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Coffee is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and nobody should feel that they can’t enjoy it. But some health conditions can make it hard to focus on a great cup of joe without fearing the aftermath: heartburn, acid reflux, and a sour stomach. Low acid coffee is out there, and I’m not just talking about decaf.
In this article, I’ll explain how to find the least acidic coffee beans — including giving a few links to some of the best acid-reduced roasts out there. I’ll also provide some brewing tips and other methods for reducing the acid level in your coffee.
Ready to enjoy your favorite beverage without the downside?
How Acidic Is Coffee?
A quick reminder from high school chemistry: Acidity is measured based on what’s called a pH scale, which generally ranges from 0 to 14. Normal water is a 7 on the scale, with anything below 7 being considered acidic and anything higher considered alkaline or basic. The lower the number, the more acidic it is, and the higher the number the more alkaline.
A typical cup of coffee will be in the range of 4.8 to 5.1 on the pH scale. That certainly makes it acidic, but how does it compare to other beverages?
Here are a few examples:
- Black tea — 4.9 to 5.5
- Beer — 4.0 to 5.0
- Orange juice’s — 3.3 to 4.2.
- Gatorade — 2.9.
- Coca-Cola — 2.4.
Sure, coffee is acidic, but it’s actually much less acidic than many of the other beverages that we drink. Aside from water and milk (pH of 6.7), essentially everything we drink has a pH at least as acidic as coffee.
I do hope that this context helps you to understand what we are looking for in pH levels though. Nearly everything we drink is acidic, with water being the main exception. We don’t tend to drink anything that is alkaline.
None of this is intended to downplay the importance of finding the least acidic coffee option. I have acid reflux and my partner has GERD. We both love our coffee, but we both pay for it if the acid levels are too high.
In fact, any of these health conditions can result in negative reactions to the acidity levels in coffee:
- Acid reflux (including GERD)
- IBS (irritable bowel syndrome)
- Gastric ulcers
What Do You Lose With Low Acid Coffee?
Time for a round of coffee snobs say the darndest things. More acidity is actually a praiseworthy attribute in professional coffee circles. That’s right, they want their coffee to be more acidic.
Well, not exactly.
When they say acidity, they are not referring to the actual pH value but rather the associated flavor. It’s that vibrant tart taste that many high-quality coffees exhibit. Oh, and don’t get that mixed up with sourness. Sourness is generally a defect in the coffee, whereas the flavor of acidity is a goal.
Do you lose that flavor if you choose a less acidic coffee?
Not necessarily. Most of the time, the flavor is a good indication of the pH, but that’s not always the case. The fact is that you can find low-acid coffees with an acidic flavor and very acidic coffees that don’t have the desired flavor of acidity.
If your goal is to find a way to maintain the acidic flavor of coffee while losing the high acid content, it’s obtainable, but it’ll require more effort and probably a bit more money.
How to Make Low Acid Coffee
The acidity of coffee comes, not surprisingly, from the beans. As such, there are three main ways to get less acid in your cup of joe.
- Use lower acid beans
- Use a brewing process that extracts less acid from the beans
- Counteract the acid
I’ll go into more detail on each of these options in this section. There is no one right way, and you may find that one of these options makes the most sense for you or that you want to mix and match multiple of them. In case you don’t feel like experimenting too much with your coffee, I’ll lay out the pros and cons of each option to make your decision easier.
Low acid coffee beans
Seems like starting at the source makes the most sense. There are several companies that make low-acid coffee beans, and I’m just counting palatable options — not decaf.
The most obvious way to find low acid coffee beans is to just check the label as many roasters will specifically advertise this point. Not all low-acid coffees have packaging that says low-acid, though. In fact, some coffees that highlight acidity in their flavor description may actually be low in real acid content.
Don’t be fooled by claims that darker roasts are less acidic. They taste less acidic, but they are actually higher in a particular acid called quinic acid. If you ever experience a sour feeling in your stomach after drinking a cup of coffee, this is the acid that probably caused it.
