of coffee can be impacted during its processing and brewing phases.
- Roasting: The biggest direct determinant of acidity in coffee. Both the roasting duration and roasting temperature can impact the acidity of coffee. Scientific studies show that the longer and hotter the roasting session is, the lower its chlorogenic acid level will be. This means that the dark roasts are lower in acidity, whereas the lighter roasts are higher in acidity.
- Ground Size: The smaller (finer) the ground size, the greater the exposed surface area relative to volume. It leads to a bitter but less acidic extraction. That’s why coarser grinds will brew more acidic coffee. So, finer ground is preferable here.
- Brewing: Final factor that influences acidity. In this regard, cold-brewed coffee is significantly lower in acidity than regular hot coffee. It’s because cold brew has a prolonged brew time and a cold water temperature. These two factors lower the overall acidity. Alternatively, a shorter brew length with hotter water will produce a more acidic coffee.
Perfect Solution: Low Acid Coffee
Many coffee drinkers are starting to realize the adverse effects of coffee acidity. So, a hot topic among consumers is the solution to this problem. As the title suggests, it’s the low-acid coffee varietals. Medical professionals have also recommended this option.
One thing we must state here is that the pH level alone can’t determine whether a coffee is low-acid or not. But, the good news is, there are ways to identify low-acid coffee.
Roast Level: Dark roasted beans are not only effective in producing a fine, flavorful, chocolatey coffee but also offer a low-acid cup. So, dark roasts are a favorite choice when it comes to finding low-acid coffee.
Farm Altitude: Coffee beans grown at lower elevations are naturally low in acidity. Shade-grown, naturally sun-dried, and organically-grown coffee beans are also low-acid regardless.
But keep in mind that while dark roasting reduces acidity, it also removes the origin bean profiles. But low-acid brands are trying to find a balance where they don’t have to make such a compromise.
Examples Of Low Acid Coffee
Acidity can vary within a country because of bio-diversity and a larger landmass. We can still narrow it down to some distinct regions.
The best low-acid coffees largely come from Brazil, Sumatra (Indonesia), Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, and India.
Coffees grow at low altitudes in these regions and have a tendency to develop fewer acids in the growing phase. As previously stated, sun-dried (natural) processing results in a lower acidity coffee.
Please note that coffee acidity is generally considered a positive as it adds brightness and enhances flavors. The organic coffee acids contain powerful antioxidants that have health benefits.
Learn To Control Acidity
Water Hardness And Temperature
Since coffee is about 96% water, water will influence the flavors and acidity of your coffee. Hard water (with magnesium and calcium) can tone down the acidity and lower the perception of acids in coffee. On the other hand, soft water (with higher sodium content) enhances the perception of acidity in coffee.
Most of the time, water hardness will be beyond your control. But, you can surely control the temperature. Lowering the water temperature slows the extraction of coffee, and vice versa. Please note though, too low of a water temperature can’t extract all the compounds in coffee. Thus, cold brew’s acidity is muted. Follow a lower temperature range of 90–91 degrees Celsius with a prolonged extraction time.
Coffee releases its acids first when extracted. So, short extraction techniques will always be highly acidic. With more time, coffee can release its sweetness, oils, and other key flavors. Thus, longer extraction techniques (i.e., French press) offer a finer, balanced mouthfeel. If you focus on extraction length a bit more, you’d have a better chance of extracting low-acid coffee.
Coarse grinds need more time to extract all the flavors. So, if your brew time is short, you’ll get a more acidic coffee. For less acidity, use a finer grind of coffee. Fine grinds give a speedy extraction. So, overdoing the process will give you a bitter cup. Give it the proper time to have a balanced extraction.
The longer coffee beans are roasted, the more they lose their acidity. That means that darker roasts will be able to extract smoky and chocolaty low-acid coffee.
Ways To Reduce Coffee Acidity
Dark Roast Over Light Roast
As explained, it’s best to select dark-roasted beans over medium or light-roasted beans. Dark roasted beans undergo heat and chemical reactions that get rid of a lot of acidity.
Cold Brew Is King
Cold brewing is becoming popular solely because of its low-acidic nature. It’s also less bitter and perfectly balanced. This is why cold brew is preferred by people who suffer from acid reflux or other digestive system problems. With cold brewing, the acidity gets neutralized as the water extracts flavor from cold beans. The only drawback is that it’s a 12–18-hour long process.
Use Low-Acid Beans
There are numerous choices of low-acid coffee beans available out there. If possible, buy naturally grown low-acid beans. Beans that are grown naturally, grown on low-altitude lands, shade-grown, and sun-dried are the hallmarks of low-acid beans.
Use Of Baking Soda
Baking soda is an alkaline compound. So, just a small pinch in your cup will help to balance out the pH level. Don’t add too much as it’ll make the coffee too salty.
A Spoon Of Butter
Adding a spoon of butter to your coffee is a popular hack. Unsalted butter will add alkalinity that’ll tame the coffee’s acidity.
Cinnamon is not only a great flavor companion to your coffee, but also one of the few alkaline spices. A sprinkle of cinnamon on your coffee will reduce acidity while also flavoring it.
This is one of the major methods to reduce coffee’s acidity. Dairy products are rich in calcium, which reduces acidity when mixed in coffee. Also, try almond milk instead of regular milk or cream. Almonds are an alkaline-majority nut, and almond milk tastes pretty much the same as regular milk.
Paper Filter, Not Metal Mesh
If your preferred method requires a filter, avoid metal mesh and use a paper filter. A paper filter will sieve oils in coffee much better during the extraction phase. The oils in coffee are the main culprits of coffee’s acidity. So, trapping them with a paper filter will reduce the acid in your cup of coffee.
Why Are Green Coffee Beans More Acidic?
Because they are unroasted beans. Most of the processes green beans go through before roasting doesn’t reduce any acidity and keep the beans as natural as possible. Only after a roasting session do beans lose a substantial amount of acidity.
Is Acidity In Coffee Good Or Bad?
Like everything in our lives, with proper balance, coffee acidity is good and is one of the most important features of coffee. But if you have cavity issues, IBS, acid reflux, or gastric-related issues, coffee acidity is bad for you.
How Does Roasting Affect Coffee’s Acidity?
With prolonged time and higher temperatures, the coffee loses its originality and acidity during its roasting phase and vice-versa.
What Kind Of Acids Can Be Found In A Cup Of Coffee?
You’ll mainly find quinic, chlorogenic, citric, acetic, lactic, malic, phosphoric, linoleic, and palmitic acids in a cup of coffee.
How Coffee’s Origin Affects Acidity?
Traditionally, coffee varietals grown on high-altitude lands tend to be more acidic. Oppositely, low-altitude-grown coffees are low in acid. But, if you ensure a stress-free, shade-grown environment for your coffee, it’ll produce natural low-acid beans regardless of altitude.
Coffee is an age-old strong beverage, nourishing our minds and bodies. With a lot of studies and experiments, coffee is now a more refined beverage for us. Thus, we see both the pros and cons of coffee all the time. But with proper information and discussion, like ours, hopefully it will clear up all the confusion and lead our readers to a more elevated coffee experience.