Acidity can be one of coffee's many charms. When you taste that brightness or the slight tangy taste of your morning brew, you’re experiencing one of the many notes that make up coffee’s complex flavor profile. Coffee can also have some awesome health benefits!
But for some people, the natural acidity of coffee can cause stomach aches, heartburn, and even vomiting in the worst cases.
If coffee's acidity is a problem for you, and you're looking for low acid coffee brands or roasts, this guide is for you.
- Low acid coffee has the same comfort and energy benefits as standard coffee blends and roasts, but will ultimately be easier on your stomach.
- Darker roasts tend to have less acid, letting you enjoy a cup of coffee with all the same flavor complexities but without the upset stomach.
- The primary acids in coffee responsible for discomfort are chlorogenic and quinic acid.
Let’s talk about low acid coffee and how choosing a dark roast can be the simplest way to relieve your discomfort.
What is Acidity in Coffee?
Coffee is naturally acidic.
We measure the acidity or alkalinity of liquids using the pH scale. Substances are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, and the lower the number, the more acidic the liquid.
Water usually has a pH level of 7, whereas coffee generally has a pH of around 5. For perspective, milk has a pH of around 7 (also considered "neutral") and lemon juice has a pH of around 2 or 3.
Acid in coffee is the consequence of naturally occurring acids, which is the technical term for the compounds that produce the flavor we associate with brightness, or sometimes a bitter aftertaste in coffee.
These naturally occurring acids come in many forms, but the main acids in coffee are chlorogenic acid and quinic acid. They contribute to the lower ph in your drink.
Low acid coffee can have a pH as high as 6.
While both substances give coffee its acidity and can contribute to an upset stomach, chlorogenic acid has also been studied for its ability to fight diabetes and possibly protect the brain, meaning it's not ALL bad. Meanwhile, quinic acid is the primary culprit for coffee drinkers with sensitive stomachs worried about irritation and reflux.
What Is Acid Reflux?
Gastroesophaegal reflux is the technical term for what we commonly call heartburn or acid reflux. It's when the contents of your stomach move up your esophagus, making you feel like a million ants are crawling around inside your chest.
Coffee can be responsible for acid reflux in those with sensitive stomachs or people who drink numerous cups of coffee a day.
If you’re a coffee drinker with irritable bowel syndrome or gastroesophageal reflux disease (conditions that correspond with heartburn and similar symptoms), or just have a sensitive stomach, low acid coffee might be for you.
Low Acid Coffee: Why A Dark Roast?
If you suffer from heartburn after hot brewed coffee, forego the light roast and medium roast coffee and stick with a dark roast for a better low acid coffee.
Why choose a dark roast over our light roasts?
In a nutshell, the roasting process occurs at temperatures that make acids decompose.
The first one to go is chlorogenic acid, which degrades and becomes a multitude of chemicals called antioxidant phenolic compounds.
Unfortunately, dark roasts don’t have much less quinic acid than their medium or lighter counterparts, so listen to your body when trying out new roasts. Low acid coffee generally does have more antioxidants, but that's not all if you’re used to drinking lots of coffee. Low acid coffee also tends to be less laxative than regular or more acidic coffee!
All in all, darker coffee roasts tend to produce lower acid coffee alongside other benefits if you’re a regular coffee drinker.
However, coffee acidity is a product of other factors, too – the other primary factor being bean origin.
Benefits of Low Acid Coffee
The main benefits of low acid coffee beans boil down to two things:
First, it’s gentler on your stomach and intestines, making it the best choice if you suffer from acid reflux or other similar symptoms.
Second, low acid coffee is generally roasted very dark, and as you now know, this process makes the acid in coffee convert into healthy antioxidants. Some potential health benefits include:
- Diabetes: A 2016 study found “mounting evidence” that drinking more coffee helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Cancer: A summary review from 2017 found that drinking coffee can reduce the risk of some cancers, like liver and pharyngeal cancer.
- Brain: Another study from 2020 found that coffee consumption is correlated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia.