The location in which they were grown has a huge impact on the acidity of coffee beans. Some of the best sources for low-acid coffee include:
- Mexican coffee beans
- Guatemalan coffee beans
- Peruvian coffee beans
- Sumatran coffee beans
- Ethiopian coffee beans
- Brazilian coffee beans
- Colombian coffee beans
You can also look at the types of coffee beans used in coffee blends. Robusta beans are favored in several blends because of their flavor profile, but they add a lot of acid to the mix. There are plenty of Arabica coffee beans out there, and they are almost always lower in acid content.
One other indicator — and this may not be as obvious on most coffee packaging — is elevation. Coffee beans grown at low altitudes tend to have lower acid content than those grown at high altitudes or in mountainous regions.
Best low acid coffees for 2021
There are several coffee companies that offer a reduced-acid blend, and even some that specializing only in more alkaline coffee beans. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Lifeboost — Lifeboost’s coffee is simply amazing, and they have low-acid options for light, medium, and dark roasts. Their beans all come from a 6-acre family farm in Nicaragua. Now that is single origin!
- Volcanica Coffee Co — One of the coolest things about Volcanica is that they roast your coffee after you order it. That’s a freshness level that you’ll never get in your local grocery store. Their Low Acid Blend, Hawaiian Kona, and Komodo Dragon Coffee are all low in acid.
- Java Planet — Java Planet is all about making coffee that is as good for the planet as it is good for those that drink it. Amongst all their great options you’ll find an entire section devoted to low acid coffees, with Colombia Organic and Guatemala Organic roasts and a decaf option from Peru.
- Koffee Kult — This is the boldest option in the list. If you want a strong flavor without much acidity, Koffee Kult’s dark roast is one of the best options you’ll find.
- Puroast Organic House Blend — It’s a budget option for sure, but it’s a delicious and low-acid budget option.
Other Ways to Make Your Coffee Less Acidic
Make it cold brew
One of the many advantages of cold brew coffee is its low acidity. This is not the most convenient method as you do have to plan your coffee needs about 12 hours in advance, but the process itself is simple. You can buy a simple cold brew maker online or go for a more DIY approach. Either way, you’ll end up with a great-tasting cup of coffee with much less acid to leave you feeling terrible afterward.
Serve it fresh
The longer coffee beans (or coffee grounds) sit around, the more acidity they build up. It’s a side effect of coffee going bad. Buying coffee beans in bulk can save money, but it also increases the amount of acid you are ingesting. When in doubt, go for a fresh bag.
Add an acid reducer
There are additives made specifically to reduce the acid level in your coffee. One of the best options out there is Coffee Tamer. It uses calcium carbonate, the same active ingredient from antacids like Tums, to make your coffee less acidic.
This will be the weirdest tip on the page, but it’s a good one. Eggshells are alkaline, so including them in your coffee grounds reduces the acid level. The process is simple — just remove any excess egg from a couple of shells, crush them in your hand, and add them to the coffee grounds before you brew your pot of coffee.
If you don’t add salt to your coffee grounds, you should. It’s one of the simplest tricks to reduce bitterness and create a smoother cup of coffee. As if that weren’t enough reason, it also decreases the acidity of your coffee. All you need to do is add a dash of salt to the coffee grounds before you brew the coffee. For a full pot, it should take no more than 1/8 tsp of salt. If your coffee tastes salty, you’ve added too much.
Coffee should be for everyone. The inability to handle acidity shouldn’t prevent you from enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures, and it shouldn’t relegate you to the realm of decaf.
There are plenty of easy ways to decrease the acidity in your coffee without losing all the wonderful variety of flavors and aromas that these delicious beans have to offer. Picking the right low acid beans goes a long way, as do the other acid-reducing tips that I’ve discussed here.
Now go have a cup of coffee that you won’t regret tonight.