If you love coffee and drink a lot of it, you may be familiar with the burning acid reflux that can arise. For some people, this acid reflux becomes a chronic problem and they’re often told to reduce their coffee intake. But no one really wants to give up their beloved coffee! Enter low acid coffee, your solution to reducing digestive side effects while still enjoying your daily coffee. So, how can you make low acid coffee? First, we have to understand what we mean by ‘acidity’ in coffee.
Is Coffee Acidic Or Alkaline?
Based on the pH scale, coffee is definitely acidic. The pH scale measures how acidic or basic/alkaline something is, with 7 being neutral. Anything lower than 7 on the pH scale is considered acidic, while anything higher than 7 is alkaline. The actual pH of coffee is around 5 (this is the pH of espresso) on the pH scale, making it fairly acidic.
However, acidity in coffee is slightly more complicated than a number on the pH scale. In the coffee world, acidity also refers to a particular taste in coffee and not just the pH of the drink. Coffee has 9 major acids that are released into the cup while brewing. These acids can vary in concentration across different coffees and concentration can change depending on the brewing technique.
The key here is achieving the right balance of acids- some acids in coffee can give a slightly sweet taste, while some contribute to sourness or bitterness in the cup. The main acid in coffee linked to digestive issues is quinic acid. This acid gives coffee a burnt, bitter taste (you may recognize it after leaving coffee in your cup for too long).
Apart from the natural acids, most of the digestive issues associated with coffee like acid reflux are linked to caffeine itself. Caffeine stimulates the production of stomach acid which can manifest as indigestion, acid reflux, and even ulcers.
What Does Low Acid Coffee Mean?
Low acid coffee is coffee beans that have a lower acidic concentration than regular coffee beans. It will still give you coffee that is acidic on the pH scale but it won’t be as acidic as normal coffee. Low acid coffee is recommended for people with digestive issues and sensitive stomachs.
Producing reduced acid coffee can be done by controlling the growing methods to reduce the acid content in the bean or by tweaking the roasting process to eliminate some of the natural acidity. Darker roasts have lower acidity in terms of taste but compounds like quinic acid (which contributes to acidity in terms of pH) actually increase in concentration with more roasting.
Several techniques are available to roasters to make reduced acid coffee, including a process called white roasting. In this roasting method, the beans are roasted at a lower temperature and for a shorter time. This prevents the breakdown of chlorogenic acid into quinic acid, and so gives you low acid coffee.
Acidity in coffee also varies depending on the type of coffee bean used. As a rule of thumb, Robusta tends to be more acidic than Arabica and causes more digestive issues thanks to its high caffeine content. The growing environment also plays an important role in producing low acid coffee. Coffee grown in acidic soil, like volcanic soil, will be more acidic in the final cup. The presence of minerals like phosphorous can reduce the acidity of the soil and therefore give you low acid coffee.
How To Make Low Acid Coffee
Coffee is going to be acidic no matter what, but it is possible to brew low acid coffee that won’t be as strongly acidic as your standard brew. A low acid coffee brewing method needs to incorporate the following:
1. Choose Arabica over Robusta
Robusta is naturally more acidic and has a higher caffeine concentration than Arabica, which can worsen stomach issues. Stick to Arabica, especially varieties that are grown in low acid soil.
2. Pay attention to the roast
Lighter roasts tend to be more acidic, so choose a medium or dark roast when using a low acid coffee brewing method.
3. Switch to paper filters
A paper filter can remove a lot of the acidic compounds in your coffee, so pick a brewing method like an AeroPress or pour-over. Brewing methods like the French press and Moka pot allow all the compounds to stay in the coffee and give you a more acidic cup.
4. Don’t over brew
The longer you brew, the more acidic the coffee becomes. Coffee can also become increasingly acidic if it’s left to stand after brewing so it’s recommended to transfer the coffee to a separate thermal carafe as soon as the brewing time is completed.
5. Add a pinch of baking soda
Baking soda is alkaline. You can add a pinch of it to your coffee to neutralize the acid a bit. Be careful not to add too much though, since baking soda has a very distinct, bitter taste.
6. Switch to cold brew
Brewing with cold water prevents many of the organic acids from being extracted, giving you reduced acid coffee.
Low acid coffee is a great option for coffee lovers who don’t want to give up their daily cup because of health issues. It’s also worth trying if you want a lighter cup of coffee. Reduced acid coffee is only one step towards reducing acid reflux and digestive issues, but it’s a step in the right direction.