The Chemistry of Acidity
Making your coffee less acidic is a chemistry problem.
The idea is to neutralize the acid in the coffee. Calcium is an acid neutralizer. So of course, milk is the ideal substance to neutralize the acid in your coffee. Adding cream or Half and Half to your coffee is the perfect solution to cut down and neutralize the acidity directly in the cup.
Rather than salt, a small teaspoon of baking soda mixed into the grounds before brewing will cut the acidity like a knife and the coffee will taste smooth rather than bitter when it’s brewed.
This is especially helpful if you use city chlorinated water. Because baking soda is an alkaline, the chemistry of mixing baking soda with the coffee is why this works to diffuse the acidity. Simple chemistry.
How to Brew Coffee That is Low in Acidity
It is never a good idea to preset a timer to brew coffee. Eight hours is a long time to have water just hanging around in the pot.
Always brew using fresh water if possible.
When water sits around longer, it loses its power as a solvent, enabling the coffee to be more acidic by default.
Filtered water is even better than fresh for less acidic coffee.
Make sure to use the correct measurements of coffee. Two heaping tablespoons of ground coffee for each 6 oz of fresh water. It is a misconception that brewing with less coffee will give you a lighter brew. Instead, brewing with less coffee more often results in over-extraction of the bean.
This is what leads to more bitterness.
If you like weaker coffee, brew coffee at full strength and then put some hot water in your cup.
Also, keep in mind that caffeine levels and acidic levels drop as the roast darkens.
Cold Brew Coffee is Naturally Low in Acidity
Cold brew coffee is basically made by adding room temperature water or cold water to the ground coffee and letting the coffee and water sit in a slow steep for 10 to 20, and even 30 hours.
After the coffee has brewed in this manner, it is then filtered, diluted, and then served in a glass over ice or rewarmed in some cases.
This is not conventional iced coffee, but rather a different type of brewing which reduces the acid content in the coffee.
The flavor is therefore enhanced by the way this coffee is slow brewed. Cold brew is promoted as “ideal” for those people who suffer from acid reflux and who love their coffee.
It’s in the Bean
Coffee bean choices make a difference in the acidity of the coffee product. The acid content in coffee depends on the type of bean used to make the coffee and the roasting method.
Arabica beans are the most popular beans and make up 60% of the world’s coffee production. These beans are considered by many to be superior to Robusta beans because of flavor and lower acidity.
Arabica beans are believed to be more pleasant because they contain almost double the amount of sugar compared to Robusta beans and half the caffeine level.
Acidity Also Refers to Coffee’s Flavor Profile
High Acidity or lower acidity, most coffee lovers primarily care about the flavor in their Joe.
Does the coffee have a pleasing aroma? Is the taste of that first sip the one that makes us glad we are greeting a new day?
If so, we manage any acidity that may be present with chemistry knowledge and we move on to face the world, cup in hand.
Of course you can also manage acidity naturally too:
What Growing Regions are Best for a Naturally Low Acid Coffee?
Areas where coffee grows in lowland areas tend to produce a lower acid bean. The higher in elevation a coffee is grown, it will become more acidic and contain a higher caffeine level.
In the US casual coffee drinkers tend to like coffees that are described as “smooth”, “bold”, or “full bodied” which are easy ways of describing coffee that is less acidic or bright.
There’s a reason that the following coffee growing regions are so popular in low cost coffee blends, they are low lying regions that produce naturally less acid during the brewing process.
A lowland region, Sumatra is known for a smooth flavor as well as production of naturally low acid coffee beans that are often dark roasted for further lowered acidity. These beans tend to give a light chocolate flavor to the final brew.
Brazilian coffee is often dark roasted, helping to lower acidity levels further and producing a smooth and well loved cup of coffee.
Though Brazilian coffees tend to grow in higher elevations, the roasting process is key to helping them achieve a low acid level. Be careful to choose darker roasts and espresso, as Brazilian beans can be acidic.
Columbian coffee can be another tricky one, be careful to choose darker roasted beans. This region’s beans can change from low to medium in acidity as you choose lighter roasts.
Those who enjoy a lighter flavored coffee may wish to try the washed coffee that comes from Ethiopia. With a much lighter flavor that some compare more like a tea, floral and fruity notes become more apparent and acidity levels are naturally low.
A good choice for a lower acid coffee can be a decaf, with the reduction of caffeine level also comes a great reduction in the acidity level.
Of course caffeine can be the whole reason we’re looking for a cup of joe in the first place, so use at your own discretion!
How to Make Coffee Less Acidic
“I can’t drink coffee. It’s too acidic.”
Have you told someone this, or had someone tell you that after offering them a hot cup of coffee?
In a recent article on coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee are listed as highly acidic. Decaffeinated is listed as worse than regular coffee or caffeinated water. The question is, “Are you ready to give up on coffee?”
