Coffee is considered an acidic beverage. Some coffee drinkers feel no effects from the acidity in coffee, while others find that coffee can aggravate existing conditions, particularly when it comes to the digestive system.
Not only can too much caffeine disturb your digestive tract, acidic coffee can lead to symptoms of acid reflux, like heartburn, as it increases certain stomach acids.
Despite coffee’s acidity, pouring a healthier cup of coffee is very possible, especially if you pay attention to the details that go into that roasted coffee.
The acidity of coffee can get a little complicated, but it starts with the chemical makeup of that morning cup of joe.
What is the pH level of coffee? The pH level of coffee typically hovers around 5, with most coffees falling somewhere between 4.85-5.13.
Is coffee acidic or alkaline? Coffee is acidic, not alkaline. With an average pH level of 5, common roasting practices, and its biological makeup, most coffee edges out of neutral into the acidic category.
A pH level of 7 is neutral. That’s where you’d find tap water, with most milks just below that neutral marker.
Proponents of the alkaline diet say eating foods that are alkaline rather than acidic can manage pH levels in the body. There is some evidence that alkaline foods can improve certain conditions, including kidney function.
On the other side of that pH scale, highly acidic foods can trigger digestive problems in people sensitive to acidity.
But the pH of coffee doesn’t tell the whole story.
Coffee’s acidity is also about the acids coming together. Those compounds can bump up the acidity you taste — or feel later — with each sip.
Coffee is made up of different acids, some less troublesome to your digestion than others. There are 3 main coffee acids.
The most abundant acid in coffee, chlorogenic acids are polyphenols that have been linked to some positive therapeutic effects. The highest concentration of these acids is found in green coffee beans, before the roasting process even begins.
Chlorogenic acids begin to break down during the roasting process.
As chlorogenic acids break down in the roasting process, another acid forms: quinic acid. This is the acid more responsible for the bitter, acidic coffee taste.
Darker roasts actually have a high level of these acids.
Lighter to medium roasts will also boast higher levels of citric acids, an organic acid more commonly associated with citrus. Coffee lovers who enjoy a bright, slightly tart aftertaste in their coffee may like the citric acid effect, but it does no favors for those sensitive to acidity.
Lower amounts of malic acids in coffee beans also contribute to that sourness found in some light roasts.
How do you make coffee less acidic?
Coffee lovers don’t need to give up coffee altogether to sip on something with a lower acidity.
How do you make coffee less acidic? To make coffee less acidic, you’ll want to consider how a coffee is made, from the type of bean you’re using to the roast level.
Drinking a low-acid coffee like Golden Ratio is also an option if you’re seeking an alternative that’s gentler on your stomach.
Typically the darker the roast, the lower the acid in most coffee.
The big exception is gold coffee, an ultralight roast that doesn’t boast the acidity of most lighter roasts. Golden Ratio’s low acid coffee retains more caffeine, like a light roast, without the acidity.
We lab tested Golden Ratio against multiple coffee brands and all the tests concluded that it was 5 times less acidic than other roasts.
On the other end of the spectrum from dark roast, white coffee can taste highly acidic. That’s why it’s often served up over milk or as part of an espresso drink.
Coarser grinds can result in a more acidic cup, although this matters to a lesser extent than roast level and how long those coffee grounds are brewing. Generally, a coarser grind slows down the extraction of compounds in the coffee. That includes the caffeine content and coffee acids.
If you’re using high quality coffee beans, the theory goes that finer coffee grounds will result in a lower level of coffee acidity.If the brewing time is speedy, though, the grind size won’t matter as much. You can still end up with a bitter cup with finer grounds.
Cold brewing is another trick to slightly reduce acidity in coffee. Note that we’re talking about a true cold brew, where no heat is involved at all in the prep. Don’t confuse cold brew with iced coffee, because many iced coffees are brewed hot in strong batches.
Brewing time will also affect coffee acidity at both hot and cold temperatures. The longer the brewing time, the less acid content in the resulting cup.
Also, paper filters in pour-overs are better at capturing acidic compounds missed by metal filters such as a french press.
The acidity in a cup of coffee can increase over time, so if you’re finding an unpleasant mouth feel on that last sip, it may be time for a fresh batch. Avoid diner coffee that sits on a burner all day if you want less acidity.
Even if you’re not affected by coffee’s acidity in any physical way, allowing your coffee to sit in the pot for hours can affect the flavor profile you enjoyed when it was fresh.
The quality of your beans matters from start to finish. Beyond coffee acidity, a cheaper, low-quality bean can mean inconsistent grounds, even contaminants that upset your stomach.
Where the beans are coming from, including the elevation they’re grown at, can also matter. Beans grown at high altitudes, like arabica beans, may have a higher acidity than a different coffee bean from a lower altitude, like robusta beans.
Arabica bean plants grow more slowly thanks to low temperatures on those mountaintops, allowing for a concentration of flavors, including acidity, in the resulting beans.
How Coffee Acid Affects You
If you’re already struggling with digestive issues, the level of acidity in some coffee can exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and IBS symptoms. It does this by ramping up the gastric acid in your stomach, causing that sour stomach sensation reflux sufferers experience.
Even for those without chronic conditions like acid reflux, coffee’s acidity can lead to an upset stomach if you’ve had too much caffeine.
Those unpleasant effects are what force many regular coffee drinkers to seek out alternatives to common coffee. If you love drinking coffee but need lower acid levels, try Golden Ratio, coffee roasting that’s gentler on your stomach.
Best Low Acid Coffees
Coffee brands are well aware of the effect acidity can have on your digestion, and there are a number of options for you if you’re seeking a low acid coffee, even in the realm of instant coffee.
What coffee is not acidic? Coffee that is not acidic compared to most is gold roast coffee. It has the health benefits of coffee without all the unwanted discomforts.
The best option out there is Golden Ratio. It's smooth on your taste buds and your belly.
- Acidity and Antioxidant Activity of Cold Brew Coffee
- The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health?
- Determination of chlorogenic acids and caffeine in homemade brewed coffee prepared under various conditions
- Contents of chlorogenic acids and caffeine in various coffee-related products
- Understanding structures and thermodynamics of β-cyclodextrin encapsulation of chlorogenic, caffeic and quinic acids: Implications for enriching antioxidant capacity and masking bitterness in coffee
- Role of roasting conditions in the level of chlorogenic acid content in coffee beans: correlation with coffee acidity
- Effect of grinding, extraction time and type of coffee on the physicochemical and flavour characteristics of cold brew coffee
- Influence of coffee brewing methods on the chromatographic and spectroscopic profiles, antioxidant and sensory properties
- Coffee and gastrointestinal function: facts and fiction. A review