Coffee is one of, if not the most popular morning drinks. Its bold flavor, the caffeine boost, and the comforting warmth as it passes your lips are perfect for any morning routine. But many people worry that there could be drawbacks to your favorite morning brew.
While there aren’t any known health risks to a moderate amount of coffee per day for the average person, people have become concerned with the acidity of their coffee. Looking into how acidity affects you can help determine whether or not low acid coffee is for you.
The average pH of a cup of joe is 5, making it slightly acidic, since a neutral liquid stands at a pH of 7. Like any substance, there are thousands of particles that make up coffee. No single part of coffee is what makes it acidic, but certain parts of the brewing and roasting process affect the acidity.
How The Brew Affects Acidity
A general rule of thumb with brewing coffee is that more heat means more acid. The standard temperature for brewing coffee is 180 degrees, which helps pull the oils and aromatics out of the beans and into your cup. This also activates the particles that are more acidic, giving you the bright finish that you associate with a good Columbian roast.
Recently, cold brewing coffee has become popular. By soaking course beans in room-temperature water for 18 hours, the parts of the beans that taste like coffee transfer into the water without taking as many as the acidic compounds. The result is a smooth, rich cup of cold coffee without nearly as much acid as a cup of drip. You may have noticed that putting a cup of hot coffee over ice tastes nothing like cold brew, and it’s specifically because of the difference in acidity.
The Roasting Process
Unlike brewing, more heat means less caffeine when roasting. A light roast can have a pH of below 5, while a dark roast can have a pH as high as 5.5, which is what causes the pronounced difference in flavor. Typically light roasts have a brighter, fruitier flavor compared to the deep, toasted nuttiness of a dark. This is in part due to that bright, citrusy, acidic finish that comes from the lower pH.
When you roast coffee beans, many of the oils, compounds, and chemicals break down, creating the bold flavor of dark roast. This also causes some of the acidic compounds to neutralize, raising the pH and changing the flavor even more.
Is Decaf Coffee Less Acidic?
Caffeine is an alkaline, meaning it’s basic. While the pH is only slightly above 7, this leads many people to think that decaf coffee is more acidic than regular coffee. However, this isn’t true, with decaf usually being less acidic than fully caffeinated coffee. During the decaffeination process, many of the acidic particles are taken out of the beans, depending on the process. Since caffeine is only one of the thousands of substances that make up coffee beans, its pH isn’t going to significantly change the acidity of coffee.
Is Low Acid Coffee Better
Many health conscious coffee drinkers are concerned about how the acidity of coffee will impact them, while many coffee connoisseurs scoff at the idea of tampering with their favorite drink. Of course, health should trump tastes, but you don’t always have to make a choice. You may not have to worry about the health effects of acid, or you may find a perfectly roasted low acid coffee.
The Health Benefits
Acid is common in many foods we eat. From hot sauce to citrus to coffee, we’re constantly ingesting acidic ingredients. For most people, it’s pretty tough to have enough acid in your diet to cause problems. If you don’t have any special digestive issues, you don’t have to worry about a cup of drip every morning, or an early afternoon espresso shot.
But when it comes to crunch time in the office, or for the midnight premiere of the next superhero flick, you’ll need to be careful. Reaching for a 4th or 5th cup can upset your stomach, so consider using low acid coffee when you want to down a whole pot.
If you suffer from some sort of intestinal or digestive issues, then you’re already aware of how acid can upset your stomach. In this case, you’ll definitely be better off with low acid coffee. That way, you can enjoy your favorite drink without the drawbacks.
How It Tastes
Everyone loves a cup of iced, refreshing cold brew on a hot summer’s day, and many of us are staunch dark-roast lovers. But for fans of light roast espresso shots, you may feel like there is no viable option for low acid coffee. Fortunately, the market for low acid coffee has boomed over the past few years, bringing us delicious bright, flavorful coffee with a pH as high as 5.75. You can skip the acid without skipping the quality.
How Is Low Acid Coffee Made
The biggest factor in coffee acidity is the beans themselves. While roasting and brewing affects what’s in your cup, the way the beans are grown are what actually puts the acid in the beans to begin with. More sunlight, less oxygen, and richer soil will up the acid. So when you buy low acid beans, they’re usually grown in flatter, lower, shadier areas to minimize the acid to begin with. When you buy your low acid beans, check what region it’s from. This will make it easier to buy beans in the future.
The next step in making low acid beans is the roasting process. Different brands take different approaches to this. While some just opt to roast for longer or at a higher temperature, some come with clever ways to minimize the acid in your cup. While many of these processes are patented, one popular approach to low acid coffee is to make the oils more water soluble. That way, you can make a cup with less coffee beans, meaning less acid.
5 of the Top Low Acid Coffee Brands
This low acid coffee from Java Planet has a 100% satisfaction guarantee, and is one of the best options for low acid coffees. This single-origin Columbia medium roast has a toasty, nutty flavor without the acid of your standard columbia. Plus, Java Planet is family owned and certified organic.
This coffee is marketed toward young mothers concerned with acidity impacting their child’s health, but works for anyone who wants a low acid option. It is fully caffeinated but without the low pH. This makes it the perfect way to get your caffeine fix without upsetting your stomach. This coffee is organic and fair trade, and is water processed, skipping the chemicals involved in other blends.
For fans of Keurig machines who want a low acid alternative, the HealthWise Colombian Supremo offers the full dark roast experience reduced acidity. They use the patented Techno Roasting process to create a rich cup of coffee using less beans, meaning less acid. Like the rest of these items, this blend is organic and chemical free.
Lucy Jo’s specializes in health-conscious coffee, and this particular roast, Brainstorm, is made to pack more caffeine in without the acid. Instead of brewing a full pot before a long night, have a couple cups of this low acid medium dark roast. You’ll skip the upset stomach and enjoy the rich flavor of these organic Arabica beans.
Like most of these low acid brands, Puroast has developed a unique roasting process to make give their beans as high of a pH as possible. This Colombian dark roast prides itself on its “Feel better, not bitter” slogan, claiming 70% less acid than other coffees. For a rich cup of low acid, organic coffee, Puroast sells their beans in bulk.
Striking The Right Balance
While it can be tricky to weigh the costs of enjoying your favorite pick-me-up against the potential health effects, you can always find a balance. Maybe you just have to make sure to keep it to 2 cups a day, or maybe have more milk in your coffee. Low acid coffee gives you the option to continue drinking coffee to your heart’s content without the drawbacks. It’s all about finding the perfect balance of quality and health, and you can make coffee fit perfectly into a healthy, enriching diet.