Brewing Methods for Low Acid Coffee
While the brewing process for low acid coffee won't vary much from your standard cup, there are some hacks to keep in mind to help you lower the acidity of your coffee. You might enjoy your average cup of dark or medium roast coffee brewed with a french press or as espresso. And while these are great ways to enjoy your coffee, they won't help with producing a low acid final product thanks to the more intense and intentional flavor extraction process.
Here are some things that you can try if you want to reduce the acidity of your morning brew without much hassle.
#1: Use Coarse Grind Coffee
Avoiding fine grinds can help ensure that you don't over-extract acidic compounds. The idea is that as more coarsely ground coffee has less surface area, less acid will be available depending on the brewing method.
Any coffee enthusiast will tell you that coarse grind is better for a french press than an espresso machine. And, you don't need to go straight to the most corse coffee you can find. Try medium grounds first to see if your stomach reacts differently.
#2: Use Decaf Coffee
Weird as it might sound, the same process that the best coffee manufacturers use to extract the caffeine from coffee also helps make it less acidic. The Swiss water process involves submerging coffee beans in water for many hours, and can extract almost all of the caffeine in the beans. This process also extracts a considerable portion of the acids that we've talked about.
#3: Try Cold Brewing
According to many studies, the long, slow steep time for cold brew coffee methods can lower the concentration of acid in your coffee cup.
Cold brew also extracts fewer oils and, according to some, distributes them more evenly throughout the liquid. This leads to a more well-rounded cup of coffee that will be less likely to give you gastric symptoms.
Low Acid Coffee beans
Different places produce different coffee. Be it due to environmental factors or processing techniques, farmers from all around the world create subtle changes in not only a bean’s flavor, but also in it’s acidity as they grow coffee.
As the acidity of a coffee bean changes, so does its flavor, and while there are no one-size-fits-all claims to be made about acidity and coffee origins, we prioritize coffees sourced from communities we know and support, usually relying on pesticide-free, high-quality beans.
If you drink coffee on the regular, these are some of the best low acid coffees at Philly Fair Trade.
Philly Fair Trade's Costa Rica Dark Roast Coffee
Our Costa Rican coffee beans tends to have lower acidity than your traditional coffee due to a few environmental factors. These are grown in the tropical climate of Central America, at high altitude and among lush trees that provide adequate shade for the coffee plants to grow. This is certified organic coffee, and we roast in small batches only. Our Vienna roast is darker than a standard french roast, bringing out all the great qualities of this bean while contributing to lower acid content.
If you love earthy and herbaceous coffee roasts on a sensitive stomach, and want to try a low acid dark roast, this one is for you!
Philly Fair Trade´s Peru Blend
Our Peru roast has notes of smoke and toasted walnut, with a touch of cinnamon, and the darker roast we've prioritized here brings out all those notes while contributing to lower acidity. Peru produces some of earth’s best low acid coffees thanks to a focus on plants with more mild acidity profiles, such as Typica and Caturra.
Philly Fair Trade´s Mexico Coffee
Our Mexico blend goes through a longer roasting process for a dark roast to bring out all the intense aromas it holds. These beans are grown in the same mountain range as the famous Guatemalan Huehuetenango coffee (which many consider the best coffee on earth!) It's certified organic and pesticide-free. This roast is generally well-rounded, with notes of milk chocolate and pink grapefruit.
What is low acid coffee, and how is it different from regular coffee?
Essentially, low acid coffee has fewer acidic compounds and a lower pH. It may be less bright and tangy, but having a lower acid content makes it easier on your gut to help prevent gastric reflux and other symptoms that acidic coffee can give you.
What is acid reflux?
This is when the acid in your stomach travels up your esophagus giving your that burning feeling in your throat. It's caused by many factors, but coffee acidity can play a role. If you like light roasts, chances are your coffee is more acidic, giving you a higher likelihood of heartburn.
Are dark roasts less acidic?
Generally, yes. This is because roasting at high temperatures degrades many of the acid compounds in coffee and lowers its pH. Low acid coffee tends to roasted at higher temperatures.
Is cold-brewed coffee less acidic?
Short answer, yes. Steeping at lower temperatures for longer periods extracts fewer acids and lipids from your coffee grind. The difference might only be a fraction of a pH point, however.