At Gathering Grounds, we understand that acidic coffee affects everyone differently. We want to offer the best solution for all of our coffee patrons, whether they want something as simple as regular or decaf.
Beyond simple regular and decaf, there are great combinations of added flavors and base mixers that can reduce the acidity of coffee in general. Great companies like Puroast, Tieman’s, or Healthwise offer lower acidic coffee that can aid in acidic reduction.
While some may have to give up coffee to get relief, that isn’t the case for everyone. Some can get the relief they need to still enjoy a daily cup of Joe just by switching their choice of coffee and beans.
How Do You Find the Best Low-Acid Coffee for You?
In this post we’ll be diving into low-acid coffee at depth. We know that you can get coffee with low acid, but it’s not always clear where and how to find it, what you can do to influence the acidity, what the overall flavor will be, and if it even works.
Where do I look for low-acid coffee?
You have three primary options:
- Find a coffee strictly advertised as low-acid or having low-acidity. Certain areas of Brazil and Sumatra show a reduced acidic amount from their beans at harvest due to being grown at a lower altitude. Make sure to read the packaging to determine the rated acidity level t understand if it’s right for you.
- Find a coffee that removes the waxy covering off the beans through steaming before roasting. This process can also reduce the aromatics of the coffee, which could be a turn-off for some coffee lovers.
- You can pick up beans with a darker roasts as opposed to lighter roasts or an interrupted roasting process. The roasting process removes the acidic properties of the beans, so a longer darker roast will result in a more alkaline coffee. This means that usually espressos are going to be less of a problem if you have concerns about acid levels because they are customarily made with darker roast beans (but not always). This needs to be checked with every purchase as there is no rule to say that espresso must be made with any kind of roast, it’s just a common trend. Espresso is also great because it can be diluted to make latte or Americano, doing a great job of slowing down drinking time and helping to neutralize the pH level of your coffee.
Does Brewing Method Affect Coffee Acidity?
Brewing at home or at your favorite coffee shop can influence the acidity of your next cup depending on how it’s brewed. The cooler the water used to brew, the fewer acidic oils will be present in the cup. For this reason, cold brewed coffee or any brewing method that uses cooler than normal water will be a useful way of reducing the acid in a cup.
Beyond water temperature, some people believe wholeheartedly that french press is better than drip coffee. It can be better for your stomach if you also brew with a darker roast – at least it will be easier on your stomach.
Particularly hot brewing methods like stovetop espresso or percolator coffee should be avoided while brewing with a french press at slightly lower temperatures can help. Cold brew, obviously, is best as it’s not brewed hot at all.
A middle ground option, if you happen to have an Instant Pot, is to use the sous vide mode to make instant pot cold brew coffee.
Does Low-Acid Coffee Taste Good or Bad?
There are a lot of different low-acid varieties offered on the market, and we’ve read good and bad reviews on most of them.
These are the listed as the best tasting:
- Simpatico Espresso Roast
- Simpatico Mixed Black & Tan
- Puroast Dark Roast Guatemala
These are not advertised as low-acid, but relatively are, and they taste test well:
- Tully’s French Roast
- Peet’s Sumatra Blue Batak
- Water Avenue Coffee Brazil Esperanza
These are listed as the least tasty of the samples tried:
- Tyler’s Acid Free Coffee Regular – mentioned as being bitter from taste-tainted green beans
- Hevla Dark Roast – mentioned as having a musty rotten and ferment
- Hevla Espresso WB – mentioned as mildly musty
- Puroast House Blend – also mildly musty
- HealthWise Gourmet Low Acid 100% Colombia – mentioned as flat and woody tasting
- HealthWise Gourmet Low Acid Organic Colombia – also flat and woody with a hint of rotten ferment
Beyond the bean influence, will cold brewed coffee be to your taste? That is another matter, but there are popular options such as the Aeropress which a lot of people like. It uses water at 175-185F, considerably cooler than the accepted norm of using water just off the boil.
Does Switching to Low-Acid Coffee Really Work?
If you’ve been advised to cut down on the coffee intake, or if you just prefer coffee that has less strength to it, it may be possible to come to a compromise and find a low acid brew that you can drink a lot of.
As a rule of thumb your coffee will be lower in acidity:
- if you choose a coffee bean from a region normally grown at lower altitudes,
- if you choose to brew coffee with a darker roast,
- if you make your coffee under lower temperature.
Cold brew is a matter of personal taste, but if you can find a cold brewed dark roasted coffee grown at low altitudes, you can certainly enjoy a trifecta of low-acid goodness. Mixing in a shot or two of milk or another low-acid / alkaline additive to your on demand coffee can also reduce the acidity of your favorite coffee if you can’t find a low-acid brand that suits your taste. We recommend to continually experiment with different brands and mixers until you find the perfect taste blend and acidity that you crave every morning.